Recognizing the Root of Rebellion
During a visit one day, my father-in-law made the wise and loving—but somewhat uncomfortable—observation that my husband and I have trained our kids to only hear our voices if we’re yelling. I’m still often stunned to realize he’s right. I can be in the same room while speaking to them at a normal volume, but their minds are literally not registering my voice.
This does lead me to reflect on my parenting, but that’s a post for another day—hopefully when I figure out how to fix it. Today I want to address a spiritual truth that the reality in my home brings to my mind.
Much like my children, we can become trained to cease hearing the voice of God. And the root of that rebellion is surprising.
Hearing vs. Hardening
There’s a verse I’ve wanted to put on a wall of my house for years, and it proclaims, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” It’s a verse repeated in Hebrews 3 and 4, quoting Psalm 95. The way I look at it, if you were to choose one principal verse for living your life, this wouldn’t be a bad one.
When we hear God’s voice, through Bible study, sermons, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and godly council, we have two choices: Hear or harden. So what makes the difference? What causes some to hear and respond, but others to harden and rebel? It’s important to understand that one reason for rebellion—maybe the central reason for rebellion—is unbelief. We doubt God. And when we doubt the power and/or goodness of authority, our natural instinct is to rebel against it.
You see it in the garden as Adam and Eve succumb to the snake’s deceitful words which cast doubt on God’s good intentions. (Genesis 3:4-5).
You see it in the desert as the wandering Israelites wonder if maybe they were better off as slaves in Egypt, asking Moses, “Why did you even bring us out here to die?” (Exodus 16:2-3).
And you see this issue addressed in the book of Hebrews, as the author exhorts his readers not to second-guess their decision to follow Jesus. This book was written to Jewish believers who were enduring persecution for their faith in Jesus. After facing loss of property, public insult, and various suffering due to their faith, they were considering turning back to their Jewish traditions, which seemed like a safer and less costly choice.
Hearing and Trust
But the author of Hebrews lays out for them: Whatever else you could put your trust in, Jesus tops it, hands down. Do you want to trust in the Law to guide you toward morality and righteousness? Perhaps in animal sacrifices to atone for your sins? Or in a fallible priest to mediate between you and God? Jesus surpassed them all when he “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26b). He is the real deal. Literally.
In God’s mercy, he gave humans the old covenant traditions and ways to help us understand both our need for rescue from sin and his promises to provide just that (Hebrews 10:3, Romans 3:20-22). What they hinted at, Jesus actually accomplished. Christ’s sacrifice covers our sin, purifies us from unrighteousness, and reconciles us to a Holy God. He displayed his power and goodness on the cross, proving that we have every reason to trust in his authority on our behalf.
Trust is Essential
It’s essential to recognize that the root of rebellion is unbelief. Simply trusting in God means a lot more to him than I used to grasp. I’m now convinced that he wants me to focus on belief before he wants me to try to behave and obey. After all, understanding his nature and promises and trusting in them is the way the Spirit of God transforms us, enabling us to both want to and be able to obey him. (1 John 3:2-3, Philippians 2:13).
So no wonder doubting God is such a big problem.
Similarly, for you today, trusting in other things often seems less risky, more sensible, easier, and more appealing than hearing and obeying God’s voice. The only way you’ll forego trusting in these other things and endure in favor of God’s promises is if you consider “him faithful who had made the promise” (Hebrews 11:11). Obedience won’t come from our own discipline or goodness, but from paying “the most careful attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away” (Hebrews 2:1). And what we have heard is that Jesus is worthy of our trust.
I still have a lot of questions and insecurities about raising my kids right, but I’m thankful for the confidence I have in the trustworthiness of Jesus. This is a treasure I hope to pass on to them. I want them to hear his voice and respond. And if they only hear one thing from me, I hope it’s this, shouted at the top of my voice: “No one who trusts in Christ will ever be put to shame!”