8 Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness,
Due to Israel’s rebellion and failure to trust God for water, Moses struck the rock for water and called the place “Massah” (testing) and “Meribah” (embitterment, contention). Israel contended with the Lord in the wilderness by asking whether God was with them or not.
as in the rebellion,
The word “as” indicates a comparison of David’s generation to that of Moses. “The rebellion” refers to Massah and Meribah, where the Israelites rejected Moses’ suggestion that God would provide for them (Ps 95:8). This happened shortly after their deliverance from Egypt at Rephidim (Ex 17:1-7).
Israel again rebelled over lack of water at Kadesh 40 years later (Nu 20:2-13). The people of Israel then murmured against God for want of water two times. At both events and even during the intervening 40 years, Israel showed a consistent pattern of going astray in their hearts.
The Greek word for “rebellion” comes from two words: alongside and to make bitter. This is an intense term carrying the idea of bitter provocation. The New Testament uses this word only here and in verse 15. It is also used in the Greek text of Psalm 95:8, which this passage quotes.
In the day of trial in the wilderness,
In Numbers 14:11-22 Israel tested God and rejected His message. This was the episode at Kadesh-barnea. The Holy Spirit warned His readers not to repeat what Israel did in the wilderness. Having led Israel for 40 years through the wilderness, God brought them to the border of the Promised Land. On the very verge of entering their “rest,” they once again displayed their unbelief by rejecting the positive but realistic report from surveying the land by Caleb and Joshua (Nu 14:7-8, 11). Their unbelief led to outright rebellion (Nu 14:9). They lost their privilege of entering the land.
God puts believers at spiritual crossroads to test our belief.
God put Israel at a crossroads to test their belief in His promises. However, they murmured at Meribah because there was no water. They focused their attention on the problem rather than on God’s promises. Their murmuring was an expression of their unbelief.
The unbelief of Israel in the wilderness resulted in an entire generation not entering the Promised Land. They were recipients of God’s grace, but they could not fully embrace it. The entire generation that came out of Egypt died before entering into God’s promise.
We sometimes put God to the test when we meet adversity. We criticize Him for allowing us to undergo some trial.