The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. During that time, they saw God perform numerous miracles on their behalf. Imagine witnessing manna fall from heaven every morning, water gush from rocks upon command, and the Red Sea part to reveal dry land.
You’d think witnessing incredible acts of God would have caused them to become stellar men and women of faith. Alas—that didn’t happen: “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested me in the wilderness. There your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years” (Hebrews 3:8,9 NLT).
The Israelites experienced God’s obvious miracles on their behalf every day, and yet they fell into doubt, disobedience, and idol worship. I shake my head in wonderment. How could they have been so blind? How could they have been so hard-hearted? It’s easy for me to point fingers at their lack of spiritual depth, but then I realize I’m not much different.
I experience a God-miracle every day. It’s called grace. He sent His beloved Son to die on my behalf, to bridge the gap so we could have relationship in the here and now and forever after. Every day He looks beyond my flaws and sees me clothed in His righteousness. He sees me not for who I was but for who He’s shaping me to be. He holds no grudges against me for the many times I’ve hurt Him. Instead, He holds me in His arms, close to His heart. “I’ve forgiven you,” He says. “Now you must extend the same grace to others and forgive them when they hurt you.”
You’d think experiencing the lavish love of my heavenly Father would cause me to become a stellar woman of faith, eager and ready to lavish love on others in the same way. Alas—that doesn’t always happen.
Human nature tells me I’m justified to expect an apology or to wait to see justice served before extending forgiveness. And so I stew about an offense, and I nurse a grudge, and I wait for the offender to change before forgiving her/him. But that that attitude indicates a hardened heart. By not forgiving others as Christ has forgiven me, perhaps I’m as guilty as the Israelites were of testing God’s patience. I point my finger at them for their shortcomings, but three fingers point back at me.
How thankful I am for the Word and its reminder to pay attention to our own heart condition: “Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today,’ so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened again God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ” (Hebrews 3:12-14 NLT).
Good words, yes? So let’s apply them. Let’s keep our hearts soft and pliable and pure. Let’s be mindful of God’s miraculous act of grace toward us, and let’s extend the same to others lest we become like the Israelites of old who witnessed His miracles daily for forty years but still tested His patience.