Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
Hebrews 3 warns the reader against unbelief, citing as an example Israel’s unbelief during their forty-year wilderness journey. Quoting Psalm 95, it says:
So, as the Holy Spirit says:
Today, if you hear [God’s] voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
That is why I was angry with that generation;
I said, “Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.”’ (Heb 3:7-11).
The writer warns, “Do not harden your hearts”. Why? Because a hard heart is an impediment to faith.
The first Bible character to be diagnosed with a hard heart was Pharaoh. When Moses advocated for the Hebrew slaves and God sent plagues on Egypt, Pharaoh refused to understand this new reality that was invading his kingdom. He wanted to keep living in his old reality, where he was the only king and no one questioned him.
When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, they wanted to go back to Egypt. Their hearts weren’t big enough to take in the new reality that God might look after them in the desert.
Just like Pharaoh and the Israelites. people still cling to the past. The “Make America Great Again” movement looks back to a great past, instead of facing current realities. Climate deniers resist evidence that the world is changing around us. Many evangelicals feel the way forward is to return to an older culture and a simpler faith.
When Carl F. H. Henry was editor of Christianity Today, theologian Karl Barth once asked him, “Is the name of your magazine Christianity Today or Christianity Yesterday?” Each generation struggles to live Christianity today. If we imitate Pharaoh, we focus on the good old days and harden our hearts to today. If we imitate Israel, we want to return to the past instead of learning the difficult lessons God is teaching us today.
Here’s another example of a hard heart. I once talked to a man who said, “God doesn’t exist. A loving God would end poverty and violence and injustice. Unchecked evil proves there is no God of love.” I replied, “If you were God, you would fix all the evil. But suppose God has a different program than yours? Why don’t you check the Bible to see what God’s program is?” The man had a soft heart toward the suffering world, but was unable to soften his heart enough to ask if God had a different program.
Prayer can also lead to a soft heart or a hard heart. God promises to do whatever we ask, but he doesn’t fix our lives and the world. It is tempting to abandon prayer with the thought, “God must not care about these problems” or “I guess I’m not the sort of person he listens to.” A wiser perspective, that comes from a soft heart, says, “There’s something here I don’t understand. I wonder, what is God saying to me?”
O Jesus, like Pharaoh and the Israelites, we find change difficult. We are stuck in our old ways of thinking. With the author of Hebrews we pray,
Today when we hear your voice,
help us not to harden our hearts (Heb 3:15).
Help us to believe you are active in our world today–in the pandemic, in the weather, in our wilderness journeys, in the church. Make us willing to hear your voice. Soften our hard hearts until we see your presence and hear your word in the reality we live today.
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.