Part 5 - Resting by Faith
In the middle of Psalm 95 the tone changes, and the psalm turns from speaking of faith in the Creator to addressing the issue of unbelief in the Creator. Psalm 95 continues: "Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness" (Ps. 95:7b-8).
"His voice" is that of Jesus Christ the Creator of a people for God. He who is speaking this section of the psalm is the Holy Spirit. The writer to the Hebrews makes this clear in quoting this psalm: "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: 'Today, if you will hear His voice' " (Heb. 3:7). As the Spirit speaks He uses the first person: "Where your fathers tested Me," "tried Me," "saw My works," "I was angry," "they have not known My ways," "So I swore in My wrath," and "They shall not enter My rest."
Just previously to this in Psalm 95 it was said of the Creator, "For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand" (Ps. 95:7a). Jesus claimed to be the shepherd who cares for God's people, the sheep. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own" (John 10:14). Jesus said regarding the shepherd, "the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers" (John 10:4-5).
Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews, "But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:26-27). Yet the Holy Spirit is calling to those who would turn away in unbelief, "Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts."
The testimony of the Spirit
The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to speak to one's heart and testify of Jesus Christ. Jesus said concerning the Spirit of truth, "He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you" (John 16:14). As the Holy Spirit speaks He says of the good Shepherd, Jesus, "Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts." The writer to the Hebrews is using this psalm in an exhortation to consider Christ, for he began, "Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus" (Heb. 3:1).
After quoting the last portion of Psalm 95 the writer says, "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end." (Heb. 3:12-14). The commands of Jesus are those to follow Him in His way, to believe in Him, and to abide in Him. One becomes a "partaker" of Christ by a faith and confidence in Him that is "steadfast to the end."
An evil heart of unbelief
The warning here is about having "an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God." It is a "heart of unbelief" that causes one to depart from God, and such a heart is hardened in its position by the "deceitfulness of sin." The Holy Spirit is saying, "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness." This is referring to the time of Israel's redemption from bondage to Egypt, when they had come out of Egypt but before they had entered into the land of promise.
The rebellion and day of trial in the wilderness spoken of here is the place that Moses named Massah and Meribah. Massah means to test, and Meribah means to strive or contend with. The people thirsted in the wilderness and had no water. This is the place where God instructed Moses to strike the rock. He did so and water came forth for the people to drink. This typifies Christ the Rock being struck - His death on the cross - that the Holy Spirit could be poured out. The rebellion of the people in this place was not that they thirsted and needed water, but their unbelief in God who was delivering them and their lack of trust that He would provide for them.
The Exodus account records, "and the people complained against Moses, and said, 'Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?' " (Ex. 17:3). It further says of them, "they tempted the Lord, saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?' " (Ex. 17:7). Previously God had said to Moses, "I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex. 3:7-8). God had made a promise to the children of Israel. He revealed His plan of deliverance and the place He was taking them. He demonstrated His power as He delivered them. The unbelief of the Israelites was an unbelief in the person and character of Yahweh. They doubted His presence even though He led them by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. They attributed their present situation as one created by Moses, who "brought us up out of Egypt." They ignored the promise of God who said that He would deliver them. Their rebellion was to forsake God and His plan as soon as adversity struck, rather than seeking God for help in that adversity.
Unbelief in the Being of God
One trait of unbelief is unbelief in the presence and character of God. It is to discount His person. The book of Romans states, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened" (Rom. 1:18-21).
Here the Scripture states that the knowledge of God's eternal power and Godhead is understood by all of God's creation. God's wrath is upon those who "suppress the truth in unrighteousness." They hold the truth, but suppress it in unrighteousness. The reason for this is that "although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful." Mankind's basic rebellion against the Creator is to reject Him as God and to seek self as being equal to God. It is to glory in self rather than glory in the person of God. To not "glorify Him as God" is to not put any weight to God's vastly superior position and power. "Nor were (they) thankful" shows the characteristic of unbelief as also not appreciating God's goodness and lovingkindness that He has shown to mankind.
The rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness shows these characteristics of unbelief. They did not trust in God's power to deliver them, neither did they trust in His lovingkindness toward them. God brought them out of a hard bondage of slavery but they were not thankful because of their unbelief in the being that God was. Those who rebel against the glory of God's being become as Romans states, "futile in their thoughts" with "foolish hearts" that are "darkened." Those who reject God seek to be their own god, to place themselves in the place of God. Those who do so must rely upon their own resources, and seek to build themselves up to self-sufficiency.
"Do not harden your hearts"
The call of the Holy Spirit toward the unbelieving is to "not harden your hearts." The writer to the Hebrews warned to beware, "lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin." There is an allure to sin. This is an allure to self-glory and self-gratification. This is deceitful in that it is a lie and will cause one to harden one's heart to who God is. The Holy Spirit's witness is the need for Christ. Those who pursue after sin, rebellion against God, are seeking to fulfill their needs apart from Christ. They seek to enrich themselves to self-sufficiency. The longer one rejects the Spirit's witness the more hardened that one becomes in his position.
Jesus says concerning those who think they are self-sufficient: "Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'; and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked; I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see" (Rev. 3:17-18). The Apostle Peter said regarding faith, "that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7). The counsel of Jesus to obtain "gold refined in the fire" is to obtain faith. It is also to obtain the righteousness that comes from Christ, referred to as "white garments." Spiritual insight only comes through the Holy Spirit, and so to be anointed with the Spirit is to "anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see." The true riches that the "poor and needy" are enriched by are the things freely given by a loving God.
Jeremiah records, "Thus says the Lord: 'Let not the ... rich man
glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he
understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness ...
in the earth' " (Jer. 9:23-24). It is the richness of the presence of a
loving God that is the true riches, yet unbelief will cause one to ignore
this and turn to emptiness.