hardened hearts

God specializes in internal medicine.

God specializes in internal medicine.

Ezra 10

Have you ever heard this saying? You can take a boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy. That’s what I thought of as I read this last chapter in the book of Ezra. Only, in this situation, I suppose it would be more accurate to say, You can take the Israelites out of heathenism, but you can’t take heathenism out of the Israelites.

God humbles us.

God humbles us.

2 Chronicles 33

It’s kind of hard to believe that—after seeing such a wonderful example of a king in his father, Hezekiah—Manasseh could be so wicked. He virtually reversed every good thing his father had done during his reign. However, maybe that’s what happens when a twelve-year-old becomes a king! Can you imagine putting a teenager in charge of a country? Mercy!

God makes deception impossible.

God makes deception impossible.

2 Chronicles 18

Ahhhh, back to one of my favorite stories in the whole Bible. Micaiah, the prophet with the hot mouth. But as I read the story once again, something new jumped out at me. The dialogue between the two kings was very interesting, particularly the things said by Ahab king of Israel.

Justice for the Unjust {ex22:1,4}

Photo © Unsplash/Niko Manuelides

Photo © Unsplash/Niko Manuelides

What does it matter
if the thief
kills your sheep
or it's found alive?

Why should
a sheep that has vanished
be worth
twice as much
as one that's been repoed?

Maybe it's all about
God getting justice—
not so much for the victim
as for the perp.

For to sneakily get rid
of the trace of your crime
suggests a hardness
not known to the
heart with red hands,
one so inexperienced
as to be caught with the goods.

The harder heart
requires the harsher penalty
in order to
once again
fracture the hull.

Justice for the offended
is a foregone conclusion,
but recasting the offender's heart
is much more difficult
than replacing a sheep.

 

The Confrontational Creator {ex14:16-17}

Photo © shutterstock.com/Melnik

Photo © shutterstock.com/Melnik

The problem with sin is that we
want to have our cake
and eat it too,
just like Pharaoh,
who wanted to have his slaves
and free them too.

But not to decide
is to decide,
and not to give in
is to remain stubborn

and that has an effect.

We all think
/or want to believe/
that no matter
what we choose
we automatically
revert back to
this neutral default place
after each decision,
that our choices
don't have any lasting
consequences.

But that's ridiculous.

If you've lived in darkness
your entire life
and someone suddenly
turns on a light
you are no longer a person
who has only known darkness.

You cannot return
to saying that you do not know
what light looks like.
You may say it still,
all right,
but in your heart
you know it's not true

and that has an effect.

God is the Light of the World,
that Great Confronter who
scouts out
runs down
and passionately pursues
His darkness-dwelling
children.

He would not dream
of letting you remain
forever in your darkness.
He knows nothing of
live and let live,
has no hands-off policy,
and is generally unaccommodating.

He does not prefer to avoid confrontation.

As surely as He lives,
you live,
and as surely as He lives,
you will experience Him.

And when you do,
you cannot return
to saying that you have never
experienced Him.
You may say it still,
all right,
but in your heart
you will know it's not true

and that will have an effect.

And if you persist
in ignoring or avoiding reality
for long enough
you may just find yourself
in a chariot
at the edge of the sea,
unable to bat an eyelash
at the rising walls of water,
unable to wonder how or why the briny deep
is drawing back to reveal dry ground,
unable to think twice
before rushing headlong
into the foregone destruction
of a hardened heart.

 

When the Heart Becomes a Black Hole {ex11}

Photo © Unsplash/Ed Robertson

Photo © Unsplash/Ed Robertson

by the time
God announced
the plague
on the firstborn
for the /second/ time
didn't Pharaoh know
God could and
would
do exactly
what He said

after the
blood
frogs
gnats
flies
dead livestock
boils
hail
locusts and
darkness
was there anything left
more dark
than Pharaoh's heart

how dark does it have to get
to not understand
that your opponent
controls
the very elements

-all of them-

didn't Pharaoh know
that if God said
his son was going to die
he would /in fact/
be planning a funeral
if he didn't
change course

why wouldn't you change course

in ancient egypt
the only person more important
than the firstborn son of the Pharaoh
was Pharaoh himself

why wouldn't you change course

is there anything
in this world
more powerful
than the human heart

is there anything
more capable
of being more implacable
than the heart
bent on rebellion

is there anything
more wild and dangerous
than the freedom to choose
and the power
it imparts

the power to
so harden ourselves
to truth
that /in the end/
we could sacrifice
what is most important
to us

and be ourselves
swallowed up by
allconsuming
darkness

 

God's mercy doesn't always change hearts.

God's mercy doesn't always change hearts.

2 Kings 6

During all the years of the American-led war on terror, there have often been debates about how best to bring change to the Middle East—particularly about how to change the hearts and minds of those who seem intent on destroying Western culture and peoples. Many think it is wrong for us to use military force to accomplish these goals, and they offer other solutions instead, ranging from outright ignoring the problem to pacifism or targeted kindness.

Ruined {ex10:7}

Photo © Unsplash/Thu Trang Nguyen Tran

Photo © Unsplash/Thu Trang Nguyen Tran

The question Egypt's officials
put to their king
haunts me

How was he so blind
or so stubborn
or so arrogant
that he didn't see how
everything he loved
was slowly crumbling around him

Or did he see

Maybe the problem wasn't
that he didn't know
but that he did

Maybe the problem wasn't
that he thought he wasn't ruined
but knew he was
and thought there was
still a chance

still a way
he could fix it

One more opportunity
one more try
one more day
to start over
to redouble his efforts
to get it right

Maybe the problem wasn't that Pharaoh
didn't know Egypt was ruined
but that he still believed
he could repair the damage

But there is only
One
who can restore

There is only
One
who can rebuild

There is only
One
who can recover
all that has been lost

and it’s not us—

To be ruined
is not the problem

The problem is
we no more want to obey
than Pharaoh did
those two little words
God spoke:

Let. Go.

 

All Hail {ex9:23}

Photo © Brian Gary

Photo © Brian Gary

A monstrous storm of hail
fell
such as Egypt had never seen before
and hasn’t seen since.

It smashed trees.
It smashed crops.
It smashed people and flocks.
It smashed everything it touched.

But the one thing it didn’t smash
was Pharaoh's implacable heart,
that dense little rock
beating in his chest.

God could undo Egypt,
but He couldn’t undo the king.

All hail the power
we’ve been given
to fortify or destroy
our own personal dynasties.

 

Good Question {ex5:2}

Photo © Unsplash/Peter Sjo

Photo © Unsplash/Peter Sjo

Ah,
the ineludible question
of every person
wise or foolish

(for the Lord does not refrain
from entering uninvited
the lives of idolaters
to introduce
Himself).

Asking the question
indicates neither
wisdom
nor
folly.

But how one responds
to the answer
reveals
a fool
or
a genius.

Once we know
the sun
the River
the frogs
et al
are frauds,
will we
relent
or
will we
refuse?

Who is the Lord that i should listen to him?
said pharaoh, the little transient ruler of egypt.

I'm so glad you asked
replied Almighty God, Creator of Heaven and Earth.

 

God is always trying to get through to us.

God is always trying to get through to us.

1 SAMUEL 22

It is really disheartening to see just how sick and twisted Saul became. How irrational. How unreasonable. And since Ahimelek, the high priest, had helped David (even unwittingly), "the king said, 'You will surely die, Ahimelek, you and your whole family.'" (vs 16) Wow. This is a far cry from the king who refused to hurt those who spoke against him. This a complete 180—the willingness to destroy not only an innocent man, but his entire family as well.

God can't always cure blindness.

God can't always cure blindness.

1 SAMUEL 19

As I read this chapter, I couldn’t help but think about how absolutely blind Saul was—especially as we got down to the very end. David had fled to Ramah (where Samuel was), and Saul sent a group of men to capture him and bring him back for execution. But, the first group of men got to Ramah and got sidetracked by God’s Spirit. So Saul sent a second group of men to capture David, and they also got detoured by the Spirit. Saul sent a third group of men to get David, and they too were held up by the Spirit.

God is the author of reason.

God is the author of reason.

1 SAMUEL 14

It’s a little disheartening to see what happened to Saul the further he traveled from the Lord’s plans. He began his kingship as a virtuous man, one who wouldn’t make a decree to destroy those who had spoken against him. But, not too far down the road, he bound his army under an oath, saying, "Cursed be anyone who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!" (vs 24) He had obviously had a change of heart regarding revenge.

God is an effective communicator.

God is an effective communicator.

1 SAMUEL 6

Well, just when you thought nobody was paying attention to God... along comes 1 Samuel 6. Up to this point, God has had more failure with Israel than success (or so it seems). Here and there, He has a person who appears willing to listen, but those people are few and far between. It could almost make you think that God isn’t very good at getting His point across.

God chooses the best of the worst.

God chooses the best of the worst.

JOSHUA 11

Choosing the best of the worst. Almost sounds like going to the polls sometimes. However, when it comes to choosing the best of the worst, God wasn’t voting; He was simply trying to maintain contact with the human race. Sometimes, I’m not even sure how He accomplished that. As I continue to read through the Old Testament, I’m awestruck at the large numbers of people who just don’t get it.

God knows human nature.

God knows human nature.

JOSHUA 6

Is it just me, or is the story of the Fall of Jericho a little bizarre? I felt like a three-year-old as I read this chapter, as I realized I was asking why? to just about everything. Why did God want tens of thousands of people to march around the city? Why did they do it for seven days? Why not just one time? Why were the Israelites told they couldn’t make a sound—except on the final day, when they shouted? If God just wanted to get rid of everyone in the city, why did He spare Rahab and all her family? And if He wanted to get rid of the people, why did He have the Israelites kill all the animals?

God is not arbitrary.

God is not arbitrary.

JOSHUA 2

So, once God saw that He had people who were bent on fighting, He issued orders that when they had conquered a heathen town, they were not supposed to leave anyone alive. If they were going to conquer it, they were going to conquer it all the way. We’ve examined some of those passages, and I must admit, they can seem a little perplexing.

God loves His rebellious children.

God loves His rebellious children.

DEUTERONOMY 31

I would like to marry two concepts I find in this chapter. First, that God’s love is active. It is a verb, not a noun. And second, that God loves us even while knowing exactly who and what we are. His intimate knowledge of our wickedness does not change His love for us. In fact, if anything, I think it fires Him up to love us (that is, to fiercely act for our best good) even more.

God reveals the heart.

God reveals the heart.

DEUTERONOMY 8

I was intrigued by this verse today: "Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands." (vs 2)  As I read, I thought, didn’t God already know what was in the hearts of the Israelites? Of course He did. God knows us intimately and reads our hearts.