7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works 10 for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation and said, “They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways.” 11 So I swore in My anger, “They will not enter My rest.” 12 Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. 13 But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. 14 For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. 15 As it is said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. 16 For who heard and rebelled? Wasn’t it really all who came out of Egypt under Moses? 17 And who was He provoked with for 40 years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And who did He swear to that they would not enter His rest, if not those who disobeyed?
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
What an amazing word of instruction. Let’s look closer at a few of these verses.
In verse 7, we are told to respond WHEN we hear Him speak. We are not guaranteed that God will speak to us every day, and we know that we will not always hear Him when He does. Think of the number of times that someone in biblical times prayed and waited for an answer.
Think of the promises made that happened, but not in the timing or manner that was expected: Moses (almost) into the promise land; Abraham becoming the father of many nations, but getting a late start on his own family; David being anointed as the future king, then having to endure being attacked by Saul, then fleeing to multiple countries before seeing God’s promise come true.
We are told in Isaiah that His ways are not our ways. We can’t control when He speaks to us, but we can control what we do when He does.
In verse 13, we are reminded that we shouldn’t encourage once and think that is sufficient. Just as we require daily food, we require daily encouragement.
Hardened by sin’s deception is such a strong statement. The two words hardened and deception speak clearly to the slow but steady decline that can happen inside a person, and that we oftentimes don’t even know that it is happening. The decision to choose something good over something great, the decision to do what is right in society’s eyes instead of God’s eyes, and the decision to compare oneself to those around you instead of against the holiness of our God – none of these seem particularly harmful but steadily will harden us against the reality and the possibility of God in us.
As strong as the words hardened and deception are, equally strong in the opposite direction is the phrase ‘companions of the Messiah’ that we find in verse 14. It is hard to wrap my brain around the reality that I can be a companion of the Messiah. Not a distant colleague or friend, but a companion. In an old hymn we find the line “He walks with me and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own.”
We are told we are to hold firmly to Him, and He will be our companion.
As we near the end of the passage, we are reminded of the rebellion and what the hearts of the people were like after escaping Egypt, only to spend 40 years without a home. They escaped Egypt. We escape eternal separation from Him by having His blood wash over us now and for eternity.
After escaping Egypt, there was manna every morning, and there was a pillar of fire every night. The people had nourishment, and the people had direction. And yet, they complained and provoked God. I have often looked at that passage and judged them for their unbelief and ungratefulness. Now it is my turn. God provides physical and spiritual nourishment for me every day, and I often choose to not be satisfied.
We are to respond to God when He speaks. We are to encourage others so that they (and we) do not fall into the deception of sin. And we are to be satisfied knowing that He will provide in the manner and timing that He chooses while we both serve Him and have the privilege of being His companion. So simple, yet so powerful.
- When God speaks, what do I do? How long does it take me to act when God tells me to do something?
- Who do you regularly encourage? How do you know they need it? Do you have someone that encourages you?
- What does the phrase ‘companion of the Messiah’ mean to you?