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Day 13

Do Not Harden Your Hearts
Imagine standing with Jesus, right next to him, in prayer to his Father. Read this passage of praise aloud. As you do so, consider that you are praying along with Jesus, your two voices becoming one as you bless God.  
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and all that is within me,
   bless his holy name!
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
   and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity
   who heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit,
   who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
   so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5)
Psalm 95 
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!
For the LORD is a great God,
   and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
   the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
   and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
   let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
   do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
   as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
   and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
For forty years I loathed that generation
   and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
   and they have not known my ways.”
Therefore I swore in my wrath,
   “They shall not enter my rest.”
What Is This Psalm About?   
Psalm 95 is one of several great high praises we encounter in psalms numbered in the nineties. These hymns are ideal for the festival worship of a full congregation with many instruments. This psalm calls for a “joyful noise” with hearty songs of thanks to the LORD our God because he is worthy! He is not a little god of one feature of creation like the sun or the river or the harvest. The LORD is the King above all so-called gods. In fact, the Creator is so huge that even the heights and depths of the wide earth fit in his palm. His hands cup around the very ocean and keep the land safe from the waters of chaos. What’s more, the great God is our God. We are his particular people to whom he has bound himself in everlasting covenant love. So we come to worship, to kneel, to bow down, to acknowledge with full and joyful hearts our reply of trust and loyalty.
Like a good worship service, however, Psalm 95 takes a turn from a call to praise to a warning that our faithful response is not optional. The psalm warns us not to harden our hearts. For the LORD’s people have a history of turning faith to doubt, thanksgiving to complaint, and obedience to indifference or even outright rebellion. The psalm recalls that after being freed from slavery, the people doubted the LORD’s provision in the wilderness, and so that entire generation was prevented from ever entering the Promised Land.
What Might This Psalm Have Meant to Jesus?
I love the child-like tone of praise of his Father when Jesus assures his sheep, his disciples, that they can never be snatched away from him: “My Father, who has given them, is greater than all” (John 10:29). Jesus loves to speak well of his Father. I hear him joyfully singing in the synagogue or alone in the hills, “The LORD (my Father!) is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” As the first and only truly faithful human being, Jesus never finds it restricting or grating to kneel before his Father. Rather, he delights to express with his body, his gestures and his voice his full-hearted worship. Such praise empowers his ministry. 
The dark turn in this psalm also matches Jesus’ experience. As he glorifies his Father before the rest of us, I know it hurts him to be met with resistance. Human rebellion is, at its core, a mystery. Why do we close ourselves off to the source of joy? Why do we look the Son of God right in the face and say, in so many different ways, “No thanks!”? 
So Psalm 95 gives Jesus historical justification for his yearning to warn people that turning away from him has dire consequences—not because Jesus is so ego-centric that like a tyrant king he punishes those who ignore him. No, it is because he has come to give abundant life (John 10:10). To refuse Jesus is to choose to stay in spiritual death, unforgiveness, disconnection from God, brokenness in relationships, daily bitterness and constant agitation. He warns sharply so that some might be shaken awake and not miss this opportunity for salvation.
The time to respond is now: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” So Jesus presents a parable about the different types of soil which represented different ways of response to the Word of God he brings (Matthew 13:1-23 Mark 4:1-20, Luke 8:4-15). Jesus tells his listeners that some seed fell on the hard path. It could never germinate and the birds took it away. This is the hardness of unbelief. Jesus confirms with his parable the words of the prophet Isaiah, “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their eyes can barely see” (Isaiah 6:10 quoted in Matthew 13:15).  
Jesus throughout his ministry has to reckon with how many simply do not respond to him in faith. Yet, patiently, he keeps risking our rejection to make his offer, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). From stern warning to gentle invitation, Jesus expresses God’s desire in Psalm 95. Today, in this present moment, if you hear his voice, don’t take it for granted. Don’t fail to enter the rest of believing submission. You may not get another chance. 
Praying with Jesus
Ah, Lord Jesus, like your people of old, 
I have built such a house
At the place called Massah which means testing.
For I have tried your patience with my willful doubt.
I have a getaway cottage at Meribah, which means quarreling. 
For I have carped at your blessings,
Ever wanting more.
I have quibbled with your mercies,
Failing, failing in thanks.
My heart is hard.
Oh let it not be too late.
Let it still be today when I can hear your voice.
Open your arms one more time,
And I will come.
Put your hands round my face
And lift my eyes to heaven,
That I might sing at last, 
The LORD is my God,
And I am one of his people,
A sheep of his pasture,
A lamb of his flock,
And a sinner of his redeeming.
Show me the paths of life,
That I might find rest for my soul
In joining my voice 
To your eternal praise of the Father.


Posted in: Lent