How Does a Hard Heart Become Soft?

TODAY’S READING: HEBREWS 1-4

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4.12)

In Hebrews 3 and 4, the writer quotes from Psalm 95.7-11 in some way on five separate occasions. There is one particular portion that gets quoted three times. It says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Two of the three quotes include the additional phrase “as in the rebellion.” And, one of the three quotes adds “on the day of testing in the wilderness.”

What was the rebellion and the day of testing in the wilderness?

While the Septuagint, which is where the quotation of Psalm 94.7-11 (psalms are numbered differently in the Septuagint) comes from, does not clearly tell us, the Hebrew version of Psalm 95.7-11 does. In the Hebrew version, we learn that the rebellion was at Meribah and Massah in the wilderness. I wrote about this in Jesus: The Rock that Was Struck.

Israel had been led to a place in the desert where there was no water. They quarreled with Moses and demanded water to drink. Moses asked why they were testing God. But, the people thirsted and grumbled against Moses saying that he had brought them out of Egypt to kill them with thirst.

This is a picture of Israel hardening their hearts even though they had heard God’s voice. The Greek word for harden often refers to hard heartedness but more literally means dry, stiff, inflexible, or rigid. Israel was in a dry place in the desert and this symbolized the conditions of their hearts – dry, hard, inflexible.

So, God told Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike that rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” (Exodus 17.6) Therefore, in the rebellion in the desert, where Israel’s hearts had become dry, hard, and inflexible, God provided water from a rock. But, Israel still did not listen. God said of them, “They always go astray in their heart,” and “They shall not enter my rest.”

The writer of Hebrews is warning us not to be like Israel, making our hearts hard – dry and inflexible – by refusing to listen to God’s voice.

So, how does a hard heart become soft?

The rock God was standing on was called Horeb. Horeb means to dry up, be dried, to be in ruins, to lay waste.

When Jesus was struck by Satan on the cross, what did he say?

John 19.28 says, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.”

Jesus is the rock at Horeb that was dried up when he was struck on the cross. Further, in John 19.34, we are told that when Jesus was struck on the cross that water came out of his side.

In John 4.10, 13-14, Jesus said to the woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water…Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

What is the one thing that soften hard ground, even rock hard ground?

Water.

Water can penetrate even the smallest of cracks to soften the hardest of ground.

And, what does water symbolize in the Bible?

The Holy Spirit.

Like water, the Holy Spirit can penetrate even the smallest of cracks in the hardest of hearts.

So, the writer of Hebrews is encouraging his readers to enter God’s rest by allowing his voice, living water, the Holy Spirit to keep their hearts from becoming hard.

“For the word of God is living and active.”

The word of God is Jesus.

How is Jesus living and active in us?

Through the Holy Spirit, the living water that wells up inside of us.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.”

Sometimes ground is so hard that the sharpest tool cannot break it. You have to wait until some water falls on it that ground before any tool will work.

Therefore, Jesus through the Holy Spirit in your heart is sharper than a two-edged sword. In other words, Jesus through the Holy Spirit can soften the hardest of hearts.

What does the softening of the heart look like?

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Jesus through the Holy Spirit pierces through quarreling and complaining against God that leads to disobedience and sin. Jesus through the Holy Spirit pierces through our dry, rigid, and inflexible views and attitudes toward God. Jesus through the Holy Spirit softens our hearts toward God so that we can see God for who he really is.

Therefore, in 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says we need to read scripture by the Spirit, moistened with water, instead of by the letter, dry, inflexible, and rigid.

Scripture moistened with the Spirit can soften our hearts and allow us to see God as good and only good, giving life to all things.

Scripture read by the letter remains dry, hard, rigid, inflexible, causing us to see God as good and evil, perhaps giving life on the one hand but also giving death on the other.

So, to keep our hearts soft we need to hear the voice of Jesus through the Holy Spirit, the word of God living and active, living water welling up like a spring inside of us.

Then, we can enter God’s rest, stopping our works just as he stopped his.

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