It remains today one of the most intriguing and exciting stories of the Old Testament. Through an awesome display of power, God had miraculously rescued His people from the slavery of Egypt. His mighty hand had opened the Red Sea, furnishing a means of escape for His people, all while establishing a watery death for the Egyptian army pursuing them. Manna was provided along the journey to appease their appetite, to sustain them; water from a rock gushed onto the parched ground of the wilderness to quench their thirst. No maps were needed, for God Himself shepherded His people to a “land flowing with milk and honey” via a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, guiding their every step. And in spite of their constant complaining and murmuring, the glorious day arrived when God’s people finally stood at the threshold of Canaan, their Promised Land, their land of rest.
Spies embarked on a reconnaissance mission to scout out the land, and upon returning from their task, they confirmed that the land truly was “…an exceeding good land.” But there would be obstacles along the way, battles to be won. The inhabitants of the land were “stronger than” the Israelites, and of “great stature.” And although Moses encouraged those weary travelers, fervently reminding them that God had brought them this far and would not fail them now, their faith surrendered to fear and Israel wanted to retreat, to “…make a captain…and return unto Egypt.” This walk with God was not worth the effort, they would return to the land of their captivity. They yearned for the better life of captivity and slavery. “Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt or would God we had died in the wilderness!” Death would be more advantageous than trusting God to fulfill His promise, in spite of the miraculous displays of His power that we have witnessed with our own eyes. As a result of this rebellious attitude, we are told that they “tempted God,” they provoked Him.
We discussed the word provoke yesterday, but in today’s reading a totally different word is translated provocation. In this passage, the meaning is to challenge, to irritate, to taunt by defiance, to exasperate. As a tragic reward for Israel’s lack of trust, that generation would never see the Promised Land, the land of blessing and rest, they would only see forty years of wandering and death. They had exasperated God with their doubts, disbelief, and rebellion, they had “grieved Him” and now the punishment was at hand.
When God warns us to “Harden not your heart, as in the provocation,” He is referring to this specific event that took on that wilderness plain so long ago, a moment in time when God’s children stood at the doorway of victory and rest, a doorway that they would never enter. Do you have an area of your life that provokes, or defies God? Has our lack of faith, willful disobedience, or quiet apathy provoked our God to the point of exasperation? Israel made the fatal error of pushing the grace of God into the wrath of God. Keep short accounts with God, He promises that when we confess, He will forgive. Stay tender to His will, obedient to His voice, submissive to His will, never provoking the One Who loves you beyond measure.
Psalm 95: 7-8 …Today if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works…Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.
Father, You have been so good to me, keep me close and tender, strengthen my faith. Forgive me when I provoke You through my unbelief and rebellion.<div class='sharedaddy sd-block sd-like jetpack-likes-widget-wrapper jetpack-likes-widget-unloaded' id='like-post-wrapper-164683012-650-63d9d25d62a9e' data-src='https://widgets.wp.com/likes/#blog_id=164683012&post_id=650&origin=wp.blog.grandmasgleanings.com&obj_id=164683012-650-63d9d25d62a9e' data-name='like-post-frame-164683012-650-63d9d25d62a9e' data-title='Like or Reblog'><h3 class="sd-title">Like this:</h3><div class='likes-widget-placeholder post-likes-widget-placeholder' style='height: 55px;'><span class='button'><span>Like</span></span> <span class="loading">Loading...</span></div><span class='sd-text-color'></span><a class='sd-link-color'></a></div>