Three times in the book of Hebrews alone we are told, "harden not your heart" (Heb. 3:8; 3:15 and 4:7). What is it exactly to harden your heart? What is the state of your heart personally? Do you receive correction and instruction joyfully? Are you quick to show respect to those over you? Do you backbite? Do you follow the Bible or the imagination of your own heart? Look inside yourself today and take a spiritual cardiogram. Check out the condition of your very own heart.
by Jerry Gentry
"For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways"
Harden not your heart. Nobody wants to have a hard heart, but exactly what is a hard heart? We must get a clear mental picture of what it means to have a hard heart.
The following verse gives a good working definition. "But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee [the prophet Ezekiel]; for they will not hearken unto me [the LORD]: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted" (Ezek 3:7). Here we begin to get the picture of what it is to be hard hearted. Clearly, we see that when the house of Israel would not hearken to the words of the LORD given by Ezekiel, they were by God said to be, "impudent and hardhearted."
Refusing to hearken to God's commands shows a stiff neck and a hard, impudent heart. Now we know what an impudent person is like. He is bold, brazen, insolent, cocky and impertinent. A hardhearted woman is audacious and sassy, forward and presumptuous, condemning and manipulative of those in authority. In a word, she is a Jezebel. She particularly puts down men, because she hates and demeans God ordained authority, while usually living in denial of her own sins. She is not a woman you want to invite over for dinner.
Impudence and hardheartedness are bold and offensive blood brothers, sassy and disrespectful sin sisters, who plague our churches today, just as in days of old. And certainly these devilish brothers and sensual sisters seldom do their dirty work while carrying a pitchfork or wearing horns. No, these hardhearted people usually hide their cardiograms under layers of smiles and outward magnetism. But deep down, like both Jezebel and another Bible character called Nabal, they have hearts of stone.
Yes, once upon a time, there was a man whose name was Nabal. He had such little care for others that when he died he became like a stone. Turn in your Bibles and read about this wicked man.
The Bible says this "man [Nabal] was very great, and he had three thousand sheep, and a thousand goats: and he was shearing his sheep in Carmel" (1Sa 25:2). Yet, this "man was churlish and evil in his doings" (v. 3), "a son of Belial" (v. 17). "The name of his wife [was] Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance" (v. 3).
David heard that this wealthy man was shearing his sheep. David had already been anointed King over Israel but had not yet taken the throne. He occupied the area of Carmel near Nabal's flocks with his followers, about 600 men and their wives and children. He and his men had protected Nabal's property, as well as his shepherds. Under the law, David had a legal right to what he and his men could eat from the fields of that area (Deut. 23:25). Yet he had taken nothing belonging to Nabal. David sends ten servants to Nabal and requests a gift of alms, an amount entirely up to Nabal.
Nabal rebuffs David's men and refuses to give them anything, topping off his rejection with a personal insult of David. Upon the return of his men, David was furious. He prepared for an assault on Nabal, to kill ever man among them (v. 22) before morning light. David took matters into his own hands.
But Abigail, Nabal's wife, came to the rescue, with "two hundred loaves, and two bottles of wine, and five sheep ready dressed, and five measures of parched corn, and an hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs" (v. 18). This gift turned David's heart and saved her husband's life.
"When Abigail saw David, she hasted, and lighted off the ass, and fell before David on her face, and bowed herself to the ground" (v. 23). How many wives do you know today who would humble themselves to bail out a husband in big trouble? How many wives would stand by their husbands, even when the husband was in the wrong? Abigail is praised for doing just that, even though she knew quite well that her husband was a "man of Belial. . . and [guilty of] folly" (v. 25). He was her husband and she was a woman under headship. Her heart was right with God. She had not hardened her heart.
She pled to David for her husband's life, saying "Now therefore, my lord, as the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, seeing the LORD hath withholden thee from coming to shed blood, and from avenging thyself with thine own hand, now let thine enemies, and they that seek evil to my lord, be as Nabal" (1Sa 25:26).
"And now this blessing which thine handmaid hath brought unto my lord, let it even be given unto the young men that follow my lord.
"I pray thee, forgive the trespass of thine handmaid: for the LORD will certainly make my lord a sure house; because my lord fighteth the battles of the LORD, and evil hath not been found in thee all thy days. . . but when the LORD shall have dealt well with my lord, then remember thine handmaid" (v. 27-28, 31).
David acknowledged Abigail's righteous cause and blessed her.
"So David received of her hand that which she had brought him, and said unto her, Go up in peace to thine house; see, I have hearkened to thy voice, and have accepted thy person" (1Sa 25:35).
When Abigail returned to her husband, he was drunk. So she waited until morning when he was sober to tell him what she had done. When "his wife had told him these things, . . . his heart died within him, and he became as a stone" (v. 37).
"And it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died.
"And when David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach from the hand of Nabal, and hath kept his servant from evil: for the LORD hath returned the wickedness of Nabal upon his own head. And David sent and communed with Abigail, to take her to him to wife" (v. 38-39).
Have you ever witnessed an impudent and hardhearted person? Being impudent and hardhearted is the opposite of being kind and affectionate, as in the verse: "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:32). Can you imagine Jezebel forgiving her husband Ahab, laying aside her bitterness toward Elijah? She never forgave. She died a violent death and the dogs licked her blood, just as the prophet foretold. Having a tender, responsive, willing heart, like Abigail, is the opposite of being hard hearted. We know what tender hearted people are like. They are kind, understanding, slow to rise up in condemnation of others, impetuous sometimes as Peter, but once confronted they are quick to line up under headship. On the contrary, a hardhearted person rejects all authority.
One of the greatest examples of faith in the Bible is that of the Roman Centurion, who had a heart that lined up under authority. His great faith flowed naturally from his submission to headship. We read:
"And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
"And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
"And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
"The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
"For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
"When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel" (Mat 8:5-10).
Now here was a man after God's heart, a man under headship. Here is a man whom Jesus honored by healing his servant, because this man had no impediments of impudence or hardness set up in his heart, no obstructions to receiving whatever Christ would have told him to do. He simply believed, and backed up his faith with total, unreserved faith and submission to headship.
There was another man of old who was also sick. At first he had a proud, hard heart, a heart focused not on God, but on himself. Here is the story of the man of Syria, called Naaman. We have all heard the story of Naaman.
He was a "captain of the host of the king of Syria, [and] was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the LORD had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper" (2Ki 5:1).
We learn here that Naaman's problem was leprosy, which was a particular kind of incurable cancer that disfigured the skin, making it look very white. Leprosy was contagious, and no one wanted to get near a leper.
One of the captives Naaman brought into his household was a little maid from the land of Israel, who became servant to Naaman's wife.
"And she [the servant girl] said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.
"And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel.
"And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment" (v. 3-5).
Obviously, Naaman went with this great wealth with the idea of purchasing his healing from the man of God.
"And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy" (2Ki 5:6). Hereupon, the king of Israel rent his clothes.
By and by, "when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.
"Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha" (v. 8-9).
"And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean"
"But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.
"Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage" (v. 10-12).
Notice the difference between the heart of Naaman and that of the Roman Centurion. The Centurion was a man of great faith, a man willing for Jesus only to speak the word. He was not looking for a public display of power. He desired healing for his servant and obtained grace by having a spirit of submission. In contrast, Naaman wanted to see a great, public miracle. Naaman wanted his healing to be a public show, like thousands of televised healings all over the world.
"And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?
"Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean" (2Ki 5:13-14). In reality, obedience is better than sacrifice. Submission to the words of God is far better than following what seems right in our own heart. Naaman ultimately lined up under the words of the prophet. Naaman laid aside his human pride, his stiff neck and hard heart, his ego. He did the works of God and he was healed. God honors, not our human demands. He honors His own Word. It is our job to develop a tender heart and line up under the word of God. God will then do the rest.
Men, do you have a tender, believing heart under headship, like the Roman Centurion, whom Christ praised for his great faith? Do you have a heart looking for public honor and prestige, as did Naaman at first? Are you a hard hearted Nabal, who showed no concern for others? Women, are you tender hearted, supportive of your husband, like Abigail, who supported and protected her husband even when he was being a fool? Are you hard hearted? Do you reject authority, despise headship? The Bible says that God looks, not on the outward appearance, but on the heart.
"For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word" (Isa. 66:2).
Therefore, Harden Nor Your Heart.