The verse pops off the page for two reasons. First, I recognize the verse . . . it’s familiar . . . I remember it. Second, but not from here. If you quoted the verse to me and asked where it was found I’d say it is found in Hebrews, and I’d be right. But this morning I encountered it in Psalms . . . not where I’d normally expect to find it. Not looking for it in the Psalms, not thinking of it as an Old Testament exhortation, certainly not thinking of it in the context in which the songwriter is prompted to include the verse.
Might be interesting to do a study on how many warnings are found in both the Old and New Testament. To take note of those things the Spirit tells the people of God to beware of regardless of which covenant they reside under. This unexpected verse in Psalms is one of them.
Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts . . .
(Psalm 95:7b-8a ESV)
It is an exhortation to respond. Not think about responding, but to respond . . . today.
If, says the psalmist (and the writer to the Hebrews) God is speaking to the core of who you are, if your conscience is stirred, if your mind is active, and you believe it is the Spirit of God doing the stirring and the activating, then do not shutdown. Refuse to stonewall. Determine not to be unresponsive. Avoid ignoring the promptings. Resolve not to be dull to the commandment. Said another way, if you hear His voice, do what He’s saying.
And what’s causing me to hover over this familiar verse in this unexpected place is the drastically different context it is found in. In Hebrews 3 it’s a warning about unbelief and refusing the rest available to people through the cross. A warning to not harden your heart to the testimony of the Spirit as to the person and work of Jesus. And I get it. To refuse to believe that Christ is God’s anointed and that through His death all that must be done has been done for people to enter into relationship with the living God, is to foolishly continue to pursue His holiness through our best efforts. Efforts which can never be enough. Works that are unable to change the core of who we are. And thus a never ending striving after that which can never be achieved by our labor. Thus, no rest when rest has been made available.
But in Psalm 95, the exhortation to not harden our hearts is in the context of an invitation to worship.
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation! Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise! . . . Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
(Psalm 95:1, 2, 6 ESV)
Three times the people of God are beckoned to come. To respond to who God is and for what God has done. To acknowledge that “He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture” (95:70). And after this thrice repeated invitation the songwriter says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”
And it’s got me thinking, so what’s the connection between songless saints and their hearts? What danger is involved in making ourselves dull to the prompting to open our mouths to declare the praise of Him who has saved our souls? What damage are we doing when we’re at best ambivalent and at worst obstinate when it comes to offering the sacrifice of the fruit of our lips? Is being bored in the midst of congregational worship a big deal? Is refusing to participate when the saints gather to declare His praise harmful? I’m thinkin’ . . .
Wasn’t expecting this verse in this song. But if today I’m hearing His voice . . . better not harden my heart.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
Because of His abundant grace. All for His eternal glory.