Scripture Focus: Hebrews 3.15-19
15 As has just been said:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.”
16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
Reflection: Deceit Hardens Hearts
By John Tillman
The teacher of Hebrews repeats a warning twice in just a few verses: “If you hear his voice do not harden your hearts.” Why does the writer feel we need this message so deeply? Who was it that hardened their own hearts? It was not unbelievers or those who had never heard from God. It was God’s own people.
The teacher is quoting from Psalm 95, which references events in Deuteronomy. (Psalm 95; Deuteronomy 1.27-36) Those who hardened their hearts had been brought out of Egypt through miracles and victory. The elders had seen his physical presence and dined with God on Sinai. (Exodus 24.9-11) The people who rejected God were the ones God stayed with day and night as a pillar of fire that gave light at night and a pillar of cloud that gave guidance by day. (Deuteronomy 1.33)
We may think of non-believers as hardhearted and there may be a few hardhearted atheists or unbelievers in the world. The Pharoah they escaped is the biblical prototype of hardheartedness. (Choices and Hard Hearts) The teacher, however, is not writing to hardhearted unbelievers. The greater concern is that believers might have their hearts hardened by “sin’s deceitfulness.” (v 13).
Sin hardens our hearts by deceit. That deceit is often about the character of God. The Israelites believed a lie and hardened their hearts out of fear of God’s treatment. “If we trust God, he’ll bring us harm.” (Deuteronomy 1.27)
Whatever sin you are tempted by, there is a lie about God’s character at its root. The more deeply we believe the lie, the harder our hearts can grow.
“If I follow God, I’ll never be happy.”
“If I follow God, I’ll never be fulfilled.”
“If I follow God, I’ll never be successful.”
“If I follow God, I’ll never be ________.”
What lie is in the blank for you?
The psalmist restates God’s decision to not allow the rebellious and hardhearted people into the promised land: “they shall never enter my rest.” (Psalm 95.11) The truth is: “If I don’t follow God, I’ll never find rest.”
Sin’s deceit will leave us wandering in the desert of desire and want. God’s rest leads to well-being beyond any thing we fear the lack of. When we rest in God’s goodness and follow him, we’ll find greater things that God has in store for us.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory. — Psalm 50.2
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
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