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Hardening Your Heart

Friday, 23 Dec 2011 Leave a comment

In this 9th and final installment of the series Prepare Your Heart, we will again look at the cooperative roles we and God play in preparing our heart. This aspect of preparing your heart can seem very confusing. As humans we like things to be simple and we like things to feel natural (to our flesh). A cooperative mechanism for preparing our heart takes some getting used to.

So, to help solidify this concept, we will look at the opposite of preparing your heart: hardening your heart. The classical story of heart hardening (that also by chance causes difficulty and confusion for many people) is the story of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart before the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Many verses say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but other verses say that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. So which is it? Many treatments of this passage almost ignore (or twist) the verses that say Pharaoh hardened his own heart in favor of a teaching on the “absolute sovereignty” of God where God alone sovereignly hardened Pharaoh’s heart for His divine purpose and will. (Rather, Pharaoh started the process of hardening his own heart and God used it for His glory.)

Our study of preparing your heart provides great insight to the process of hardening your heart. We found verses describing God preparing our heart and we found verses describing us preparing our heart. But, we eventually learned from other verses that the actual picture is a balanced partnership: God prepares your heart as we allow Him to and as we commit to following Him. God guides our steps as we devise our way. Preparing your heart is a partnership with God that is instigated by you. Hardening your heart, which is the opposite of preparing your heart, occurs in a similar manner – it is a partnership with God that is instigated by you.

Since we see verses describing God hardening our heart and verses describing us hardening our heart, it is not only possible but also logical to seek a balanced position for hardening your heart as we have found for preparing your heart. Hardening your heart is a partnership where both you and God have a role to play.

Before discussing the scriptures related to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, we will list all of them. The scriptures are categorized by the person doing the hardening. They are numbered in chronological order.

Scriptures describing God hardening Pharaoh’s heart (40%):

#8 – Exodus 9:12 – And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.

#11 – Exodus 10:1 – And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:

#12 – Exodus 10:20 – But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go.

#13 – Exodus 10:27 – But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.

#14 – Exodus 11:10 – And Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh: and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go out of his land.

#15 – Exodus 14:8 – And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.

Scriptures describing Pharaoh hardening his own heart (20%):

#4 – Exodus 8:15 – But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

#6 – Exodus 8:32 – And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

#9 – Exodus 9:34 – And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.

Neutral scriptures describing the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart (40%):

#1 – Exodus 7:13 – And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

#2 – Exodus 7:14 – And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

#3 – Exodus 7:22 – And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said.

#5 – Exodus 8:19 – Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

#7 – Exodus 9:7 – And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.

#10 – Exodus 9:35 – And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

The first three descriptions of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart appear to be neutral. In the first instance, the pronoun “he” is quite undefined. In the second, God is describing Pharaoh’s heart as hardened. In the third, we can actually infer that Pharaoh is hardening his own heart. The implication is that the success of the magicians in duplicating the miracles of Moses and Aaron caused unbelief in Pharaoh and this caused him to harden his heart towards God.

It is only at the fourth instance that we see a definitive source for the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart: Pharaoh himself. The sixth occurrence states the same thing. It is only at the eighth instance do we find a statement concerning God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. This is followed by another instance of Pharaoh hardening his own heart. At this point in the process there appear to be parallel roles working to harden Pharaoh’s heart. The process has begun to be driven by God, but Pharaoh’s sin is also furthering the hardening of his own heart.

The last five instances state that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. At this point, Pharaoh has suffered so much unbelief, sin, and anger that he has been given over to enmity against God.

What does this teach us? It appears that hardening of your heart begins with you. Your unbelief and your sin cause your heart to begin to harden. As this continues, the process gradually shifts and you have yielded yourself to God hardening your heart. While it is rare that a person can be hopelessly lost, many can reach a point of unbelief and sin that they cannot conceive of how to escape from their position even if they wanted to. According to the way God created us, our heart continues to harden without our explicit choice. The best description of this for us to comprehend what is going on is that God is hardening our heart.

So, we can apply this to preparing your heart as well. Preparing your heart begins with you. Renewing your mind through study of the Word and continued commitment to prepare your heart begin the process. As this continues, the process gradually shifts and you have yielded yourself to God preparing your heart. You will never regret having made such a decision. At the end of your life you will look back and realize the impact that decision made on the remainder of your life. You will be (and will have been) happy, at peace, and satisfied.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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Prepare Your Heart: Part #8

Thursday, 22 Dec 2011 Leave a comment

In Part #8 of the series Prepare Your Heart, we look at a number of other scriptures with the Hebrew word kûn.

Howbeit the high places were not taken away: for as yet the people had not prepared their hearts unto the God of their fathers. (II Chronicles 20:33)

Despite Jehoshaphat’s encouragement and reform, and the preparing of his own heart, the people of Judah in general had not prepared their hearts to seek the Lord.  This led them to continue practices that were evil in the sight of the Lord.

O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee. (I Chronicles 29:18)

David exhorts the Lord to prepare the hearts of the people to seek Him. This obviously occurs only to the degree that each individual requests and allows God to fix their heart on Him.

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments. (Ezra 7:10)

We see that not only kings sought to prepare their heart to seek God, but also the prophets.

And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. (I Samuel 7:3)

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. (Psalm 40:2)

Allowing God to prepare your heart will generally lead you to prosperity, blessing, and stability.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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How to Find and Follow God’s Will

Wednesday, 21 Dec 2011 Leave a comment

Prepare Your Heart, Part #7.

There are many different ways of understanding and conceptualizing how a person submits to the Lord and finds and follows God’s will for their life. The process of preparing your heart illustrates one such way. The sequence below gives an example of allowing God to prepare your heart and lead you into finding and following His will. The sequence is actually a circular flow that becomes self-sustaining.

  • Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will put the desires you should have in your heart (Psalm 37:4).
  • By putting these desires in your heart, he is preparing your heart, or equivalently, directing your steps (Proverbs 16:9b).
  • These desires in your heart allow you to devise your way (Proverbs 16:9a).
  • You devise your way by letting the peace of God rule (umpire) in your heart (Colossians 3:15).
  • As you devise your way, commit your works unto the Lord and He will establish your thoughts (Proverbs 16:3, Colossians 3:17), which means He will prepare your heart thus circling back to step 2 above.

Various portions of Colossians chapter 3 relate to this process. One important point is the renewing of your mind (Colossians 3:10). It best fits in the first step above – part of delighting yourself in the Lord is renewing your mind to know who you are in Christ.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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Results of Preparing Your Heart

Tuesday, 20 Dec 2011 Leave a comment

Today we continue a series on Preparing Your Heart with installment #6.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. (Psalm 37:23)

My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. (Psalm 57:7)

O God, my heart is fixed, I will sing and give praise, even with my glory. (Psalm 108:1)

When God prepares your heart, you are filled with joy and will praise and honor Him. You will be delighted in the way and path that He leads you in.

He [a good man] shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. (Psalm 112:7)

A prepared heart trusts God. Evil or negative circumstances do not move or affect him emotionally. He is stable, faithful, and trusting.

So [King] Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the LORD his God. (II Chronicles 27:6)

When our heart is prepared, we can become mighty (in the Lord).

…But Hezekiah prayed for them saying, The good LORD pardon every one 19That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. 20And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people. (II Chronicles 30:18-20)

For various reasons, some of the Israelites were not purified according to the law during the Passover celebration, the first one performed in the proper manner in a long time (v. 5). So, King Hezekiah interceded for the people and implored God to pardon those who were not purified but had prepared their heart to seek God. This is a clear illustration that, even in the Old Testament, God looked at the heart and not only at the action (see also Psalm 51:16-17). This appears to be especially true of those who have prepared their heart.

Psalm 37:23-24 provides another illustration of this: “23The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. 24Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.” If you have prepared your heart but you fall into sin, the Lord will not allow you to be lost and cast away – He will hold you in His hand. If this was the case in the Old Testament, imagine the grace that abounds under our superior covenant for New Testament believers who fix their hearts on God but fall short!

There are shades of the concept of New Testament salvation here as well. For those who are saved, God relates to you in the Spirit, which he gave you. For one who has fixed his heart on God, God looks at the heart, which he gave you.

The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide. (Psalm 37:31)

Following v. 23 in this psalm where the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, v. 31 says that the law of God is in his heart and that his steps are now stable. A result of preparing your heart is that God puts His law in your heart. This is something that is actually already true for New Testament believers (see Jeremiah 31:33, Hebrews 8:10, and Hebrews 10:16).

And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God. (Psalm 78:8)

For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant. (Psalm 78:37)

These verses illustrate the negative side of not preparing your heart to seek the Lord. The Israelites who came out of Egypt had not fixed their heart on God and the result was stubbornness, rebellion, disobedience, and calamity. The word “stedfast” means to believe, to trust, and to be faithful. An unprepared heart leads to a lack of trust in God and a lack of faithfulness. In v. 36, the Israelites even lied to God and tried to flatter Him, all because their heart was not fixed on Him.

God loves us. He only wants the best for us. He is infinitely more knowledgeable and capable than we are. He is therefore able to plan and design a life for us that is infinitely better than we can do on our own. By preparing our heart, we enter into untold blessings and benefits and a life that brings joy and peace in our heart that we could never attain on our own. But, if we do not prepare our heart, at best we will not attain the level of joy and peace God desires for us and can create for us. At worst, our life could be a miserable mess.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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How Do You Prepare Your Heart?

Monday, 19 Dec 2011 Leave a comment

Today we continue looking at Preparing Your Heart with Part #5 of the series.

O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. (Jeremiah 10:23)

LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear. (Psalm 10:17)

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way. (Psalm 37:23)

Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. (Proverbs 16:3)

Along with Psalm 57:7, these verses illustrate the diverse translations of kûn. They link tightly together the concepts of preparing your heart, fixing your heart, ordering your steps, directing your steps, and establishing your thoughts. These verses also make it clear that it is the Lord who prepares our heart; it is not something we can accomplish on our own. The book of Proverbs again makes it clear that God prepares our heart.

The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. (Proverbs 16:1)

Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way? (Proverbs 20:24)

Many times when we hear the phrase “prepare your heart” we have an immediate assumption that this is something we do ourselves. But, this is not the case. Make no mistake that we must cooperate – below we will further develop the role we must play, but it is God who prepares our heart, fixes our heart on Him, directs our steps, orders our steps, and establishes our thoughts. This is beautifully illustrated in the Amplified Bible where part of Proverbs 16:3 reads, “…He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will…”

The question may now come to your mind as to whom God will prepare their heart. Will he do it for just anyone? Will he do it for me? We may rest easy. The Bible is clear that God is not a respecter of persons. What He will do for Jehoshaphat, Jotham, or David, He will do for us. Remember that we do live under a better covenant (Hebrews 8:6)!

If we stopped here it might cause us to just sit back and passively wait for God to prepare our hearts. If it is for God to accomplish, what can I do but sit and wait and hope? Thankfully, there are many additional scriptures concerning preparing your heart that give us a complete picture of the process. If we also understand God’s unconditional love for us, we will understand that He wants this for us more than we want it, but He will not force it upon us. As with salvation, healing, permanent deliverance, etc. we must be a willing party to the actions God wants to take in our life.

LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear. (Psalm 10:17)

Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me. (Psalm 119:133)

Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. (Proverbs 4:26)

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

In Proverbs 4:26 it says that we must let our ways be established (by the Lord). Note that this flows from verses 20-21 where we are admonished to attend to God’s words and keep them in the midst of our heart. We have a role to play and a part to contribute. Note even in v. 23 that we must keep our heart. God will not guard our heart for us; we must allow Him to do it by continuing in the Word. (See also Proverbs 3:5-6.)

Psalm 119:133 further illustrates the mechanism by which this happens – it is through the Word that God prepares our heart. The Amplified Bible reads, “Establish my steps and direct them by means of Your word.” This emphasizes that we have a part to play by reading the Bible – the primary way in which God speaks to us and changes us from the inside out as our Spirit bears witness with the Word we read. (See also Psalm 119:105.) Here is where we see the time element to preparing our heart. It is not an instantaneous event based on a single decision. After an initial decision, the Lord will, over time, prepare our heart through the Word as we persevere to study and meditate on the Word.

Psalm 10:17 says we must be humble and desire the Lord to prepare our heart. And in Proverbs 16:9 we see a clear indication that preparing our heart is a partnership – the Lord directs our steps (prepares our heart, fixes our heart, establishes our thoughts) while we devise our way. Psalm 37:4 carries this to completion and illustrates how this happens: “Delight thyself also in the LORD: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” With our cooperation (being humble, desiring the Lord to prepare our heart, and delighting in the Lord), the Lord puts in our heart the desires we should have in our heart – this is the Lord directing our steps. Based on these desires in our heart we devise our way.

To balance the scriptures that only highlight God’s role in preparing our heart, there is also at least one scripture which only highlights our role.

A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way. (Proverbs 21:29)

From the other scriptures we have studied, we understand that the upright (righteous – in the New Testament simply a Christian) directs his way by yielding to and trusting God to prepare his heart and cooperating by studying the Word.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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What Does It Mean to Prepare Your Heart?

Saturday, 17 Dec 2011 Leave a comment

Part #4 on Preparing Your Heart

Many scriptures we will deal with in the following posts will bring greater clarity to what it means to prepare your heart. But, to provide some clarity early on, consider the following scripture.

My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. (Psalm 57:7)

When you prepare your heart you fix your heart on God, you set your heart on seeking the Lord. It is a commitment to follow the Lord, to seek and learn His ways, to become a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). It is a commitment to seek Him with all of your heart (Jeremiah 29:13) and to love God with all of our heart (e.g. Deuteronomy 6:5). Other scriptures speak of our thoughts being established and our steps being ordered. All of these ideas illustrate us seeking God and allowing Him to order and stabilize our life in and through Him.

In the New Testament reality, the entire focus is on learning to know that Christ lives in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). By simply understanding and acknowledging the truth and reality of our new spiritual birth, we can come to rest in Christ (Hebrews 4:9-11). The more we enter in to that rest, the more our heart will prepared and will not be led astray in times of trouble and temptation.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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When Should You Prepare Your Heart?

Friday, 16 Dec 2011 Leave a comment

Today we continue the series Prepare Your Heart with Part #3.

And he [King Rehoboam] did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the LORD. (II Chronicles 12:14)

This verse strongly implies that Rehoboam did evil because he had not previously, in time past, prepared his heart to seek the Lord. We cannot wait for temptation and trouble to come and then suddenly set our heart upon God. We must have made a conscious decision in the past to prepare our heart and, as we will see, have spent time with God in the process of preparing our heart. It is not a sudden thing that can be instantly done in a time of need or temptation. It is a preventative measure, rooted and grounded in God’s love for us and our love for Him, whose benefits manifest in time of need.

When Jesus was tempted in the desert after fasting for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13), from a human perspective, He was in an extremely vulnerable state. Again, from a strictly human perspective, He was in no condition to face great temptation. Did Jesus resist the temptation of the devil on a spur of the moment revelation, insight, or decision to do what was right? No. Jesus quoted scriptures to the devil that He had internalized many years before. He had settled in His heart long ago the answers that He would give and the decisions He would make in such a situation. Prior to being tested and encountering situations that would try Him, Jesus had prepared His heart, more than any human before or since, to seek the Lord.

A New Testament scripture that speaks to this truth in one way is II Timothy 2:15.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15)

Take care to not slip into legalism with this verse. You study to learn that you are already approved unto God not to gain God’s approval. But, the main point in this context is through study you learn to rightly divide the word of truth. Study, practice, and internalization must be done ahead of time; they can never be done effectively on a spur of the moment.

– Be loved and blessed to be love and a blessing

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