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.’” (Hebrews 3:7-11)
Israel Put God To The Test
The danger of apostasy is a very real concern that has plagued the people of God from the beginning of time. It did not take long for the world of Adam and Eve to deteriorate to a place where the Lord was sorrowful He had created man and then because of His righteousness destroyed every living being save eight souls. The Bible is the mind of God revealed to men so they can learn His character and examine the history of how merciful and full of grace the Creator has been to His creation. No greater example of this is found than the story of the nation of Israel. Engraved upon the pages of holy writ, the story of Israel is the story of humankind’s struggle with sin. The Holy Spirit preserved the Old Testament as a testimony to the eternal love of a gracious Father against the backdrop of a chosen people who constantly tested the borders of God’s longsuffering and forgiveness. Israel was a nation above all nations granted the immense protection, care, benevolence and promises of God yet more often than not rebelled, refused, rejected and renounced their loyalty to the Lord God who brought them out of Egypt. After the death of Joseph, son of Jacob, a Pharaoh ruled that cared nothing for the Hebrews and enslaved them for centuries. Through the power of God exhibited in ten terrible plagues upon the Egyptians, the Hebrews were set free from the bondage of tyranny. It did not take long before the faith of Israel faltered when standing before the Red Sea and the army of Egypt approaching the hearts of the people cried out to the Lord. God showed His mighty power when He allowed the Hebrews to walk through the sea on dry land and then closed the waters around the pursuing Egyptian army destroying the greatest army on earth. Again, they rejoiced in the power of God and soon afterward began to complain to Moses. They were thirsty, they were hungry, and they were tired. At Sinai, they grew bored and began to fall down and worship the golden calf. The people complained about not having enough water and the Lord gave them more than they could drink. They wanted something more than the loathsome manna provided by God so the Lord sent them quail and they still complained. Standing on the border of the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the heart of the people faltered in disbelief as the ten spies discouraged the nation turning them away from God. Their hearts were hardened in rebellion against God and they wandered in the wilderness for forty years testing God at every turn. Because of this, those of the age of twenty-years and above perished in the wilderness never seeing the land of promise.
Israel saw the works of God for forty years and still did not believe. They tested God and they tried God and were destroyed in the wilderness. When the Lord called Abraham from the land of the Chaldees, He promised the son of Terah the land of Canaan. Isaac and Jacob received the same promise yet never saw the fulfillment in their lifetime. Israel was a chosen people of God that would be called the “apple of His eye” with every heavenly blessing fulfilled through the hand of a gracious provider but Israel tested and tried the Lord in unbelief. They saw the ways of God with Egypt, Ammon, Edom and a host of armies that came against them but they did not know the Lord. Their hearts were turned away from the grace of God serving their carnal flesh and fleshly desires. The deceitfulness of sin hardened their hearts in unbelief because the word which they heard was not mixed with faith. Israel would become a great nation but then fall by its own hand in rejecting the law of God and kill the Son of God outside Jerusalem.
The wrath of God is revealed in the story of Israel. The generations of those who tested and tried the Lord were not granted the land of promise. Canaan had been promised to the nation but that promise was conditional. Because of rebellion, many of the Hebrews never saw the land that flowed with milk and honey. They were the chosen people of God who would not see the promised land. God swore in His wrath they would not enter His rest and they did not. Just because they were Hebrews delivered from Egypt did not qualify them for the rest of the Lord. They were circumcised the eighth day and this did not guarantee the promised rest of God. Without their faith and obedience to the will of the Lord, they would perish in the wilderness and not enter the rest promised by God. The book of Hebrews is a testimony to the grace of God and the wrath of God. Obedience is demanded of the people of God or they will never see the land of promise or the land of rest. God has made every provision to allow man the knowledge of how to save himself from sin. Without mixing the word which they heard with faith, there will be no rest. There is a matter of the wrath of God that clearly shows while the Lord is longsuffering; the days of that longsuffering will end. Receiving the promised rest is conditional upon the faith of the individual to obey the will of the Father. Rest comes to the faithful not the fretful. God swore in His wrath those of Israel would not enter His rest. Let us not be among that number when the final judgment comes.