Believe it or not, presently there is a “chronic disease” even more dangerous to the survival of human life, as we know it, than Covid-19. The last section of this Psalm reminds us of this as the psalmist recalls the incidents recorded in the book of Exodus and warns us against following the example of God’s people in those days. He says, quoting God’s words:
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
In the story recorded in Exodus 15, the Israelites had just experienced God’s mighty power when He delivered them from the Egyptian army at the Red Sea. But then we read:
22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they travelled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”
Sometimes “Israel… was… tempted to romanticize [the wilderness time] … as an idyllic age. What God remembered, and reminded her of in Psalm 95, was her ingratitude and unbelief and his anger and disgust… In fact, the grumbles had begun a mere three days after the spectacular miracle at the Red Sea, and continued on and off for the next 40 years… and beyond. They bore all the marks of a chronic [heart] disease needing repeated treatment… [even] an annual check-up. ‘Will you hear his voice today? Here you are, singing and bowing, but are you listening?’ … The whole point of the psalm is that the challenge to hear and heed spans the centuries. ‘Today’ is its keynote.” (# 5)
The psalmist continues:
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
These very same words are quoted by the author of the letter to the Hebrews (3:7-11) in the NT, suggesting that the issue is still ongoing amongst us. It is still possible for us to not be listening to God speaking and therefore having a hard heart that goes astray from His ways, and so, the author of Hebrews warns us:
12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (3:12-13)
So, the ‘today’ of Moses time is now the ‘today’ of the 21st Century and the exhortation has not changed:
Today, if only you would hear his voice!
Today, in the midst of a global pandemic, hear his voice!
Today, in the midst of political and social turmoil in many nations, hear his voice!
Today, in the midst of extreme weather, cyclones, earthquakes, fires and floods, hear his voice!
Today, in the midst of domestic violence, suicide, criminal activity and terrorism, hear his voice!
But, you may ask, how do we hear God’s voice today? Is he indeed even a God who speaks to us today?
The answer lies again in the letter to the Hebrews where the author says:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
Jesus is and always has the last word and this can be found in the written Word of God as found in the Scriptures of the NT. Read the Bible, ask God to speak to you from His Word today and ask him to give you ears to hear what He says and then to respond appropriately. In the words of Samuel: “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)