Take Care, Brothers
The Israelites had not long left Egypt having witnessed ten plagues by which the Lord had liberated them when they lost faith just before He parted the Red Sea: “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness” (Exodus 14:11). Not long after that they complained for lack of food which the Lord answered with daily allowances of manna (Exodus 16). Then they complained for lack of water threatening to stone Moses when the Lord answered with making a fountain out of a rock, Moses then naming the place, “Massah” meaning “testing,” and “Meribah” meaning “quarreling” (Exodus 17). Then there was the episode with the Golden Calf (Exodus 32). The final insult to God’s deliverance and faithfulness to the people was their balking at Kadesh-Barnea when they refused to take the land that God had sworn to them. Thereupon, the Lord said that generation would not inherit the land but their children after them (Numbers 13-14).
With regard to these instances of faithlessness on the part of the ancient Israelites, the Preacher refers to Psalm 95:7b-11 to encourage the Hebrews to whom he was writing to persevere in the face of temptation. And what is the source of such willful defiance as we see in the record of the Israelites? What is the source of falling away as we have seen in Christians both then and now? “An evil, unbelieving heart,” says the Preacher, “an evil, unbelieving heart” which has been “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” So unbelief gives birth to being hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. In the Garden, Satan tempted Eve not only to doubt God’s word but even to doubt God’s benevolence in that he would withhold something good from her (i.e., being like God). This is what sin does whether the temptation comes from the devil, the world, or our own sinful nature: The purpose is to deceive us, to make us think that we are being cheated, that we have a right, that God is unfaithful, that others do not love us, that committing this sin will not really be sin because we have an extenuating circumstance. There is no end to the ways sin deceives and no end to the excuses we use to justify our sins. Perhaps we leave a tiny crack in the door due to doubt through which sin may work its deceit, but once sin gets in the door, greater doubt will follow.
This is why we must have the church—to exhort one another every day—that we allow not one of us to fall prey to sin’s deceitfulness and thus unbelief. Hold fast to God, to faith, and to His church.