by Russell Young
The Lord had hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and his officials when Moses asked for the freedom of God’s chosen people being held captive in Egypt. This hardening was done to accomplish his purposes. The purpose for hardening their hearts was so that the story of his miraculous signs would be relayed through the generations of Israel that they might know that he is the LORD. (Ex 10:1) He has hardened hearts throughout history in order to accomplish his purposes. However, Christ also spoke of the hardness of people’s hearts that inhibited or prevented the furtherance of the gospel and the hope of salvation.
Having a “hard” heart or a hardened heart means that a person’s heart is fixed on an issue as engraved in stone. It is not a heart of flesh that is malleable and can be influenced. A hard heart is not sensitive to anything other than its own interests and goals. It is not a humble heart but is often one that is prideful. As stated, God can harden a heart, but so can individuals. People can have hard hearts in relation to the Word and in relation to others.
The Lord stated that the hearts of his disciples were hard at times in referring to their lack of comprehension or understanding. (Mk 6:52; 8:17; Jn 12:40; Eph 4:18) It is troublesome when the hearts of believers have become hardened and fixed concerning others in the family of God so that they will not even examine the convictions of one another to discern underlying truths. God does not want his created people to have hard hearts and no one can come to him whose heart cannot be molded into the likeness of that of his Son. (Rom 8:29)
It is easy to find people with hardened hearts. They cannot conceive of the truth of God’s sovereignty over the world and all that is. They are not willing to see the divine hand of God in creation or in the miracles about them. They have trouble listening to or considering others and their opinions. They are often selfish and self-centered. We should be careful about applying the label of hardheartedness to others, however, until we have considered our own state. Most people have areas in life where a stubbornness and dogmatism persists and where the heart is no longer malleable and the Spirit’s influence is resisted. This does not mean that a person’s values and “truths” should be easily altered. The gospel is truth, after all, along with the rest of God’s Word; however, only God knows pure truth.
Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn 10:27 NIV) ‘Listening’ is the sign of a receptive heart, a heart eager to absorb or accept the Lord’s teachings and directions. Obediently ‘following’ is indication of a sensitive heart. Paul told the Ephesians that they must “no longer live as the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their heart. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” (Eph 4:17─19 NIV) Their hardening prevented the knowledge of truth and the presence and leading of the Spirit for righteousness.
Every believer should examine himself or herself to check for hard spots in their heart. Honesty might reveal that there are more than they would like to accept. Regardless, Christ condemned blindness and ignorance to his teaching. He requires obedience to the Spirit; hearts that are sensitive and able to be led. It is easy to dismiss one’s ungodly attitudes and behaviors if they are common to those around, even the ungodly. Society gives many permissions that the Lord does not and one day all of those who call themselves by his name will have to answer for their rejection of his righteous standards. He knows because he is in the believer trying to lead and to gain victory. “[T]hose who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14 NIV) Victory cannot be gained by those who have hardened their hearts to sin, and particularly to a favorite sin.
The hearts of the Israelites were hardened and they could not understand or accept God’s righteous requirements. The writer of Hebrews cautioned his readers: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion during the time of testing in the desert.” (Heb 3:8) Accept it or not, those who belong to Christ today are wandering in the desert with the aridness of sin and deceit all around them. They have pledged that Christ was their Lord (Rom 10:9) and he desires to lead them to victory to the promised land, but they must have hearts that are sensitive and are prepared to obediently follow. (Heb 5:9)
Russell Young is the Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.
To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link