“Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as when they provoked Me.”
This verse begins the study of the reversionism of the Exodus generation of Israel recorded in Exodus 17. In Hebrews 3:7-11 we have a warning to all believers from the Meribah incident by Israel. Meribahmeans complaining. The worst thing that can happen to any believer is the status of reversionism. In Hebrews 3 we see one of the greatest illustrations of a generation of believers totally failing. The Meribah incident illustrates what reversionism can do to destroy a whole generation of believers. As stated previously in verse 6, there is always a potential danger of reversionism.
The Meribah incident illustrates the rejection of human and/or divinely constituted authority by reversionistic believers. All revolution is antagonistic to the Laws of Divine Establishment, and the greatest antagonism to divine authority comes from believers in reversionism.
The Greek word “semeron” for today indicates that this passage dealing with a rebellion which occurred in the time of Moses is applicable to us right now. It was applicable to the generation in which David lived which was 450 years or so after the events occurred, according to Psalms 95. It was also applicable to believers in 67AD because it is quoted in Hebrews 3. It is applicable to us as well.
If you hear means to hear and to concentrate. It also means to hear and accept the authority of the one who teaches and communicates the Word and it has basically the true Biblical concept of discipleship. The believer in the local church is a student. He has come to learn the Word of God and therefore he must set aside all human ability or human talent and must take in Bible doctrine. Believers in every generation, from the Exodus generation to the present, must be consistent in the intake of Bible doctrine as it is presented in their generation. The principle concept then is that Bible doctrine is absolutely necessary every day for all generations. This is how we grow.
Do not harden your hearts is a reference to reversionism. What is reversionism? Reversionism starts with negative volition and reverses the process of God’s plan and God’s objective for every life. Reversionism is negative volition toward Bible doctrine, negative volition builds scar tissue on the soul opening up a vacuum and allowing satanic doctrine to flow in. Satanic doctrine crowds out Bible doctrine with human viewpoint thinking. This was the history of the Exodus generation and the Exodus generation is used as an illustration of why believers fail to use their priesthood in the Church Age. Every believer is a priest, and that is what Hebrews is all about. The objective of Hebrews is to get believers into the sphere of occupation with Christ. The objective of the priesthood of the believer is for the daily function of intake and application of doctrine eventuating in spiritual maturity. But you and I are going to fail as the Exodus generation failed if we turn negative toward or neglect Bible doctrine. Bible doctrine is the spiritual food whereby believers enter into spiritual maturity, become occupied with the Person of Christ, and fulfill the purpose for which they remain in this life. The priesthood appointment occurs at salvation but the priesthood does not properly function until a believer reaches some level of spiritual maturity and that is what this passage is all about.
If you are negative toward Bible doctrine, it is because of some mental attitude sin in your life, some concept of getting your eyes on people, on things, on the frustrations of life, or on the disappointments of life. The hardening of the heart isn’t something where you freeze up overnight; it is something where you get very sloppy with your volition. The hardening of the heart is where a little bit at a time you begin to think like any unbeliever would think. This passage was originally addressed to Jews in Jerusalem in 67 AD. In that year many of the Jewish believers in Jerusalem were reversionistic. They had three years to recover and to get out of Jerusalem before the great catastrophe of the fifth cycle of discipline. Do not harden is a strong imperative to stop a disaster course, to turn away from a disastrous course, to turn away in your thinking (for the issue here is what you think), to turn away from the attitude that is making you negative toward Bible doctrine. Hardening the heart describes the reversionistic believer with emphasis on negative volition toward doctrine. Every stage of reversionism involves negative volition toward doctrine.
The classic example of reversionism is the Exodus generation whose leader Moses was mentioned in the first part of this chapter. In this chapter the believer has a choice of spiritual maturity or reversionism. In Exodus 17:1 the Jews had been liberated from Egypt. Egypt is a picture of the slave market of sin. The deliverance of the Jews is a picture of redemption through the Cross. The Passover is a picture of going from the slave market into freedom. God not only made the Jews free but He made them very wealthy.
God had to give some tests along the way as they left Egypt for the utilization of Bible doctrine. The Jews were camped in Rephidim, and Rephidim means refreshments. And they were there by the will of God. But in the place of refreshment the people had no water. All they had to do was apply an earlier water situation. They had just recently gone through a place where there was too much water (The Red Sea), and God had moved it out of their way so they would cross it on dry land. Now they were in a place where there was no water. They should have been thinking that since God moved the water of the Red Sea, surely He could provide water for them to drink.
In the meantime they complained because there was no water and complaining was an insult to the character of God. Moses couldn’t provide water. God was the provider; Moses was the leader. So when they went to Moses and said, “Give us water,” they had rejected God’s authority and they had rejected Moses’ authority. Then Moses said, “Why do you complain to me? Why do you tempt the Lord?” The fact that there was no water and that water was necessary to sustain life was not the problem. The problem was no application of doctrine. And typical of reversionists, they had their eyes on Moses instead of God. If they had their eyes on the Lord, they would respect Moses’ authority and they would trust the Lord to provide for them as He had up to that point. They accused Moses of deliberately leading them to this spot so they could die. Whatever gave them this idea? Moses didn’t lead them out there to kill them. Reversionism breeds mental attitude sins.
They were jealous of Moses, bitter toward Moses. They maligned and slandered Moses. Moses didn’t say a word to them. He didn’t go out and try to explain himself to the people. All he did was go to the Lord about it in prayer. God knew that Moses was personally a brave man, so he told him to go out and demonstrate it by striking a rock with his rod (staff). This rod represented divine power in human hands. It was the rod of God’s judgment: Exodus 7:20. Strike it, and water will come out of that rock. And Moses did.
“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.’”
Tried Me means to test for the purpose of determining good or evil in an individual or in a group of individuals. They tested the goodness and patience of God with their reversionism. God must discipline reversionism. Therefore these Jews were not permitted to enter the Promised Land because of their reversionism. These reversionistic Jews saw God’s grace and never responded to it. They saw the grace and the work of God for forty years, but being indifferent to it they died the sin unto death which is maximum divine discipline. God provided every need of the Exodus generation and they rejected it all.
The Exodus generation had no capacity for appreciating the grace of God. And what is the analogy and why is this recorded in the Word of God today? The reason is that some believers had no capacity for their priesthood in 67 AD (as do some today). Capacity comes from Bible doctrine in the soul, and rejection of Bible doctrine means you are in reversionism and have no capacity for the things that God has given you. Bible doctrine is the only way that you will ever have compatibility with your priesthood.
God put up with a lot of complaining for a long time before He disciplined the Exodus generation. They finally reached a point that caused God to discipline them severely. They went astray in their thinking. They had been deluded over a long period of time as they wandered in the wilderness. Swore means to make the most serious and solemn oath one can make. God’s solemn oath of discipline was directed to reversionistic believers of the Exodus generation, but also applies to reversionistic believers of any generation. Wrath refers to God’s indignation. It is used here as an anthropopathism to express in human language the basis for God’s discipline. The Greek word for rest is “katapausis,” which means a state of complete, settled rest, and a state of inner and complete happiness and tranquility. The rest referred to in the Exodus generation was entering the Promised Land and they didn’t make it. So how does a believer in the 21st century enter into the “Promised Land” and find a complete, settled rest and a state of inner and complete happiness and tranquility? The answer is by sharing the happiness of God.
Sharing the happiness of God is having permanent contentment as your constant companion. This happiness is permanent because it does not depend on the circumstances in your life. It is actually God’s own perfect happiness that He shares with the advancing believer as a grace gift. Sharing God’s happiness is obtained only by consistently learning, believing and applying the Word of God over a period of time. The more time you log under the power and the control of God the Holy Spirit and thinking divine viewpoint, the happier you are going to be. Therefore, sharing the happiness of God is not for the novice believer. It is impossible to share in something that you know nothing about. Being happy is one of the many spiritual blessings that comes with increased capacity. Increased capacity to receive God’s blessing of happiness comes only one way - study and application of Bible doctrine. (Jeremiah 15:16; John 13:17)
It is impossible to be happy as a believer in Christ without obeying the principles and commands we find in the Word of God. Disobedience brings only self-induced misery and discipline from our Heavenly Father. As Christians, we must learn to make good decisions from a position of strength. Our position of strength is in direct proportion to the amount of truth we have stored in our souls and the maximum utilization of that truth to our circumstances. This is what is meant by creating an environment in your soul for happiness. Bible doctrine is stored in the soul and is accessed from the soul by wisdom (application). (Proverbs 3:13)
A state of genuine, true and complete happiness depends on absolute truth found only in God’s Word. There are, however, degrees of happiness. The more time you spend in the study and application of Bible doctrine, the higher your degree of happiness. One of the many blessings that God gives, as a fruit of the Spirit, is happiness. But as with everything in the Christian Way of Life, happiness is only a potential. The believer must make the decision to spend time in study and application of God’s Word. The more you know about God, His policies and His mandates, the more application you are able to make. The more application of God’s Word that you make, the happier you will be. (Matthew 6:33; Romans 14:16-19; Galatians 5:22-23; II John 12)
God designed man to share this divine happiness. When the believer thinks divine viewpoint, he is sharing the thinking of God and can also share the happiness of God. One of the by-products of sharing God’s thinking is personal independence. This means that the believer is becoming self-sustaining; he is able to make good decisions from a position of strength. He is able to utilize Bible doctrine effectively in all areas of his life. Divine guidance, for example, becomes a matter of “spiritual common sense.” A believer is able to take the responsibility for his own decisions, good or bad, and stabilize his life as a result. No one is allowed to disturb, upset, or depress you since your confidence is in the Lord not people. All this combines to bring you happiness. This means that truth, exhibited in the life as integrity (a strict adherence to the truth), must precede happiness!(Proverbs 3:13, 8:32-34; John 17:13)
The completed state or mature state of happiness is a matter of spiritual growth. The believer who reaches this state of happiness does not require overt blessings to sustain his happiness. His state of happiness does not hinge on fame, fortune, promotion or people. His relationship with God has matured to the place that he does not need special blessings in order to be happy. Therefore, God can give special blessings to him, because this believer will not forget the source or base his happiness on this prosperity. This believer will not be distracted from his personal love for God by any details of life, whether it is adversity or prosperity. This believer’s first priority is intake and application of Bible doctrine so that he can know God and fulfill His plan, His purpose and His will. (Philippians 4:8-13; Revelation 2:1-5)
When your spiritual life becomes more important to you than the details of life, you will be able to enjoy God’s happiness in all situations. no person or set of circumstances can defeat you. Why? Because your happiness does not depend on people or circumstances. Your happiness depends on the doctrine that you have stored in your soul. Because your priorities are in order, you have learned that sharing the happiness of God replaces any false, temporary happiness that this world system offers. Sharing God’s happiness builds spiritual self-esteem, increases capacity for life, eliminates fear, increases our ability to endure suffering and continues to advance the maturing believer. When this advancing believer reaches the point of increased capacity in his spiritual life, God begins to pour out fantastic blessings (not always material) to this believer, which brings glory to Him both now and for all eternity. This means that you are no longer reaping what you have sown; you are now reaping what God has sown. So here’s the litmus test for you and me. Am I progressing or retrogressing? We certainly never stand still in the Christian Way of Life. If you’re not growing, you’re shrinking! (Proverbs 8:32-34; James 1:2-3; Ephesians 2:7; Galatians 6:7-9; Hebrews 3:10-12)