I want to tell you a story....
Once upon a time in a land far away there lived a very stubborn nation. They had lived a tough life under the tyranny of others. But, thanks to the grace of God, they escaped from that tyranny and began their life anew. Thankfully, God placed in their hands a guide to His will for their life. They only had to follow it.
But...being a stubborn nation, they ignored what God wanted for them and let their hearts stray. God sent blessing after blessing their way and still they would not follow His will. He sent punishment their way and, still, they would not follow His will. So He gave them over to their stubborn, hardened hearts. They would not enter His rest.
Who do you think I am speaking of here?
Possibly Israel. Possibly the United States. The truth is, it could be either one.
Just like Israel, we were given a chance to follow the will of God. He even gave us instructions by giving us His word (aka the Bible). Yet, we harden our hearts and turn from His ways day after day.
7b Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
9 "When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest."
While our nation was not literally at Meribah or Massah, we have been in contention with God and we have tempted, or tested Him, which is the meaning of those two words (Strong's H4809 and H4532). If any nation has followed after its own heart and neglected the word of God that was at their fingertips, it is ours! We are just like Israel: "They knew God's ways well enough; but they did not like them; and would not walk in them" (Clarke). What are God's ways? How do we know them? The Israelites had the 10 commandments. We have the Bible. He has given us a road map to follow His will!
And just like the Israelites: "It mattered not whether He blessed or punished. They were impervious to both" (Expositor's). It seems that no matter what happens to this country: fortune or famine, peace or terrorism, we never turn to God. And this is why: "They strayed in heart; therefore they had an ever-increasing ignorance of the right road. For the averted heart and the blind understanding produce each other" (Expositor's). If that doesn't explain our country, I don't know what does. The heart of the nation, the hearts of the people have gone astray. Because of that, they can no longer see what is right...even when it is in the palm of their hands!
We must be so very careful to keep our hearts in the Lord's will. For once we begin to stray, it becomes more and more difficult to understand His way. We are tempted and misled and eventually are hearts are hardened and "the seed sown on the rock never brought any fruit to perfection" (Henry).
Church, our job today, is to steady our hearts. Our job is to give our hearts entirely to the Lord so that they do not harden and we are able to produce fruit. For when we produce fruit, we encourage others to do the same. And soon, one fruit tree becomes an orchard and then the orchard becomes an entire forest.
Be the light in the darkness. Be the fruit tree in this famished land so that one day, the Lord can harvest a forest full of fruit!