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So Close and Yet so Far

Hebrews 3:7-19 

 

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, [8] do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert, [9] where your fathers tested Me, tried [Me], and saw My works [10] for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with this generation and said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways.’ [11] So I swore in My anger, ‘They will not enter My rest.’ [12] Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God. [13] But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception. [14] For we have become companions of the Messiah if we hold firmly until the end the reality that we had at the start. [15] As it is said: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion. [16] For who heard and rebelled? Wasn’t it really all who came out of Egypt under Moses? [17] And with whom was He ‘provoked for 40 years’? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? [18] And to whom did He ‘swear that they would not enter His rest,’ if not those who disobeyed? [19] So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” (HCSB)

 Recently I was reading a passage from one of my favorite authors that struck a chord with me.  He wrote, “The thing to remember when traveling is that the trail is the thing, not the end of the trail.  Travel too fast and you will miss all you are traveling for.”  (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 OK, I can agree, with Louie L’Amour that the journey is important, but what if it never leads anywhere?  What if we spend our whole lives walking in circles and never arrive at our destination?  That’s exactly what happened to the Children of Israel.

 Life was tough in Egypt.  What started out as a blessing, quickly turned into a curse.  Joseph called his family into Egypt during the 7 years of famine that followed the 7 years of abundant harvest.  For years, God used the Egyptians to harbor his people and provide for them, but then a day came when Egypt had a Pharaoh who didn’t know Joseph.  The large number of foreigners who were living in Egypt intimidated him, so he chose to enslave them lest they became powerful enough to pose a real threat to his throne.

 Times were harsh for the Children of Israel.  When they complained about having to make bricks, Pharaoh took away their straw, resulting in making their work even more difficult.  When God blessed them with children, Pharaoh killed their sons.  Times were brutal.  But God provided Moses—a deliverer for His people. 

 When the time was right, God appeared to Moses from a burning bush to invite Moses to join Him in the work He planned on doing with His people. At first, Moses hesitated, but God convinced Moses to submit to His plan. Moses returned to his former home--the palace--to ask Pharaoh to release the people and allow to Moses to lead them into their destinies, but Pharaoh wasn't convinced it was what he wanted to do. Even after Moses demonstrated the power of God before Pharaoh, he didn't cooperate, so God unleashed the plagues and pestilence upon all of Egypt.

 A recent BBC documentary claimed fresh evidence claiming that these events weren’t myths, but neither did they say they were miracles, rather, they said they were caused by natural events. The program entitled, “Moses” suggested that much of the Biblical story can be explained by a single natural disaster, a volcanic eruption, a thousand times more powerful than a nuclear weapon, on the Greek Island of Santorini in the 16th century BC.

 Computer simulations showed that a cloud released by the volcano reduced rainfall over the area, turned the Nile red, and subsequently produced the remaining plagues ranging from frogs and lice, to the death of cattle, and boils, and even the parting of the Red Sea. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 The Bible never says what methods God used to bring His plagues and free the Hebrew nation from bondage.  He could have used a volcano, or any other means—He controls the natural as well as the supernatural.  In my opinion, while trying to show the plagues weren’t miracles, the researchers actually provided more evidence for believing the Biblical account, by documenting the events.

 These were historic catastrophes of Biblical proportions. They were miraculous, no doubt, but not because they weren't natural. Each of the plagues sprung from things that happen in nature, but to a greater extent than you'd expect. The plagues came out of nature, but they were more than natural-they came as a result of Divine activity.

 But even after viewing the movement of God, Pharaoh’s heart was hard.  Repeatedly in the narrative, the scripture says that Pharaoh hardened his heart or that God hardened his heart.  After seeing the hand of God in these powerful miracles, how could Pharaoh have a hard heart?  Wouldn’t you think he would respond to the hand of God with faith?

 The same way the children of Israel could reach the edge of the Promised Land and not enter in.  They got so close—so close that they could touch it, and yet they were so far. 

 Numbers 13:30-31 records a portion of the spy’s report, it says, “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.’ [31] But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.’” (NASB)  Unfortunately, the people ignored the minority report and chose to listen to those who focused on the size of their opponents instead of the size of their God.  Even after seeing God’s power revealed in the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, their sin hardened their hearts toward God. 

 As a result, they wandered around in the desert for forty years until all the unbelieving souls died off, never reaching their rest—the Promised Land.   The writer of Hebrews said, “So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.” One thing kept the children of Israel in the desert and out of the Promised Land—their unbelief.  And only one thing will keep you from entering into heaven—the rest that is promised for you—unbelief. 

  Matthew 7:21-23 says, “Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. [22] On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' [23] And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'” (RSV)

 Good deeds don’t save us.  But believing in God and being obedient to Him, does.  Yeah, there is nothing wrong with the journey—in fact, I’m enjoying the ride, but then again, all of this would be a waste if I never crossed over into my ultimate destination—God’s rest.

 Where are you going?  Have you mapped out a final destination?  Or like the children of Israel are you just wandering around waiting to die? 

 Enjoy the journey, but arrive safely to your final destination.

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