A Hardened Heart

From the Book of Romans:

So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. [Ro 9:18]

Once again our antagonist Lara is back, this time with a vengeance. Regular visitors to Messiah Gate know that Lara is an ever-present thorn in our side. She reviles God. She has contempt for God. She hates God with a passion, but is even more hateful and intolerant of Christians. Indeed, the world that accuses Christians of intolerance are themselves hate-filled beyond measure. For a little background on Lara please see our post Was Jesus a False Prophet?

The last time we engaged Lara we left her with this simple observation, “Your heart is hardened.” Her eyes glazed over and she appeared stunned at our comment which, by the way, ended the conversation quite abruptly; but in our most recent encounter, Lara unloaded a verbal assault that was so venomous and hateful towards the LORD by saying (forgive us), “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a pig.”

Friends, the Holy Spirit gifted us with a whole lot of restraint that day. Did you know, according to Lara, that you are a fool for believing in the Bible? It is nothing but a collection of Jewish folklore, myths and tales—not to mention the hundreds of discrepancies and contradictions.

Our conversations with Lara are generally one-sided for the Holy Spirit continually presses us to remember the advice of our Lord:

Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. [Mt 7:6]

That verse of scripture really captures the dynamic of our debates with Lara which are both stressful and distressing. We should take heed that the Great Commission does not command (nor demand) that we spend ourselves on people like Lara. Our Lord surely had these verses in mind when He admonished us to carefully discern with whom we share the Gospel:

Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you. [Pr 9:8

Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words. [Pr 23:9]

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him. [Pr 26:4]

It is interesting to note that the world thinks you are a fool even as the Bible says that the wisdom of the world is foolishness in the eyes of God, and He will catch the wise in their craftiness (1Co 3:19)

People such as Lara are so arrogantly wise and intelligent (in their own mind) that they embrace the wisdom of the world as truth, and the truth of the Bible as lies. The devil and his kind are crafty, indeed.

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong. [1 Co 1:27]

The Gospel message sounds like foolishness to the world. We spent hours praying that the LORD would send the Holy Spirit to convict Lara’s heart, but the Word revealed to us that God does not send His Spirit to the unsaved:

…that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. [Jn 14:17

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. [1 Co 2:14]

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. [1 Co 1:21]

Only believers receive the Holy Spirit so our prayer that Lara be convicted by the Spirit was vain and futile at best. This is something to keep in mind when we petition God for anything. Is our request in accordance with the will of God?

Some may ask is it not God’s will that none should be lost, and all might be saved (2 Peter 3:9)? The Universalist will quote this passage as scriptural proof that the LORD, by His grace and mercy, will save everyone by the power of Christ’s atonement; but the benevolence of God cannot set aside the righteousness of God that demands judgement be executed upon unbelievers.

We wonder, then, if the LORD has simply written off Lara. Our Calvinist brethren insist, by the doctrine of predestination, that God elects whom He will save:

And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” [Jn 6:65]

Are Lara’s eyes blinded and her heart hardened because of God? How humbling to the believer, and terrifying to the unwashed that salvation is not our decision to make; but we don’t necessarily believe what John Calvin taught. The LORD does not harden a heart that is not already hardened towards Him. Take, for example, the story of Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus. (Incidentally, Lara refers to this text as evidence of God’s unfairness and cruelty.)

The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. [Ex 4:21]

When reading the Bible people are hindered by their cultural and social constructs particularly within the elements of language and word usage. Semitic idioms and Hebrew metaphors are not well translated into English such that readers might not fully grasp nor understand their true meaning.

From Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible:

But I will harden his heart – The case of Pharaoh has given rise to many fierce controversies, and to several strange and conflicting opinions. Would men but look at the whole account without the medium of their respective creeds [Protestant or Catholic], they would find little difficulty to apprehend the truth.

God does not harden men by infusing malice into them, but by not imparting mercy to them. God does not work this hardness of heart in man; but he may be said to harden him whom he refuses to soften, to blind him whom he refuses to enlighten, and to repel him whom he refuses to call. It is but just and right that he should withhold those graces which he had repeatedly offered, and which the sinner had despised and rejected.

The verb (חזק) chazak, which we translate harden, literally signifies to strengthen, confirm, make bold or courageous; and is often used in the sacred writings to excite to duty, and is placed by the Jews at the end of most books in the Bible as an exhortation to the reader to take courage…

The Semitic meaning of the text, then, is that the LORD did not harden, but permitted Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened by his own rejection of Him. We see this further in the following passages:

Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said. [Ex 7:13]

But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said. [Ex 8:15]

But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go. [Ex 8:32]

When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. [Ex 9:34]

And the prophet Samuel clarifies even further that it was Pharaoh who hardened his own heart:

Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? [1Sa 6:6]

The LORD did not create wickedness. He is not the author of evil. The angels who rebelled had free will and so, too, does man. When the Bible says that God gave them over to a reprobate mind (Ro 1:28) this does not mean that He caused the debasement. To use a modern day idiom, God provides the shovel for the sinner to dig his own grave. If you choose to sin God will let you.

YHWH has withheld His mercy from Lara, but it is because of her rejection of Him that her heart has become hardened. As we wrote in an earlier post Lara is an antichrist. This is the (spirit of) antichrist who denies the Father and the Son (1Jn 2:22). We have long been burdened by Lara—it seems not for her redemption but, rather, for our testing. The LORD does work in mysterious ways, and we could write another 2000 words on Calvinist theology regarding the call to salvation—essentially it is your free will response to the call of the Gospel, and not divine election—but Lara hit especially hard on another subject that needs to be discussed, at least, briefly.

One of the liberal counterpoints on the legitimacy of the Bible is their assertion that the Book of Genesis portrays two opposing Creation narratives which are both discrepant and contradictory. Chapter One details the six-day account of Elohim’s handiwork and behold, it was very good (Ge 1:31).

The dispute is found in Chapter Two where it is written:

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God (YHWH) made earth and heaven. [Ge 2:4]

Liberals jump all over this as proof-text that the Bible is simply a mishmash of collected fables written by different authors compiled from oral tradition and not divine inspiration. Did not Chapter One detail the account of creation? Why, then, is the story repeated (with discrepancies) in the following chapter?

It is important to understand that there are no chapter breaks in the original manuscript, but that chapters and verses were added by translators for the sake of convenience. Moreover, it was a Semitic style of writing to summarize, recapitulate or complement a topic that preceded the continuing text. Recapitulation is clearly evident in the first five books of the Bible which confirms to most scholars that Moses was the single source and author of the Pentateuch. Those learned in Hebrew understand that chapter one details the chronology of creation while chapter two focuses on the subject of man. The details of this study would require a lengthy post in comparative Hebrew, but we will not likewise burden our faithful readers. Anyone who is interested can follow the link below where you will find a quick and easy answer guide that will equip you to rebut the antagonists who challenge the Biblical account of creation.

Everyone has a Lara in their life. May God grant you the grace and wisdom to defend your faith.

Suggested Reading: Why Are There Two Creation Accounts in Genesis?

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