Hebrews 3:7-13

It is clearly not our standing which is in question; for this being wholly of God and in Christ is settled and sure and unchanging. The wilderness journey is before us, flowing very simply from the allusion to Moses. And this is followed up with evident suitability in the quotation from Psalm 95.
“Wherefore even as the Holy Spirit saith, Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation in the day of temptation in the wilderness, where your fathers tempted [Me]1 by proof and saw My works forty years. Wherefore I was displeased with this2 generation, and said, they always err in their heart, and they ignored My ways: as I sware in My wrath, if they shall enter into My rest. See, brethren, lest there be in any one of you a wicked heart of unbelief in falling away from a living God; but exhort yourselves each day while it is called to-day lest any of you be hardened by deceitfulness of sin” (verses 7-13).
Now Psalm 95 is in its primary force a final call from the Spirit of Christ to Israel in view of the great morrow when the kingdom is introduced for the earth in the power and glory of Messiah's presence. They are therefore to hear His voice “to-day” (ver. 7). Hence it is truly applicable since the apostles called souls to believe the gospel in view of Christ's appearing. But nowhere is it more apt than as here urged on the Hebrews.
To hear His voice is the characteristic of Christ's sheep. So the rejected Son of God puts it Himself in John 10:3-4, 16, 273To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. 4And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. (John 10:3‑4)
16And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:16)
27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: (John 10:27)
: compare John 5:2424Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24). On this depend the most blessed issues; as the rejection of His voice is to lie down in sorrow, the prey of a mightier rebel than man. It is the work of the Spirit to give one hitherto deaf to hear Him, according to His will Who spoke on “the holy mount” (Matthew 17:55While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. (Matthew 17:5), Mark 9:77And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. (Mark 9:7), Luke 9:3535And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. (Luke 9:35)). It is life, eternal life.
Alas! it was easy to hear with the outward ear only, and to harden the heart, even as Stephen warned. “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ear, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:5151Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. (Acts 7:51)). Sin is in the measure of truth heard and despised; and what testimony can. God present to those who refused the voice of Christ not only humbled but glorified, Who died for sinners? The very blessedness of the gospel, “so great salvation,” marks the desperateness of the need, the imminence of the danger.
So, but not at all to the same degree, it was with Israel of old “in the provocation, in the day of the temptation in the wilderness” (verse 8). The allusion is to Meribah, and Massah which the Septuagint thus translates. Compare Psalm 95:88Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: (Psalm 95:8). The Septuagint however in Exodus 7, gives not “provocation” as in the Psalms, but “reviling” as in ver. 2 also. Elsewhere Meribah is rendered άντιλογία, contradiction. Massah is uniformly translated πειρασμός, temptation, and this against God as the strife or reviling was against Moses more immediately. Tempting Jehovah in the desert was saying, Is Jehovah among us or not? This way seems to unbelievers a small offense; in the eyes of God and of faith it is heinous. Had He not broken the pride and power of Egypt on behalf of His poor unworthy people? Had He not brought them out of the house of bondage triumphantly, their Guide and their Rearguard, to dwell among them and be their God? “For ask now of the days that are past which were before thee” (says Moses to Israel, Deut. 4) “since the day that God created man upon the earth and from the one end of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it? Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation by temptation, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors according to all the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?” And was He less toward them all the wilderness journey in daily manna and rock-flowing water, in sheltering care and guiding mercy, notwithstanding their too constant murmuring and waywardness, their disobedience and stubborn rebellion every now and then? Righteousness indeed there was in Him and holy abhorrence of evil; but oh, what unwearied compassion and unfailing goodness! Truly they tempted by putting Him to the proof in the midst of unceasing tokens of His faithful presence. It was bad for heathen blinded by lusts and Satan's power to say, because of the chastisements of Israel's sins, Where is their God? How much worse for themselves to ask, Is the LORD among us or not? And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust... How often did they rebel against Him in the wilderness and grieve Him in the desert! And they turned again and tempted God and provoked [or limited] the Holy One of Israel. (Psalm 8:18, 41-42). The least that became such a people before such a God was to judge self and go forward in the assurance of His gracious power. But not so did Israel, though they “saw His works forty years” (verse 9).
“Wherefore I was displeased with this generation, and said, They always err in their hearts, and they ignored My ways” (verse 10). It was just because He is just and true that God felt so deeply the refractory and deceitful rising up of Israel against His will. Their error lay not in their understanding but in their heart: hence they never got to learn God's ways, but ignored them. Moses truly feared and loved Him: thus only are His ways discovered and delighted in; as it is written in another Psalm (103) “He made known His ways unto Moses, His acts unto the children of Israel.” Above His palpable doings they did not discern. “As I sware in My wrath if they shall enter into My rest” (or, they shall not). A solemn sentence of exclusion. In man's mouth it is elliptical, God do so to me and more, if! In God's lips the condition of man's entering is the moral certainty that it is all over with him. Good is only and wholly of grace. There is no entrance into the rest of God if it depend on man's deserts. If they shall enter, means, for unbelievers, that they shall not enter.
It may be well here to say that God's rest is for us future and in glory. We lose the force of the teaching in these two chapters, especially chapter 4 in which it is so conspicuous, if we conceive it to be anything given to us on our first believing in Jesus, or found experimentally in submitting to His easy yoke and light burden. Both of these are real and important now, as we know from Matt. 11:28-3028Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28‑30). But the rest of God is when work is over and burden is no more; when the enemy deceives not and creation no longer groans, when judgment is executed on earth and righteousness reigns, and Jehovah alone is exalted in that day. Heaven and earth shall be united in a chain of descending goodness and universal blessing, when Christ is no longer hid in God, and His sons are revealed for the deliverance which the long enthralled creation awaits. Till that day God works, because there is still unremoved sin and misery; and we work in the communion of His love. When it comes, we shall be in the rest of God.
“See, brethren, lest there be in any one of you a wicked heart of unbelief in falling away from a living God; but exhort yourselves each day while it is called to-day, lest anyone of you be hardened by deceitfulness of sin” (verses 12-13).
Here the root of the mischief is touched. It is “unbelief.” This hindered Israel of old from setting their hope in God (Psalm 78:77That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: (Psalm 78:7)). This exposed them to forget His works and to break His commandments, neither the heart prepared aright nor the spirit steadfast with God. It is impossible that He should lie or be not faithful, yea gracious. Faith is invited and may be bold to rest on Him confidently, now especially that He has raised Christ from the dead and given Him glory, that our faith and hope might be in God. None however were so liable to stop short and ask for signs as the Jews, accustomed as they were to a religious system of rite, ceremony, and symbolism. And as Christendom has fallen back from faith into a resumption of these rudiments of the world, which the work and glory of Christ now condemn as weak and “beggarly elements” (Galatians 4), there is like danger of unbelief. It is in truth departure from a living God for forms which He used, to do service before Christ came and died atoningly, when redemption from under the law was effected and the believer passed from bond-service into the status of a son and heir of God, receiving the Spirit of adoption so as to cry Abba, Father. Anything short of this is not Christian relationship; and it is in evident contrast with Jewish subjection to ordinances, to which the Catholic bodies (not Romanist only) have turned back again. It is a deceptive form of unbelief, a going away from the living God to dead forms, because the heart lacks confidence in His grace in Christ.
So it was with Israel; so it is with Christendom. No wonder that it is denounced as “a wicked heart” of unbelief. For what else is or can be distrust of such a God? The more His love is revealed, the more is the heart convicted of wickedness. Nothing more false than to regard faith as a mere process of the mind, involving nothing moral. To believe, to bow to Christ Whom God has sent, is the first and most imperative of calls. What obligation to compare with being at the feet of the Son of God, Who became incarnate to suffer for my sins? God too was glorified in Him and His cross, as in naught else; as the Father's glory raised Him from the dead, that believing in Him I should know myself and all who have faith brought nigh to God. Is it not a wicked heart of unbelief that neglects so great salvation? It is this even in a worse degree, after confessing Him to depart from a living God thus proved for any other object; for here only is He known truly by a sinner and best honored. For us love, service, worship and all that is good follow faith and cannot exist without it.
Hence the call to exhort, not exactly one another, though this is included, but “yourselves,” which seems rather more pointed than the former phrase. They were to encourage each other day by day as long as it is called today (the day of grace), that none should be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. For which of us knows not by humbling and bitter experience its luring character and slippery paths? A little evil allowed is the beginning of very great evil. The heart is hardened as we look off from Jesus, and self-pleasing takes the place of doing God's will; and only mercy's intervention hinders the end from being according to the way. Truly sin is deceitful.