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just as the
Greek: Dio kathos
legei (3SPAI) to pneuma to hagion Semeron ean tes phones autou
Amplified: Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if
you will hear His voice, (Amplified
Bible - Lockman)
NLT: That is why the Holy Spirit says, "Today you must
listen to his voice. (NLT
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: We ought to take note of these words in which the
Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you will hear his voice, (Phillips:
Wuest: Wherefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if His
voice you will hear, (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,
"TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
Therefore - for discussion of the value of taking note of
terms of conclusion. In short, whenever you
encounter a "therefore" (consequently, for this reason, etc), take a deep
breath, slow down and ask yourself what is it "there for"? As you begin to
make this your habitual practice, you will find that it becomes second
nature and begins to uncover the writer's train of thought in a way that
heretofore you may have overlooked.
The point is that the
preceding verse is a serious exhortation which leads the writer to reinforce
the truth with a familiar
illustration of the danger of not holding fast. He reminds his readers of
time in Israel's history when they did not hold fast. He explains that the results of
their failure to hold fast was the stimulation of the anger of God and of
their failure to enter God's rest.
He explains that their "not holding fast" was manifest by
their disobedience which was directly related to unbelief, an unbelief which produced
a hard hearts which
apostatized. So his point is "Therefore" remember their example of
disobedience... we have a "holy calling" and it is proven genuine by our holding fast to
In view of the fact that God has spoken in His Son in these last days and the
Messiah is better than the prophets, the angels, and Moses, the readers were
being warned not to harden their hearts in renouncing their professed faith
in the finished work of Messiah and returning to their daily sacrifices!
JUST AS THE HOLY SPIRIT SAYS TODAY
IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE: kathos legei (3SPAI) to pneuma to hagion Semeron ean akousete (2PAAS)
tes phones autou: (He
9:8; 2Samuel 23:2; Matthew 22:43; Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16; 28:25) (He 3:13,15;
4:7; Ps 95:7, 8, 9, 10, 11; Pr 27:1; Eccl 9:10; Is 55:6; 2Co 6:1,2; Jas
4:13, 14, 15) (Ps 81:11,13; Is 55:3; Mt 17:5; Jn 5:25; 10:3,16,27; Rev 3:20)
The writer goes on to
Psalm 95:7-11 and in so doing corroborates
the divine inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures explaining that they
were the words of the Holy Spirit.
Peter's explains the Holy
Spirit's role in divine inspiration writing that..
no prophecy was ever made by an act of
human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (see note
2 Peter 1:21)
In Psalm 95
For He is our God, and we are the
people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in
9 When your fathers tested Me. They tried Me, though they had seen My
10 For forty years I loathed that generation, and said they are a people
who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways.
11 Therefore I swore in My anger, truly they shall not enter into My
Spurgeon comments on Today if
you hear His voice...
Dreadful "if." Many would not
hear, they put off the claims of love, and provoked their God." Today," in
the hour of grace, in the day of mercy, we are tried as to whether we have
an ear for the voice of our Creator. Nothing is said of tomorrow, "he
limiteth a certain day," he presses for immediate attention, for our own
sakes he asks instantaneous obedience. Shall we yield it? The Holy Ghost
saith "Today," will we grieve him by delay?
Barton Bouchier (quoted by
Oh! what an if is here! what a reproach
is here to those that hear him not! "My sheep hear my voice, and I know
them, and they follow me"; "but ye will not come to me that ye might have
life." And yet there is mercy, there is still salvation, if ye will hear
that voice. Israel heard it among the thunders of Sinai, "which voice they
that heard it entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any
more"; so terrible was the sight and sound that even Moses said, "I
exceedingly quake and fear": and yet they heard too the Lord's still voice
of love in the noiseless manna that fell around their tents, and in the
gushing waters of the rock that followed them through every march for forty
years. Yet the record of Israel's ingratitude runs side by side with the
record of God's mercies -- "My people would not hearken to my voice, and
Israel would none of me."
Thomas Cole (quoted by Spurgeon)
It will be as difficult, nay, more
difficult, to come to Christ tomorrow, than it is today: therefore
today hear His voice, and harden not your heart. Break the ice now, and
by faith venture upon your present duty, wherever it lies; do what you are
now called to. You will never know how easy the yoke of Christ is, till it
is bound about your necks, nor how light his burden is, till you have taken
it up. While you judge of holiness at a distance, as a thing without you and
contrary to you, you will never like it. Come a little nearer to it; do but
take it in, actually engage in it, and you will find religion carries meat
in its mouth; it is of a reviving, nourishing, strengthening nature. It
brings that along with it, that enables the soul cheerfully to go through
with it. --Thomas Cole (1627-1697) in the "Morning Exercises."
The children of Israel
tested God and challenged His authority by rebelling in the wilderness and because
of their rebellion, they failed to enter into the rest of Canaan, the land
of milk and honey and instead
perished in the wilderness land.
John MacArthur emphasizes the
"The Holy Spirit was involved in the
writing of every word of Scripture. That is why it is sin in the first
degree, and opens the floodgates to every kind of heresy possible, to deny
the absolute verbal inspiration of Scripture. God originated the autographs,
the first copies, to the very word." (MacArthur,
John: Hebrews. Moody Press
Today is a
word in this first section of Hebrews being used in this verse
and in (Hebrews 3:13;
Today emphasizes urgency. Not yesterday, not tomorrow but today. At this very time, this present moment. Now! The point of this section of Hebrews is that if one
knows the truth about Jesus and His gospel, they should not imitate the
sluggish response of Israel who knew God's truth and saw His miracles
and yet failed to surrender to His truth. To harden one's heart is not only
but is also very dangerous, for you do not know how long you will have to decide.
Benjamin Franklin was correct when he advised never to put off until
tomorrow what you can do today, especially if it relates to your eternal
If you hear -
The idea of hearing is a key idea in Hebrews...
Hebrews 2:1 (note)
For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have
lest we drift away from it.
Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS
VOICE, 8 DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY
OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS
while it is said, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR
HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME."
Hebrews 4:7 (note)
He again fixes a certain day, "Today," saying through David after so long a
time just as has been said before, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT
HARDEN YOUR HEARTS."
Hebrews 5:9 (note)
And having been made perfect, He became
to all those who obey (literally "hear under",
= hupo + akouo) Him the source of eternal salvation,
Hebrews 5:11 (note)
Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you
have become dull of hearing.
Hebrews 11:8 (note)
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed (literally "hear under",
= hupo + akouo) by going out to a place
which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing
where he was going.
This "if" is a third
class conditional. The Hebrew reads, “O that you would
hear his voice.” The condition which must be met if these Hebrews are to
hear the voice of God is, that they must not harden their hearts.
This is a well-known exhortation found in the Talmud:
“Rabbi ‘Eli‘ezer said,
‘Repent one day before you die.’ His talmidim
objected, ‘Does one know in advance the day of one’s death?’ He replied,
‘All the more reason to repent today, lest you die tomorrow! In this way,
your entire life will be one of repentance.’ ” (Shabbat 153a)
Every Jew knew this
passage by heart because its opening line served as a call to worship every
Sabbath evening in the synagogue with these words:
“Today, if you hear
his voice, do not harden your hearts”
These solemn words were
proclaimed week after week, year after year, as a call and a charge to
carefully listen to the voice of God. Hebrew ears perked up at their sound
or at least they should have! And so should ours, especially if we are
reading these solemn passages and have only made a profession of faith but
lack evidence to validate our profession (see the important discussion of
what constitutes faith that is alive and that is useful, i.e., faith that
brings about salvation - )
No one knows if he will have a
tomorrow in which to decide. Today signifies the present time of grace. Men
today, as in the time of Moody and in the time of Hebrews and in the time of
David and in the time of Moses, never know how long that time of grace for
them will be.
In the psalm, the pronoun “He” refers back to
God. In the context into which the writer of this epistle has put it, it
refers back to Christ. This makes the Jehovah of the OT, the Messiah of the
NT. It is He who is said to have spoken the words of the NT (see
But My people did not listen to My voice
and Israel did not obey Me. So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their
heart, to walk in their own devices. Oh that My people would listen to Me,
that Israel would walk in My ways! (Psalms
Listening to God and obeying Him are matters of the will. So is hardening
the heart to Him, as Israel did. Paul warns that our hearts, or consciences,
can become seared and insensitive, as skin does when it is badly burned
(1Ti4:2). The scar tissue that replaces the skin has very little feeling.
Something very much like this happens to a conscience that is repeatedly
Today lasts only as long as there is opportunity to
decide-and as long as the
is sensitive to God. When a person’s
“today” is over, it is then too late. His heart gets harder every time he
says no to Jesus Christ or to any part of His truth or will. When the heart
is soft, when the conscience is sensitive, when the intellect is convinced
about Christ-that is the time to decide, when one is still pliable and
responsive. Otherwise he will eventually become spiritually hard, stubborn,
and insensitive. The gospel will no longer have any appeal.
><> ><> ><>
Our Daily Bread - Are You Listening?
One summer an annoyed senior citizen from Richmond Heights, Missouri, hung
up on President Reagan. He did it not just once but half a dozen times. The
elderly gentleman didn't knowingly refuse to talk to the Chief Executive; he
just didn't believe that the President was calling him. He was sure it was a
prank. But the Southwestern Bell operator and a neighbor finally convinced
him it was for real. As a result, the man had the privilege of chatting with
Mr. Reagan for about fifteen minutes.
Many centuries ago a young Israelite named Samuel also received a call from
a surprising source. He didn't realize who was calling, even when it was
repeated. It came from one greater than a president. At first Samuel was
perplexed, but when Eli told him God was trying to get through to him, he
We Christians sometimes have the same response when God speaks to us. Deep
down in our awareness we may have a thought or conviction that we cannot
understand. At first, we may not recognize it as God's voice. Then, when
we're convinced it's Him, we're surprised that He would want to speak to us.
But God is personal. He wants us to know Him. He has spoken through His
written Word, the Bible, and through the living Word, Christ. In addition,
He indwells us in the person of the Holy Spirit who enables us to "hear His
God is always trying to get through to us. That means we must always be
listening. —M. R. De Haan II (Our
Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by
permission. All rights reserved)
There are two kinds of Christians—
those who wait on the Lord and those who
keep the Lord waiting.
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Hebrews 3:7ff - D. L. Moody called it the biggest blunder of his
life. It happened on October 8, 1871, during a preaching series in Farwell
Hall, Chicago. His text was “What then shall I do with Jesus which is
called Christ.” At the conclusion of the sermon Moody said he would give
the people one week to make up their minds about Jesus. He then turned to
Ira Sankey for a solo, and Sankey sang “Today the Saviour Calls.” But by
the third verse Sankey’s voice was drowned out by the noise outside the
hall. The great Chicago fire had begun, and the flames were even then
sweeping toward the Hall. The clanging of the fire bells and the noise of
the engines made it impossible to continue the meeting. In the years that
followed, Moody wished that he had called for an immediate decision for
Warren: The Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching and Preachers. Moody, 1984)
Steven Cole writes...
If you have been a Christian for very long, you have watched someone make a
profession of faith in Christ, followed by dramatic changes in his life.
It’s exciting to see his new joy. But then a difficult trial hits. His faith
is shaken. He stops coming to church and begins to avoid other Christians.
Soon he is back into his old ways. And you wonder, “What happened? Was his
conversion genuine? Can Christians lose their salvation?”
Jesus explained what I just described in the parable of the sower. He said
that the seed of the gospel falls on four kinds of soils: the hard road; the
thin soil over a hard rocky layer; the soil infested with thorns; and, the
good soil. I just described the seed that fell on the rocky soil. In Jesus’
words, “When they hear the word, immediately [they] receive it with joy; and
they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when
affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall
away” (Mark 4:16, 17). Neither they nor the thorny ground persevere to bear
fruit unto eternal life.
The author of Hebrews is concerned that his readers may be the rocky soil
that withers under affliction or persecution. They were in danger of going
back to a more comfortable life in their old Jewish religion because of the
imminent threat of persecution in their newfound Christian faith. So as he
concludes his comparison showing Jesus’ superiority over Moses, he says that
we are God’s house, but then adds, “if we hold fast our confidence and the
boast of our hope” (He 3:6).
He continues by illustrating his point with a story from Jewish history that
all of his readers knew well, the story of Israel in the wilderness. He
quotes the latter half of Psalm 95, which in its entirety was the call to
worship in the Jewish synagogues. It tells about a people who had been
redeemed from Egypt by applying the blood of the Passover lamb to their
homes. They had been “baptized” into Moses through the cloud that enveloped
them and through the Red Sea (1Co 10:2). They had eaten the heavenly manna
and drank water from the rock. Seemingly, they were a “redeemed” people.
Yet, as Paul states, “with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they
were laid low in the wilderness” (1Co 10:5). As he goes on to say, “these
things happened as examples,” so that we would not fall into their same
The author of Hebrews uses this story to make the same point. He is warning
us against the soul-destroying sin of hardness of heart. He is saying, To
avoid hardness of heart, we must submit our hearts to God’s Word and God’s
ways, especially in times of trial.
We can divide our text into four lessons:
1. To avoid hardness of heart, we must submit to God’s authority through
His inspired Word.
He begins, “Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says,” and then quotes from
Psalm 95. In 4:7, he mentions that David was the human author of the psalm,
but here he emphasizes that it was really the Holy Spirit who spoke and who
continues to speak to us (“says” is present tense). This means:
A. What the Bible says, God is saying to us now.
Although the author isn’t directly speaking to the issue of the inspiration
of Scripture, his attributing Psalm 95 to the Holy Spirit shows his implicit
belief that God inspired Scripture. The Holy Spirit used human authors, but
He is the divine voice behind all Scripture. As Peter explains, “no prophecy
was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit
spoke from God” (2 Pet. 1:21). Or, as Paul puts it, “All Scripture is
God-breathed” (literally, 2 Tim. 3:16). Charles Hodge (Systematic Theology
[Eerdmans], 1:154) wrote,
On this subject the common doctrine of the Church is, and ever has been,
that inspiration was an influence of the Holy Spirit on the minds of certain
select men, which rendered them the organs of God for the infallible
communication of his mind and will. They were in such a sense the organs of
God, that what they said God said.
The starting point for avoiding a hardened heart is to recognize and submit
to God’s authority through His inspired Word. If we sit in judgment on the
Word, criticizing the things we don’t agree with as outdated or in error,
our hearts are challenging God. To learn from God, we must submit to His
B. We should learn from the biblical stories how to avoid the sins of
those who lived before us.
As Paul says, these things “were written for our instruction” (1Co 10:11).
We disobey or ignore them to our own peril. The starting point is that we
hear His voice (Heb. 3:7). “To hear” in He-brew often has the nuance of not
just hearing sounds, but also of obeying what we hear. In this regard, it is
amazing how many Christians never read the Old Testament. They are
unfamiliar with the many stories of triumph and tragedy that are recorded
there for our instruction in the faith.
The story behind Psalm 95 (Heb. 3:7, 8, 9, 10, 11) is recorded in Exodus 17.
Israel had just come out of Egypt through God’s mighty deliverance. They
went three days into the wilderness and found no water, except bitter water.
Did the people say, “Well, God didn’t go to all the trouble of delivering us
from Egypt so that we would thirst to death in this desert”? No, they
grumbled at Moses. He cried out to God, who showed him a tree. When he threw
it into the water, it became sweet (Exod. 15:22-25). Exodus 16 tells how God
provided manna to feed Israel each day.
You would think that after these gracious miracles, the people would have
implicitly trusted God. But then you come to Exodus 17, when again they came
to a place where there was no water. Rather than asking God to provide, the
people quarreled with Moses and put God to the test. God instructed Moses to
strike a rock with his staff, and water gushed forth. Moses named that place
Massah (= a test) and Meribah (= a quarrel). The Greek translates the
Hebrew, “as at Meribah,” into, “as when they provoked Me” (He 3:8a). It
translates, “As in the day of Massah,” into, “as in the day of trial” (He
The last part of the Psalm, referring to God’s swearing in wrath that they
would not enter His rest, probably refers to Numbers 14, when the people
grumbled after the report of the spies. In spite of all that God had done,
they were ready to stone Moses and return to Egypt, when God intervened. On
that occasion, He swore that all that had grumbled against Him would die in
the wilderness, and thus not enter the land of rest. Only Joshua and Caleb,
who believed God, were spared. The point is, we should learn from their sins
and do differently!
C. God’s Word speaks directly to us today.
Says is in the present tense. “Today, if you hear His voice…” This very day,
God speaks to us through His Word! Today lends a sense of urgency to this
message. It says, “Don’t put off obedience to a more convenient time. Now is
the day of salvation! Now is the time God is speaking to you. Don’t ignore
Him! You may not get another opportunity!”
We have to apply Scripture to our lives in line with proper rules of
interpretation, or we may misapply it. Before we apply it to ourselves, we
need to figure out what it was saying to the original hearers in their
historical context. We need to compare Scripture with Scripture, and
interpret the text in its context. For example, we are not under the Jewish
laws of sacrifice or cleansing. But there are lessons in these things that
do apply to us who have seen the fulfillment of them in Christ. To sum up
this point: to avoid hardness of heart, we must come to God’s Word with
submissive hearts, ready to obey His will.
2. To avoid hardness of heart, we must make sure that our hearts are in
proper relationship to God.
Note He 3:8, “Do not harden your hearts,” and, He 3:10, “They al-ways go
astray in their hearts.” In the Bible, the heart refers to our total inner
being-the mind, the emotions, and the will. As Proverbs 4:23 warns us,
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of
A. All sin begins in the heart.
Jesus taught, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil
thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and
wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and
foolishness” (Mark 7:21, 22). We tend to look at the outward man, but God
looks on the heart (1Sa 16:7).
For example, we see a man in ministry, who preaches God’s Word. He serves
the church selflessly. He seems so kind and caring. Suddenly, he falls into
adultery and we are shocked. How could this happen? We didn’t see that in
his heart, he was lusting after women and was not judging his sin. He was
not walking in holiness before God in his thought life. What came out in his
behavior stemmed from his heart. This is one of the most helpful lessons I
have learned about the Christian walk: al sin begins in the heart. If you
deal with your thought life before God, you stop sin at the root.
B. Our hardness of heart stirs up God’s anger and incurs His severe
judgment or discipline.
God says that He was angry with the generation in the wilderness (He 3:8).
This word has the nuance of being disgusted with, or loathing someone. He
swore in His wrath (He 3:11). Wrath refers to God’s settled, passionate
opposition to sin. God is not passive when it comes to sin. If we profess to
be His children, but have not truly repented of our sins (as was the case
with many who perished in the wilderness), God’s eternal wrath is upon us
(John 3:36). If we are truly His children through faith in Christ, then
Jesus bore God’s wrath for us on the cross, so that we do not need to fear
His eternal punishment. But we should fear His discipline, which is never
pleasant (Heb. 12:6, 11). He disciplines His children in love, that we may
share His holiness. But He can get pretty rough if He has to! If we judge
our own hearts, we will avoid God’s discipline (1Cor. 11:27, 28, 29, 30, 31,
Thus, to avoid hardness of heart, we must submit to the authority of God’s
Word and we must do business with God on the heart level.
3. To avoid hardness of heart, we must recognize and submit to God’s
God says of Israel in the wilderness, “They did not know My ways” (He 3:10).
He says (Isa. 55:8-9), “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your
ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the
earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your
thoughts.’” The only way that we can know God’s ways are as He has revealed
them to us in the Scriptures.
A. We are responsible to learn and submit to God’s ways.
We can’t plead ignorance. We can’t protest, “But, God, I didn’t know that
You were working in that way!” These people in the wilderness should have
known God’s ways. But since they didn’t know His ways, they didn’t submit to
them. The time to learn God’s ways is before we get into a difficult
situation (Prov. 1:20-33). If we neglect wisdom when we have opportunity to
learn it, we will be overwhelmed when we get into a crisis without it.
B. God’s ways sometimes reveal His mighty power, but miracles alone will
not change a stubborn heart.
Those who went astray had seen some of the greatest miracles that God has
ever done. They saw the ten plagues in Egypt. They witnessed the Red Sea
part for them and close up again on Pharaoh’s army. They had seen God
provide water and manna already in the barren Sinai desert. God emphasizes
that for forty years they saw His works (3:9). If miracles alone could
soften hard hearts, these people should have been mighty in faith! But they
You hear people say, “If I just saw a miracle, I’d believe.” Sometimes God
does use miracles to bring people to saving faith. But often, those words
are just a smokescreen. The skeptic is just making an excuse so that he can
continue in his sin. The rich man in Hades pled with Abraham to send someone
to his brothers and warn them, so that they would not come to that place of
torment. Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear
them.” The rich man replied, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to
them from the dead, they will repent!” Just let them see a miracle! But
Abraham answered, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they
will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:27-31).
C. God’s ways often involve situations of extreme trial for His people.
Remember, His ways are not our ways. He often works in an upside down sort
of way that seems strange to us. Again, His Word reveals His different ways
to us so that we will recognize them when they actually happen to us.
Consider God’s ways in delivering Israel from 400 years of slavery in Egypt.
To pull this off, He needs a strong Jewish leader. Pick a man who has been
raised in Pharaoh’s household, trained in all of the wisdom of the
Egyptians, a man powerful in word and deed (Acts 7:22). So far, so good!
Then, have this man fail in a colossal manner and spend the next forty years
of his life tending sheep out in the wilderness. Whoa! Then, when God calls
him to his task, He will harden Pharaoh’s heart repeatedly, so that he will
make the Israelites’ task harder and will refuse to let them go.
Once he lets them go, march Israel to the Red Sea, where they’re helplessly
trapped for Pharaoh’s strong army. Once they get through this crisis, lead
them out into the barren desert, where there is no water. When they find
water, make it bitter water. Rather than lead them directly into the
Promised Land, an eleven-day journey (Deut. 1:2), take them on the “scenic
route,” a forty-year journey through the barren desert. That was God’s way
with His chosen people! He wanted to teach them to trust Him and learn
warfare (Exod. 13:17).
Regarding Canaan, God could have sent a plague to wipe out the wicked
Canaanites. Israel then could have moved in and lived happily ever after.
Instead, God required Israel to fight many difficult battles to get rid of
the Canaanites. Later, when Israel needed a prophet, God’s way was to make a
woman barren. There were many women with children in Israel, but God’s way
was to bring a woman to desperation, where she knew that she could not
produce a son. When she cried out to God, He gave her Samuel, who be-came
His prophet (1 Samuel 1 & 2). Later, when God wanted a man after His heart
to be on Israel’s throne, He didn’t pick the man whom Samuel would have
picked. He chose the youngest of Jesse’s sons, a teenage shepherd, named
David. Then, rather than putting him on the throne immediately, God had his
chosen one run for years, in fear of his life, from the mad King Saul.
I could multiply examples, because they are all through the Bible. God’s
ways usually involve bringing His people to the end of themselves, so that
they know that their trust must be in Him alone. If we do not know His ways,
when we are put in the wilderness with no water, or when we are barren with
no strength to produce any-thing for God, we will be prone to grumble, as
Israel did. So we must learn to know His ways through His Word.
D. When we are confronted with God’s ways, we have the choice of
submitting to Him or grumbling and going back to the world.
Psalm 95:1-3 reads, “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout
joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come be-fore His presence with
thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is a
great God, and a great King above all gods.” The warning of our text comes
after seven verses of praise. The choice is clear: rejoice in the Lord by
faith, or grumble and turn back to the world (Egypt).
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians demonstrates the proper
response to God’s ways. He was in prison in Rome on false charges. Fellow
Christian leaders in Rome were criticizing him and preaching out of envy. As
God’s great apostle to the Gentiles, Paul easily could have complained about
his unfair, difficult circumstances. And yet he wrote, “Do all things
without grumbling or disputing” (Phil. 2:15). The words “rejoice” or “joy”
occur over 15 times in this short letter. It’s not a coincidence that the
Greek word for “attitude” also occurs ten times. Our attitude of submission
and trust in God will lead us into joy, even in the midst of great trials.
An attitude of pride and self-centeredness leads to grumbling, where we
resist God’s ways and turn back to the world.
E. To refuse to submit to God’s ways is to put God to the test.
God says, “your fathers tried Me by testing Me” (Je 3:9). At the root of
testing God is the sin of unbelief (which we will examine in more detail
next week). When God promises something and we face trials that seem to
negate His promise, we again are faced with a choice: Is God faithful to His
word or not? Granted, we’re in a barren desert with no water. Granted, there
are huge giants that live in the land. In ourselves, we are completely
unable to deal with these problems. Will we trust in God and His promises,
or will we allow the problems to cause us to grumble and not take God at His
word? If we do not submit to God’s ways and trust in His word, we put Him to
the test, which is normally not a good thing to do! (There are rare
exceptions; see Mal. 3:10.)
Thus, to avoid hardness of heart, we must submit to God’s authority through
His Word. We must make sure that our hearts are properly submitted to Him.
We must recognize and submit to His ways of dealing with us. Finally,
4. When we submit to God’s Word and His ways, we enter into His rest.
We will deal with this more in chapter 4. But for now, note 3:11. God’s oath
refers to His settled determination that those who rebelled in the
wilderness would not enter the land of Canaan (Num. 14:21-36). When God
swears in His wrath, we had better believe that He means business! There is
no rest for the soul that is under God’s wrath!
God’s rest had an initial reference to Israel’s settling into the land of
promise, but it also has a spiritual fulfillment, as we’ll see in chapter 4.
Leon Morris (Expositor's Bible Commentary, ed. by Frank Gaebelein
[Zondervan], 12:35) says that God’s rest refers to “a place of blessing
where there is no more striving but only relaxation in the presence of God
and in the certainty that there is no cause for fear.” God’s spiritual rest
comes to the person who “does not work, but believes in Him who justifies
the ungodly” (Ro 4:5). “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ro. 5:1).
Conclusion - One of God’s ways that is most unlike our ways is the cross.
Jesus, the sinless Son of God died as the sacrifice for ungodly sinners. God
justifies the ungodly through faith alone. That runs counter to human pride.
Have you trusted in Jesus’ blood alone as your hope for heaven? Is your
heart in submission to God’s Word and His ways, especially when those ways
involve a trip through the barren wilderness? Your heart is either hardening
against God because you are resisting His sovereign ways with you, or it is
growing softer toward God because you are submitting to His Word and His
ways. Your response to trials reveals your heart. Send down spiritual roots,
deep into the fertile, moist soil of God’s Word, so that you can endure when
the hot sun of affliction beats down on you!
Since God’s Word does not all apply directly to us, how can we be sure that
we are applying it properly?
Since the sinful heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:9), how can we know when our
hearts are properly submissive to God?
Why do God’s ways often involve trials for His people? Is it wrong to pray
for these trials to be lifted? Why/why not?
Why is grumbling about our circumstances a serious sin? What does it really
A Warning Against Hardness of Heart -
PROVOKED ME, AS
TRIAL IN THE
sklerunete (2PAAS) tas kardias humon hos en to parapikrasmo kata ten
hemeran tou peirasmou en te eremo (this is almost a direct quote of
Lxx of Ps 95:8)
Amplified: Do not harden your hearts, as [happened] in
the rebellion [of Israel] and their provocation and embitterment [of
Me] in the day of testing in the wilderness, (Amplified
Bible - Lockman)
NLT: Don't harden your hearts against him as Israel did
when they rebelled, when they tested God's patience in the wilderness. (NLT
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: do not harden your hearts in the rebellion, in the
day of trial in the wilderness, (Phillips:
Wuest: do not go on hardening your hearts as in the
rebellion, in the day of the putting to the test in the wilderness (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY
PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS,
DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS:
me sklerunete (2PAAS) tas kardias humon: (He
3:12,13; Exodus 8:15; 1Samuel 6:6; 2Kings 17:14; 2Chronicles 30:8; 36:13;
Nehemiah 9:16; Job 9:4; Proverbs 28:14; 29:1; Jeremiah 7:26; Ezekiel 3:7, 8,
9; Daniel 5:20; Zechariah 7:11,12; Matthew 13:15; Acts 19:9; Romans 2:5,6) (Procrastination;
Self-will and Stubbornness)
from skleros = hard, dried up, stiff) means to make hard or
stiff and figuratively to render stubborn.
The Greek construction of
“Harden” with a negative particle ("me sklerunete") = forbids the continuance of an action already
going on. The largely Hebrew readers of this epistle were already
hardening their hearts just like there forefathers had done. The writer
draws their attention to this tragic
example which should have cut his readers to the quick. He reminds them of
what happened to their ancestors who kept hardening their hearts...they died
in the wilderness, most of them restless not only in this life but in the
life to come!
Spurgeon commenting on Ps 95:8
If ye will hear, learn to fear also. The
sea and the land obey him, do not prove more obstinate than they!
"Yield to his love who round you now
The bands of a man would east."
We cannot soften our hearts, but we can
harden them, and the consequences will be fatal. Today is too good a day to
be profaned by the hardening of our hearts against our own mercies. While
mercy reigns let not obduracy rebel. "As in the provocations, and as in the
day of temptation in the wilderness" (or, "like Meribah, like the day of
Massah in the wilderness"). Be not wilfully, wantonly, repeatedly,
obstinately rebellious. Let the example of that unhappy generation serve as
a beacon to you; do not repeat the offences which have already more than
enough provoked the Lord. God remembers men's sins, and the more memorably
so when they are committed by a favoured people, against frequent warnings,
in defiance of terrible judgments, and in the midst of superlative mercies;
such sins write their record in marble. Reader, this verse is for you, for
you even if you can say, "He is our God, and we are the people of his
pasture." Do not seek to turn aside the edge of the warning; thou hast good
need of it, give good heed to it.
An old man, one day taking a child on his
knee, entreated him to seek God now -- to pray to him, and to love him; when
the child, looking up at him, asked, "But why do not you seek God?" The old
man, deeply affected, answered, "I would, child; but my heart is hard -- my
heart is hard." -- Arvine's Anecdotes.
Hardening one's heart suggests a cruel or
unfeeling attitude. In Hebrew thought the heart was the center of the
whole personality, including the intellect and will. Therefore “to harden
one’s heart” is to refuse to listen to or understand what someone is saying. Do not be
stubborn is often rendered idiomatically; for example, “do not stop up your
ears,” or “do not shout ‘No’ to what is said,” or “do not close the door of
Hardness of heart originates in unbelief leading
to contempt for God and in turn to distinct behavioral patterns: negativism, grumbling, quarreling,
The one who tests God today does so for the same reason as did the
Israelites in Moses day---to put Him off, because they love their sin, their
own way, their own plans too much to give them up for God’s. (Rebellion is
the heart issue & it is as the sin of divination 1Sa15:23!)
The grand and terrible lesson of Israel’s
history is that it is possible to begin well and end poorly. In fact, this
tragic human tendency dominates much human spiritual experience. It is this
concern that haunts the writer of the book of Hebrews, as we have repeatedly
Sidney J. Harris wrote that...
Once we assuage our conscience by calling something a
“necessary evil,” it begins to look more and more necessary and less and
How does one harden their heart?
It's a process that occurs gradually as we complain about God's work and
ignore His Word. The Israelites complained about the way He led them and the
way He fed them. They heard God's Word and deliberately
disobeyed. This is called testing God. When you see God at
work and you complain instead of rejoice, when you hear His Word and
deliberately disobey it--you're testing Him. It's like a little child
just daring mom or dad to discipline him. When you harden your heart, you
miss God's best for your life. The people of Israel saw the miracles. They
heard the messages. They were fed day after day. But in a period of 40
years, that whole older generation died. What should we do to prevent a hard
heart? Repent. Listen to God's Word and respond to it tenderly. Watch God's
work and respond to it thankfully. Stop complaining and disobeying.
Worship the Lord and keep a tender heart before Him. As an aside when
we take God and His provisions for granted, we become less thankful and less
responsive to Him. Heed the warning: Keep your heart open to God's Word and
William Gouge (quoted by Spurgeon)
has this note...
Harden not your heart. -- Heart is
ascribed to reasonable creatures, to signify sometimes the whole soul, and
sometimes the several faculties appertaining to the soul.
It is frequently put for the whole soul, and that
for the most part when it is set alone; as where it is said, "Serve the
Lord with all your heart", 1Samuel 7:20.
For that principal part of the soul which is called
the mind or understanding. "I gave my heart to know wisdom", Ecclesiastes
1:17. In this respect darkness and blindness are attributed to the heart,
Ephesians 6:18, Romans 1:21.
For the will: as when heart and soul are joined
together, the two essential faculties of the soul are meant, namely, the
mind and will: soul put for the mind, heart for the will "Serve the Lord
with all your heart and with all your soul", Deuteronomy 6:13.
For the memory. "I have hid thy word
in my heart", saith the
prophet, Psalms 119:11. The memory is that faculty wherein matters are
laid up and hid.
For the conscience. It is said that "David's heart
smote him", that is, his conscience, 1Samuel 24:5 2Samuel 24:10. Thus is
heart taken, 1John 3:20, 21.
For the affections: as where it is said, "Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with
all thy mind", Matthew 22:37. By the mind is meant the understanding
faculty; by the soul, the will; by the heart, the affections.
Here in this text the heart is put for the whole soul,
even for mind, will, and affections. For blindness of mind, stubbornness of
will, and stupidity of affections go together.
AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED AS IN THE DAY
OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS: hôs ęn tôi parapikrasmôi
hemeran tou peirasmou en te eremo: (Numbers
14:11,22,23; Deuteronomy 9:22, 23, 24; Psalms 78:56) (Exodus 17:7;
Deuteronomy 6:16; Psalms 78:18; 106:14; 1Corinthians 10:9)
is used only in the LXX, in the present verse and in verse 15. Parapikrasmos means embitterment,
exasperation. This word is a translation of the Hebrew "Meribah" (Nu 20:13,
24; 27:14; Ps 81:7) which means conflict, contention, strife or rebellion or
quarrel. For the simple verb pikraino, to make bitter, see Col 3:19
The reference in this verse is to
Massah and Meribah
"And he named the place Massah (Lxx
and Meribah (Lxx substitutes loidoresis = railing, abuse,
reproach) because of the quarrel (Hebrew = riybah = strife, a
controversy, a contention. The primary idea = that of a quarrel or dispute) of the sons of Israel, and because they
tested (Hebrew = nasah = Testing which shows what someone is really
like!; ) the LORD, saying, "Is the LORD among us, or not?"
Trial - Literally "the trial"
(definite article) identifies this trial as a very specific event.
Trial (peirasmos) means simply to test or prove, and has no negative connotation
(Click study of
Whether it becomes a proof of righteousness or an inducement to evil depends
on our response. God tested them & they in turn "tested" Him. Instead of
trusting God in the midst of adverse circumstances, they demanded that He
show His hand in order to demonstrate to them that He was in their midst to
TRIED Me BY
TESTING Me, AND
WORKS FOR FORTY
epeirasan (3PAAI) oi pateres humon en dokimasia kai eidon (3PAAI) ta
Amplified: Where your fathers tried [My patience] and tested
[My forbearance] and found I stood their test, and they saw My works
for forty years. (Amplified
Bible - Lockman)
NLT: That is why the Holy Spirit says, "Today you must
listen to his voice.There your ancestors tried my patience, even
though they saw my miracles for forty years. (NLT
- Tyndale House)
Phillips: do not harden your hearts in the rebellion, in the
day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested me, proved
me, and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with that
generation, and said they always go astray in their heart, and (Phillips:
Wuest: when your fathers put me on trial when they put me
to the test for the purpose of approving me should I meet the test,
and saw my works forty years. (Eerdmans)
WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED ME BY
TESTING: hou epeirasan
hoi pateres humon epeirasan (3PAAI) en dokimasiâi:
Lit, "where" ("the great and terrible wilderness, with
its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no
water" in Dt 8:15)
This quote would certainly seem to support he is speaking most directly to
ethnic Jews who should be very familiar with these passages.
14:22 "Surely all the men who have
seen My glory and My signs, which I performed in Egypt and in the
wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not
listened to My voice, 23 shall by no means see the land which I swore to
their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it.
Deuteronomy 6:16 "You shall
not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.
Psalms 78:18 And in their heart they put God
to the test by asking food according to their desire.
(They) craved intensely in the
wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.
They “put Me to the test to see what
evil or good there is in Me when they put Me to the test for the purpose of
approving Me should I meet the test.” What crass, blatant, presumptuous
What an insult this flings into the face of an all-loving, all-powerful God.
The first-century readers of this letter are warned not to take this
attitude toward God...to do so would be to end up missing His rest.
Proving a thing worthy or not, genuine
or not. They were not content with God's promise, and miracles but demanded
more proof of God.
As far as they could do so they
tempted God to change his usual way, and to do their sinful bidding, and
though he cannot be tempted of evil, and will never yield to wicked
requests, yet their intent was the same, and their guilt was none the less.
God's way is perfect, and when we would have him alter it to please us, we
are guilty of tempting him; and the fact that we do so in vain, while it
magnifies the Lord's holiness, by no means excuses our guilt. We are in most
danger of tills sin in times of need, for then it is that we are apt to fall
into unbelief, and to demand a change in those arrangements of providence
which are the transcript of perfect holiness and infinite wisdom. Not to
acquiesce in the will of God is virtually to tempt him to alter his plans to
suit our imperfect views of how the universe should be governed.
Proved me. They put the Lord to needless tests, demanding new miracles,
fresh interpositions, and renewed tokens of his presence. Do not we also
peevishly require frequent signs of the Lord's love other than those which
every hour supplies? Are we not prone to demand specialities, with the
alternative secretly offered in our hearts, that if they do not come at our
bidding we will disbelieve? True, the Lord is very condescending, and
frequently grants us marvellous evidences of his power, but we ought not to
require them. Steady faith is due to one who is so constantly kind. After so
many proofs of his love, we are ungrateful to wish to prove him again,
unless it be in those ways of his own appointing, in which he has said,
"Prove me now." If we were for ever testing the love of our wife or husband,
and remained unconvinced after years of faithfulness, we should wear out the
utmost human patience. Friendship only flourishes in the atmosphere of
confidence, suspicion is deadly to it: shall the Lord God, true and
immutable, be day after day suspected by his own people? Will not this
provoke him to anger?
Spurgeon quoting Henry Melvill -
Though God cannot be tempted with evil he may justly be said to be tempted
whenever men, by being dissatisfied with his dealings, virtually ask that he
will alter those dealings, and proceed in a way more congenial to their
feelings. If you reflect a little, you will hardly fail to perceive, that in
a very strict sense, this and the like may be called tempting God. Suppose a
man to be discontented with the appointments of providence, suppose him to
murmur and to repine at what the Almighty allots him to do or to bear; is he
not to be charged with the asking God to change his purposes? And what is
this if it is not tempting God, and striving to induce him to swerve from
his plans, though every one of those plans has been settled by Infinite
Or again, if any one of us, notwithstanding the multiplied proofs of Divine
lovingkindness, doubt or question whether or not God do indeed love him, of
what is he guilty, if not of tempting the Lord, seeing that he solicits God
to the giving additional evidence, as though there was a deficiency, and
challenges him to a fresh demonstration of what he has already abundantly
displayed? This would be called tempting amongst men. If a child were to
show by his actions that he doubted or disbelieved the affection of his
parents, he would be considered as striving to extract from them new proofs,
by asking them to evince their love more, though they may already have done
as much as in wisdom and in justice they ought to do. And this is clearly
tempting them, and that too in the ordinary sense of the term. In short,
unbelief of every kind and every degree may be said to tempt God. For not to
believe upon the evidence which he has seen fit to give, is to provoke him
to give more, offering our possible assent if proof were increased as an
inducement to him to go beyond what his wisdom has prescribed. And if in
this, and the like sense, God may be tempted, what can be more truly said of
the Israelites, than that they tempted God in Massah? ... We are perhaps not
accustomed to think of unbelief or murmuring as nothing less than a tempting
God, and therefore, we do not attach to what is so common, its just degree
of heinousness. It is so natural to us to be discontented whenever God's
dealings are not just what we like, to forget what has been done for us as
soon as our wishes seem thwarted, to be impatient and fretful under every
new cross, that we are scarcely conscious of committing a sin, and much less
one more than usually aggravated. Yet we cannot be dissatisfied with God's
dealings, and not be virtually guilty of tempting God. It may seem a harsh
definition of a slight and scarcely avoidable fault, but nevertheless it is
a true definition. You cannot mistrust God, and not accuse him of want
either of power or of goodness. You cannot repine, no, not even in thought,
without virtually telling him that his plans are not the best, nor his
dispensations the wisest which he might have appointed in respect of
yourselves. So that your fear, or your despondency, or your anxiety, in
circumstances of perplexity, or peril, are nothing less than the calling
upon God to depart from his fixed course -- a suspicion, or rather an
assertion that he might proceed in a manner more worthy of himself, and
therefore, a challenge to him to alter his dealings if he would prove that
he possesses the attributes which he claims. You may not intend thus to
accuse or to provoke God whenever you murmur, but your murmuring does all
this, and cannot fail to do it. You cannot be dissatisfied without virtually
saying that God might order things better; you cannot say that he might
order things better without virtually demanding that he change his course of
acting, and give other proofs of his Infinite perfections. --Henry Melvill.
Spurgeon quoting John Calvin - Your fathers tempted me. There are two
ways of interpreting the words which follow. As tempting God is nothing else
than yielding to a diseased and unwarrantable craving after proof of his
power, we may consider the verse as connected throughout, and read, They
tempted me and proved me, although they had already seen my work. God very
justly complains, that they should insist upon new proof, after his power
had been already amply testified by undeniable evidences. There is another
meaning, however, that may be given to the term "proved", -- according to
which, the meaning of the passage would run as follows: -- Your fathers
tempted me in asking where God was, notwithstanding all the benefits I had
done them; and they proved me, that is, they had actual experience of what I
am, inasmuch as I did not cease to give them open proofs of my presence, and
consequently they saw my work.
John MacArthur makes the point
"Most people do not need more proof that God is real or that Jesus is His
Son and the Savior. They need to hate and repent of their sin and to commit
themselves to Him. A God who is continually tested will never be accepted.
The one who tests God today does so for the same reason as did the
Israelites in Moses day—to put Him off, because they love their sin, their
own way, their own plans too much to give them up for God’s."
(MacArthur, J. Hebrews. Chicago: Moody Press)
AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS: eidon (3PAAI) ta erga mou tesserakonta ete:
(Exodus 19:4; 20:22; Deuteronomy 4:3,9; 11:7; 29:2; Joshua 23:3; 24:7; Luke
7:22) (Numbers 14:33; Deuteronomy 8:2,4; Joshua 5:6; Amos 2:10; Acts 7:36;
They perceived and understood and even
experienced God's works! Despite God’s miraculous works and His faithfulness
to them, the people still failed to commit themselves to Him in faith
comments on saw My works...
They tested him again and again, through
out forty years, though each time his work was conclusive evidence of his
faithfulness. Nothing could convince them for long.
"They saw his wonders
And then his praise they sung;
But soon his works of power forgot,
And murmured with their tongue."
"Now they believe his word,
While rocks with rivers flow;
Now with their lusts provoke the Lord,
And he reduced them low."
Fickleness is bound up in the heart of
man, unbelief is our besetting sin; we must for ever be seeing, or we waver
in our believing. This is no mean offence, and will bring with it no small
Moses reminds the Israelites
that for forty years...
"the LORD was going before them in a
pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by
night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. (Exodus
And they saw
manna from heaven (Exodus
16:4-5) and water from a rock (Exodus
records God's words to Israel declaring that...
'You yourselves have seen what I did
to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to
And shortly before his death
"Moses summoned all Israel and
said to them, "You have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the
land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land; 3 the great
trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders. 4 "Yet to
this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor
ears to hear. 5 And I have led you forty years in the
wilderness; your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandal has not
worn out on your foot." (Deut
It may be no coincidence that God gave
Israel 40yrs to repent after Christ's crucifixion before sending the Roman
army under Titus (AD70) to destroy Jerusalem.
John Owen (quoted by Spurgeon)
comments on forty years noting that...
Forty years. To understand this passage
we must bear in mind the event referred to. The same year in which the
people of Israel came forth from Egypt, they were distressed for water at
Rephidim, (Exodus 17:1); and the place had two names given to it, Massah and
Meribah, because the people tempted God and chided with Moses. The Lord did
not swear then that they should not enter into the land of Canaan; but this
was in the following year, after the return of the spies. (Numbers
14:20-38.) And God said then that they had tempted him "ten times"; that is,
during the short time since their deliverance from Egypt. It was after ten
temptations that God deprived them of the promised land.
Bearing in mind these facts, we shall be able to see the full force of the
passage. The "provocation" or contention, and "temptation" refer clearly to
the latter instance, as recorded in Numbers 14:1-45 because it was then that
God swore that the people should not enter into his rest. The people's
conduct was alike in both instances.
To connect "forty years" with grieved, was the work of the Punctuists, and
this mistake the Apostle corrected; and it is to be observed that he did not
follow in this instance the Septuagint, in which the words are arranged as
divided by the Masorites. Such a rendering as would correspond with the
Hebrew is as follows, --
"Today when ye hear his voice, 8. Harden not your hearts us in the
provocation, In the day of temptation in the wilderness. 9. When your
fathers tempted me, they proved me And saw my works forty years: 10. I was
therefore offended with that generation and said, Always do they go astray
in heart, And they have not known my ways; 11. So that I swore in my wrath,
`They shall by no means enter into my rest.'"
The meaning of the ninth verse (Psalm
95:9 quoted here in Hebrews 3:9) is, that when the children of Israel
tempted God, they proved him, i.e., found out by bitter experience how great
his displeasure was, and saw his works or his dealings with them forty
years. He retained them in the wilderness during that period until the death
of all who disbelieved his word at the return of the spies; he gave them
this proof of his displeasure. --John Owen, of Thrussington, 1853.
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