In Psalm 95, King David tells us, “Today, if you will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.” Many people in our times may not even know what that means, to “harden your heart”. Or, if they do, they may think of it as something they should do, instead of not do.
Growing up in Texas (and perhaps it’s the same in any place and any age) it was really not cool to cry. Men don’t cry. It was a sign of weakness, a lack of manhood. But for me, as much as I would try not to, it would still happen from time to time. I won’t go into the details; sometimes it would involve the cruelty of some people. Or sometimes it was personal disappointment with myself. But it disgusted me that I’d still cry from time to time. I wasn’t a Christian and I didn’t believe in God. I was just a normal, worldly young guy and the image you look up to is utter coolness, and actual coldness and hardness.
I saw a movie starring Paul Newman when I was about 20 and it nearly drove me crazy. At the end of the movie the star had hurt and crushed virtually everyone in his family and in his life. The closing scene was of him knocking back the last of a beer with a cold, cruel, emotionless grin on his face. I just couldn’t accept that there was such hardness and lack of emotion and empathy in a person and it had a strong impact on me.
But when I came to the Lord and the light of Christianity, I had a whole new way of looking at things. I found that my weakness, having at least somewhat of a tender heart, was not a weakness or a sign of a lack of masculinity. In the eyes of God it was a good thing. I found that King David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart Thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:17) Brokenness, humility, malleableness, these are things that are of value and are esteemed in the kingdom of God. An obscure but amazing verse in Isaiah says, “Thus says the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity. I dwell in the high and lofty place with him that is of a humble and contrite spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” (Isaiah 57:15)
How utterly, utterly different that is from the values of the world around us. There the goal is to harden your heart to where nothing and no one matters to you at all. Utter hardness, utter coldness. But in God’s eyes, this is just the fruit and work of a stubborn willful soul, unwilling to be broken in order to have the love and healing balm of His truth and power to flood into us and make of us warm, compassionate people that we should be. It’s also called “resisting the Holy Ghost”. (Acts 7:51) God doesn’t force Himself on us. He entreats, He implores, He asks and He presents. But we have to accept. On the other hand, we don’t have to accept. In fact so many people don’t. They harden their hearts. They resist the Holy Ghost. people do that and have done that all their lives. And they are proud of it.
Jesus said, “Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken. But on whomsoever it fall, it will ground him to powder.” (Matthew 21:44) He was speaking of Himself. We are to fall on Him, to allow ourselves to be broken, to come to the end of ourselves, to even weep in prayer and in crying out to Him to work in our hearts. It really doesn’t sound very modern or cool or manly, does it?
But what happens if we don’t. He says, “On whomsoever it [the Stone] shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” It’s actually the same image as what Daniel saw in interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel chapter 2, verses 34 and 35. It’s a picture of a Stone “cut out without hands” crushing all the kingdoms of man and the kingdoms of this world and grinding them to powder.
The proud, the haughty, the hardened of heart, the resisters of the Holy Spirit, resisters of love and of truth, resisters of mercy and compassion, will ultimately suffer an awful fate of seeing their hardened hearts be nothing but ashes. Then the verse will be fulfilled, “the meek shall inherit the earth and delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Psalm 37:14)
Do you have a tender heart? Does hardened, hateful cruelty and coldness sicken you? That’s a good sign, no matter who or what tells you otherwise.