Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Rebellion in the Wilderness (Hebrews 3:8)

"Do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert" (Hebrews 3:8).

Hebrews 3:7–11 quotes Psalm 95:7–11. Some churches use Psalm 95 as a call to worship. The psalm begins, “Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,” and continues by extolling the greatness of God as the Creator (Psalm 95:1–5). Verses 6–7 of the psalm call upon us to “bow down and kneel before the LORD our Maker,” because “we are the people of His pasture.”

We have come into the church before God, and we are going to hear His Word. The psalm warns us that when we hear His voice “today,” we must be careful to have open and receptive hearts. We must not harden our hearts. The psalm reminds us that the people God rescued from Egypt did harden their hearts against the Lord in the wilderness, and provoked Him by demanding that He do what they wanted. As a result, God did not let them enter His rest. The goal of worship is to enter more fully into God’s rest on the day of worship, the Sabbath, so in worship we should have open hearts. This is the basic meaning of Psalm 95, especially when it is used as a call to worship.

Psalm 95:8 refers to the incident at Massah/Meribah when the people hardened their hearts against God (Exodus 17:1–7). Both massah and meribah imply testing. God was testing the people, and in their rebellion they tried to test Him. The people had seen the mighty plagues on Egypt and had seen God heal waters and provide manna for them (Exodus 15:22–16:36). Yet when they ran out of water, instead of coming to the Lord humbly and asking Him for help, they accused God and Moses of deliberately bringing them out of Egypt to kill them. In their pain they did not cry out to God, but cried out against Him. Yet, God gave them water anyway.

This was not the only time the Israelites tested God. After ten acts of rebellion just like Meribah, God finally swore by Himself that “as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth,” He would not permit any of the people who had been delivered from Egypt to enter the land of promise. They had lost the promised rest. Maybe some of them were saved and went to heaven, but no one except Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter Canaan.

Read Psalm 95 carefully. Note how appropriate it is as a call to worship, whether used on Sunday morning or in your own private devotions. Notice how the psalm provides comfort and assurance before issuing its warning. Allow this psalm to minister to your life today.