Hebrewsby Robert M. Solomon
After declaring that Jesus is uniquely superior to the angels (Hebrews 1:5-14) and Moses (Hebrews 3:1-6), the writer issues his second warning in this passage (see Day 3 for the first). The writer quotes Psalm 95:7-11, which cautions Jews against following the example of their forefathers who hardened their hearts against God. In the Septuagint, the word ″rebellion″ is connected with the name Meribah (″quarrelling″) and ″testing″ with the name Massah (see footnotes in Psalm 95:8 NIV). The Israelites complained against Moses because of water shortages, and almost stoned him. They failed to trust God and His promises even though He had miraculously provided heavenly manna in the desert. Moses named the place Massah and Meribah after the two incidents that occurred there (Exodus 17:1-7; Numbers 20:1-13).
The desert was a place of testing, where one's faith was examined and proven (see Luke 4:1). The Israelites failed miserably; instead of faith, they were filled with unbelief. Instead of praise, their lips produced complaints and murmurings. At the desert, the Israelites had tested God as self-appointed ″judges over God″12 (see Exodus 17:7; Psalm 95:9; Hebrews 3:9). They ″tested and tried″ (Hebrews 3:9) God's patience and demanded that God prove himself. For 40 years, He showed himself to them; yet they grew in disbelief and disobedience. They had tested God repeatedly (Numbers 14:22) so much so that God was ″angry with that generation″ (Hebrews 3:10) and declared, ″They shall never enter my rest″ (v. 11; see Psalm 95:11). The ″rest″ referred to life in the Promised Land; more distantly, as the writer later explains, it also points to the new life in Christ. The whole Exodus generation died in the desert except for Joshua and Caleb, who had undying faith in God (Numbers 14:23-24, 30).
The lesson from history serves as a stern reminder to the Jewish readers of the epistle-and to us today. We should not harden our hearts (Hebrews 3:7-8). Every time we refuse to respond to God's voice speaking to us, we harden our hearts. The more we do so, the harder they become. Eventually, our hearts will go astray (v. 10) and we begin to drift away dangerously (see Hebrews 2:1).
12Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 143.
The Israelites hardened their hearts when they repeatedly failed to trust God and worship Him. Examine your own heart to see whether it is like stone or like flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).
″Their hearts are always going astray″ (Hebrews 3:10). How does one make sure that his or her heart remains in Christ (see John 15:7)?