“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 put me to the test
and saw my works for forty years.
10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
they have not known my ways.’“
In the face of great persecution, the audience of the epistle to the Hebrews was tempted to abandon Christ and return to the old covenant. The author of Hebrews wrote to these Christians in order to admonish them to persevere in their faith in Christ Jesus. So far we have seen him do this by discussing the superiority of Christ to angels and by alluding briefly to Christ’s role as the Great High Priest. Ever conscious of his Jewish-Christian audience, our author has spent the last six verses of chapter 3 demonstrating Christ’s superiority to Moses in order to show the superiority of the new covenant to the old. Having established all of this, the author of Hebrews begins to issue a stern warning against abandoning Christ.
In verse 7, the author begins quoting from Psalm 95. He writes that it is the Holy Spirit who spoke in this Psalm. We see two important things in this verse. First, it demonstrates the high view of Scripture our author has. Though David wrote this Psalm, it is the Holy Spirit speaking through David. The words of the Old Testament are the very words of God. Second, the author clearly understands that the Holy Spirit is speaking to his current audience. This is demonstrated by his use of the word “says” in the present tense. Far from being a mute deity, God still speaks directly to His people through the words of sacred Scripture.
The Psalm that is quoted refers to the testing of the Israelites in the wilderness. The “day of testing in the wilderness” probably refers to Numbers 14. The generation who had left Egypt under Moses was complaining and desiring to return to bondage even though God had graciously redeemed them. God had had enough of their grumbling and determined to prevent that first generation from inheriting the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb were to enter Canaan (Num. 14:30).
The author of Hebrews is telling his audience not to harden their hearts in rebellion like that first generation led out of Egypt. The Exodus was a great act in redemptive history, but the people grumbled and God did not permit them to enter Canaan. The deliverance from sin under Christ is an even greater exodus. Those who abandon God and His apostle Christ will lose their promised inheritance as well.
Many Christians think that the Old Testament is irrelevant to their lives. However, the New Testament teaches that the events of the Old Testament are examples for us so that we may avoid evil (1 Cor. 10:6). Hebrews 3:7–19 is a direct example of this. Study the Old Testament as diligently as you study the New so that you may avoid evil.
Harden Not Your Heart, Copyright (2020), Ligonier Ministries (hyperlink to http://www.ligonier.org).