“So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did'” (Hebrews 3:7-9 NIV).
One important application from this passage involves the need to avoid the kind of “faith” displayed by the majority of Israelites during their exodus from the nation of Egypt. While those men and women were undoubtedly happy to escape their Egyptian servitude and enjoy the benefits of a relationship with God, they were unwilling to trust Him when circumstances failed to meet their preferences. Even in those instances when God clearly provided for their needs, the people of ancient Israel refused to place their trust in Him.
In contrast, a genuine, God-honoring faith is identified by a “belief in or confident attitude toward God, involving commitment to His will for one’s life.” (1) Unfortunately, the people referenced here in Hebrews 3:7-9 failed to demonstrate the confident expectation that God would fulfill His promises despite the repeated evidences He offered. These verses also tell us that their response involved something far more egregious than just a simple lack of trust…
“The Greek words translated ‘tempted’ and ‘proved,’ are peirazomai and dokimazo respectively. They are an interesting contrast. Peirazomai means ‘to put to the test to see what good or evil may be in a person.’ Dokimazo means ‘to put to the test for the purpose of approving the person if he meets the test.”‘
The Greek here is ‘put Me to the test to see what evil or good there is in Me when they put Me to the test for the purpose of approving Me should I meet the test.’ What crass unbelief is shown in such a procedure. What an insult it flings into the face of an all-loving, all-powerful God. The first-century readers of this letter are warned not to take that attitude toward God.” (2)
Sadly, it seems that the people of ancient Israel continued to challenge (CEB), test (ESV), tempt (KJV), and try God’s patience (AMPC), throughout their forty- year journey through the wilderness. So despite God’s gracious provision in protecting them from plagues, enabling them to cross the Red Sea, and supplying them with food each day, the people of that era were disinclined to trust Him. The author of Hebrews urges us not to replicate that same mistake.
(1) “Faith” Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers
(2) Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament (Hebrews 3:9) Copyright © 1942-55 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.