Warnings about hardened hearts are some of the most serious in the Bible.
Psalm 95 (recalling the incidents recorded in Exodus 17 & Numbers 20) warns: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.”
Hebrews 3:15 repeats the same refrain: “As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
In the Old Testament, Isaiah laments: “O Lord, why do you make us wander from your ways and harden our heart, so that we fear you not?” (63:17a), while in the New Testament Jesus questions whether the disciples’ lack of understanding is due to hardened hearts (Mark 8:17).
According to Hebrews 3-4, hardening our hearts against God is a constant (even daily) threat we must be vigilant against. The deceitfulness of sin poses a deadly danger to our relationship with God and we must continually repent, put our sin to death and keep listening to God’s voice to head off this hardening. At the same time we must recognise our own inability to keep our hearts from hardening and be moved to dependent prayer that God would do by His Spirit what we are unable to do for ourselves.
But while I hope the above paragraphs will serve as a vital reminder about not hardening our hearts – I’m about to tell you why you hardening your heart might be one of the best things you can do today.
Writing about the troubling spiritual conditions of his times, the English Puritan Thomas Watson encouraged his readers to harden their hearts. Not against God, but against everything His enemies threw at Christians as His children.
If we would keep up the sprightly vigour of grace in evil times, let us harden our hearts against the taunts and reproaches of the wicked. David was the song of the drunkards (Psalm 69:12). A Christian is never the worse for reproach. The stars are not the less glorious, though they have ugly names given them, the Bear, the Dragon, etc. Reproaches are but assulae crucis – “splinters of the cross.”
How will he endure the stake who cannot bear a scoff? Reproaches for Christ, are ensigns of honour, and badges of adoption (1 Peter 4:14), the high honours of accusations (says Chrysostom). Let Christians bind these reproaches, as a crown about their head. Better have men reproach you for being good, than have God damn you for being wicked! Be not laughed out of your religion. If a lame man laughs at you for walking upright—will you therefore limp?
-Thomas Watson, The Great Gain of Godliness, 11.
Hardening your heart against God’s voice today will be a step on the path towards your destruction. But hardening your heart against the voice of God’s enemies when they spew their hateful invective, tear your down with slander, belittle your faith, portray you as delusional, or malign you for identifying with Christ in any other way is actually a means of preserving yourself as you walk the pathway to salvation.
Hardening our hearts against God results in ignoring or making light of what He says to us in His Word. That’s exactly what Watson encourages us to do with the words of those who would destroy our faith or incite hatred towards us.
The fear of man can easily lead to us caring more about what the world is saying about us or about the issues that affect us, than we do about what God says. But the fear of God should have the opposite effect. It causes us to remember that God’s words carry enormous weight, while those of His enemies are light, feathery and eternally inconsequential.
Christian, harden your heart today against the words of the wicked – for this will help you not to harden your heart against your God.
ben alexander Hardened Heart (CC BY-SA 2.0)