There used to be an old television commercial that went “when EF Hutton talks, people listen.” I cannot remember what the commercial was about, but I do remember it would show someone speaking to another person in a crowd, and when that first person spoke, everyone else got quiet and leaned in toward the speaker so they could hear better.
For some reason that television commercial has always stayed within my memory. It has made me realize that some humans throughout history have done the same thing when listening to God. Then there are those who have mostly failed to do just that — listen to God when He speaks.
What Does it Mean to Listen?
This passage of Scripture uses the case of Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness (Numbers 13-14) as a notice or a warning. This is aimed at Christians who neglect to hold fast their faith in God during oppression and persecution.
Israel was saved from Egypt, as Christians are saved from death eternal through salvation in Christ. Israel was offered the Promised Land, as Christians are guaranteed triumph through the spiritual inheritance that God has provided in Christ.
Israel lost their faith, and they did not believe in God to protect them against the giants that were in Canaan, as Christians can be enticed to lose faith during oppression.
The antiquated Israelites were not sent back to Egypt, similarly, as God does not deny the salvation of believers. Be that as it may, both can expect difficulty and a deficiency of partnership in the event that they neglect to have faith and trust in God.
This passage also ties a few of the past verses together. Utilizing four essential types of spiritual blunder, the writer of Hebrews shows why God had disciplined Israel. This discipline implied losing entrance into the Promised Land, not necessarily to salvation, but rather to spiritual gifts and rewards.
Sin and rebellion, faithlessness, and insubordination were all present in the country of Israel, and that generation of Israelites was denied their possible triumph. Christians are cautioned, in this section, to keep away from these errors so they do not relinquish their own spiritual inheritance.
Do We Harden Our Hearts to God?
Continually the Bible cautions us not to harden our hearts. “Hardening our hearts” signifies setting ourselves against God — no longer going to Him for absolution.
The Israelites became hardhearted when they resisted God’s order to vanquish the Promised Land (Numbers 13; Numbers 14; Numbers 20; Psalm 95). We should be cautious to submit to God’s Word and not permit our hearts to become hardened and admonish each other to complete that which God has taught us to do.
The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me; his word was on my tongue (2 Samuel 23:2).
For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness (Psalm 95:7-8).
Where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways (Psalm 95:9-10).
God’s rest has a few implications in Scripture: the seventh day of creation and the weekly Sabbath (Genesis 2:2; Hebrews 4:4-9); the Promised Land of Canaan (Deuteronomy 12:8-12; Psalm 95); harmony or peace with God now in light of our relationship with Christ through faith (Matthew 12:28; Hebrews 4:1); and our future unceasing existence (eternal life) with Christ (Hebrews 4:8-11).
These implications were most likely known to the Jewish Christians who read this letter to the Hebrews or had it read to them. “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest’” (Psalm 95:10).
Our hearts lead us away from the living God when we tenaciously, or stubbornly, decline to have faith in Him. If we continue in our unbelief, we will ultimately stay in our transgression.
When God Speaks
In any case, God can give us new hearts, new desires, and new spirits (Ezekiel 36:22-27). To forestall an unbelieving heart, stay in partnership with different believers, talk every day about your shared faith, and support each other with adoration and concern.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires (Ephesians 4:22).
The Israelites were unsuccessful in entering the Promised Land since they did not have faith in God’s security. They did not really accept that God would assist them in vanquishing the land (Numbers 14-15).
So, God sent them into the wilderness to meander about for a very long time, a miserable option in contrast to the awesome gift He had already prepared for them. Absence of faith in God consistently keeps us from accepting His best.
For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice (Psalm 95:7).
When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: “No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors (Deuteronomy 1:34-35).
Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness (1 Corinthians 10:5).
The ability to hear and the ability to listen are two separate things. To listen means our ability or inability to focus our attention on a certain sound or sounds. That means that we pay attention to that sound and recognize the origin of that sound.
Unfortunately, many of us have grown so inundated with hearing and listening to the world’s noise that we have shut out the sound of God’s voice. We can no longer hear Him.
What Does This Mean?
What did God allow to happen to the Israelites who failed to listen to Him? They were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. What will God allow to happen to us if we do not listen to Him?
It is a simple question. And throughout the Bible, we have a plethora of examples of what we are to do and what we are not to do. It is a matter of Christians setting aside their pride and listening to God speak, then obeying.
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Chris Swanson answered the call into the ministry over 20 years ago. He has served as a Sunday School teacher, a youth director along with his wife, a music director, an associate pastor, and an interim pastor. Chris is a retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman with over 30 years of combined active and reserve service. During his service, he received numerous awards and citations. Chris holds a Doctor of Ministry, an M.B.A., and a B.S. in health administration. Chris and his wife Vicki of 24 years reside in Madison, Alabama. If you are interested in having Chris deliver God's Word at your place of worship, you can reach him here.