Psalm 95:7-11 (NKJV)
7 For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: 8 “Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, 9 When your fathers tested Me; They tried Me, though they saw My work. 10 For forty years I was grieved with that generation, And said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, And they do not know My ways.’ 11 So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”
When we hear the Word of God week by week the danger always arises that it begin to seem humdrum – just one more voice in the mass of noise. This is particularly true in our day – technology has made it nigh impossible to escape the drone of voices. Just yesterday I was at Killarney Lake, in the midst of God’s beauty, hearing the musica mundi –the music of the world – when a speed boat came by blasting the latest sounds from its speakers. The voice of God begins to sound like just one more voice in the crowd.
This morning we are warned against this very type of problem, against hardening our hearts to the Word of God. Today if you hear His voice – which we all do in the reading and preaching of His Word – do not harden your hearts. Cultivate an ear to hear and heed what God has to say.
What does it mean to harden our hearts? Notice the parallel that we are given to define hardening our hearts. We are reminded of a story – the story of our fathers at Meribah in the desert. What happened on this occasion? How can this help us to understand what it means to harden the heart? Notice that our Lord makes the story particularly clear by noting that “your fathers tested Me, they tried Me, though they had seen My work.”
What then was the sin of our fathers? You know the story. God rescued them from Egypt by an outstretched arm. He sent plagues on Egypt, granted our fathers favor with the Egyptians in the midst of these plagues, and then brought them out of the land. When they were in danger of destruction at the hand of Pharaoh’s army, God parted the waters of the Red Sea and let our fathers pass through on dry land while swallowing up Pharaoh’s chariots in the sea. An astounding act of God’s power and mercy! And yet, and yet, within a short time the people of Israel began to grumble, began to complain, began to long to return to Egypt. Why? Because the harsh reality of wandering through the wilderness drove from their minds a consideration of what God had already done for them and of what God had promised to do for them yet. Here then is our definition. To harden the heart to God’s Word is, in the midst of life, to forget what God has done for us already and what God promises to do for us in the future.
So what about you? What trial are you passing through in the wilderness? And how are you responding to it? Are you clinging in faith to the Father who rescued you from your sin and sorrow by sending His own Son to take on human flesh and to die on the cross? Are you remembering that the same Father who sent His Son also sent the Spirit upon our hearts that we might cry out Abba, Father? The Spirit who promises to work in us that which is good and well-pleasing in His sight?
Or are you instead hardening your heart? Have you forgotten the way in which our Lord rescued you? Forgotten the promises He has made to you? Drowned them out in a sea of noise and voices such that His Word is no longer clear? I fear that each of us finds ourself too frequently longing to return to Egypt. And so let us confess our sin to the Lord. Let us kneel and ask his forgiveness for hardening our hearts.