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Don't Harden Your Hearts

Hebrews 3:7-11
So, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, "Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways." So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest."' (NIVUK)

It was a challenge for the Hebrew-background believers to recognise that Jesus, and not Moses, was God's ultimate revelation to the world. It is easy to sentimentalise the past and think that the wilderness experience under Moses' leadership was wonderful: it was not. The people were rebellious and hard-hearted. Instead of trusting God and His servant, they complained and resented their salvation, despite all that God had done for them (Exodus 16:2-3). As they hardened their hearts, as Pharaoh did in Egypt, God dealt with them. Except for Joshua and Caleb, all those over twenty years old (including 603,548 men) who left Egypt, perished in the wilderness.

About 500 years later, the Holy Spirit inspired the writer of Psalm 95:7-11 to use Israel's history in warning future generations not to be hard-hearted towards God. God was kind and patient; He restrained His anger for many years but eventually was angry with them, and would not let them enter the Promised Land, even though they were His own people (Numbers 14:28-30). Although He was their Father, they had no appreciation of His love for them, no gratitude for their release from captivity, no understanding of His covenant promises, no contentment with His provision and no confidence in His promised destination.

The Promised Land was to be a place of 'rest from their enemies'. But they spent the best part of 40 years being enemies of God. Their idolatry, immorality, and grumbling led to their death (1 Corinthians 10:1-11). Why should God populate the Promised Land with such people? They would instantly pollute it. So, the writer of this letter warns his readers: God the Holy Spirit is still speaking through the pages of Scripture, warning His people not to harden their hearts against God's Saviour.

Religion without Christ is a deadly delusion because it deprives us of relationship with Father God. However Christianly-religious we think we are, if our hearts are not in submission to Jesus (Hebrews 3:1), we will never find rest of heart, peace with God or assurance of heaven. Other idols will take His place and we will try God's patience. Only Christ's blood can shield us from God's anger (Romans 5:9) but if we persist in rejecting His authority over us, there is no other help for us (Hebrews 6:4-6). The only answer is to repent, seeking His mercy and grace (Isaiah 55:6) before it is too late.

Father God. Thank You for sending Jesus to be my Saviour; that His blood is the atonement for my sin. But I repent of despising Your mercy and resisting Your grace, spurning Your love and hardening my heart. Please forgive me and give me a new heart which is eager to relate with You so that I may love You and serve You. Help me to learn a new way of living under Your authority. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams