When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. — Hebrews 3:9
What kind of impact do you think it would have on your life if you personally witnessed a continuous stream of nonstop miracles in your life? Would you like to have that kind of experience?
Well, that is exactly what happened to the children of Israel when they left Egypt and wandered in the wilderness for forty years. This is what Hebrews 3:9 is referring to when it says, “When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.”
Let’s see what the Bible means when it says the children of Israel “tempted” God. The word “tempted” comes from the Greek word peiradzo, an old Greek word that means to put to the test. It means to test an object to see if its quality is as good as others have claimed, boasted, or advertised. For instance, if you hear that a certain product is the finest of its kind in the world, it would be natural for you to want to check out and test the product to verify whether or not it really lives up to its claims. That is exactly the idea of the word peiradzo in Hebrews 3:9.
The children of Israel were in a situation that demanded miraculous intervention. If they hadn’t had the divine intervention of God, they would never have survived their flight from Egypt or their years in the wilderness. Their circumstances alone gave rise to a situation that allowed God to be tested — in other words, a situation that allowed God to demonstrate who He is and how faithful He is to His people. God had told the Israelites that He is good, so they “tested” Him, giving Him an opportunity to show that He is everything He declared Himself to be!
You can apply this same principle to your life. For instance, suppose you were in a tight financial jam. Although you didn’t intend to get into that financial mess, you found yourself in a situation where you needed to see the goodness of God! You had heard and believed that God is a supernatural Provider; therefore, in a certain sense, your situation created a moment when God’s goodness and delivering power could be tested. This situation would be the equivalent of you saying, “Lord, You say that You are a great Provider, so I need You to show me who You are! Please provide for me now in this situation!”
The many challenges the Israelites faced put them in a position in which they had to see the deliverance of God — and each situation put God in a position to prove who He was to them. That is why the verse goes on to say that the children of Israel “proved” God. The word “proved” is taken from the Greek word dokimadzo, which describes something that has been tested and found to be true and genuine. It can be also translated as something that is authentic, reliable, approved, trustworthy, and real.
Moses had declared the goodness of God to the children of Israel, but each challenge they faced gave God an opportunity to prove that He is exactly as Moses had declared Him to be. In each predicament, they found God to be faithful, true, and steadfast. Never once did God fail them or fail to live up to the reputation of His name. They personally witnessed His goodness and the undeniable fact that He is trustworthy, reliable, and true.
In fact, Hebrews 3:9 says the Israelites “saw” God’s works for forty years. The word “saw” is the Greek word horao, which means to see. But in a broader sense, horao carries the idea of seeing, perceiving, understanding, experiencing, and assimilating into one’s self. This tells us that the children of Israel saw and experienced enough of God’s power to fully understand and assimilate it into their consciousness. Furthermore, the Greek grammar describes a constant, continual, nonstop seeing and experiencing of God’s works during those forty years. They experienced this high-level power on a continuous basis — perhaps like no other generation before or after them.
We could discuss the supernatural provision and protection the Israelites experienced for many pages, but let’s just consider a sample of what they saw and experienced:
- The manna God provided to them for forty years.
- The quail that supernaturally came to them in the wilderness.
- The rock from which flowed enough water to nourish all of them.
Let’s assume that the Israelites numbered about 3,000,000 people, which is what many Bible scholars estimate. In that case, do you know how much manna was needed to feed the children of Israel in the wilderness? One scholar has estimated that they needed 4,500 tons of manna every day! If this is true, and if you take into account that God fed His people every day for 40 years, this means 65,700,000 tons of manna supernaturally appeared on the ground over a period of forty years!
This manna appeared so regularly, so faithfully, so “day in and day out,” that after a while, the children of Israel didn’t even think too much of it anymore. Supernatural provision became so commonplace among them that they forgot how supernatural it was and began to accept it as a normal, regular occurrence. During those forty years, young children were born and grew up thinking it was normal for 4,500 tons of manna to appear each morning out of thin air (see Exodus 16)!
What do you think would happen if your city woke up tomorrow to find 4,500 tons of beautiful, freshly baked, nourishing manna lying on the ground all over the city, free to anyone who wanted to go out, pick it up, and take it home? It would be huge news! Scientists would fly from around the world to see it, study it, and taste it. Journalists would write about it, and major news programs would cover the story. It would be a worldwide sensation. But for the children of Israel, this was an event that occurred every morning!
Do you remember when God sent the quail to feed the children of Israel? How many quail do you think it would take to feed that massive group of Israelites for thirty days a month? Let me tell you how many: It would take at least 90,000,000 quail. That’s right — if each Israelite ate only one quail a day, in one month it would amount to 90,000,000 quail. If they ate two quail a day, the total number needed to feed them all for thirty days would rise to 180,000,000 quail. That’s how many quail it took to feed that crowd of three million Israelites in a thirty-day period. Needless to say, this was an incredible supernatural provision of God!
Remember, the Israelites were in the middle of the wilderness. It was not a natural place for quail to show up! But suddenly, they heard a noise in the distance and looked up. There in the sky overhead they saw millions of quail flying in from out of nowhere and landing in their camp. What would be the odds of such a thing happening in the natural?
Try to imagine what that many millions of quail flying right over your head would look like. The thick clouds of quail must have been dense enough to nearly block the people’s view of the sun! Or try to imagine millions of quail flying right into the camp where you are living for thirty days, landing conveniently at your feet as if to say, “Please eat me!”
Where did all these quail come from? They certainly didn’t fly in from the wilderness. How far did these birds have to travel to reach the children of Israel? From what distance did God supernaturally call in the quail to feed the children of Israel?
This phenomenon simply could not be naturally explained. It was a supernatural provision. It was just as miraculous as the 4,500 tons of manna that miraculously appeared on the ground every morning for forty years.
How about the water that came out of the rock to meet the Israelites’ need for water in the wilderness? Do you have any idea how much water it would take to support three million Israelites in the blistering hot temperatures of the wilderness? You also have to take into account all the animals that needed to be nourished with water.
Keep in mind that God’s people were in a dry, arid wilderness. It was a barren place — a desert! The only available source of water was bitter and undrinkable; there was no natural source of water to nourish that huge crowd of people. And consider the amount of water it would have taken to adequately nourish 3,000,000 people and all the animals in the hot temperatures of the wilderness. It would have required up to 15,000,000 gallons of water every day just to meet their basic needs for existence!
Water was especially crucial in that extremely hot climate. Both people and animals needed much more water than they normally would. Without water, they would have dried up and died in the wilderness. But because there was no natural source of water, it had to be provided for them supernaturally.
So God told Moses to strike the rock (see Exodus 17). When Moses obeyed, water began to supernaturally flow from the midst of that rock. And once water started to flow, it continued to flow and flow and flow, providing all the water needed by the people of God. One week’s supply would equal approximately 100,000,000 gallons of water!
You would think that after living in this kind of supernatural provision day in and day out for more than forty years, the children of Israel would be alive to the things of God. After experiencing this kind of miraculous supply on such a continual basis, they should have trusted the Lord and found it easy to follow Him. Hadn’t He always proven Himself faithful to them? Hadn’t He always supernaturally provided what they needed when there was no natural provision to be found? What a privileged generation they were to see such marvelous acts of God!
But in spite of all the Israelites had seen, experienced, and assimilated about God’s goodness, they became hardhearted. Hebrews 3:8 therefore warns us not to be like them, saying, “Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness.”
The word “harden” is the Greek word skleruno, a medical term that described something hard, such as a callus. It could also denote a limb that is so stiff, it is difficult to move. Thus, this word is often translated stiff-necked. It was also used to describe the hardened soil of the desert — soil that was so hardened that water was unable to penetrate it and instead rolled right off. As time progressed, the word skleruno came to depict a person who was thick-skinned, indifferent, or insensitive.
Could it be that after seeing God perform so many wonderful works, the people became numb to and unappreciative of demonstrations of His power? Is it possible that they became calloused to the goodness of God because He had showered them with so much goodness? Did the supernatural demonstrations that were once considered wonders become such common occurrences that such miracles didn’t even make an impression on God’s people anymore?
It seems that the Israelites became like spoiled children, not even acknowledging how gracious God was to them or how miraculous their supply had been. The word “harden” seems to imply they became so calloused that nothing impressed them anymore. They became so stiff that even God couldn’t move them to obedience. No matter how much of God’s Spirit was poured out on them, His Presence just rolled off them, unable to penetrate their hard hearts. They became indifferent, insensitive, and unthankful, constantly complaining and bickering among themselves and with Moses about God’s provision.
You may ask, “How could they become so hardhearted after all that God had done for them?” But take a moment to apply this same question to yourself. Let me tell you, it doesn’t take forty years for any of us to become hardhearted and ungrateful!
If you honestly evaluate your own life, you may find yourself in this same sad condition. Consider how God has blessed you. He changed you, healed you, delivered you, rescued your family, gave you a new job, answered your prayers, and provided for you financially time and time again, showering you with blessing upon blessing over the years. In fact, you have probably lived in God’s constant, nonstop, miraculous provision much of your life.
Hasn’t your life been miraculously marked with the supernatural goodness, mercy, and provision of God? Yet are you still tempted to worry, fret, and doubt His faithfulness? How could it be possible that you would ever doubt God after all He has already proven to you?
Just as the children of Israel faced situations that gave rise to moments when God was put to the test, so do you. And every time, God passed the test! He proved Himself again and again, repeatedly demonstrating that He is reliable, trustworthy, and true. You have seen demonstrations of God’s goodness throughout your entire life. So raise your arms toward Heaven, open your mouth, and begin to acknowledge that it’s true!
Don’t you think it would be good for you to stop what you are doing and recount the blessings of God and express your eternal gratefulness to Him today? As you continually remind yourself of God’s goodness and do whatever else is necessary to maintain a thankful heart, you will avoid falling into the trap of becoming hardhearted and stiff-necked like the children of Israel.
Don’t be classified with those who murmured, complained, and didn’t trust God. Be counted among those who are grateful and thankful, who trust God to be exactly who He has declared Himself to be. God is good to you — and don’t ever let yourself forget it!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I am thankful for Your goodness in my life. You have saved me, delivered me, redeemed me, and changed me. My entire life is marked by Your supernatural goodness and mercy! It is true that You have showered me with nonstop blessings — and today I want to take this opportunity to thank You for every good thing You’ve done in my life. The situations I have faced in my life have put You to the test, and You have jumped at every chance to prove how good You are. In fact, Your goodness to me has been constant and never-ending. I praise You and thank You for loving me so much!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that I am grateful for and constantly aware of God’s goodness in my life. I have every reason to trust Him, for He has proven Himself to me again and again and I know He will never let me down. He has shown His goodness and mercy to me, and I am a recipient of His grace. I choose to lift up my hands, open my mouth, and declare the goodness of the Lord. The Bible says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,” so I am saying so right now! Jesus, You are good, and Your mercy endures forever! Thank You for showering me with Your mercy and Your might!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. As you read today’s Sparkling Gem, did you begin to think of all the times God has supernaturally provided for your own life? It would be very beneficial for you to take a few minutes to reflect on all the times God has miraculously supplied what you needed.
2. Are you facing a challenge right now in your life? If so, do you find yourself rushing forward to believe and trust the Lord, or do you have to fight off fearful thoughts that God might not prove Himself faithful to you?
3. Is it possible that you have fallen into the same trap the children of Israel fell into? Have you had so many miraculous provisions in your life that you’ve begun to lose your appreciation for all that God has done for you? If the answer is yes, I advise you to take some time today to get into the Presence of God and make your heart right with Him.