Do Not Harden Your Hearts

Today’s reading is Psalm 95. This is such a loved and familiar Psalm to me—or at least I like to think it is. I’m a big fan of learning scripture through songs, and I remember singing Psalm 95 through my teen years and it stuck with me—or at least part of it did.

One of the drawbacks of learning our Scripture in Song as was the title of the well-known series of songbooks in the ’80s and 90’s is that we can learn a version of scripture that is a little less than Scripture. It’s not wrong, but also not complete. Song writers often cherry pick the bits that are helpful to them and avoid the harder parts. Naturally if you set out to write a song of praise, you focus on the praise portion of this Psalm, and conveniently leave out the warnings from verse 8 on.

Perhaps you know the first half of this Psalm well. I love singing about the greatness of God and singing praises to him, so it is dear to me. In fact, when people tell me they can’t sing well, or wish they could sing like me, I remind them that I take comfort in the fact we are encouraged to make a joyful noise to the Lord. 

I’ll leave you to enjoy the first half yourself, to contemplate on the greatness of our God. Let me encourage you if you don’t think of yourself as much of a singer to wander out somewhere no-one can hear you and SHOUT it out with joy!

If only this Psalm ended at verse 7a.

Curiously whoever added verse numbers to this Psalm starts the second half, the warning from the middle of verse 7, almost as if to emphasise that we should not leave out the second part, trying to flow us into it.

It begins with a proposition to grab your attention

Today, if you hear his voice…

Are you listening for God’s voice? What do you do with that? Have you ever felt the prompting of His spirit? Ever felt a sense that perhaps God wants you to do something, or that He wants you to draw near to Him?

do not harden your hearts

The rest of this Psalm describes God’s reaction to a time when the people of Israel, who He was rescuing from Egypt grumbled and complained against God, hardening their hearts against Him, and accused Moses—God’s instrument of salvation—effectively accusing God, by accusing Moses, of trying to kill them.

God’s reaction both in Exodus 17 and here in Psalm 95 is unequivocal.

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.”
Therefore I swore in my wrath,
    “They shall not enter my rest.”

I can’t help but be reminded of Mark 3:22-30 where the scribes accused Jesus of performing God’s miracles of rescuing people, through the power of Satan, and Jesus warns them that Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven by God.

No wonder the psalmist pleads with us not to harden our hearts.

Today, as you read His word, listen for His voice. Act on His promptings. Give yourself over to God and allow Him to work his miracle of salvation in your heart, and make you more like Jesus.

 

–James

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