“Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked me, as in the day of trial in the wilderness.” (Hebrews 3:7,8) Since these people who “hardened their hearts” instead of responding humbly to God's voice are mentioned repeatedly throughout Hebrews chapters three and four, I thought it would be helpful to know exactly what they did do so that I might learn from their mistakes. I went to Psalms 95, Hebrews 3 and 4, Exodus 17, and Numbers 20, and compiled a list of things I learned about them.
There were a few things that amazed me about these people. First, they saw God part the waters and drown Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, yet they doubted He could give them a drink of water. They ate manna from heaven for forty years, but they didn’t think God could provide for their thirst. God told Moses to go before them with his staff to the rock of Horeb. This staff had been turned into a snake and back again. This staff turned the entire Nile River into blood and parted the Red Sea. More accurately, it was God’s power that did all these miracles, but at the very least, upon seeing Moses’ staff, the people should have remembered the power God had displayed before their eyes on their behalf. Apparently, thirst had not only dried up their throats, it had also parched their memories.
The second thing that amazes me is that although they questioned and tested God, He still provided for them. Numbers 20:11 says that water came out of the rock “abundantly” and not only did all the people drink, but all their animals drank too. God's provision was motivated by His own faithfulness, not theirs.
The waters they drank were named Meribah and Massah which means contention and temptation, because they contended with God and tried Him. According to my computer dictionary to contend means "to engage in a competition in order to win something." Could I ever be so bold as to think I could contend with God? Imagine the announcers voice: "In one corner, God! All powerful creator of the universe! Able to measure the waters in the hollow of His hand!” (Isaiah 40:12). "And in the other corner: Tennille, who has trouble measuring enough material to make a tablecloth.” OK, that fight was over before it started! Did the people realize that when they doubted and questioned God's ability they went to battle with the Almighty?
They also tried Him. I am now imagining myself putting God on trial to prove whether or not He is worthy of my trust. Who am I to test God? Can I put Him on a scale or in a test tube to prove His worth? All testing is rooted in disbelief. Doubting provides the fertile soil needed for contention to flourish. Instead of answering to their line of questioning, “God proved Himself holy among them” (Numbers 12:13). God displayed His own holiness on His own terms.
So here is what I learned from these "people who hardened their hearts:"
#1. In the midst of pressing needs I must recall to mind God’s consistent faithfulness in my past.
#2. God will provide for me because He is faithful, not because I am deserving.
#3. I foolishly contend with God any time I question His presence or ability.
#4. God proves Himself to me not because I summon Him, but for the sake of His own character.
In short, the people did not listen to God's voice because they were focused on their own needs and desires, rather than on God. And how about you? When you are thirsty, do you believe in His ability to quench your thirst? When you are hungry do you seek the One who has the power to provide? When you see no way out of whatever impossible situation you are in, will submit yourself to God who has proven Himself to be faithful to the faithless?
"Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart..."