While issuing a strong warning against unbelief, the author of Hebrews quoted from Psalm 95 with Numbers 13 and 14 serving as a background to the quote.
This is a short outline of the problem that is covered in Numbers.
(1) The people of God were at the borders of the Promised Land (Canaan). Moses sent 12 spies to conduct a risk assessment of the territory.
(2) The advantages of the land of Canaan were many, but the adversaries were strong.
(3) Ten spies believed the risks were too great. They didn’t believe that victory was possible, even with God’s help.
(4) Joshua and Caleb, two of the 12 spies said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13.30).
(5) The vast majority turned against Moses and Aaron, calling for new leaders. Joshua argued that the people should trust the Lord.
He said, “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us. Only, do not rebel against the Lord, and do not fear the people of the land . . . their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them” (Numbers 14.8-9).
(6) After these events, Moses and Aaron prayed all night and asked God to forgive the people.
(7) God forgave the nation but did not allow any of the adults to enter the Promised Land. For forty years, as one person after another died in the wilderness, they were reminded of their unbelief.
Hebrews Quotes Psalm 95
The author of Hebrews wanted his readers to remember the events behind Psalm 95 and Numbers 13-14.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
as on the day of testing in the wilderness” (Hebrews 3.7-8).
He emphasized the importance of the message when he said it came from the Holy Spirit.
When you hear from the Holy Spirit, the choice is between faithful action and heart-hardening disobedience.
I don’t want to be confusing, but there is another Old Testament reference that I need to mention. Exodus 17 recounts another time when God’s people rebelled and tested him.
After being delivered from slavery in Egypt, they quarreled with Moses over the lack of water. The place where this took was called Massah (testing) and Meribah (rebellion).
Massah (testing) and Meribah (rebellion) picture the behavior of the unfaithful people of God, behavior that followers of Jesus should not imitate.
The danger of a hard heart
God’s children are encouraged to “hold firm” to Jesus (Hebrews 3.6), rather than to harden their hearts.
The stakes are high for people today, just as in Moses’ day.
Continuing with the quote from Psalm 95, the author writes:
Where your ancestors put me to the test,
though they had seen my works for forty years.
Therefore I was angry with that generation,
and I said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts,
and they have not known my ways.’
As in my anger I swore,
‘They will not enter my rest.’” (Hebrews 3.9-11)
As we apply these words to our lives, let’s consider the following.
(1) As children of God, we are connected to the ancestors of Moses’ day.
(2) We are witnesses to God’s work, both in ourselves and others.
(3) Nevertheless, we run the risk of not knowing God’s purposes and plans. Instead of holding fast to Jesus, we can go astray in our hearts.
(4) These words are written as a warning to God’s people. We do not want to fail to enter God’s rest as a result of unbelief and rebellion.
Rudy Ross and I talk about this passage today on YouTube. You can see the video on the Bob Spradling channel.
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