“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts,”
I don’t know about you, but I am annoyed by pushy salesmen who make it seem as if there is only one limited time to take advantage of a “once in a lifetime offer.” There is always another time, another “sale.” While businesses ferociously fight to get rid of their inventory, the stores are always stuffed full.
Is this the kind of foolery that God is doing in today’s verse? David is the one who wrote this. He begins his song by calling out to all for singing and praise of our great God, the one who made the earth, the sea, and the dry land. Then, he turns to warning for those who do not. He reminds them of a time during the Exodus when the people rebelled, and God had enough. God then said that every one of age would not set foot into the Promised Land. He made only a couple specific exceptions, but the rest dropped dead before they went in. They wandered for decades, waiting for that last one to die.
The writer of Hebrews took up this same theme, a thousand years later. There is debate about who is the intended audience. Some say it is a warning for believers. Others say it is for those who do not have saving faith, just as those in the desert did not trust in God. All things considered, when comparing the entirety of scripture to scripture itself, this makes the most sense.
So, we are all given a choice, in a specific point in time – today, to respond. It’s not as if God is saying, “Here’s my best offer. Ponder it over and get back to me.” Hardly. It’s presented as if he may not ask you again. Ever.
Someone recently asked me if I could do anything over, what would it be? I immediately went back to college, when I made a conscious decision to walk away from His call. I had several specific calls. One when I was a child. Another when I was 18. Then another when I was 19 and yet another when I was 20. Then, there was nothing for 24 years until a time when I was desperate beyond imagination. It was then that I grabbed onto him with the desperation of a drowning man. Looking back, I sure wish I would have said yes when I was a young man. True, I wouldn’t have had the experiences I now have. That’s exactly my point. I spent most of my life, to date, dishonoring my Creator. What a fool I was.
Scripture is clear that humans have a responsibility, and are accountable, to respond positively to God’s call. (For my anti-elect friends, this does not invalidate predestination. It is the other side of the coin. One coin.) This call is time specific. You may get another call, but it is not the same call. However, you may never get another opportunity.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
and said, “They are a people who go
astray in their heart,
and they have not known my ways.”
Therefore I swore in my wrath,
“They shall not enter my rest.”
The book of Hebrews goes into detail on this, and wraps it up with this familiar passage:
Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
I can’t but help wonder what that would be like, to give account to God for those times he specifically called yet was intentionally denied. Actually, I don’t like to think about that. I did eventually respond positively. Had I not, however…. Hebrews speaks of such sorrow, from Jacob’s brother.
Hebrews 12:16b-17 … or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
The time for Esau to repent had long ago came and went. Besides, there is a big difference between repentance and regret. There will be plenty of regret for all that deny God’s call. There are tons of examples for us in scripture. Let’s not kid ourselves that we can “decide” down the road. We may never get another call.
Father, I pray that those who read this, those who have not made the no-turning-back decision to follow Jesus, will hear your words written so long ago. I pray they may willingly and eagerly drop everything, this moment, and follow Jesus to wherever he may lead them. Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers