The Children of Israel were slaves in Egypt and they cried because of their taskmasters. God heard their cry and sent Moses to deliver them. After ten miraculous plagues that He sent upon the Egyptians, Pharaoh let them go. The Lord delivered them from Pharaoh by making a path through the sea so that they walked on dry ground. They entered the wilderness free from slavery. But they soon turned away from God and began worshipping a golden calf. They missed what they had in Egypt and desired to return. They complained and rebelled against God who had delivered them.
We must learn from the bad example of the Israelites. Hebrews 3:7-19 “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. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’’ Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’ For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”
We, as Christians, are like the Israelites. They were delivered from slavery to the Egyptians and we are delivered from slavery to sin. They saw the power of God in the miraculous plagues sent on the Egyptians, in the pillar of cloud and fire, in the parting of the Red Sea, in the manna and the quail and other signs. We have seen the power of God through His creation, the forgiveness of our sins, the changes in our lives and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They were promised the land of Canaan which was described as a land flowing with milk and honey. We are promised eternal life with God and Jesus in the Holy City where there will be no more pain, death, sorrow or crying. They wandered in the wilderness for forty years before they could enter the Promised Land. We spend however long we live here upon this earth with trials and tribulations in anticipation of entering the Holy City.
A soft heart trusts God and is obedient, accepts criticism, correction and discipline and in humility changes when there is a need. A hard heart is proud, stubborn and rebellious and is calloused and blind to the love and blessings received from God. The Israelites saw the power of God and received His blessings, but they hardened their hearts. God said “They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.” Their desire for the things of the world was strong in them so they developed unbelief and departed from the living God. They tested, tried and disobeyed God; they complained and rebelled against Him. As a result, He swore in His wrath “They shall not enter My rest.” All those who left Egypt died in the wilderness. The exceptions were Joshua and Caleb who believed, trusted and obeyed God.
So what about you? I doubt that you will fall down before a graven image like a golden calf and worship it. But you can worship the things of this world. You can love money and the things that money can buy. You can follow your fleshly lusts. You can complain and rebel against God. Your heart can go astray from God and not follow His ways. You can get caught up in the things of this world so that you don’t believe or trust in God. You can develop a hard heart.
After the Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years, Joshua became their leader. He led the Israelites into the Promised Land and they conquered the peoples and divided up the land. Afterwards, he gathered all the people together and spoke to them. Joshua 24:14-15 “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
I exhort and encourage you to be like Joshua and purpose in your heart that you and your household will serve the Lord. The writer of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 3:12-14 “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” The “pleasures” of sin can deceive you and cause you to harden your heart toward God. So we need to exhort each other daily to be steadfast to God to the end. Then we will receive the promised rest with God and Jesus Christ.