“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:8, 3:15, 4:7, quoting Psalm 95:7)
It is a simple yet forceful command, one with tragic consequences if ignored. When you hear God speak, “do not harden your hearts.” In other words, do not ignore God. Listen.
Do not just hear the words presents, listen. Listen to the message being presented. Heed the warning. Follow the directions. Trust in God and do as He says.
Why? God sets things very straight forward in Scripture. With God, life is seen in terms of darkness (sin and evil) and light (good, righteousness, God!). There are no shades of gray. Evil is evil, good is good. And we are instructed to “abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9, ESV).
The world lives at odds with the ways of God. We are constantly being bombarded with messages and temptations and avenues to sin. I’m afraid my little boy is going to be pushed into puberty at an early age just seeing the magazine covers in the supermarket checkout. Every time we turn on the TV, hop on the Internet, drive down the highway… opportunity to sin knocks.
The problem with sin – one problem with sin – is that it diverts our attention away from God. We think a little sin here or there is no big deal, but that thinking begins to accumulate in our thoughts until we find our spiritual engine isn’t running nearly as clean as it once did.
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. – Galatians 5:7-10 (ESV)
The drift away from the Lord can be subtle. But, the very second we begin to put anything before God – even things we consider “good” – then the drift away has begun.
Here is a little exercise that I think would benefit every believer, to help us stay on course. We teach our son that, before crossing the street, he needs to stop, look and listen. Before we take off in our lives, it would be wise if we did the same:
STOP: take a moment and consider where you’re going. Ask the Lord, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalms 139:23-24, ESV). If you think God doesn’t know, read Psalm 139.
LOOK: look around you. How are you spending your life – your time, your talent, your treasure? Where does your passion lie? Where is God leading you? Does what you think, what your believe, what you do and what God says all line up? In short, what is important to you?
LISTEN: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” And if you seek the Lord and ask Him, you will hear His voice. “For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:8, ESV).
Today I want to encourage each of us to listen. Listen to what God is saying. I mean really listen. Listen by spending time in God’s Word. Listen through prayer. Listen for that still, small voice. And follow God’s lead. Trust me, He’s speaking. Bluntly, sometimes we just need to shut up and listen.
Yet another phrase I ought to have tattooed on my forearm: shut up and listen.