Sometimes it is necessary to have a bit of Biblical knowledge in order to understand some of the Biblical passages. Hebrews 3:8 is one of these: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness.” (NLT)
With Israel’s wilderness history full of rebellion (wouldn’t our history be full of rebellion, if it had been recorded as precisely as Israel’s?), this leads us to ask ourselves, “which wilderness rebellion?”
The passage in Hebrews actually references a passage from Ps. 95, and by going back to the original verse, we are given a lot more context: “The Lord says, ‘Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness.'” (Psalms 95:8 NLT)
The “wilderness rebellion”, then, is none other than the rebellion that happened at Meribah!
Are you starting to feel like every time you look up a definition, you’ve got to look up the meaning of one of the words used in the definition? I certainly was! Which rebellion is known as the “Meribah” rebellion?
The reference takes us back to Exodus 17: “Eventually they camped at Rephidim, but there was no water there for the people to drink. So once more the people complained against Moses.” (Exodus 17:2 NLT)
The story goes on to tell how the people argued with Moses, accusing him — as well as the God he served — of trying to kill them in the wilderness. Moses eventually cried out to God, and God gave him specific instructions: “Walk out in front of the people. Take your staff, the one you used when you struck the water of the Nile, and call some of the elders of Israel to join you.I will stand before you on the rock at Mount Sinai. Strike the rock, and water will come gushing out. Then the people will be able to drink.” (Vs. 5,6 NLT) Moses obeyed God, water came gushing out of the rock, and then Moses, “…named the place Massah (which means “test”) and Meribah (which means “arguing”) because the people of Israel argued with Moses and tested the Lord by saying, ‘Is the Lord here with us or not?’” (Vs. 6,7 NLT)
So then, this “wilderness rebellion” referred to in Hebrews is none other than the fact that the people complained against God and against Moses!
Wait. What is so wrong about asking for water when you’re dying of thirst?
Please understand that prior to this, God had already provided water in miraculous ways: “When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).” (Ex. 15:23 NLT). He instructed Moses to throw a log into the spring, and the water turned sweet. (See Ex. 15). God had also miraculously fed them (see Ex. 16). Thus, when the people complained against God at Meribah, they were showing a lack of faith in a God who had already proven His faithfulness to them many times over! This “big sin” was none other than a sin of doubt!
Hebrews 3, as well as Ps. 95, go on to outline the gravity of this rebellion: “For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did.” (Psalms 95:9 NLT). God’s response to that wilderness rebellion was harsh: “For forty years I was angry with them, and I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’ So in my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’” (Ps. 95:10-11 NLT)
Whoa. Wait. If God was that angry with Israel for simply doubting His promises, then those of us who are “grafted in” (See Heb. 11) are also not exempt from His anger! We have the record of Israel’s miraculous deliverance, and we have also experienced many, many times in our own lives where God has been faithful. Therefore, when we doubt God, we are just as guilty as the people of Israel! The writer of Hebrews expresses this clearly: “Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.” (Hebrews 3:12-14 NLT)!
What doubts are currently running through your mind? Maybe you’ve been believing for healing, but you still have stage 4 cancer. Maybe you’ve been praying for a new job, but you are still unemployed. Maybe you have been praying for your child to come to God, but he is still running with the wrong crowds. Maybe you are praying to be freed from an abusive relationship, or in some cases, freed from prison; but the “bars” still surround you. Whatever it is, it is human to doubt that God hears you and answers your prayers. Don’t, however, allow yourself to fall into that temptation! God is still there, He’s still on His throne, He still loves you and promises to care for your needs. And… His timing is always perfect! Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah! Take that step out in faith, then use the waiting time to strengthen your relationship with God!
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart
Moderator, Associate Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries