So, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
I’ve been thinking recently about those movies where a character somehow goes back in time and gets a second chance to make a decision. Did you miss out on love? Did you waste your opportunities for success? Did you trade what was truly important for the trivial? Hollywood loves to take those regrets and create wish-fulfillment films.
As I look back at my life, I see a number of errors I would love to correct. With those in mind, I have been considering how I might script my own turn-back-the-clock movie. The problem with this sort of thinking is that when you slip back in time to, let’s say, high school graduation in order to avoid errors, you never know what new mistakes you’ll make and what correct moves you might miss.
Then there’s the simpler notion. What if you could go back in time and tell your former self what to do or not do? Sounds great, right? But then there’s the question of whether your former self would listen. My guess is that my former self would not. Why? My current self often fails to listen to me when I tell it not to waste money or to eat properly or to exercise. What makes me think that if my current self won’t listen, my former self would?
That’s what Hebrews gets at in today’s passage. Today, with the benefit of hindsight and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have no excuse for failing where those who went before failed. How did the tribes of Israel grumble and rebel after seeing the plagues, the Red Sea, the wonders at Sinai, the Manna, and so for forth? I suppose they did it the same way that I fall into the same sins time after time despite every good reason not to do so.
The answer? According to our passage, it is to listen to the voice of the Lord. It’s hard to fall into sin while listening to God’s voice. So where does the problem lie? At the risk of being obvious, it lies in failing to listen.