7. Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,
7. Quare (sicut dicit Spiritus Sanctus, Hodie si vocem ejus audieritis,
8. Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
8. Ne obduretis corda vestra, sicut in exacerbatione, in die tentationis in deserto;
9. When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.
9. Ubi tentaverunt me patres vestri, probaverunt me, et viderunt opera mea
10. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do always err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.
10. Quadraginta annis: quamobrem infensus fui generationi illi, et dixi, semper errant corde; ipsi vero non cognoverunt vias meas;
11. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)
11. Sicut juravi in ira mea, Si ingressuri sint in requiem meam.)
12. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.
12. Videte fratres, ne quando sit in ullo vestrum cor pravum incredulitatis (vel, pravum et incredulum,) deficiendo a Deo vivente:
13. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
13. Sed exhortamini vos ipsos quotidie, quandiu vocatur dies hodiernus; nequis ex vobis induretur deceptione peccati.
He proceeds in his exhortation, that they were to obey Christ speaking to them; and that he might add more weight to it, he confirms it by the testimony of David; for since they were to be sharply goaded, it was better, for the sake of avoiding offense, to bring forward another person. Had he simply reproached them for the unbelief of the fathers, they would have less favorably attended to him; but when he brought forward David, it was less offensive. Now, the import of the whole is, -- As God from the beginning would his voice obeyed, and could not endure perverseness without punishing it severely, so at this day he will not lightly punish our stubbornness, unless we become teachable. But the discourse is suspended until we come to the words, |Take heed, brethren, lest there be at any time in any of you,| etc. That the passage, then, may flow better, it would be proper to include the rest in a parenthesis. Let us now consider the words in order.
7. As the Holy Ghost saith, etc. This availed much more to touch their hearts than if he had quoted David by name. And it is useful for us to familiarize ourselves with such expressions, so that we may remember that the words adduced from the books of the prophets are those of God and not of men.
But as this sentence, Today, if ye will hear his voice, is a part of a former verse, some have not unsuitably rendered it thus, |Would to God you would this day hear his voice.| It is indeed certain that when David called the Jews God's people, he immediately drew this conclusion, that the voice of God ought to have been heard by them; for as to those whom he there invited to sing praises to God and to celebrate his goodness, he reminded them at the same time that obedience was the chief worship which he required, and that it was better than all sacrifices. The chief thing, then, was to obey the word of God.
8. Then follows, Harden not your hearts By which words is intimated that our rebellion against God flows from no other fountain than willful wickedness, by which we obstruct the entrance of his grace, We have indeed by nature a heart of stone, and there is in all an innate hardness from the womb, which God alone can mollify and amend. That we, however, reject the voice of God, it happens through a spontaneous obstinacy, not through an external impulse, a fact of which every one is a witness to himself. Rightly, then, does the Spirit accuse all the unbelieving that they resist God, and that they are the teachers and authors of their own perverseness, so that they can throw the blame on none else. It is hence, however, absurdly concluded that we have, on the other hand, a free power to form the heart for God's service; nay rather, it must ever be the case with men, that they harden their heart until another be given them from heaven; for as we are bent towards wickedness, we shall never cease to resist God until we shall be tamed and subdued by his hand.
As in the provocation, etc. It was for two reasons necessary for them to be reminded of the disobedience of their fathers; for as they were foolishly inflated on account of the glory of their race, they often imitated the vices of their fathers as though they were virtues, and defended themselves by their examples; and further, when they heard that their fathers were so disobedient to God, they were thus more fully taught that this admonition was not superfluous. As both these reasons existed even in the Apostle's time, he readily accommodated to his own purpose what had been formerly said by David, in order that those whom he addressed might not imitate their fathers too much.
And hence may be learnt a general truth, that we are not to defer too much to the authority of the fathers lest it should draw us away from God; for if any fathers have ever been worthy of honor, no doubt the Jews possessed that preeminence; and yet David distinctly commanded their children to beware of being like them.
And I have no doubt but that he referred to the history recorded in Exodus 17: for David uses here the two names which Moses relates were given to a certain place, mrvh Meribah, which means strife or provocation, and msh Massah, which means temptation. They tempted God by denying that he was in the midst of them, because they were distressed for want of water; and they also provoked him by contending with Moses. Though indeed they gave many examples of unbelief, yet David selected this in an especial manner, because it was more memorable then any other, and also, because in order of time it followed for the most part the rest, as it evidently appears from the fourth book of Moses, where from chap.10 to 20 a series of many temptations is described; but this narrative is given in the twentieth chapter. This circumstance increased not a little the atrocity of their wickedness; for they had often experienced the power of God, and yet they perversely contended with him, and renounced all confidence in him: how great was their ingratitude! He then mentioned one particular instance instead of many.
9. Tempted, etc. This word is to be taken in a bad sense; it means to provoke in a proud and insulting manner, which we express in French by saying, defier comme en depitant For though God had often brought them help, yet they forgot all, and scornfully asked, where was his power. Proved, etc. This clause is to be thus explained, |When yet they had proved me and seen my works|. For it enhanced the guilt of their impiety, that having been taught by so many evidences of divine power, they had made so bad a progress. For it was a marvelous supineness and stupidity to esteem God's power as nothing, which had been so fully proved.
Forty years. These are connected by David with what follows. But we know that the Apostles in quoting passages attend more to the general meaning than to the words. And no doubt God complained that the people had been vexatious to him for forty years, because so many benefits had availed nothing for the purpose of teaching them; for though God did good continually to them who were wholly unworthy, they yet never ceased to rise up against him. Hence arose his continual indignation, as though he had said |Not once or for a short time have they provoked me, but by their incessant wickedness for forty years.| Generation means race, or men of one age.
10. And I said, etc. This was God's sentence, by which he declared that they were destitute of a sound mind, and he adds the reason, For they have not known my ways. In short, he regarded them as past hope, for they were without sense and reason. And here he assumed the character of man, who at length after long trials declares that he has discovered obstinate madness, for he says that they always went astray, and no hope of repentance appeared.
11. So I sware, etc. It was the punishment of their madness, that they were deprived of the rest promised them. Moreover, the Lord calls the land, where they might have had their dwelling, his rest. For they had been sojourners in Egypt and wanderers in the wilderness; but the land of Canaan was to be, according to the promise, their perpetual inheritance; and it was in reference to this promise that God called it his rest: for nowhere can we have a settled dwelling, except where we are fixed by his hand. But their right to a sure possession was founded on what God said to Abraham,
|To thy seed will I give this land.| (Genesis 12:7.)
By God swearing, If they shall enter, etc., the atrocity of their evil conduct is made more evident and is more forcibly set forth, for it is an evidence of wrath greatly inflamed. |If they shall enter,| is in the form of an oath, in which something is to be understood, as an imprecation, or some such thing, when men speak; but when God speaks, it is the same as though he said, |Let me not be deemed true,|, or, |Let me not be hereafter believed, if such a thing shall not be so.| However, this defective mode of speaking recommends fear and reverence to us, so that we may not rashly swear, as many do, who are often in the habit of pouring forth dreadful curses.
But as to the present passage, we ought not to think that they were then for the first time denied entrance into the land by God's oath, when they tempted him in Rephidim; for they had long before been excluded, even from the time they had refused to march forward at the report of the spies. God then does not here ascribe their expulsion from the land to this instance of tempting him as to the first cause; but he intimates that by no chastisement could they have been restored to a sound mind, but that they continually added new offenses: and thus he shows that they fully deserved to be thus severely punished, for they never ceased to increase more and more his wrath by various sins, as though he had said, |This is the generation to which I denied the possession of the promised land, for during whole forty years afterwards it betrayed its obstinate madness by innumerable sins.|
12. Take heed, (or See,) brethren, lest there be at any time in any of you a wicked heart of unbelief, etc. I have preferred to retain literally what the Apostle states, rather than to give a paraphrase as to the wicked or depraved heart of unbelief, by which he intimates that unbelief would be connected with depravity or wickedness, if after having received the knowledge of Christ they departed from his faith. For he addressed them who had been imbued with the elements of Christianity; hence he immediately added, By departing; for the sin of defection is accompanied with perfidy.
13. He also pointed out the remedy, so that they might not fall into this wickedness, and that was, to exhort one another. For as by nature we are inclined to evil, we have need of various helps to retain us in the fear of God. Unless our faith be now and then raised up, it will lie prostrate; unless it be warmed, it will be frozen; unless it be roused, it will grow torpid. He would have us then to stimulate one another by mutual exhortations, so that Satan may not creep into our hearts, and by his fallacies draw us away from God. And this is a way of speaking that ought to be especially observed; for we fall not immediately by the first assault into this madness of striving against God; but Satan by degrees accosts us artfully by indirect means, until he holds us ensnared in his delusions. Then indeed being blinded, we break forth into open rebellion.
We must then meet this danger in due time, and it is one that is nigh us all, for nothing is more possible than to be deceived; and from this deception comes at length hardness of heart. We hence see how necessary it is for us to be roused by the incessant goads of exhortations. Nor does the Apostle give only a general precept, that all should take heed to themselves, but he should have them also to be solicitous for the salvation of every member, so that they should not suffer any of those who had been once called to perish through their neglect, and he who feels it his duty so to watch over the salvation of the whole flock as to neglect no one sheep, performs in this case the office of a good shepherd.
While it is called today. He now applies what David said more particularly to his own subjects; for he reminds us that the word today, mentioned in the Psalm, ought not to be confined to the age of David, but that it comprehends every time in which God may address us. As often, then, and as long as he opened his sacred mouth to teach us, let this sentence come to our minds, |Today, if ye will hear his voice|. In the same way Paul teaches us that when the Gospel is preached to us, it is the accepted time in which God hears us, and the Day of salvation in which he helps us. (2 Corinthians 6:2.)
Now, of this opportunity we ought to avail ourselves; for if through our sloth we suffer it to pass by, we shall hereafter in vain deplore its loss. So Christ says,
|Walk while ye have the light; come shortly shall the night.| (John 12:35.)
The particle while, then, or as long as, intimates that, The seasonable time will not continue always, if we be too slothful to follow when the Lord calls us. God knocks at our door; unless we open to him he will no doubt in his turn close against us the gate of his kingdom. In a word, too late will be their groans who despise the grace offered to them today. As, then, we know not whether God will extend his calling to tomorrow, let us not delay. Today he calls us; let us immediately respond to him, for there is no faith except where there is such a readiness to obey.