Dealing with Hardness of Heart from Hebrews 3:7-13

Hebrews 3:7-13

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.  Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’  As I swore in my wrath, They shall not enter my rest.’”

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

 

At Solomon’s Porch on Sunday evening we have been studying our way through the Book of Hebrews. (Sermons Part 1-12 no online)  The passage above is the core passage for chapters 3 and 4.  Verses 7-11 of Hebrews 3 are themselves directly quoted from Psalm 95:7-11.  So what is the Psalmist writing about in Psalm 95:7-11?  Verse 8 of Psalm 95 let’s us know what event the Psalm is referring to when it says,

 

“do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,”

 

This leads us back a little further to Exodus 17 and a very familiar story to most us.  Meribah is the first place where Moses smote the rock and gave water to the people in the wilderness.  Meribah means to strive or fight with God.  I always associated the Children of Israel not being able to enter the Promised Land with the story of the 12 Spies from Numbers 13.  But according to the Psalmist, access to the Promised Land was lost for the first generation of Israelites at Meribah not in the Wilderness at Paran where Numbers 13 takes place.  So what was the big deal at Meribah?

Well, at Meribah the people of Israel questioned God.  They didn’t question God’s providence for them.  They didn’t say, “God, I don’t understand”.  They questioned God’s goodness, they said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” (Exodus 17:3)  This gives us some insight into what it means to harden our heart.  All of us go through times when we struggle with how God is going to provide for us.  That may not necessarily have anything to do with our financial situation.  Many materially rich people are miserable and struggle just to live day to day.  They are just emotionally or spiritually poor, but they are truly poor.  Sin touches us all.  There is no shield to protect us from it, as it is woven into the fabric of our nature.  Its stamp is in our DNA.  Life is hard for everybody.  Death, disease, and loss come to us all.  Because of the universal nature of sin, because of common human experience, we all come to crisis’ periods in our life.  These are the times when we are asking big questions that usually start with the word, “why”.  That is the context of the Book of Hebrews, it is written to a congregation(s) of believers in crisis.  Over an over throughout the book warning after warning  to remain faithful come. (see Hebrews 2:1, 3:1, 7-11, 6:4-6, 10:26-31, 35, 37,38, 12:15-17)  To this congregation(s) in crisis Hebrews 3:7-11 comes saying “do not harden your heart as in the rebellion”, don’t be like the people at Meribah that attacked God’s character.  But how do we know if that is what we are really doing?  Verse 12 gives us some advice,

 

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”

 

Examine the nature of the questions you are asking God.  Make sure they are actually questions.  If you pay attention to the question asked by the people at Meribah, although it started with “why”, it was really a veiled accusation against God not at a question at all.  Take some time before the Lord frequently, daily if at all possible, and allow the Holy Spirit and the Word of God to examine you.  Let God preach the Gospel to you anew and afresh everyday.  The surest way to guarantee that nature will take it’s course and your heart become hardened is to go long periods of time without stopping to bask in the Presence of your Heavenly Father through the Gospel of His Son.

 

What if I am not the one struglling?  What if it is a brother or sister I know?  Verse 13 then speaks to this situation.

 

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin

 

Being a member of a visible expression of the body of Christ is absolutely necessary.  We have a role to play in the discipleship of one another.  We need each other in ways that are beyond our understanding.  God holds and keeps us in the faith, but He uses people in the process.  If you see someone struggling in their faith do not say to God, “Lord keep them” and then go no further, but know that God has shown you that they need to be kept.  Encourage them, sit down over a meal or a cup of coffee and say, “I see you”, listen to them, share the work of Christ from your life and experience, pray together, pray for them, schedule another time to follow up, preach the Gospel to each other.  We need to realize that sin is deceitful, that hardness of heart is a real danger, and that God has given us two great gifts to combat it.  Himself and His Body.

 

Soli Deo Gloria


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