Hardness of heart is a sophomoric sin. And by saying this, I am saying that hardness of heart knows how to argue in the direction of what seems to be its own interests. Those arguments can be ingenious, subtle, complicated, or more than a little bit clever, but they are all sophomoric, and advanced in the cause of whatever the chimeric lust might be.
Today If You Hear . . .
Put another way, hardness of heart always has something to say. It does not matter how plain and obvious the way of the Lord might be, hardness knows how to obfuscate the issues. It is awfully hard to persuade someone of something when their continuation in sin depends on them not understanding you.
The sin that holds them by the throat may vary. It might be scholarly conceit. It might be ethnic pride. It might be personal bitterness. It might be the demands of lust. It could be the lure of mammon and wealth. But whatever it is, at the end of the day, the person concerned can simply say “I don’t see it,” and walk away. And if you substitute a w for the d, you might even agree with them.
The hardness can be displayed in different settings. It could be the inhabitants of Sodom, pounding on the front door of Lot’s house. It could be Rabshakeh, taunting Hezekiah and the defenders of Jerusalem. It could be Goliath, hurling insults at the stripling David. The presentation can be very different, but the hardness always partakes of the same nature. It could be the Jewish leaders in Rome, sitting around a table with the apostle Paul, pretending not to get it.
“And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”
Acts 28:25-27 (KJV)
Not only can the circumstances vary, but the scale can vary also. Hardness of heart is what destroys marriages, for example (Matt. 19:8). Hardness of heart causes turmoil in church choirs. It disrupts long-standing friendships. Such hardness drives children to turn on their parents. An employer might be convicted of his sin through the godly behavior of one of his employees, and sit down to write a stinker of a performance review. Hardness of heart rules today in corporate America.
God’s Word on this is always constant.
“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.”
Psalm 95:7b–9 (KJV)
Here in America, we have hardened our hearts against the Lord. We have said to ourselves that we can make our way forward by ourselves, and how we got lost in this never-ending swamp we are not quite sure. We left the path we were on, which was a good path, and we did so because we came across three travelers, priests of strange gods, who told us all about a really promising short cut.
We took them at their word, and so our three great idols now are conceit, evolution, and secularism. Or if the idol makers want a human face to carve on these winged bulls of ours, I give you Rousseau, Darwin, and Locke.
Rousseau has offered us the primacy of the individual self. Darwin has given us a world without teleology. Locke has given us the pretense that it is possible to govern ourselves without an absolute word from a transcendent God. We could put an explanatory footnote on Locke if we wanted, but this will do for the present.
We are not going to find our way back apart from repentance. We are not going to find our way back until we are prepared to repudiate these idols, and everything they stand for. And that is not going to happen unless we name the name of Christ, doing so in a way that excludes—by definition—every form of individual conceit, every variation of Darwinism, and all iterations of secularism.
Each of these idols has the same plausibility structure, and the thing that makes them seem like plausible gods is our hardness of heart. This is because a hard heart and a soft head go together, like salt and pepper.
What Does It All Mean?
Throughout the book of Daniel, pagan rulers ask the question what does this mean?, and Daniel, prophet of God, tells them what it means. He did this with Nebuchadnezzar’s two dreams, and he does it when Belshazzar was terrified by the handwriting on the wall. A man of God, a man in whom the Spirit of God dwelt, told the pagan rulers what it all meant.
The Chaldean wise men stood off to the side, scratching their beards. They did not know what anything meant, despite their mastery of best practices in their craft, despite their endowed chairs at the University of Babylon, and despite all their published articles. They had all that, but still did not know what the king’s dream was supposed to mean.
Because of the evangelical compromises with the three idols mentioned above, the members of our doctored, and tenured, and published, and highly respected evangelical professional class have all gone to stand over with the magicians, sorcerers, astrologers, and Chaldeans, as much as to say, “we don’t know what is going on either.”
And the reason they don’t is hardness of heart. They will not reject the authority of the autonomous self, an authority that has permeated the evangelical world. They will not risk the laughter that would follow them around at scholarly conferences if they went on record stating the obvious fact that Darwin’s idea was the dumbest thing they ever heard. And they will not hazard the prospect of getting called some kind of theocrat because they acknowledge that if Christ is Lord, then He has to be Lord of America.
On this last one they mutter that they wouldn’t ever want to be unconfessional, Heaven forfend, and they gesture vaguely in the direction of something they heard once about two kingdoms. That’s the ticket, two kingdoms! They do this despite the fact that the American Westminster says that the civil magistrate is to serve the various denominations of Christian churches as a nursing father. Think any of them have taken an exception to the confession here? I wouldn’t bet a significant amount on it.
“Yet, as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger.“WCF 22.3
Our current dalliances with conceited individualism are corruption, our compromises with Darwin are dimwitted, and our accommodation with secularism is apostasy in the bud. Taken together, they have produced a mighty army of impotent Christians, numbered in the millions—just that much more savorless salt to be trampled on by unbelievers.
The Only Solution
Not to change the subject, but the photo above is what I take to be the rock that produced the water for the children of Israel near the true Mount Sinai in Arabia. This was at the time when Moses was commanded to strike the rock there in Horeb (Ex. 17:6), and not the time he was told to speak to the rock and struck it instead (Num. 20:8). Either way, the rock was Christ, and supplied all their needs (1 Cor. 10:4), despite their stupidity and blindness.
“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
Ezekiel 36:25–27 (KJV)
Pray that God give the unhappy and disoriented evangelical church in America the living water we so desperately need. Pray that He give us the heart to receive it. Pray that we learn that the only place we can get this water is from Christ Himself.
And as you ask, speak His name.