Not everything in the Bible is to be taken literally. And yet, what's written in the Bible is not just figurative or symbolic. Discernment, spiritual discernment, is needed for a true understanding.
Events in the Bible are real, but they can also be figurative. The stories recorded in the Bible aren't random events, they're selected by God for a purpose.
They are intended to teach us something by example or by way of illustration. Just as in life, where we can learn from the success or mistakes we make, we can learn from the successes, wisdom, and failures of others.
Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.” [Ps 95:7-8]
And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt?
And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness?
And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn’t it the people who disobeyed him?
So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.
(Hebrews 3:15-19 NLT) [Context– Hebrews 3]
Key phrase—Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts
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Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions
What event does the exhortation from Psalm 95:7-8 correspond to?
How do the rhetorical questions and answers speak to this event?
Are you familiar with the story of Israel's rebellion in the wilderness? (It's found in Numbers 14)
What were the people who rebelled not able to do? Why?
Stubbornness is entrenched pride. It blinds us and deadens our spiritual heart. It keeps us locked up, bound by our deafness to the Lord. It is a hindrance that keeps us from entering into the promised rest of God.
Why? Because of unbelief. Unbelief is an action of the will, not mere thoughts. It's an unwillingness to believe, not doubt nor fear.
This story of those who were forbidden to enter the land promised to their ancestor Abraham and his descendants is about unbelief.
The story is found in Numbers 14, but it begins in Exodus 12 where God brings enslaved Israel out of their bondage in Egypt to take them to the Promised Land.
After seeing God do many miraculous signs and save them supernaturally from Pharaoh's army, they refuse to trust God to bring them into a new land in spite of the confidence of faithful Joshua and Caleb.
Instead, they listen to the fear of others and choose to trust in their own reasoning. This leaves them stuck in a wilderness, a no-man's land between Egypt and Canaan.
This is the lesson. Learn to discern and listen to the voice of God, rather than the fear and unbelief of others. Unbelief is a prison. Trust brings freedom.
Make it personal...
Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions
Why do we need to learn to discern, know, and listen to God's voice?
How can we keep our hearts from getting hardened and unwilling to listen to God's voice?
In what way have you found yourself unwilling to trust God with a situation or struggle in your life?
Is your heart tender and open to hear and listen to God's voice today?
Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews