“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Have you seen enough of God and His activity that rejecting Him is no longer a valid option for your life? That’s kind of an interesting question, isn’t it? We don’t often think about it like that. We usually think more in these terms: Have you seen enough of God to make receiving Him a reasonable thing to do? The thing is, if we look closely at the Scriptures, that first question is the one with which we are really confronted.
In Romans 1, Paul makes clear that the evidence for God’s existence is plentiful and obvious. By the time judgment day rolls around, no one will be able to skate by on the excuse that they never saw enough evidence to convince them. Paul states it clearly: We are without excuse. Instead, we’ll be faced with whether or not we’ve experienced so much of God that failing to receive Him is damnable faithlessness, an incorrigible unwillingness to believe.
That’s certainly what the people of Israel displayed in the Exodus. That first generation out of Egypt had seen an overwhelming display of God’s power in the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea and the theophany on Mt. Sinai. They knew exactly what God could do. They knew exactly what His intentions toward them were. There was nothing left for them to do but trust Him completely and do whatever He told them to do in the way He told them to do it.
But they didn’t.
Over and over again they refused to believe His intentions toward them were good. They made Him out to be a liar to their children and grandchildren. They accused Him of intending mass murder and wished to go back to the place they had been begging to leave for several hundreds of years only a few months before. They hardened their hearts and refused to believe Him.
Now, had they been wandering on their own in the desert and He suddenly came to them and started asking for huge displays of trust and obedience, they would still have been wrong to falter, but at least it would have been understandable. But He didn’t. He spent several months demonstrating that He was entirely trustworthy before asking them for a big gift of trust. And they refused.
Theirs wasn’t simply a lack of faith, it was an incorrigible unwillingness to believe. It was a dogged commitment to unbelief. It was sin that they weren’t willing to relinquish. And so they were judged.
Now, in our tolerant and permissive culture, we struggle mightily with the notion that unbelief could be a sin. But the guys who contributed to the Scriptures over centuries make clear that it is indeed a sin and one of the most grievous we can commit.
In order to understand that, we need to understand what sin is. Sin can be and indeed is defined in various ways, but here’s one we don’t think about often: Sin is a rejection of reality. It is a refusal to release a belief in some fantasy even in the face of evidence to the contrary (of which Paul said there is plenty). Well, given who God is as the definer of all reality, persistent unbelief is indeed a rejection of reality. It is a dogged refusal to accept the way the world really is in favor of whatever fantasy we’ve chosen to believe in its place.
And the result of this is that eventually, we’ll be allowed to keep believing it…forever. God is certainly angry about our refusal to believe—just as you are when you’re telling the truth about yourself and someone refuses to believe you—but in the end, loves tinges His judgment and He gives us what it is we have expressly declared we most want: Life apart from Him.
This is no way to live. Literally. Even in a life filled with trials and tribulations, the evidence not only for God’s existence, but His goodness is everywhere. He makes sure of it. We only have to be willing to receive what is right in front of our faces. Turn away from the sin of unbelief. Today, when you hear His voice, however He happens to be speaking, do not harden your heart. Receive Him into it and find the life that is truly life.