“So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did" ( Hebrews 3:7-9 )
I’ll never forget the moment it dawned on me that God didn’t take the Israelites out into the desert to test them. In fact it was the other way around, they were the ones who tried God’s patience, tested His forbearance all those years and never once did God fail the test. They saw the mighty things He did to bring them out of Egypt. He provided for them and personally led through the desert. Yet that entire generation passed away never entering into the Promise Land. Why? Because of their hardness of heart.
They believed certain things about God. If you read back through this account in Exodus you will see by their words the thoughts and attitudes they held about God. A prime example is when Moses led the Israelites across the Red Sea, “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" ( Exodus 14:10-12 ). This shows the true heart of Israel. Instead of believing God had delivered them to bring them into the Land He promised to Abraham, they thought He had brought them into the desert to kill them.
Moses had a different understanding of who God was, look at his reply, “Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." ( Exodus 14:13-14 ). Each viewpoint in the midst of this intense situation was vastly different. The Israelites saw the army and their impending death wanting to surrender. Moses saw the army and knew they were completely outnumbered because God was on Israel’s side. He told them to watch and see their deliverance first hand.
Time after time, God provided, protected and delivered the Israelites and yet they never recognized the mighty works He did. They had preconceived ideas about God and this blocked their ability to trust and rely on Him. They grumbled, complained and were completely ungrateful to the one who sustained them all those years. God’s plan was to lead them out of Egypt and straight into the Promise Land. But because of their hardness of heart and unbelief they were unable to enter, giving it all up to wander in the desert the rest of their lives. God put up with the Israelites even after they accused him of trying to kill them time and time again. God was tested and tried for forty years by the Israelites and found faithful.
This is a lesson for us. “So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts...” ( Hebrews 3:7-8a ). This is why we are to pay close attention to the message of Jesus. He was sent to show us the full nature and character of God ( Hebrews 1:1-2 ). Imagine if the Israelites had the mindset of Moses who understood God’s intent. The book of Exodus would be completely different. The same is true with us. If we have a revelation of God and His character, then our lives will be drastically different as well. The Holy Spirit is sent to remind us of these things and to lead us into fullness of the truth and the knowledge of God ( John 14:26 ). Our job is to keep our hearts soft, pliable and teachable with the Lord who is willing to reveal himself to us. Jeremiah boasted of this wonderful promise, “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD ( Jeremiah 29:11-14a ).
Just as my preconceived notion about the trial in the desert made me think that God tested the Israelites, understanding His nature more clearly revealed the truth of this scripture to me. In the same way, our world views, religious backgrounds and heart attitudes can keep us from being able accept the true loving nature of God. They will taint our view if we allow them to. This is why it is so important to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal these wonderful truths to us. If we keep our hearts soft, minds open and come before the Lord in expectation; He will be faithful in revealing himself to us as well.