“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years” (Hebrews 3:7-9).
The latter portion of Hebrews chapter three serves to remind us that the choices we make today often lead to the consequences we’ll face tomorrow. The verses quoted above reinforce that point with a reference to an unfortunate event in Israel’s history. That illustration begins with a quote from Psalm 95: “Today, if you will hear His voice... ”
The word “today” appears three times in Hebrews 3:7-15 and helps communicate a sense of urgency. The idea is that those who fail to prioritize this message now are people who make corresponding value choices that will surely lead to negative consequences. In some cases, those consequences might be immediate. In other instances, those consequences may take years or decades.
In the case of this illustration from Psalm 95, both were true- there were immediate and long-term consequences that our author warns us to avoid. You see, Psalm 95 references a time when God was leading the people of ancient Israel to a place that He described as a land that was “…flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). We can grasp the impact of this illustration with an abbreviated tour through the Old Testament record of this account…
“The LORD now said to Moses, ‘Send men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to Israel. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes’
…Moses gave the men these instructions as he sent them out to explore the land: ‘Go north through the Negev into the hill country. See what the land is like, and find out whether the people living there are strong or weak, few or many. See what kind of land they live in. Is it good or bad? Do their towns have walls, or are they unprotected like open camps? Is the soil fertile or poor? Are there many trees? Do your best to bring back samples of the crops you see’
After exploring the land for forty days, the men returned… This was their report to Moses: ‘We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified…” (1)
We’ll continue our look at this historical record next.
(1) Numbers 13:1-2, 17-20, 25, 27-28 (NLT)