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DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS

A SERMON DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
8 FEBRUARY 1998

Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
<flh@all-creatures.org>

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES:

Exodus 11:9-10
Psalm 95:6-11
Lamentations 3:64-66

Hebrews 3:1-19

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There are several passages in the Bible in which the hardness of heart is discussed.

In some we are told, "Do not harden your hearts".

In others God speaks of His hardening someone's heart, but when we read these passages in context, we come to understand that God is only confirming the existing condition of that person's heart by sealing it.

One such passage is from Lamentations 3:64-66, which is part of a prayer of Jeremiah, as he lamented over the utter destruction which was brought upon Jerusalem because the people had turned away from God.


64    Pay them back what they deserve, O LORD, for what their hands have done.

65    Put a veil over their hearts, and may your curse be on them!


66    Pursue them in anger and destroy them from under the heavens of the LORD.
(NIV)

In the Hebrew it reads, "Thou wilt give them insolence of   heart", a term the NASV translates as "hardness of heart".

And this hardness of heart is ever so prevalent today.

As an example, there is a lawsuit going on right now in Texas, where they have passed a law to limit free speech when it applies to food products.

The cattlemen are suing Oprah Winfrey and Howard Lyman, who was a guest on her show, because Howard spoke forth the truth as he sees it concerning BSE, or Mad Cow Disease, and its effect on humans.

Howard was exercising his right of free speech, and Oprah was exercising hers when she responded something to the effect of, "I'll never eat a hamburger again".

To me, there seems to be no difference between the hardness of heart expressed by the people of Jerusalem against Jeremiah when he presented the truth, and that of the cattlemen in their attempts to silence Howard and Oprah.

And I believe that just as the hardness of heart backfired on those in Jerusalem, it will backfire on the cattlemen.

The same hardness of heart existed in Egypt when Israel was held captive some 3,500 years ago (Exodus 11:9-10).

And this hardness existed among the Israelites in the wilderness following their exodus from Egypt.

Note how the psalmist expresses this in Psalm 95:6-11.

6    Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;

7    for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice,


8    do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert,


9    where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did.


10    For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, "They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways."


11    So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest."
(NIV)

That's a scary thought.

If God would not let his professing Israelites into His rest because of their hardness of heart, how is it that so many people who call themselves by His Son's name, don't think this applies to them, too?

I believe we test God every day when we don't express our unconditional love and compassion.

I see and hear so many people say that they really believe, but for the most part, they show very little faith and trust in the Lord.

These people seek their answers elsewhere, instead of turning to God with a thankful heart and making their requests known to Him through their prayers.

There's a lot of "Give me this, Lord.  Give me that, Lord" type of praying going on, and to me, that's a sign of hardness of heart.

And this is just the way the Israelites were when they wanted water.

God knew they needed water, but He also knew that they were not thankful for what they had, thus He withheld the water.

We lack what we need, because we are not thankful for what we have, because of our hardness of heart.

And as we said above, this hardness of heart affects our relationship with the Lord.

Listen to what we are told in Hebrews 3.

1    Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.

This confession of faith is the basic principle of our Christian faith, and when we fail to do this, when we shy away from speaking forth the truth, it's as though we have hardened our hearts; it as though we have no faith.

We may not be Jesus, but we are to be like Him, and as our example, He always spoke forth the truth.


2    He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house.

3    Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.


4    For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.

All too often, a church looks at itself more as a physical place of worship, instead of the spiritual worship that comes from the hearts and souls of the congregation.

"We own the church!" some say.

"This is MY church!" others say.

These kinds of statements are said in pride, and pride is a characteristic of the hardening of a heart.

What we all need to understand is that this is God's church, and that we are all here to worship and serve Him, above all else.


5    Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future.

6    But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

Remember, it's the hope in the promises of God through Jesus Christ our Lord in which we are to boast, and not in the house of God.


7    So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice,

8    do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert,


9    where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.


10    That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, 'Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.'


11    So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'"

Then we who listen are given a challenge of how to live as believers.

12    See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

13    But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.


14    We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.

This is something we need to concentrate on.

When a person first accepts the Lord into their heart, and are filled with the Holy Spirit, there is this tremendous exuberance, this euphoria, this confidence that perhaps we could even walk on water as the Lord did.

But over time, these feelings begin to get dimmer, and after a while some people even seem to doubt that what happened in the beginning of their faith really occurred.

This doubting can lead to hardening of one's heart.

And we are here being reminded that what we remember happening, was in fact real, and we are to hold tightly on to those memories.

15    As has just been said: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion."

16    Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?


17    And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert?


18    And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?


19    So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
(NIV)

The enemy always wants us to doubt the truth, and to look anywhere other than to God from where all truth comes.

For when we begin to doubt, we also begin to harden our heart.

But when we hold fast to our faith, we keep our hearts softened so that God can continue to mold us and make us into the person of perfection He created us to be.

And for this to happen, we need to allow Him to fill us to overflowing with His love and compassion, with His insights and knowledge and wisdom.

Let us all say in our hearts and souls, "fill my cup, Lord."

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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