An Evil Heart of Unbelief
An Evil Heart of Unbelief
29 Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. 30 Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. 31 And the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. (Exodus 4:29-31)
This generation of Israel heard (and understood) the Word of the Lord as revealed unto them by Moses. They saw the signs that the LORD did through the hand of Moses. They believed and worshiped.
These were exciting times for the people of Israel. They have anxiously waited for the promise of the LORD to deliver them from the bondage of Egypt. God has raised up a deliverer for them in Moses. They watch through the coming year (or however long the series of plagues took) as God displays His great power and shows that there is no god BUT the LORD. With the final plague they set out in haste from their bondage into the freedom of the LORD.
Pharaoh attempts one last time to deny them such freedom but God destroys the Egyptian army in the Red Sea. As spectacular as the movie version of this was, it surely pales to nothing when compared to being there in person. Seeing the pillar of fire as it moves to separate Egypt from Israel would have been both awesome and fearful. Watching as the LORD draws back the water to let a million people walk across the sea bed would leave you with wonder. Amazement would take hold of them as they take the first hesitating step into the mud only to find it is dry ground. What wonder would fill the heart to be walking between the walls of water and seeing them stand like a solid wall. Their hearts would be full of joy as they are standing on the other side and watching as the sea returns and overwhelms the host of the Egyptian army with all their mighty chariots. No wonder they sang: “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:11).
Moses records that Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses (Exodus 14:31). They believed in the Lord. They had seen that He was faithful to His promises. They had seen his great power. They had experienced His grace in delivering them from bondage. They believed.
Faith however doesn't always last. They believed God and were free from Egypt and on their way to the promised land of rest. They didn't make it. When the Hebrew writer recounted the history of this generation of Israel he tells the rest of the story. He records that they "put me to the test and saw my works for forty years" (Heb. 3:9). He records God stating that "They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways" (Heb. 3:10). He recounts that all those who left Egypt rebelled against God and sinned (Heb. 3:16-17). All those who left Egypt believed in the LORD, yet he concludes by stating that "we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief" (Heb. 3:19).
Their faith was faith, it just didn't last. Jesus spoke of people 'believing for a while, and in time of testing fall away" (Luke 8:13). Faith is not a moment of mental assent to truth but a life spent trusting in God.
The warning is made: "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end" (Heb. 3:12-14). We became 'brothers' by faith, but it can end with an unbelieving heart that falls away from God.