Hardened Heart

* What a hardened heart means

People in Jesus’ time, like those in the time of Isaiah, would not believe despite the evidence, their hardened heart was a result of God hardened their hearts.  Does that mean God intentionally prevented these people from believing in him?  No, he simply confirmed their own choices.  After a lifetime of resisting God, they had become so set in their ways that they wouldn’t even try to understand Jesus’ message.  For such people, it is virtually impossible to come to God–they have a permanently hardened heart. (NLT)

John 12:39-41  – But the people couldn’t believe, for as Isaiah also said, “The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts–so their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.”  Isaiah was referring to Jesus when he made this prediction, because he was given a vision of the Messiah’s glory.

* – In many places, the Bible warns us not to “harden” our hearts.  This means stubbornly setting ourselves against God so that we are no longer able to turn to him for forgiveness.  The Israelites became hard-hearted when they disobeyed God’s command to conquer the Promised Land.  Be careful to obey God’s Word, and do not allow a hardened heart. (NLT)

Hebrews 3:7-12 – That is why the Holy Spirits says, “Today you must listen to his voice.  Don’t harden your hearts against him as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested God’s patience in the wilderness.  There your ancestors tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years.  So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me.  They refuse to do what I tell them.’  So in my anger I made a vow: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’ ”  Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters.  Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.

* Did God intentionally harden Pharaoh’s heart?

God gave Pharaoh many opportunities to heed Moses’ warnings.  But finally God seemed to say, “All right, Pharaoh, have it your way,” and Pharaoh’s heart became a hardened heart, permanently.  Did God intentionally harden Pharaoh’s heart and overrule his free will?  No, he simply confirmed that Pharaoh freely chose a life of resisting God.  Similarly, after a lifetime of resisting God, you may find it impossible to turn to him.  Don’t wait until just the right time before turning to God.  Do it now while you still have the chance.  If you continually ignore God’s voice, eventually you will have a hardened heart and be unable to hear it all. (NLT)

Exodus 9:12 – But the Lord made Pharaoh even more stubborn, and he refused to listen, just as the Lord had predicted.

* A hardened heart results from stubborn unbelief

You may wonder how Pharaoh could be so foolish as to see God’s miraculous power and still not listen to Moses.  But Pharaoh had his mind made up long before the plagues began.  He couldn’t believe that someone was greater than he.   This stubborn unbelief led to a hardened heart that even a major catastrophe couldn’t soften it.  Finally, it took the greatest of all calamities, the loss of his son, to force him to recognize God’s authority.  But even then he wanted God to leave, not to rule his country.  We must not wait for great calamities to drive us to God but we must not allow a hardened heart by opening up our hearts and minds to his direction now.  (NLT)

 Exodus 11:9-10 – Now the Lord had told Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you.  But this will give me the opportunity to do even more mighty miracles in the land of Egypt.”  Although Moses and Aaron did these miracles in Pharaoh’s presence, the Lord hardened his heart so he wouldn’t let the Israelites leave the country.

* A hardened heart keeps us from seeing our need for God

A hardened heart is as useless as a hardened lump of clay or a hardened loaf of bread.  Nothing can restore it and make it useful.  The psalmist warns against a hardened heart as Israel did in the wilderness by continuing to resist God’s will.  They were so convinced that God couldn’t deliver them that they simply lost their faith in him.  When people become so stubbornly set in their ways that they have a hardened heart, they find it impossible to turn to God.  This does not happen all at once; it is the result of a series of choices to disregard God’s will.  If you resist God long enough, God may toss you aside like hardened bread, useless and worthless. (NLT)

Psalm 95:8  – The Lord says, “Don’t harden your hearts as Israel did at Meribah, as they did at Massah in the wilderness.

* – What keeps us from God’s ultimate blessings (entering his “rest”)?  Ungrateful hearts, not worshiping or submitting to him, a hardened heart, testing God because of stubborn doubts.  In Hebrews 4:5-11, we are warned not to have a hardened heart, but to reject the glamour of sin and anything else that would lead us away from God. (NLT)

Psalm 95:11 – So in my anger I made a vow: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’

* God’s Word can’t take root in a hardened heart

Jeremiah told the people to plow up the hardness of their hearts as a plow breaks up un-plowed ground–soil that has not been tilled for a season.  Good kings like Josiah had tried to turn the people back to God, but the people had continued to worship their idols in secret.  They developed a hardened heart and it became hardened to God’s will.  Jeremiah said the people needed to remove the sin that hardened their hearts before the good seed of God’s commands could take root.  Likewise we must remove our heart-hardening sin and soften our hardened heart if we expect God’s Word to take root and grow in our life. (NLT)

Jeremiah 4:3 – This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts!  Do not waste your good seed among thorns.”

* How to react to sarcasm, a person with a hardend heart

Paul’s response is a good example for us as we tell others about God’s plan of salvation.  A sincere personal appeal of personal testimony can show the depth of our concern and break through a hardened heart.

Ask God to give you a burning desire to see others come to Christ–a desire so strong that it overshadows your problems. (NLT)

Acts 26:28-29– Agrippa interrupted him.  “Do you think you can make me a Christian so quickly?”  Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that both you and everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am, except for these chains.”

* God’s punishment for a  hardened heart

These verses describe the punishment for unresponsive, hardened heart, predicted by the prophet Isaiah.  If people refuse to hear God’s Good News, they eventually will be unable to understand it.  Paul saw this happening in the Jewish congregations he visited on his missionary journeys. (NLT)

Romans 11:8-10 – As he Scriptures say, “God has put them into a deep sleep.  To this very day he has shut their eyes so they do not see, and closed their ears so they do not hear.”  David spoke of this same thing when he said, “Let their bountiful table become a snare, a trap that makes them think all is well.  Let their blessings cause them to stumble.  Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and let their backs grow weaker and weaker.”

* How a hardened heart happens

A hardened heart happens when we turn away from the living God and stubbornly refuse to believe him.  If we persist in our unbelief, God will eventually leave us alone in our sin.  But God can give us new hearts, new desires, and new spirits.  To prevent having a hardened heart, stay in fellowship with other believers, talk daily about your mutual faith, be aware of the deceitfulness of sin (it attracts but also destroys), and encourage each other with love and concern. (NLT)

Hebrews 3:13-15 – You must warn each other every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.  For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.  But never forget the warning: “Today you must listen to his voice.  Don’t harden your hearts against him as Israel did when they rebelled.”

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