HEBREWS 3:7-11 continued...
"Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts
as when they provoked Me,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
Where your fathers' tried Me by testing Me,
And saw My works for forty years.
Therefore I was angry with this generation,
And said, 'They always go astray in their heart,
And they did not know My ways';
As I swore in My wrath,
They shall not enter My rest."
Matthew Henry says, "Days of temptation are often days of provocation. But to provoke God, when He is letting us see that we entirely depend and live upon Him, is a provocation indeed."
Benson says in his commentary, "Now, (Today) at the present time, while the season of grace lasts,
...harden not your hearts--By inattention, by thoughtlessness, by unbelief, and disobedience. Observe, reader, God speaks by His works, particularly those of creation, providence, and grace and in and by His word; 'to hear Him,' implies that we harken to, understand, believe, and obey Him; and instead of rejecting His counsel, that we suffer it to enter into our hearts, so as to influence our spirits and conduct...'The tempting God,' here spoken of, consisted in their calling in question His presence with them, their distrusting His power to help and saw them, or His faithfulness to His promises; or their despising ordinary means of help and deliverance, and desiring extraordinary. Put My patience to the proof, even while they saw My glorious works, both of judgement and mercy's or had proof by experience of my power, providence, goodness, and faithfulness for forty years."
John Wesley says, "'As in the provocation'--When Israel provoked Me by their strife and murmurings; 'in the day of temptation'--When at the same time they tempted Me, by distrusting My power and goodness."..."'When your fathers'--That hard-hearted and stiff-necked generation...'tempted Me'--Whether I could and would help them; 'proved Me'--Put my patience to the proof, even while they saw my glorious works, both of judgement and mercy, and that for forty years. 'Wherefore'--To speak after the manner of me, I was grieved--Displeased, offended with that generation; and said, 'They always err in their hearts--They are led astray by their stubborn will and vile affections. And--'For this reason because wickedness has blinded their understanding, 'hey have not known my ways--By which I would have led them, like a flock, into my rest--In the promised land."
These words are spoken to the wandering heart. There is a reason God speaks of His people as sheep gone astray, each to his own way in need of a shepherd. The Good Shepherd is here. The sheep know his voice. There is a choice before each and every one of us to obey or to harden our heart.
When Robin was three and we were stuck in a traffic jam, she was tired of being in the car. She said from her car seat in the back with arms crossed and a scowl on her face, "I love the devil." "What!" we exclaimed. "Why?" "Because I have a laugh in my heart when I am naughty." Yep, it springs from the heart.
Another analogy here is of love. To wander away while in a loving relationship, in a marriage strikes at the very heart of love: "They always go astray in their heart." This is heartbreaking. God has emotions, the very ones He gave to us. God gets angry, angry at having His great and glorious love being rejected. He provides for His people, yet they do not trust Him. Thus, they cannot enter His rest. The wrath of God prevents it just as the angels who stood guard at the gate of Eden. Once they had enjoyed perfect fellowship there with God. But Adam and Eve rejected it and instead of heeding His voice, believed the lie. Ever since then, there is a yearning to go back to that beautiful place in the soul, or a temptation to walk away from all God has for us.
These words are spoken to God's chosen people. They are a warning not to reject and lose their salvation. Indeed, these words are calling us to go deeper in our relationship and enter His promised rest. This promised rest, the promised land, is not about a patch of dirt. It is about a falling so deeply in love with Him, that we trust, we can recline, we can rest in His arms. There will be more about this in coming passages.
The King James version says, "Wherefore I was grieved." Adam Clarke says, "God represents Himself as the Father of this great Jewish family, for whose comfort and support He had made necessary provision, and to whom He had given every proof of tenderness and fatherly affection; and because they disobeyed him, and walked in that way in which they could not but be miserable, therefore He represents Himself as grieved and exceedingly displeased with them."
"'They do err in their heart.' Their affections are set on earthly things, they do not acknowledge my ways to be right--holy, just, and good. They are radically evil; and they are evil continually. They have every proof o my power and goodness and lay nothing to heart. They might have been saved, but they would not. God was grieved on this account." (Adam Clarke)
We are made to love, to be in relationship with our Creator, our Redeemer. How dare we cause God to grieve, to wander away, rejecting His love, distrusting His care for us. These words were written to the Hebrew Christians who under great duress, and were tempted to go back. They are spoken to us as a tender, but stern call to hear His voice, as our shepherd, as the lover of our soul, as our Father.