Stubborn Hearts are Hard Hearts

Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 16.11-12
11 Then you will answer them, ‘Because your ancestors abandoned me—this is the Lord’s declaration—and followed other gods, served them, and bowed in worship to them. Indeed, they abandoned me and did not keep my instruction. 12 You did more evil than your ancestors. Look, each one of you was following the stubbornness of his evil heart, not obeying me.

Reflection: Stubborn Hearts are Hard Hearts
By Erin Newton

What can be worse than the worst? There is a sort of irony in this message. Jeremiah’s ancestors had worshiped idols, bowing to the stone and metal they had created. When it comes to high-handedly sinning against God, idolatry is typically the direst example of such sin. Yet, God declares that Jeremiah’s generation is more wicked. What sin can outdo the waywardness of idolatry? Stubbornness. 

The word used for stubbornness is often translated as “hardness of heart.” It is the type of heart that Ezekiel later calls a heart of stone and compares it with a new heart of flesh. It is a self-reliant heart. It is a heart that cannot be corrected, trained, or rebuked. The stubborn person listens only to himself or herself. The stubborn person is confident of oneself and obstinate toward God. 

God was not pleased with the ancestors who had worshiped idols. They broke the first commandment blatantly and without shame. There is within this text the sense that God has always stood by, ready to bestow mercy and forgiveness despite their wayward hearts. We have seen his graciousness over and over in the Old Testament but the tone changes when the people defiantly refuse to change their ways. 

All sins can be enticing in some way or another. The lure of luxury and ease. The seduction of physical pleasure. The appeal of control and power. Stubbornness chooses the pleasure that sin offers over the willingness to cut off one’s hand or pluck out one’s eye for the sake of Christ. (Matthew 5.29)

Beneath the outward expression of stubbornness is a foundation of pride. When we choose pride over humility, we claim to know what is best for ourselves. Pride calcifies the sensitivity of our souls making them callous to conviction. Pride leaves us unable to admit our faults or seek forgiveness. 

How do we prevent stubbornness from taking hold of our hearts? Humility is the answer. We need humility to trust God to deliver us from evil when we are led into temptation. We need humility to accept that we will always fall short. 

Let us ask God to continuously chip away the callous self-reliant edges of our hearts. Let us trust God for what he has done and what he has promised to do. With a heart of flesh, a heart softened to follow Christ, we can live with open hands ready to follow him. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe, for you are my crag and my stronghold; for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me. — Psalm 31.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 16(Listen -3:52)
1 Thessalonians 1(Listen – 1:27)

Read more about Choices and Hard Hearts
Hardened hearts happen in stages. Our choices matter. Our hearts are hardened or softened day after day.

Readers’ Choice is Coming!
We need to know your favorite posts from the past 12 months. Even if all you have to say is, “It blessed me,” share it with us and we’ll share it with others.

Captivity, Exile, and Exodus

Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 16.14-15
14 “However, the days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ 15 but it will be said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.

Reflection: Captivity, Exile, and Exodus
By John Tillman

Jeremiah and other prophets spoke often of how eventually God’s people would return from exile. The return from exile narrative is a mirror-version of the Exodus from Egypt narrative. 

In this mirror version, the corrupt state of Egypt is the corrupt states of Israel and Judah. The false gods of Egypt are the false gods of Israel and Judah. The harsh, desert wilderness experience is the harsh experience of the people in captivity in exile. The entrance to the promised land is the return home of the exiled people of God from all corners of the world.

In the original Exodus narrative, God’s people were enslaved by state power. The people did not abandon God, the state turned against them. In freeing the people from Egypt, God used plagues that were specific attacks on the false gods of the state in order to free his people to worship him, the one true God.

But Jeremiah describes a different kind of enslavement. While living in political freedom, the people of Israel and Judah became spiritually enslaved. They rejected God and set up their own gods and a government filled with oppression and mistreatment of the poor and outcasts. In the desert, they grumbled to go back to Egypt. When they made it to the promised land, they made another Egypt out of it.

The governments God established for his people were intended to be a light to the pagan world, carrying out God’s justice and demonstrating his righteousness. Instead, they became just like the pagan nations. The formerly oppressed, became oppressors. The formerly abused, became abusers. Israel became Egypt. 

How often do we repeat this cycle?
How often do we become our own spiritual oppressors, enslaving ourselves to sins and idolatry? 
What unholy “state” do we build up, abusing the power we have for our benefit?
What gods do we allow to set up shop in the temple of our hearts?
What suffering people have we shut out to make more room for ourselves?

God brought plagues to destroy the false gods. May he destroy ours. 
God moved his people through a place of suffering and purification. May we follow him.
God restored his people and renewed his covenant with them. May we seek his face in repentance and be restored.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick…And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners. — Matthew 9.12-13

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 16 (Listen – 3:52) 
Mark 2 (Listen – 5:05)

Read more about Keeping The Greatest Commandments
Even Christians are easily misled into thinking love is primarily a feeling. Yet, it is so much more.

#ReadersChoice is time for you to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year. What post helped you forgive?