Consider What I Say
Harden Not Your Hearts  ©

Isaiah 6:9 And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.

Have you ever shared some truth you have learned from the Word of God with someone and had them respond with a "huh"?   You take the time to reiterate the truth of what you have learned and still come up with another "huh".  Truly these people "hear...but understand not"; they may "see...indeed, but perceive not."  For me, one of the most challenging experiences to handle in the study and exposition of scripture is the "deaf ear", the "blind eye", and the "hard heart".  There are topics of study in scripture that lend themselves to the deaf, the blind and the hard of heart.  Have you ever met a person and attempted to discuss a scriptural topic only to find that they are so convinced of what they believe that they won't even give you the time of day.  If you do gain entrance to the living room of their mind, it is met immediately with such objections, you can't get a word in edgewise.  Now, I do understand that everyone comes with their own biases and preconceived notions with regard to what they believe.  We all want to believe that we are right and often THINK so until we find out we are wrong.  This is common to human nature.

Proverbs 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.

Every man is "right in his own eyes" as he sees it.  These preconceived notions and ideas can generate more problems than we often realize.

Proverbs 12:15  The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.

Even a fool is "right in his own eyes".  What separates you from the fool?  The counsel of God!  It is the Word of God and that alone that separates you from the crowd of the foolish and puts you in the camp of the wise.

Exodus 15:26  And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes,....

This statement by Moses followed the crossing of the Red Sea by the children of Israel.  They had just been led out of Egypt by a mighty hand, the hand of the Lord.  They encountered their first trial at Marah and failed.  Their attitude and action to the command given by Moses in vs 26 would set the stage either for their success or failure in reaching and entering the land of promise.  It is the doing of that which is right in GOD's SIGHT and not our own that determines our success.

A caution has been issued with regard to our own perspective.  Being mindful of this, we must exercise diligence to make sure that we are "right in his sight" with regard to what we believe and teach.  It seems to me that the more we learn and the more knowledge we accumulate, the more convinced we are of what we believe.  Now there is nothing wrong with believing and strengthening your resolve when it comes to the truth of God's Word.  Praise God that anyone would take such a stand as to believe and speak about Christ.  The question really has more to do with the truth of what we believe.  DO WE KNOW THE TRUTH?  That should always be at the forefront of our mind's.  Not in doubting the truth of God's Word but rather, questioning whether or not we really have a true understanding of that Word.  Since none of us is infallible, we always need to examine and re-examine what we believe and ourselves.

II Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves....

"Examine" is the Greek peirazo which means to try or test.  The Septuagint uses it in Gen 22:1 of Abraham in his offering up of Isaac.  It was a trial indeed for Abraham but one that he passed.  We see it again in 1 Kings 10:1 when the Queen of Sheba came to try or test Solomon with hard questions.  We need to ask ourselves some serious questions when it comes to what we believe or think we believe.

Matthew 11:15  He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

Indeed God opens the ears and allows us to hear.  The Lord can also open the heart and the eyes.

Acts 16:14  And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.

II Kings 6:17  And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.  And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

All three of these can be summed up in one verse.

Deuteronomy 29:4  Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.  The "heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear" do come from the Lord.

Matthew 13:14  And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive:  15) For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.  16) But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.  17) For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.  18) Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.

There is much to digest in the section of scripture but the one thing to note is that both alternatives are there; hearing versus not hearing and seeing or not seeing.  It is possible to go either way.  The question remains, "why do some take the path of the deaf and blind while others don't?"  Let us take another example where Jesus Christ dealt with His disciples in an inquisitive fashion.

Mark 8:16  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.  17) And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?  18) Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?

His response to the disciples reasoning was a legitimate question.  They obviously had eyes and ears and the capacity to remember and understand but what was He trying to teach them?  The point He was making is that while they had the capacity to see, hear and understand what He was saying to them, "Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod", they were totally missing the point of what He had said to them.  It was if their eyes were glazed over and they had totally tuned Him out.  I have encountered this in my own life and have seen it in the lives of others in relation to biblical truths.  I had eyes, but why didn't I see.  I had ears, but it was as if I wasn't listening.  We ought to ask ourselves and others the same questions, "Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not?"

In this instance, the basis for the disciples seeing and hearing was in their REMEMBERING the feeding of the five thousand.  His capacity to miraculously feed 5,000 people would have totally negated the idea that they later needed to bring bread to feed a small handful.  The disciples had not changed their thinking about the abilities of this Man, even in light of their previous experience and witness of the miracle He performed.  They still considered Him to be an ordinary "Joe".  This being the case, why wouldn't they think about the need for them to supply physical food for their journey?  Instead, they should have been looking to Him for their supply.  Therefore His statement, "perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your heart yet hardened?"

Let us return to a passage of scripture that carried heavy implications for Israel and played a pivotal role in their history.

Isaiah 6:9  And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.  10) Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

Here is a message that Isaiah was appointed to declare to the people of Israel.  It is quoted seven times in the New Testament.  He declared "hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not".  They would hear the prophecies declared to them but would not understand or discern their prophetic truth.  They would see the prophecies being fulfilled but would not perceive or know that they were the ones of which the scriptures spoke.

Isaiah was instructed to "make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes".  In verse 9, Isaiah was told to "go, and tell".  He was to give a message or declaration to the people.  He didn't physically do anything to the people; all he did was give the message.  How was it that he was to "make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes"?  There is a Hebrew idiom here that helps us to understand this statement.  The word "fat" is the Hebrew shaman and means fat or thick.  It is often translated "oil" in the O.T. as oil is a liquid form of fat and is thick or viscous.  The NIV translates it "calloused".  The Septuagint uses the Greek word pachueo, which means thickened or impervious (Deut 32:15; II Sam 22:12).  Fat provides insulation for the human body.  It covers the human body like a blanket, protecting it from the elements (e.g., cold).  Given an environment like that of the northern states, it can certainly be a blessing in a very cold environment.  However, given a warmer climate (i.e., Arizona) and a different season (i.e., Summer) and an overabundance of that insulation, it can be a curse.  It serves its intended purpose given the right circumstance but, in the wrong place at the wrong time and in the wrong amount, can certainly be a problem.  Incidentally, a certain volume of fat does surround the human heart.  The same is true of some other organs.

Let us examine the structure of this passage in Isaiah.

Make the heart of this people fat,
and make their ears heavy,
 and shut their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
| and understand with their heart,

As you can see, the heart is used for understanding.  The ears are used for hearing and the eyes for seeing.  If your heart is "fat", calloused, or thickened, you can't understand the message being given.  If your "ears" are heavy or dull (NIV), you can't hear the message.  If your "eyes" are shut or closed (NIV), you can't see the message in its reality.  The END result for Israel is that they would not be "converted" or returned to the LORD and be "healed".

The Hebrew Idiom is significant here as Isaiah didn't do anything but declare the message.  It was the people's reaction to the message that produced the "fat" heart, "heavy" ears and "shut" eyes.  The people of Israel rejected the message and in so doing brought a blindness and deafness upon themselves.  Their heart became calloused and so insulated that they couldn't understand what was being said.  What is astounding to me is that the same thing that can happen spiritually is demonstrated for us in the physical realm.  For instance, the physical heart becomes thickened when the body increases its resistance.  In other words, as the body resists what is being delivered to it by constricting its arterial blood vessels, the heart endeavors to compensate by increasing the thickness of its muscular walls (known as hypertrophy).  As Israel resisted the goodness of GOD's Word to them, it resulted in their hearts being thickened and becoming hard.

John 12:35  Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you.  Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.  36) While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.  These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.  37) But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:  38) That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?  39) Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,  40) He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

They did not believe on Him!  Why?  "That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled..."  In John 11:53, they had already taken counsel together "to put him to death".  "Therefore they could not believe..."  As this is a quotation from Isaiah, it marks off another hallmark in Israel's history of rejection.  This blindness and hardness of heart is judicial in nature and has a purpose.  This idea will be developed when we examine Moses discourse with Pharaoh and the events that followed.  The "hardened... heart" is a heart that is covered by a thick skin or callous.  It prevents an understanding.  The word for "understand" is the Greek noeo and refers to the perception of the mind.  It involves a rumination of the mind or what we call "consideration".  When you use your mind to ponder a subject, you direct the attention of your mind to reflectively think upon the subject, which demonstrates an activity of the mind.  Consideration involves a direction of thought.  If you fail to ponder a subject, there is no direction of thought or activity regarding that subject.  The mind may be active, but there is no direction of thought toward the subject presented to it.  To direct one's mind is an act of the will.  It requires intent.  Let's look at some examples;

Matthew 16:5  And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.  6) Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.  7) And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.  8) Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?  9) Do ye not yet understand [Gk. noeo], neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?  10) Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?  11) How is it that ye do not understand [Gk. noeo] that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?  12) Then understood [Gk. suniemi] they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

In relation to Jesus Christ's statement about the "leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees", the disciples did not ponder what He was saying.  Their reasoning among themselves only related to their lack of bringing physical food.  Jesus Christ was speaking of spiritual doctrine but they never considered it.  Had they "remembered" about His miraculous ability to produce physical food, they might have directed their thoughts along a spiritual plane.  Once Jesus Christ directed their thoughts toward that which He was trying to teach them, they considered and THEN understood.  The word "understood" or Greek suniemi means to bring together or comprehend.  It is used of the flowing together of two rivers into one head.  It is like putting two and two together to get four.  It is when you link one thought to another and get the big picture (kind of like the light bulb coming on).  Once the disciples directed their thoughts and pondered what He had said, they comprehended what He was telling them.

Matthew 24:15  When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand [Gk. noeo]:)

"When ye... SEE... whoso READETH... understand".  When you connect what you read with what you see, you should "understand" or consider the two.  If your attention of mind is given to the reality that what you see happening is what you have read would happen, then you put two and two together and get four.  This is something Israel historically was never able to do and their blindness continues unto this very day but a day is coming when they who consider what is written will see and believe.  Here, they were to consider the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel.

Mark 8:13  And he left them, and entering into the ship again departed to the other side.  14) Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.  15) And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.  16) And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.  17) And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive [Gk. noeo] ye not yet, neither understand [Gk. suniemi] ? have ye your heart yet hardened?  18) Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?  19) When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.  20) And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.  21) And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand [Gk. suniemi]?

In this record, the disciples "reasoned among themselves" but did not consider the miracle He had performed earlier in the feeding of the five thousand.  This point was made earlier but I quoted this passage because something is added here that is relevant to this study.  Jesus Christ said to them, "have ye your heart yet hardened?"  Had the disciples, who had been with Jesus Christ and witnessed all His marvelous works, hardened their hearts?  Why would Jesus Christ say such a thing?  Could it be that it was related to their lack of perception ("perceive ye not yet").  Could a hardened heart hinder one's ability to "perceive"?  He asked them about the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand and the fact that they took up extra food.  In effect He said to them, "You were there weren't you?"  "Yes, Lord, we were there!"  "How is it that ye do not understand [Gk. suniemi]?"  I believe that is a legitimate question.  Why couldn't they put two and two together when it came to His miraculous ability to provide physical food.  With that kind of ability, why would they think that He was upset with them because they brought "no bread"?

Consideration (Gk. noeo) precedes understanding (Gk. suniemi).  You can't get four unless you first consider the two and the other two.  How important is consideration to understanding?

II Timothy 2:7  Consider [Gk. noeo] what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding [Gk. sunesis] in all things.

The NIV reads, "Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this."  Sunesis is the noun form and suniemi is the verb; same meaning we have been considering just different parts of speech.  Paul told Timothy "if you ponder and direct your thoughts toward what I am telling you, the Lord will give you an understanding (help you put two and two together to get four ... then the light bulb will come on!)".  The converse would also be true; "if you do not consider and reflect on what I am telling you, you will have no understanding from the Lord and things just won't add up for you (it won't make any sense from the standpoint of truth)".  Forgive my liberal use of paraphrasing but this point must be made.  I stated "from the standpoint of truth" because to the end we correctly understand the Word, we have the TRUE Word.  We all hear and are taught many things from the Bible but are they all TRUE?  If so, why is there so much variance of opinion regarding any one passage of scripture?  Can all these opinions be TRUE?  Is GOD or Christ divided?  Schizophrenia is absolutely and without doubt completely foreign to GOD.  GOD is not the author of confusion nor is HE confusing at all!

I Corinthians 12:2  Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.

These Gentiles were led to worship "dumb idols".  What about us? Are we any different?  Are we or have we not led or been led by some one at some time?  Indeed!  We all have our preconceive notions and ideas based upon what we have been taught.  Depending upon the truth of these ideas and notions, they can be used to insulate us from any idea we FEEL may HARM us.  Unfortunately, the very thing we use to protect us can in reality harm us.  This is true for every person that has every lived with the exception of one, Jesus Christ.  He was and is able to discern TRUTH (John 8:40).  He can separate what is true from what is not (John 8:42-46).  He demonstrated this unceasingly throughout His earthly ministry.  He is the true vine (John 15:1).  He is the true and living way (John 14:6).  He is true grace (John 1:14).  Indeed, He is the personification of truth.

II Timothy 3:14  But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;

What an assurance Paul gave to Timothy regarding the revelation he had received.  Can others say the same thing.  Unless they speak what is written and that alone, to place one's confidence in them would be utter folly.  Hence the need to examine and re-examine what we teach and what we believe.  Returning to our subject, how vital this consideration and reflection on things presented to our minds must be if we are ever going to see and understand (comprehend) the truth.  It plays a pivotal role in our lives as it determines what we believe and that which we hold to be TRUE.  Have you tried and tested what you believe?  Does the touchstone of truth substantiate it or does it grind it to powder?

Psalms 118:22  The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.

Isaiah 28:16  Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.

The "tried stone" is "a sure foundation".  All else will only produce utter disappointment and failure.

Corinthians 3:10  According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon.  But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.  11) For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  12) Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;  13) Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.  14) If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.  15) If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

Let us journey back to the O.T. and take a more detailed examination of this concept of a "hard heart".  This is demonstrated in the example of Pharaoh in his dealings with Moses and the children of Israel.

Exodus 5:1  And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.  2) And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?  I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.

Here we have Moses and Aaron entering into the presence of one of the most prestigious officials of that point in history and requesting him to release a race of people that he believed only existed to serve his purposes.  His response may have seemed to him to be a rational one but something else was at work.  We learn earlier in the book that their was a divine purpose to be worked out.

Exodus 4:21  And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.

The LORD had told Moses that even though he would do the wonders that he was instructed to do before Pharaoh, Pharaoh would not let the people go.  Now I don't know about you but, if someone came to me and pulled off the works that Moses and Aaron did, I think I would be rather accommodating to their request.  Pharaoh certainly had a lot at stake but we are specifically told WHY Pharaoh would not let the people go, in spite of the miraculous circumstances.

...but I will harden his heart...

There is a figure of speech here that must be understood.  It is the Hebrew idioma or idiom.  Specifically, it is the Hebrew idiom of permission.  The active verb of doing something (i.e., "I will harden") is used when the intention is to convey the idea that you are allowing or permitting something to be done.  Many examples abound (e.g., Gen 31:7; Ps 16:10; Jer 4:10; Ezek 14:9, etc.).  The LORD did not actively harden Pharaoh's heart.  Rather, HE allowed Pharaoh to harden his own heart and did not interfere to change or prevent that hardening.  Acts of GOD can have different effects upon different people.  Given the same action by GOD, one man may react in a positive fashion while one may react in a negative way.  GOD knows how we will react.  HE knows what can soften a heart and change a man.  The converse is also true.  HE knows what can lead a man to harden his heart and his countenance.  To use an analogy, the same sun that softens the wax will harden the clay.  It is the same sun but the character or substance upon which it acts is different.  To put it another way, an act of GOD may harden one man's heart and make him obstinate while the same act of GOD may soften another man's heart and produce repentance.  It is the disposition of one's heart that predisposes him/her to react through hardness and rejection or through an opened heart and believing faith (remember Prov 4:23?).  In the case of Pharaoh, the plagues were an extension of GOD's mercy and longsuffering.  HIS initial statement to Pharaoh was "Israel is my son, even my firstborn: ... Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn" (Ex 4:22,23).  Instead of the plagues producing repentance in the heart of Pharaoh, they produced a hardened heart.

Romans 2:4  Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

The goodness of God is what produces repentance.  Who doesn't need repentance?  We are told that this is the product of God's GOODNESS.  Now repentance is a change of mind.  What does it take to change a person's mind?  Some take more than others.  A minor affliction or adverse set of circumstances may be all that is needed for one while another may take a lifetime of catastrophes.  Everyone has his or her breaking point but it is still GOD's goodness!  I say breaking point but I use the term loosely as the following passage demonstrates.

Revelations 16:8  And the fourth angel poured out his vial upon the sun; and power was given unto him to scorch men with fire.  9) And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.  10) And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain,  11) And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.

Can you imagine this? Rather than repenting, they chose to blaspheme.  What a lesson here.  Now returning to the subject at hand.

Exodus 5:2  And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go?  I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.

Pharaoh's statement "Who is the LORD" was not a question.  It is the figure of speech Erotesis.  He is making a statement in the form of a question.  In other words, Pharaoh said, "I am not going to obey the voice of the Lord and let Israel go.  I know not the Lord and so I am not going to let them go".  This indeed was a rejection of the message that Moses and Aaron delivered to him.  Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not consider what they had to say.

Exodus 7:3  And I [the LORD] will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.  4) But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.  5) And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them.  6) And Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded them, so did they.

This is an expansion of what the LORD had told Moses in Exodus 4.  "Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you" – that was the result of hardening his heart.  "that I may lay my hand upon Egypt." – that was the divine purpose.  Given the disposition and character of Pharaoh, GOD knew that "my signs and my wonders" would harden Pharaoh's heart like clay instead of softening it like wax.  Pharaoh's response to Moses' request in Exodus 5 was "I know not the LORD".  The LORD says here "the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD".  However, this would not take place UNTIL the stretching forth of HIS hand upon Egypt.

Exodus 12:29  And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle.  30) And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.  31) And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as ye have said.  32) Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.  33) And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.

As I said before, everyone has his or her breaking point.  It took the deaths of all the firstborn in Egypt to bring Pharaoh and the Egyptians to their knees.  Pharaoh said, "go, serve the LORD, as ye have said".  This is certainly a far cry different from his response to Moses and Aaron in Exodus 5.  GOD knew what it would take to get Pharaoh's heart to soften and change his mind.  However, just as one can change his mind in what he believes and accepts, he can at any given point reject and harden his heart.  This can be seen with Pharaoh and the Egyptians after the children of Israel had made their exodus.

Exodus 14:1  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  2) Speak unto the children of Israel, that they turn and encamp before Pihahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, over against Baalzephon: before it shall ye encamp by the sea.  3) For Pharaoh will say of the children of Israel, They are entangled in the land, the wilderness hath shut them in.  4) And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, that he shall follow after them; and I will be honoured upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host; that the Egyptians may know that I am the LORD.  And they did so.  5) And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?  6) And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him:  7) And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.  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.

The LORD is ready to play HIS final hand with Pharaoh.  This would bring honor and recognition to the LORD from the Egyptians.  However, the only thing that would bring Pharaoh and his host out to pursue the children of Israel was a HARD HEART.

Exodus 14:5  And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?

Was Pharaoh's response rational?  That's the million-dollar question here.  His conclusion in verse 5 seems legitimate.  The children of Israel were serving his ends in building his kingdom.  He had such a good thing and now he had let it slip through his fingers.  Although Pharaoh's conclusion was reasonable, his response was irrational.

Think about all the plagues and how they essentially destroyed Egypt.  Now after all of that and seeing how mighty and powerful the LORD of Israel was and is, would it be logical to try and fight against the same LORD again even after so many had died in Egypt?  The irrationality of his behavior can be understood in the light of his hardness of heart.

When Pharaoh's heart was hardened, he did not consider what the LORD was doing to set HIS people free.  All the signs and wonders should have served as proof enough that the LORD is GOD and it would be ridiculous not to let HIS people go.  Even at the Red Sea, it was completely illogical and utter folly to think he could pursue them and come out the victor.  It is beyond reason to think he could overcome them at this point.  The mind is a dynamic instrument; never static.

In light of this, I ask you, "When a person hardens their heart, can they think and act irrationally?"  Do they know they are thinking or acting irrationally?  Pharaoh and the Egyptians didn't.  Are they the exception or the rule?

I Timothy 3:8  Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.

Jannes and Jambres were the magicians who mocked Moses and Aaron and placed the signs and wonders they performed in the category of parlor tricks.

Exodus 7:20  And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.  21) And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.  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.  23) And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.

Again, Pharaoh continued to harden his heart and resist the truth.  This is evident by the statement, "neither did he set his HEART to this also".  Jannes and Jambres were allowed by the LORD to replicate what Moses and Aaron were doing up to a point.

Exodus 8: 16  And the LORD said unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch out thy rod, and smite the dust of the land, that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.  17) And they did so; for Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.  18) And the magicians did so with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not: so there were lice upon man, and upon beast.  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.

Even the confession of the magicians did not dissuade Pharaoh.  He "hearkened not unto them" for his "heart was hardened".  What is amazing to me is that he just couldn't see it!  Ever run into any Pharaoh's?  I know I have.  The children of Israel also provide us with an example of this concept of "hardening".

Psalms 95:6  O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.  7) For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.  To day if ye will hear his voice,  8) Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:  9) When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.  10) Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:

Israel provoked the LORD through tempting and trying HIM.  They failed to take into consideration all that HE had done for them.  They refused to change their thinking and every time they had a hunger pang or dry mouth, they exclaimed, "Is the LORD among us or not?" (Exodous 17:7).

II Kings 17:13  Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.  14) Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God.  15) And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.  16) And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.

The "hardened neck" is one that is stiff.  We often refer to a "head-strong" person.  This is one who is marching in a certain direction and you can't get them to change course.  Their mind is made up and they are as stubborn as an ox.  That may be ok if you are headed in the right direction.  On the other hand, if you are headed in the wrong direction, it looks like you better prepare yourself for a bump, bruise or even worse.  When your neck is stiff, you can't or don't want to turn it.  The children of Israel chose to stiffen their necks and not turn their heads in the direction GOD had given them.  These Israelites "would not hear" what GOD had to say just as their fathers refused to listen.  They "rejected his statutes" and "his covenant" and "left all the commandments of the LORD their God" and "followed vanity", "made molten images" and "worshipped all the host of heaven and served Baal".  This is the same group that "hardened" their hearts.  They refused to hear and their reaction was to stiffen their necks.  They did not change their mind or their ways but instead, followed the example of the heathen around them.

Jeremiah 19:15  Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.

Israel "hardened" their necks THAT THEY MIGHT NOT HEAR MY WORDS. Let's look at some N.T. examples.

Mark 3:1  And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand.  2) And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.  3) And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth.  4) And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.  5) And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand.  And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.  6) And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.

It says "they watched him.... whether he would heal him on the Sabbath day.... they might accuse him".  These religious leaders weren't interested in the health of the man with the withered hand.  Rather, they had their own agenda to attend to.  Jesus Christ attempted to get their minds thinking when He asked them the questions in vs 4.  They responded not by pondering, considering, or reflecting on what He had said.  It says, "they held their peace". Jesus Christ was grieved for their hardness of heart.  They refused to consider the message He was delivering to them.  Their hearts were hard.  The word "hardness" is the Greek porosis and literally means to cover with a callous or thick piece of skin.  This ties in with what I mentioned earlier.

Job 17:7  Mine eye also is dim by reason of sorrow, and all my members are as a shadow.

The Septuagint uses the Greek poroo for "dim" here.  As the lens of the eye grows opaque with age, it becomes what is known in medicine as a cataract.  The vision is dimmed or becomes clouded due to the aged lens.  Like a cataract to the eye, so is a hard heart to the understanding.  You cannot see clearly; your vision is dimmed and blurred.  So much for 20/20.

Matthew 19:8  He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

The word for "hardness" here is the Greek sklerokardia, which is made up of skleros meaning dry or make firm and kardia meaning heart.  We use skleros or sclerosis in medicine with terms such as arteriosclerosis, which refers to a "hardening of the arteries".  This hardness pertains to someone who has been tried and become obdurate, stubborn and obstinate in his or her thinking and behavior.  Skleros is like a trial of the sun upon a clay pot.  Exposure to the sun is what dries the pot and makes it hard.  It is not principally because of its exposure to the sun for if the pot were not clay, it would not dry and harden.  However, the sun provides the trial to reveal the substance of the pot (i.e., clay or wax).  Another usage of skleros is in the Septuagint when referring to someone who is uncircumcised of heart.

Deuteronomy 10:16  Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked [Gk. skleruno].

The Septuagint reads, "Therefore ye shall circumcise the hardness of your heart".  The analogy to circumcision is revealing.  As the foreskin is to the penis in its covering, the hardness is to the heart in its covering. This analogy was used because they had been "stiffnecked".  The same concept occurs in Jer 4:4.  Returning to Matt 19, the stubbornness on the part of the Israelite men in not forgiving their wives when they appeared to be at fault is what Christ addressed.  The men of Israel chose to divorce their wives rather than change their minds about something their spouse did or did not do.  Unfortunately, the same attitude abounds today.

Mark 16:9  Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.  10) And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.  11) And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.  12) After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.  13) And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.  14) Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart [sklerokardia], because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.

In this instance, the "eleven" were reproved for their "unbelief and hardness of heart".  How was it that they were reproved?  Because "they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen".  Jesus Christ told them before His crucifixion that He would die and be raised again.  They were tried and their response was the result of the drying and hardening of their hearts.  Remember the example of Jonah (Matt 12:39,40)?  Here we have "hardness of heart" coupled with "unbelief".

Romans 2:1  Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.  2) But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things.  3) And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?  4) Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?  5) But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

The word "hardness" is sklerotes, which has already been examined.  The word "impenitent" is the Greek ametanoetos.  It is made up of three words; "a" meaning without, "meta" meaning association or companionship and, "noetos" from noeo as previously defined.  Putting it all together, it means without associated thoughts.  In other words, the goodness, forbearance and longsuffering of GOD does not produce any reflection of thought and a resultant change of mind.  Remember the example of Pharaoh and the plagues?  The lexical definition of ametanoetos is unrepentant or admitting no change of mind.  These wonderful aspects of GOD do not evoke a change of mind on the part of this inexcusable man who has hardened his heart.  We see "hardness" coupled with "impenitent" here as it pertains to the heart just as "unbelief" and "hardness" was coupled in Mark 16.

Acts 19: 8  And he [Paul] went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.  9) But when divers were hardened [Gk. skleruno], and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

Again we see hardness coupled with a refusal to believe what the apostle Paul was presenting.

II Timothy 2:7  Consider [Gk. noeo] what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding [Gk. sunesis] in all things.

I would like to examine this concept of consideration more closely. Noeo has its own word family.  Prefixes are added to modify the meaning of the word but the meaning of the root (i.e., noeo) remains the same.  The following are for YOUR consideration.

Matthew 3:2  And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

The word "repent" is metanoeo and means to change one's mind.  The call here by John the Baptist was to prepare their minds to accept their Messiah of whom John was the forerunner.

Matthew 7:3  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  4) Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?  5) Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

The word for "considerest" is katanoeo and means to perceive through critical examination or apprehend by pondering or study [Kittle, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Abridged].  The question was given to 'wake up' the hypocrite as to his own disposition.

Luke 11:32  The men of Nineve shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

The word for "repented" is [Gk. metanoeo].  The men of Nineveh changed their thinking when they heard the preaching of Jonah.  Repentance is a change of thinking; it's a change of heart.

Luke 12:22  And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.  23) The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.  24) Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?  25) And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?  26) If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?  27) Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  28) If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?

There is some incredible instruction here.  The word for "consider" is katanoeo in vss 24 and 27.  The questions were asked to invoke a critical examination and reflection of thought.  If they reflected and ruminated upon the statements He was making, they would perceive the truth He was endeavoring to teach them.

Acts 11:5  I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:  6) Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes [to look or stare intently at], I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.  7) And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.

The word "considered" is katanoeo.  Peter reflected upon and mentally examined what he was seeing.  He pondered what it should mean.  The following is a New American Standard translation of vs 6.

Acts 11:6  and when I had fixed my gaze upon it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air. NASB

When Peter was "observing it" he was thinking about it.  He was using his mind to digest, process and ponder what he was seeing.

Acts 13: 24  When John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.  25) And as John fulfilled his course, he said, Whom think [Gk. huponoeo] ye that I am?  I am not he.  But, behold, there cometh one after me, whose shoes of his feet I am not worthy to loose.  26) Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent.  27) For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew [Gk. agnoeo] him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.  28) And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain.

In vs 25, John the Baptist asked the people, "whom think ye that I am?"  In other words, now that you have heard what I have been telling you [for it says he "fulfilled his course"], who do you suppose or suspect that I am.  "Think" or huponoeo means to think or reflect upon in secret; to conjecture [Bauer, Walter, Gingrich, et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature].  As the people assimilated and digested what John was telling them; as they reflected upon it, they would have formed a conclusion as to his identity.  This is why he asked them the question.  In vs 27, it says "they knew him not".  The religious leaders and those at Jerusalem did not recognize that He was the one the prophets of the O.T. wrote about that was read every Sabbath day.  They fulfilled the very prophecies they read about by condemning Him to death.  These people ignored or disregarded what the prophets spoke about when it came to Jesus Christ.  They did not honestly examine Him in light of the scriptures; they gave no thought to what or whom the prophets testified.

I want to tie this idea of consider and hardness together. Look at the following examples.

Mark 6:49  But when they [the disciples] saw him [Jesus Christ] walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out:  50) For they all saw him, and were troubled.  And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.  51) And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered.  52) For they considered [Gk. suniemi] not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened [Gk. poroo].

The disciples freaked so to speak when they saw Jesus Christ walking on the water.  Indeed, even when He stepped into the ship, "the wind ceased".  They acted as if this was the first time they had seen Him work a miracle.  It says, "they were sore amazed... beyond measure, and wondered."  The feeding of the five thousand had just taken place prior to this.  Why were they so amazed?  Because they understood not the miracle of the loaves.  They were not able to put two and two together to get four.  Why?  Because "their heart was hardened".  They had a thick covering over their heart to the end they couldn't understand.

Luke 24:44  And he [Jesus Christ] said unto them [those traveling to Emmaus], These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.  45) Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand [Gk. suniemi] the scriptures,

The word "understanding" here is the Greek nous, which is the mind or organ of mental perception.  It is the organ that has the capacity to perceive and understand.  We speak of having an 'open mind' when it comes to things presented to us.  He simply opened a door for them to understand.  The word "opened" is the Greek dianoigo and is used of the firstborn male opening the matrix of the uterus or womb.  The prefix dia means through and intensifies the word — to open completely.  It is through that opening of the cervix or womb the babe proceeds to be born.  We talk about a woman being "completely dilated" just before giving birth.  This means that the cervix has opened completely and the baby is beginning to proceed down the birth canal.  The same is true of the understanding.  The truth presented to the mind proceeds through the opening provided and enables an understanding to take place.  You don't get the understanding just because the opening is there.  Returning to the analogy of birth, you have to push the baby out.  You must have the cervix open to have the baby but you must also have the pushing.  The two go hand in hand.  GOD will do HIS part but we must do ours.  Some interesting examples of this "opened" abound in the Septuagint of the O.T.

Genesis 3:7  And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Here is a reference to Adam and Even in the Garden.  "The eyes of them both were OPENED" and "they knew".

Exodus 13:2  Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.

"Openeth the womb".  This gives us the basic meaning of the word in its usage.

Psalm 119:18  Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

We must remember that GOD is the great REVEALER.

Matthew 11:25  At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.

Philippians 3:15  Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

The Son also reveals.

Matthew 11:27  All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.

If it is not revealed, it is concealed.  This will surface again later.

II Timothy 2:7  Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding [Gk. sunesis] in all things.

We learned previously that the Lord opened their minds or nous so that they might understand or sunesis.  In II Timothy 2, we learn that the understanding or sunesis is given when Paul told Timothy to "consider" or noeo.  I must work with the Greek in order for you to see the relevance of this point so bear with me.  Noeo is an activity or perception of the nousSunesis or suniemi is the result of noeo, the activity or perception of the mind or nous.  Now, once the nous is "opened", how do you get to sunesis.  Unless your mind consists of a slide projector and a screen, it takes noeo or the activity and perception of the mind.  To put it another way, the Lord gives sunesis when you noeo.  Now, this may not be true of everything in this world, but I do believe it to be true when it comes to the Bible and understanding scripture.

Now let's examine this in relation to "hardness of heart".  We have already learned that hardness of heart can prevent understanding or sunesis.  How does this happen?  Well, if to get from nous to sunesis is noeo, then hardness of heart must relate to noeo.  In other words, the Lord may provide you with an opportunity to hear the Word and thus present it to your mind or nous (hence, opening your mind) but if you refuse to listen, reflect and consider (hence, noeo) that which is presented to your nous, you will never arrive at sunesis or understanding (putting two and two together to get four).  As far as I understand, GOD never forces HIS Word down anyone's throat.  HE will open your mind but you must ponder and consider that which is presented.  If you do so, HE can provide the understanding.  GOD does everything but think for you!  WE are moral creatures and GOD has given us the freedom to choose.  If we choose to think and ponder that which is presented to our minds, truths will be able to flow together for us like two streams meeting to form a river.  It reminds me of a mountain lake and a river at the bottom of the basin.  The intervening factor is a dam.  How much water gets from the lake to the river is based on the activity of the dam or spillway.  Noeo is the dam.  GOD can place all the water in the lake to provide a source for the river and the river itself to receive it but if we don't let the water through the spillway, the harvest that depends on the life from the river will never come.  The responsibility lies with us!  If we harden our hearts, the truths concerning which we harden our hearts will never become visible to us.  We will never be able to see them because we don't consider them.  We react through rejection before we have a chance for reflection.  This lies at the very foundation of so many conflicts regarding the Bible today.  It always has and always will.

What would contribute to one not considering the truths presented to them?

Acts 7:29  Then fled Moses at this saying, and was a stranger in the land of Midian, where he begat two sons.  30) And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.  31) When Moses saw it, he wondered [admired; marveled at] at the sight: and as he drew near to behold [Gk. katanoeo] it, the voice of the Lord came unto him,  32) Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  Then Moses trembled [began to be afraid], and durst [dare] not behold [katanoeo].  33) Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.

Acts 7: 31  When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight.  As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord's voice:  32) I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.'  Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look. NIV

When Moses encountered the burning bush, the sight of it peaked his interest and so he drew near to consider what was happening.  The voice of the LORD then came to him and it was such a wonder to him that he began to be afraid. His fear is what drove him to look away; to not consider what he was hearing.  Whether this was a fear out of reverence or not, one thing I know, he "did not dare to look (NIV)". I've encountered people who manifest an attitude of fear when something new is presented to them that does not line up with what they believe.  It is not that the attitude is obvious but it is present nonetheless.  They may justify in their minds that they refuse to listen out of piety for the Lord but the principal cause is fear.  On the other hand, they may think that to question and ponder the truths presented to them from scripture is such a holy and magnanimous thing that they don't think or feel they are worthy.  They may believe that it is better to leave it up to the biblical scholars and ministers, as they are the ones capable of handling such a thing.  Fear is a very powerful emotion.  I believe the possibility of learning that some or most of what you have believed and been taught might be erroneous is too much for many people to handle.  They would rather stick with the mainstream than buck against the establishment and examine the possibility that they may be wrong.  Generally speaking, no one wants to admit they are wrong and I believe this is especially true when it comes to GOD, Christ, the Bible, and religion.  Rather than facing that fear, people would rather choose to close off their ears and refuse to hear.

As fear may lead one to turn away and not consider some wonderful truth, we may ask, "What would contribute to a hard heart?"

Nehemiah 9:13  Thou camest down also upon mount Sinai, and spakest with them from heaven, and gavest them right judgments, and true laws, good statutes and commandments:  14) And madest known unto them thy holy sabbath, and commandedst them precepts, statutes, and laws, by the hand of Moses thy servant:  15) And gavest them bread from heaven for their hunger, and broughtest forth water for them out of the rock for their thirst, and promisedst them that they should go in to possess the land which thou hadst sworn to give them.  16) But they and our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to thy commandments,  17) And refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not.  18) Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations;

II Chronicles 36:10  And when the year was expired, king Nebuchadnezzar sent, and brought him to Babylon, with the goodly vessels of the house of the LORD, and made Zedekiah his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem.  11) Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.  12) And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the LORD.  13) And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel.

We see that Israel and their ancestors "dealt proudly".  Pride can be a very damaging emotion.

Proverbs 16:18  Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.

Lucifer fell because of pride (Isaiah 14:12-14).  Now, how could pride produce a hardened heart?

I Corinthians 8:1  Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge.  Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

"Knowledge puffeth up"!  What a statement!  The acquisition of knowledge can produce pride.  The "I know it all" syndrome is probably one of the most disastrous ailments to have.  If you were confident that you have "all the answers", why would you give anyone the time of day to listen to what they have to say about a subject you are convinced you know all about?  You don't!  You rationalize away what they are saying and contribute their babbling to typical novice behavior.  You may roll your eyes and think, "Boy, did this fellow get off on the wrong stop".  I know this firsthand as I have experienced it in my own life.  It is a simple matter of fact that the more knowledge you acquire about something, the greater the tendency to believe that you know more about it than the next guy.  You may not say it but more times than not you think it.  It's a simple rule of mathematics; the product is equal to the sum of all its parts.  Now, this is not to say that there is no alternative.  Indeed there is!  That will reveal itself in due time.

In II Chronicles 36, notice that Zedekiah "humbled not himself".  This sounds like pride to me.  What is more remarkable is that he did this "before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord".  He refused to listen and rejected the revealed Word of the LORD.  He "hardened his heart" and did not turn to the LORD.  No wonder "pride goeth before destruction".  Pride can produce a hardened heart.  Rejecting the Word of GOD can produce a hardened heart.

How can one turn back to the Lord and overcome this hard heart and once again consider the truths presented?

Exodus 10:3  And Moses and Aaron came in unto Pharaoh, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? let my people go, that they may serve me.

Leviticus 26:40  If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me;  41) And that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity:

II Kings 22:18  But to the king of Judah which sent you to enquire of the LORD, thus shall ye say to him, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, As touching the words which thou hast heard;  19) Because thine heart was tender, and thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and hast rent thy clothes, and wept before me; I also have heard thee, saith the LORD.

The enemy of pride is humility.  To humble oneself before the LORD can certainly open the door for an understanding heart.  The humility should coincide with hearing the truth, "thou hast humbled thyself before the LORD, when thou heardest what I spake... ".  We have to get off our high horse when something is presented to us and consider that we don't know it all or have all the answers.  When we do this and not let the opportunity pass but give it a hearing and reflection, we are then in a position to evaluate and judge that which is presented.  We give GOD the opportunity to teach us something new.

Leviticus 19:15  Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.

Deuteronomy 1:16  And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.  17) Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's:

We shouldn't be swayed because of a person's position or what they claim to be.  This can often affect our thinking about an issue because we feel that person has a "handle" on it because they are more "spiritual".  Regardless of whether it is a theologian or a plumber that presents something to us, we should receive it in the same fashion and not allow that person's advantage or disadvantage to bias our opinion before we have an opportunity to weigh what is presented.

Proverbs 18:13  He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

We must hear both sides of the matter before we can render just judgment.

Ephesians 4:21  If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:

The truth is in Jesus Christ and no other.

Philippians 1:10  That ye may approve [margin, try] things that are excellent [differ]; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;

We are instructed to "try the things that differ".  In I Cor 2, we are instructed to "compare spiritual with spiritual".  You can do neither of these if you don't consider and weigh what is presented to you.

II Corinthians 3:12  Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech:  13) And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:  14) But their minds [Gk. noema — the thoughts of the mind or nous] were blinded [Gk. poroo]: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ.  15) But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart.  16) Nevertheless when it [their heart] shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.  17) Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  18) But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

When your heart is turned to the Lord, the shroud is lifted.  The wall, which kept you from seeing, is removed and only then can you begin to see.

Psalm 119:18  Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.

This should be our heartfelt attitude every time something is presented to us.  We can't assume we know it all.  We have to look to the Lord and ask for the necessary help to discern truth from error.  We do the weighing and pondering; the Lord will provide the sunesis or understanding.

May we emulate those who on the day of Pentecost, when they heard the disciples speak in tongues, and were amazed at what they heard said, "What meaneth this?"  Let us not sit back and settle for the "status quo".  Rather, let us always maintain that true Berean spirit of SEARCH AND SEE whether the things you are hearing be so!

Mark Van Doren