How Not to Please God
(7b) Today, if you hear his voice, (8) do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, (9) when your fathers tested me and tried me although they had seen my work. (10) Forty years I loathed that generation and said, “These (are) a people who wander in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” (11) Therefore, I vowed in my anger, “They will not enter my rest.”
Meribah which means “quarreling” and Massah which means “testing” both refer to the same incident which took place at Rephidim where Israel had encamped just after leaving Egypt (Ex. 17:1-7). Because they found no water there, the Israelites quarreled with Moses and, in their complaining, put God to the test, questioning whether he would faithfully provide for their needs.
When Yahweh told Moses to take his staff and strike the rock at Horeb, water gushed forth, a miraculous provision of God’s grace. However, this did not really change the attitude of the people. The psalmist diagnosed Israel’s spiritual problem with two occurrences of “heart(s)” in this segment (vss. 8 & 10). Their attitude had been hardened by unbelief even though they had just witnessed Yahweh's powerful deliverance in the ten plagues in Egypt and the miracles associated with the parting of the Red Sea.
I. Israel’s negative example of hardening their hearts (7b-9)
II. Yahweh’s angry response (10 & 11)
Those who harden their hearts against Yahweh and test him with their unbelief will experience his severe discipline.
Students of God's Word like to examine how the New Testament authors made use of the Old Testament as a way of understanding how we should interpret the Scriptures. This second segment of Psalm 95 is essential for our grasping the message of Hebrews 3 & 4. In fact, the author of Hebrews quoted the entirety of Psalm 95:7b-11 (Heb. 3:7-11) and then proceeded to apply these verses to his readers’ lives.
His argument can be expressed in the following three statements:
- We can avoid having sinful, unbelieving hearts like the Israelites if we seek to encourage one another not to be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Heb. 3:12-19).
- Israel’s failure to enter into Yahweh’s rest (the Promised Land) should spur us on to be sure we enter the place of spiritual rest (Heb. 4:1-11).
- We enter into and remain in that place of spiritual rest when we walk by faith, obey God’s Word (the two-edged sword of Heb. 4:12,13), and abide in close communion with our great High Priest who ever lives to intercede for us (Heb. 4:12-16).
What powerful exhortations from both Psalm 95:7-11 and Hebrews 3 & 4 if we would only take them to heart!