Hardness of heart in modern English has the meaning, obstinacy. It is the key reason for the Agony of Humankind and human misunderstanding of practical Godly wisdom.
Here’s a question about hardness of heart. If God is God, Power of Powers, Miracle of Miracles, why doesn’t He intervene now and manifest His Magnificence this instant? Humans have been around for thousands of years and gone through hell frequently. Why doesn’t the Power of Powers just come and take care of it… collectively or individually?
Dictionaries define hardness of heart as obstinacy, refusing to change your course of action or opinions. A synonym is stubbornness. We all possess it from one degree or another in depending on the subject, often, in relation to how we’ve been personally affected in our past, whether it be a poor experience or education. Even when others encourage us or try persuasion, hardness of heart prevents an individual from budging from their position.
What is Hardness of Heart
Let the Bible do the talking. What we want to grasp is hardness of heart is a word picture, a manner of speaking. It’s the objective referring to the subjective. The physical pointing to the non-physical. Even today, we employ another term, stiff-necked. Physically, when someone takes an adamant position in a discussion, veins pop out of their neck, it seemingly becomes unmovable.
Daniel 5:18 O you king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour:
19 And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down.
20 But when his heart was lifted, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him:
2 Chronicles 36:13 And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning to the LORD God of Israel.
Nehemiah 9:16 But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to your commandments,
Rom. 2:5 But after your hardness and impenitent heart treasure up to yourself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
Mark 6:52 For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.
Mark 8:17 And when Jesus knew it, he said to them, Why reason you, because you have no bread? perceive you not yet, neither understand? have you your heart yet hardened?
Mark 16:14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
Whether it’s the Old or New Testaments, it’s the same notion. There are two points to retain.
- The mind. The seat of hardness is not the physical heart. That is just a picture of the central physical life-giving organ of the body directing us to the central spiritual life-giving element, the human mind. The Explanation continues to write reams on this matter because we cannot overemphasize the sheer importance of the mind. Our ideas, imagination, reasoning, moods, attitudes stem from the mind. Block the mind, and the individual is out of circulation. As goes the mind, so goes the person. Possessing a stable mind is the key for each human being.
- Notice the adjectives used to describe this state: impenitent, considered not, perceive not, neither understand, unbelief,
The Merriam-Webster dictionary provides these synonyms for obstinacy, which is hardness of heart. Using worldly terms we’d say they are psychological factors, and that’s correct, they are negative spiritual characteristics of human beings: adamant, adamantine, bullheaded, dogged, hard, hardened, hardheaded, hard-nosed, headstrong, immovable, implacable, inconvincible, inflexible, intransigent, mulish, obdurate, opinionated, ossified, pat, pertinacious, perverse, pigheaded, self-opinionated, self-willed, stiff-necked, stubborn, unbending, uncompromising, unrelenting, unyielding, willful (or wilful)
Stubbornness and obstinacy
Stubbornness or hardness of heart must be understood correctly to grasp God’s actions, both in the Old and New Testaments. Hardness of heart is NOT a onetime disobedience, or even a ten time demeanor. In fact, it has nothing to do with the number of crimes or depth of depravity or immorality. How can I say this? Read the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15, “he wasted his substance with riotous living.” The riotous living covers every crime you can imagine and probably many you can’t imagine.
All of God’s servants have committed crimes, some terrible ones like Paul who was responsible for killing who knows how many people, or King David, likewise (Uriah, 2 Sam. 11), even after he was in the good graces of God. We are not talking about temper tantrums, or disobedient criminals.
We are talking about a set frame of mind. An attitude that is set in stone after a certain period. These following two passages need to be understood in these terms. The prodigal son had a CHANGE of heart. That means he did NOT possess hardness of heart. While he was deep into riotous living, yes, it appeared that way, agreed, but he came to his senses. The key to this story and all stories is coming to one’s senses, no matter what the crime. But there is a point of no return, and that’s hardness of heart, the crux of these two examples.
20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
Judges 2:19 And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.
These examples of hardness of heart have to do with disobedience, a way of life, disobeying laws, doing what’s wrong. There is another hardness of heart that characterizes people’s minds, even good people who are leading decent lives and obeying the laws of the land. Good people also have hardness of heart.
Hardness of Heart = Blindness of those who refuse God
From the start, Adam and Eve hid themselves among the trees. They didn’t want God in their lives. This is the underlying cause for the 6000 years of human history. Christ summed it up by quoting Isaiah in John 12:40, “He has blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.”
That sounds harsh. Yes, God blinded and still blinds people so they will not be converted. Why? Because God allows humankind to exercise its free will to the nth degree. To prove to itself just how hard-headed humanity is. From the start, God told humankind to remember Him. But that was and is not the case. This attitude is still rampant today, “And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart, The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars” (Isa. 9:9-10).
That is what Science, Leaders, Philosophy and Religion are trying to do today with more or less success. We see the problems in the world, Health, war, conflict, etc., and instead of looking for God’s solutions we say, we’ll find a better way, the way of hewn stones and cedars. God is letting humans exhaust all possible solutions.
Practical Bible wisdom on how to handle hardness of heart
The first thing to realize is God is responsible for the hardness of heart, the blinding of their minds. We have difficulty with that, thinking God is good, He wouldn’t voluntarily stop people from being converted. Yes He would, yes He does.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
From the time of Noah’s flood, and even before, God knew even hard punishment would not be the answer. He’s turned the reins over to humankind to write their own story and learn the lesson the hard way.
5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.
6 Whoso sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
God is letting Science, Leaders, Philosophy and Religion have their ‘day’ use ALL their Human Mind Power + Human Imagination + Free will = good/bad behavior and how to channel it to find a solution! He is patiently letting them do their thing. Humankind has to write the FULL book of their experience, finish the experiment BEFORE God can step in! Even then, some will oppose Him.
First way to handle hardness of heart; understand God causes it. Second, be patient and let it be. Before getting into an argument, think about the consequences. It might seem like the right thing to say, but do you really think it will be okay in the long run? We can talk about God, but it is not our role to go on a crusade to push, convince, and insist about God. Think before you speak or act.
Asking pertinent questions that hopefully will make people think is a good compromise. It’s up to the person. This is not always possible. I know I’m guilty of pushing people too far with strong words, and I have to be careful. Sometimes I even wonder whether I’m too strong in these blog posts. However, here, people choose to read them or not.
The solution to hardness of heart must come from the person
You can’t convince someone against their will. They alone can initiate their own change.
39 Wherefore does a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?
40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.
41 Let us lift up our heart with our hands to God in the heavens.
A third way to help hardness of heart is to put stubborn people in another environment.
- God allows a situation to disintegrate… deteriorate. You can do a study, both in Old and New Testament times. There are many examples (the up and downs of the nation of Israel and individuals like Jonah and Job). In 1 Cor. 5:5 this principle is clear, “To deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
- We do this on a human level for rehabilitation of hard-to-handle kids. or wayward boys.
By putting a person through the paces, it makes them think and allows the person to make a comparison. In a bad or good way of life. Which do I really want? Hardship can bring a person to their senses, as the example of Job shows us.
43:1 Then Job answered the LORD, and said,
3 Who is he that hides counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.
5 I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye sees you.
6 Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
Christ also used other methods despite their hardness of heart
Christ has a mission, which we do not have. Therefore, we need to be careful. He took action despite their hardness of heart. He needed to show them unequivocally who He is, and He did so through the miracles He performed. In the second example below, in John 6, Christ tested His disciples to see who would stay with him. He forcefully said something difficult to test and see their attachment to Him, and especially to the Word.
And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he said to the man, Stretch forth your hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
59 These things said he in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum.
60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?
61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you?
62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?
Because of the hard saying, many could not bear it. The stamina of their hearts could only bear so much, after which it got harder and harder, until finally, no more of the Words of Christ would enter.
God’s laws in function of hardness of heart
We now come to the reason I decided to broach this subject. Over the next few weeks I will cover a couple of subjects including slavery, parenting, corporal punishment, and the treatment of women in the Old Testament. These are hard subjects of division and miscomprehension. Well, it is impossible to understand them without understanding the depth of the concept hardness of heart.
Here’s a hard saying to show you how far it goes. ALL laws, bar two, in the Old and New Testament were and are written because of hardness of heart. Those two exceptions are to love God and love your neighbor. Understand, IF we fully applied those two Laws, we would NOT need any other law. All the law is dependent on the two Great Laws.
Christ answered a question about divorce, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He said to them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so” (Mat. 19:7-8).
If they’d have asked him about the laws regarding slavery, parenting, corporal punishment, and the treatment of women, Christ would’ve given exactly the same answer, because of the hardness of your hearts, but from the beginning it was not so. Please grasp this point. This is the answer to all the queries regarding all the laws. Why?
“Because from the beginning it was not so.” What was “in the beginning?” Love God and love your neighbor. Two simple laws that encompass ALL the law. Of course, simple is a manner of speaking.
At the Exodus, God officialized the Ten Commandments to the nation of Israel AND all peoples that accompanied them on departure from Egypt. This latter observation means that law is for ALL people.
Referring to that law, “Jesus answered and said to them (the Pharisees), For the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept” Mark 10:55. God gave them rules for ethical behavior. Those rules, or laws, were in function of their hardness of heart. Slavery, parenting, corporal punishment, and the treatment of women, as mentioned, and as practices according to God’s rules, there’s the key, were necessary to maintain law and order. That might be hard to accept, I hope not.
The antidote of hardness of heart is…
God pleaded with Israel and His people everywhere to rid themselves of hardness of heart. To open up their minds to His ways of peace and prosperity. This is so, both in the Old and New Testaments.
Hebrews 3:8, 15
Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:
While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
Christ upbraided the disciples for not seeing what should’ve been evident. “For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.” They had seen Christ feed about 5000 people with 12 baskets of leftovers, This should’ve been enough to convince them that Christ could walk on water. But no, they didn’t put two-and-two together. The solution is right there before their and our eyes… but we don’t want to see it.
The opposite, hence the antidote to hardness of heart, is repentance, an open heart of wanting to hear and follow God’s way. God is forever ready to overlook the period of hardness of heart when there is a change of heart and mind.
Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
By God’s grace our sins are blotted out, by His sacrifice we are saved. But conversion, changing from hardness of heart to repentance, is part of the covenant with God. On repentance, we show God we want His way of life. In the future God will put His full law, the two laws, in our heart forever.
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