Today when you hear his voice,
don’t harden your hearts…
Have you ever listened to someone without hearing them? I’m sure that most know the feeling from some conversations you had with your parents as a teenager. They would talk, sometimes for hours on end and you would leave the room clueless about everything that was said. It was as if you were deaf in the moment. You also might have heard what was said but when it came down to implementation or follow through, you didn’t consider what your parents said. As I read through the book of Hebrews, I see that the Israelites had a similar problem. They heard from God but had these obvious moments when difficulties arose and immediately amnesia would strike.
Now, anyone who knows the Israelites would admit that they had their fair share of shortcomings. They were rescued from Egypt, saw the Red Sea part, ate manna, drank water from rocks and experienced many jaw-dropping miracles yet they often had the audacity to complain. Whenever challenges arose in the wilderness, these people would barely remember God’s promises. Instead, their response was to complain and question whether God was with them. When it was time for them to enter into the Promised Land, they rebelled because they thought the people occupying the land were giants and they would die. They chose to disregard God’s promise (unbelief) and to believe the report of the 10 spies instead. The result:
20 Then the Lord said, “I will pardon them as you have requested. 21 But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, 22 not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice.
Numbers 14:21&22 (NLT)
I’ve been studying the book of Hebrews and this incident has been referenced four times in chapters 3:6-15 and 19, chapter 4:3 and 7. The same is found in Psalms 95:7-11. This generation of people who came from Egypt saw God’s goodness in the desert yet they didn’t enter the Promised Land. I find this rather sad; but as the Word states, these things are written for our learning so that through patience and comfort of the scriptures we can have hope (Romans 15:4). This incident that’s used to prompt us through Hebrews then teaches us a few things:
- Not If, but When, You Hear His Voice
You will hear His voice today and when you do, don’t harden your heart. The day is today and not yesterday or tomorrow. This means that we cannot live on past obedience or excuse ourselves for delayed obedience as we wait for future instructions or assurance. The day is today. So we hear and we heed (regard with care) daily. The only other choice is that we hear and harden our hearts like the Israelites. This too, is a process.
- The Hardened Heart
In its simplest definition, a hardened heart is characterized by unbelief and disobedience which is synonymous to turning away from God. Like a lump of hardened clay, it cannot be molded and therefore misses out on the opportunity to become a beautiful vessel. This heart also carries a consequence. In the case of that generation of Israelites, it cost them entry into rest – the Promised Land. If we choose to harden our hearts, then we shall also miss out on entering into the rest from all our labors. (Hebrews 4:10&11)
- Faithfulness to the End: Fellowship as a Resource
When challenges come, they will expose what truly lies within. If we are steadfast in our faith in God, then we will brave the storms, live to see Him take us through whatever situation we are in and emerge blameless. Some things may want to take our eyes off God and focus on them. A good way to maintain focus, avoid being deceived by sin and having hardened hearts is fellowship. We are asked to exhort or warn each other as long as it is today. This way, we will be faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as we did in the beginning as Christ, through His blood, ushered us into salvation.
So I urge us to hear and heed The Lord’s voice today. Let’s not be like those teenagers who pay no mind to the parent’s words or like the Israelites who, having seen the glory of the Lord, still did not believe or obey His prompting. Instead, let’s make our hearts malleable by reading the Father’s Word, through faith, obedience and fellowship.
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.