All of us have experienced rejection. Some of us have experienced it in jobs, relationships, school, and in other circumstances. Some of us have experienced it in church, when we have been told that people like us have no place in the community of the faithful, or we have a place but we must keep silent, or so transform ourselves that we no longer look like the wonderful creatures God us made us to be.
In the reading below God does not reject people, although people might want to interpret it that way. God has already accepted us as we are. In the reading he has already chosen the people of Israel and has brought them out of slavery into freedom. He has promised them a new land where they might settle. This looks like a good deal, but many of the people turned aside to worship idols, complain about the food, acted out of fear, and challenged the leadership of Moses. They rejected the mercy and care of God. Well, actions have consequences, and a life without the divine leads to restlessness, a long time in a forbidding wilderness and the inevitable unsatisfying death. The Israelites chose this, though they did not appreciate the consequences in so doing.
Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today’, so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end. As it is said,
‘Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.’
Now who were they who heard and yet were rebellious? Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses? But with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, if not to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
The point about Christian grace is that it is freely offered by God in Christ. It has already been done, before any of us were born, regardless of how warped and broken we might grow up. It is not God who rejects us, but we who reject God. We might be deceived by our own love affair with sin, attacking others and blaspheming against the love of God. We might have hard hearts – calcified, prone to disease, misfunctioning.
So the author encourages his readers to do what they can to turn to the loving God. The first confidence we had in hope of God in Christ is our present hope, and that which will sustain us.