Sunday 26 October, 2014
TODAY, IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, HARDEN NOT YOUR HEART (HEB 3: 7b-8a) (3)
Out of genuine concern the writer of this letter to Hebrews gives this instruction to the people of his day and by extension to us not to harden our hearts. He was convinced that if sin is given a foothold, it deceives, causes unbelief and thereby gaining stronghold which eventually leads to the judgment of God. Adam was not spared even when he indulged in the blame game of Genesis chapter 3 – it was the woman that you gave to me that gave me the fruit to eat. Neither did it exonerate Eve or the serpent on the other hand. No sin goes unpunished! We have to watch it.
Remember, if sin is not dealt with eventually it will lead to eternal damnation. Ps. 37:1-2, 1 Chron. 10:13, Ezek. 18:4, Hosea 13:9, Rom. 5:12, 6:23, Heb. 2:2, 2 Pet. 2:13.
But it is in the mind of God that none of His creation should perish, for He had said, ‘For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!’ (Ezek. 18:23, 32). That is why the mercy of God is always available at all times to those who may not harden their hearts and receive His son as Lord and personal Saviour. Remember, the devil is a restless being and always at work to induce the believer into disobedience and unbelief to the word of God. Sometimes he can come by way of testing the believer – ‘if you are the son of God’ as we found in his conversation with Jesus during His wilderness experience (Matt. 4:3ff).
From the Old Testament, it was said that Israel’s forefathers hardened their hearts at Massah and Meribah. They tested the Lord by their unbelief and complaints especially when they were thirsty for water. Their insistence for water pushed Moses to hit the rock rather than speak to it. What happened? Water gushed/rushed out. This moved God to provocation on that day and He swore an everlasting oath in anger that was binding that none of such who participated in the provocation would enter into His rest. The rest contemplated within this context at that time was Canaan – the Promised Land (flowing with milk and honey). But the scripture was right when it observed that ‘it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31)’. Remember, none of that generation entered into the Promised Land. We need to be careful; the same God of Israel in the Old Testament is still our own God. If He did not spare them and even His son, Jesus Christ, when He died for us through the excruciating pain on the cross of Calvary, we are likely in more danger today. What prophet Ezekiel said should even keep us on our toes: ‘the soul that sins shall die’ (Ezek. 18:4, 20).
The believer is called upon not to harden his heart when the Lord speaks to him. We have various ways through which the devil can harden the hearts of people. Ex. 8:15, 2 Chron. 36:13, Ps. 78:32, Isa. 42:25, Luke 22:3-6, Acts 7:51, Rom. 2:5-6. It is for the good of the believer not to harden his heart because should he do so, he stands the risk of God’s judgment and eternal damnation. It therefore becomes incumbent on the child of God who desires to enter the rest of God – heaven to ensure that he accepts Jesus as Lord and personal Saviour. Moreso, he is to be guided by the Holy Spirit for the arms of the flesh certainly shall fail. The Holy Spirit leads the believer into every truth and reveals to him the mind of God. Also, it is important that the child of God should be prayerful at all times lest the devil gets a foothold and harden his heart thereafter. It is for his own interest that the scripture says pray continually (1 Thess. 5:17), watch and pray (Matt. 26:41)
As we conclude these article, we place on record that God loves us as His own people and through the letter to the Hebrews, He is making the final appeal unto us: that today, if we hear His voice (through prophets, pastors/preachers) we should not harden our hearts. It is sin that will prevent us from hearing when God is speaking to us and we know we cannot deliver ourselves from sin. We have a solution and it is found only in the son of God – Jesus Christ, the saviour of the world, who came, died for our sins and rose again. He Himself declared that He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). For no one comes to the father except through Him. What are we waiting for? Come, receive Him into your life and make Him your Lord and personal Saviour. It is well with you. Therefore, ‘…exhort one another daily, while it is called today, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.’ (Heb 3:13).Ven. Ernest Onuoha Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.