Celebrating 60 Years!

Psalm 95/Hebrews 3-4 & Sermon Q&A

Part 1: Sermon Discussion

 

Today’s sermon was a vision-casting sermon. After reflecting on several passages of Scripture (including Psalm 95, 1 Peter 5, and Proverbs 29:18), we looked at the past, present and future of our church ministry. I personally am humbled to be a part of a legacy that has lasted for 60 years, and I pray for many, many more years of effective ministry until the Lord returns.

During the discussion about future ministry endeavors, I pointed out three areas that the leadership of BBC will be discussing in the upcoming months: 1) Adult Outreach, 2) Wednesday Night Programming, and 3) The Mortgage and Pastoral Staff.

Keeping in mind that details of all three have not been ironed out, and that we mostly in preliminary stages in discussing most of these things, I’d like to hear from you. What questions do you have? Comments? Concerns? You can use the comment section down below to post your feedback (keep in mind it is a public forum!).

Above all, I encourage you to pray for our ministries, present and future. Consider how God can use your gifts, passions and resources to continue to help us effectively evangelize the lost, disciple our community and glorify God as we do so.

 

Part 2: Exodus 16, Psalm 95, and Hebrews 3-4:

The Interrelationship between Pharaoh, Israel and Us

 

Exodus 15:22-17:7 is a unit of Scripture that relates the story of the Israelites and their “grumbling” to God over the condition of the wilderness. It follows the miraculous redemption of the nation from the Egyptians as God leads Israel from the land of Egypt after a series of plagues, guiding them with a pillar of cloud and fire, parts the Red Sea and supernaturally closing it in time to destroy the enemies.

In 15:22-27, the Israelites complain because they have been in the wilderness for three days and have not yet come across fresh water. God provides, miraculously. Chapter 16 narratives the events of God providing yet again in response to grumbling: this time, quail and manna for the hungry bellies of the Israelites. Here in particular the issue of Sabbath rest arises, as the Israelites are commanded to collect double manna on Friday in order for them to enjoy the break on Saturday. They, of course, disobey. 17:1-7 is another water story, this time at Rephidim, and this time the water coming not from a sweetening log, but from a rock.

How does this story relate to us, the Christian reader? In answering this question, it may be helpful to seek guidance from two other interpreters, one from the Old Covenant, one from the New.

 

Psalm 95

 

Psalm 95 falls near the beginning of Book IV of the Psalms. It lacks a superscription in Hebrew, but the LXX attributes it to David, and Hebrews 4:7 affirms this authorship. The first half of the psalm, verses 1-7a, is a call for the worshiper to come before the Lord and praise Him for His acts of creation and for His shepherding of His people. The tone abruptly shifts in the psalm when we get to the last line of verse 7. There, the text reads:

 

            Psalm 95:7b Today, if you hear his voice,

8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

9 when your fathers put me to the test

and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

10 For forty years I loathed that generation

and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,

and they have not known my ways.”

11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,

“They shall not enter my rest.”

 

Clearly this is a reference to our source text in Exodus 16. The psalm mentions Meribah and Massah (Ex 17:7), putting God to the test (17:2 and 7), and even a mention of entering the “rest” of God, which has ties to the Sabbath issue of Exodus 16.

But what is of particular value to us is the warning for the psalm’s readers to not “harden your hearts” as the Israelites did in Exodus. This language of hardening is absent from our particular Exodus passage, but certainly not from the book as a whole. It is a catchphrase in the Pharaoh narrative, occurring some eighteen times, referring mainly to Pharaoh (and at least once including the Egyptians) and his response to God’s continual judgment upon Egypt. Over and over again Pharaoh has a chance to repent, but even after facing a dozen or so miraculous acts of God, he does not. The reader becomes frustrated at his stubbornness, wondering why he fails to bow to the hand of God, and the narrator indeed plays with us here with his variation of who is hardening the heart of whom.

Back to our psalm. Here, it is the hearts of the Israelites that are being hardened as they grumble against God, even in the face of miraculous acts of provision. The psalmist is using Pharaohnic language to tell us, in part, that Israel is acting the role of the Egyptian king.

This is not the only connection. Exodus 15:25 and 17:4, which bookend our narrative unit, both have Moses “crying out” to God. This may remind the reader of the plight of the Israelites back in the opening chapters of Exodus. There, too, they “cried out” to the Lord because of the harsh treatment of Pharaoh. Now, Moses is in the role of the cryer, but Pharaoh is not his instrument of pain: it is the Israelites. Moses here becomes the Israelites and the Israelites become Pharaoh. Psalm 95, through a clever use of language and allusion, draws our minds back to the Exodus narrative.

 

Hebrews 3:7-4:11

 

Psalm 95 is not the only time in the Bible we hear Psalm 95. The author of Hebrews (whoever he may be) quotes in entirety the last part of the psalm that refers to Exodus. But here, the author of Hebrews relates the meaning to Christian believers.

After arguing that Jesus is greater than Moses (3:1-6), the author quotes our passage (3:7-11) and applies it (3:12-14). It is here in the application that we see again allusions to our passage in Exodus. We are commanded to exhort each other daily to avoid the hardening of our hearts (3:13). This is a nice link back to Exodus 16, which stresses the daily provision of God needed by the Israelites in their time of testing. To pass the test and walk with God, they must learn to rely on Him every single day. Otherwise their bellies will be hungry or their food rotten. The message of the author of Hebrews is in line with the message of Moses in Exodus 16.

The author of Hebrews again quotes the psalm, this time mainly focusing on verse 8. A series of rhetorical questions (3:16-18) push us to his conclusion that the people who heard and rebelled were those same people who experienced God’s provisions and died in the wilderness, unable to enter the Land because of unbelief (3:19).

In Hebrew 4, the “rest” that is the Promised Land in Exodus is now applied to the future rest that believers will experience in God’s presence. The author clearly states, “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God” (4:9, ESV). The encouragement is to strive to enter that rest (4:11), as it is a reward for our obedience here on this earth.

So we see that the message of the book of Exodus is still very much alive and applicable for us today. Be careful not to harden your hearts against God’s work, and learn to rely on Him each and every day. One day we will enjoy eternal rest with God, but for now, let us continue to strive forward in obedience.

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2 Comments

  1. Amen, Once Again, Pastor Bryan!! Thank You for your Awesome Leadership far beyond your Years. I Read and I Follow Every Single Syllable out of your mouth!

    In Christ,

    Jim Bevard

    I would like to come Speak with you sometime Soon? My Email address is: jimcbevard@gmail.com.

  2. While in sunny, warm Florida, during the month of March, this sojourner experienced days and days in my own wilderness of discouragement. I called out many times to Jesus as if to say, “Are you there?” Honestly, I could not sense His presence! Lovingly and tenderly, He reminded me to be grateful for the wonderful opportunity to be out of the cold weather. Yet, the days still crawled on in the dust of my temporary unbelief. I didn’t want to call my best friend, Judy, to share this with her. I just wanted to complain to Jesus when I could have been exhorted by this dear sister in the Lord.

    “In the wilderness, the devil thought he could bait Jesus on a pinnacle of the temple, “Hey, if you be the Son of God, I dare you to jump. Prove you are not beneath it. After all, somebody wrote that you’ve got all those angels to catch you so your shoes don’t wear out and your feet don’t get hurt.”. Matt. 4:5-7 (my paraphrase). Jesus rebuked the enemy with the written words recorded by Moses. “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test….” Deut. 6:16

    Didn’t a number of the people of God put Him to the test when, in unbelief, they gathered manna on the “day of rest”? In my opinion, that day was His call for the people to cease and desist from their labor and celebrate His presence and provision. After all, hadn’t He made provision for their forgiveness as the propitiation for their sin. Because of their unbelief, God swore in His wrath “They shall never enter into my rest”. Psalm 95:11 “if we deny him, he also will deny us;..” 2 Tim 1:12b

    “Oh, come”, sing and celebrate! Come into His presence with thanksgiving…make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” Psalm 95:1-2

    The people of God are to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Sharing Christ, ought we not “hold our original confidence firm to the end”? Hebrews 3:13-14 “if we endure, we will also reign with him..” 2 Tim 1:12a

    Returning home from Florida, by His grace and mercy He brought me to Psalm 119. It was manna in the desert. I related to David’s lament in verses 25, “My soul clings to the dust; give me life [abundantly] according to your word!” A quote from Spurgeon’s The Treasure of David nailed it. “Many times are God’s children brought to this estate, that they have nothing to uphold them but the word of God; no sense of mercy, no spiritual disposition; but on the contrary, great darkness, horrible fears and terrors. Only they are sustained by looking to the promise of God, and kept in some hope that he will restore them to life again, because it is his praise to finish the work which he begins.” William Cowper

    Having been lead out of my wilderness, the Bread of Life continues to satisfy me and to heal what was my hardened heart of grief and unbelief. “if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Tim.13

    “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Psalm 95:2

    Amen.

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