Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness… (Hebrews 3:7-8 ESV)
When my children were born, I was amazed at the tenderness of their feet. I held their little feet in the palm of my hand while I nursed, kissed their feet after changing their diapers, and even used their feet to hide behind playing peek-a-boo.
I recall vividly the day my firstborn came in from outside crying because of an ant bite. I took her foot in my hand, washed it off, and put some ointment on it. As I considered this slightly larger foot, I noticed the roughness of her heel and the toughness of the skin. I remember feeling saddened – those feet I once kissed had become hard through exposure and use.
Why this illustration about feet? It’s simply the first image which comes to mind when I consider the hardening of one of our body parts.
In the verse above, the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” In this context, it seems we have a choice. He says, do not harden, but how is this done?
Ezekiel 12: 2 provides some insight – Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, “Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house.”
The LORD exposes the condition of our hearts – we are rebellious. Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden – a perfect haven of harmony, beauty, and sufficiency – yet they chose rebellion. Our first inclination, even before the fall apparently, was to disobey God.
The verse in Hebrews, is a quote from Psalm 95: 7-9 which goes on to explain how the Israelites rebelled against God in the wilderness. “When your fathers tested Me, for they tried Me, though they had seen My work.”
For forty years, the Israelites witnessed the power and might of God on a daily basis (parting seas, providing food from heaven and water from a rock, guiding them by a pillar of cloud and fire, even speaking audibly to them on the mountaintop), and yet somehow they didn’t see, didn’t hear, didn’t understand God.
Jesus says the people of his time were no different. “For this people’s heart has grown dull and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see…” (Matthew 13:15 ESV)
The result of our rebellion is a hardening of our hearts. Not our physical heart, but the source of our emotions – our compassion, empathy, love.
Before I was a Christian, I mocked God’s people and their choices. My hard heart blinded my eyes to their kindness and deafened me to their words of love and acceptance. But more significantly, I was blind and deaf to God.
If our hearts are naturally rebellious and hard toward God, how is it possible not to harden them as the Holy Spirit urges?
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27 ESV)
In my case, I know I did not pursue Christ, he graciously pursued me. He created a desire in me to draw near to him, gave me a longing for him. Then he opened my ears to hear his voice.
Have you hardened your heart toward God? If so, you can no longer trust your senses or your understanding, they’ve been compromised by sin.
But if you long to live in harmony with God, to hear his voice, cry out to him. He hears you, though your ears barely hear. Seek him. He sees you, though you have closed your eyes. He will answer – without condemnation, but in loving mercy.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8 ESV)
Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart…
“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26 ESV)