Reading: Psalm 95
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
“Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest’” (NIV).*
Long before we knew about the medical condition known as hardening of the arteries, there existed another condition called hardening of the heart. Hardening of the heart is not a deadly medical condition; it’s a deadly spiritual condition. Those who suffer from hardening of the heart have a hard time hearing God, and when they do hear God, they tend to stop their ears, or they do their best to pretend that God hasn’t spoken.
Although we can safely say that this condition has existed since the human species stepped out of Eden, the first reported case of hardening of the heart occurred about 3,500 years ago. In the Book of Exodus we read that Pharaoh developed a severe case of hardening of the heart. 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 (Exodus 8:15).
Time and again as the ten plagues ravaged Egypt, we read that Pharaoh hardened his heart and he would not let the people of Israel go. In several instances we read that the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart. But let’s be clear about this condition. Heart hardening only happens with the willing participation of the individual. Don’t go about blaming God for your hard heart. Hearts harden due to our willful disregard of God’s Spirit and His laws.
Neither should we presume that heart hardening only happens with a certain type of person. We are all prone to develop this spiritual malady. Our ancestry or genetic makeup offers no protection. The Egyptian Pharaoh developed a heart, but ultimately the Israelites—the people that the LORD pried free from Pharaoh also developed the same condition. That’s why the psalmist issues this warning: Today, if only you would hear his voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did.”
The key to avoiding a hard heart is hearing and heeding the voice of God. It’s just that simple.
Response: LORD, give me ears that hear your voice gently speaking to me. Give me a heart that is quick to obey. I want a tender heart that reflects your love for me and for others. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Your Turn: Does a hard heart toward others result in a hard heart toward God? What are your thoughts?
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
In the introduction to Psalms 365: Develop a Life of Worship and Prayer, which will be released about a month from now, I make this statement, “Whatever state you find yourself in, there’s a psalm for that—a psalm for every situation and human need.”
When you make statements like that you can expect your words to be put to the test. And they have!
This summer on July 16th, I collapsed on the floor of my study, and was rushed to hospital by ambulance. On July 24th, I had open-heart valve repair surgery. Three of my heart’s four valves needed repair.
The recovery process has been long, slow and painful, but it’s now apparent the worst is behind me.
What have I learned during that time? It can be summarized in the verse pictured below.
When your flesh and your heart fail, is God there to receive you—to strengthen you?
From personal experience, I can now say, “Yes, He is. God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
This verse from the Psalms speaks of resilience—a resilience that comes from a relationship with God. He is after all the God of resurrection and restoration. It’s this heaven-born resilience that we all need during these trying times of economic woes and pandemic setbacks.
My collapse this summer came as a shock, but it wasn’t totally unexpected. For my entire adult life, I was aware that I had heart issues. At age seventeen in preparation for college entrance, I was diagnosed with a barely perceptible heart murmur, technically called a mitral valve prolapse. None of this hindered my involvement in sports or fitness activities. In fact, later in life, my cardiologist encouraged me to stay active and go jogging.
I largely followed that advice. In the months and days before my collapse, I was averaging 10,000 steps per day on a weekly basis. The day before my first fainting spell I did 41 pushups extending myself out from the seat of a chair. Not too shabby for a 68 year-old man.
Suddenly, despite superior fitness, my flesh and my heart failed me. Did my heart fail me during an exercise routine? No. I collapsed while sitting at my desk staring at a computer screen. Apparently, sudden reversals like this are common for people with heart valve disfunctions.
The road to recovery has been hard on this old body—despite my recovery being aided by overall fitness before my collapse.
When your heart and flesh fail God is free to step in. You have nothing left. The reserve you need doesn’t come from within. It comes directly from Him. “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” See Deuteronomy 33:26-28.
Heart issues are best left in His hands.
Reading: Psalm 55
Lord, confuse the wicked; confound their words,
for I see violence and strife in the city.
Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
malice and abuse are within it.
Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.
If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it;
if a foe were rising against me, I could hide.
But it is you, a man like myself,
my companion, my close friend,
with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship
at the house of God,
as we walked about among the worshipers.
Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the realm of the dead,
for evil finds lodging among them (NIV).*
When I wrote this post a few years ago my wife and I were on a road trip through western Canada. Today, we are in Edmonton, a growing, prosperous city of more than a million. Last evening after a passing thunderstorm, I went by myself for a walk in the Mill Creek Ravine. There in the cool of the evening I was surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation. After the heat of the day, it was a quiet place of refreshing.
Sad to say, my wife would not dare go for a walk by herself in Mill Creek Ravine. You see, last week in broad daylight, a woman was attacked there by a sexual predator. Earlier in the day I had gone to a nearby bank branch to use an ATM. At the bank, a repairman was replacing a shattered window pane and the front door had been kicked in—presumably an attempted robbery.
In cities today the words of Psalm 55 ring true. I see violence and strife in the city. Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it. Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets.
Edmonton is no more dangerous than any large city. In fact, it is far safer than most North American cities of comparable size, nevertheless, evil finds lodging here. Evil leaps across geographic boundaries and crosses cultural and racial barriers. Evil finds lodging wherever a human heart entertains hatred, greed or lust. Jesus said that all manner of wickedness flows out from the heart. See Matthew 15:19.
The question I need to ask myself is what finds lodging in my heart. Do I open the door to the evil one, to resentment and bitterness? Or do I turn those thoughts away and invite Jesus in?
Response: LORD God, I want you to find lodging in my heart through Jesus Christ your Son. By your mercy grant me a pure heart. Amen.
Your Turn: Do you live in a safe city or neighborhood? Take a moment to pray for your city or community.
* New International Version, Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
Some good news: The first volume of 365 Days through the Psalms by award-winning author David Kitz will be published in November, 2020, by Elk Lake Publishing. Two additional volumes will follow in 2021 to complete the three volume set.
Reading: Psalm 17
A prayer of David.
Hear me, LORD, my plea is just; listen to my cry.
Hear my prayer—it does not rise from deceitful lips.
Let my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.
Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me,
you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.
Though people tried to bribe me,
I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
through what your lips have commanded.
My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not stumbled.
I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,
from my mortal enemies who surround me (NIV).*
“Are you up for the test? The exam schedule has been posted. Have you prepared? Are you ready for it?” Words like those can produce feelings of dread or anxious thoughts, especially for high school or university students. If you have studied and prepared yourself well, you can have a measure of confidence. But some uncertainty always remains.
In today’s psalm, David welcomes God’s examination. He states, “Though you probe my heart, though you examine me at night and test me, you will find that I have planned no evil; my mouth has not transgressed.”
David had nothing to hide. His conscience was clear; therefore he did not dread God’s probing. He knew an examination of his heart would result in vindication. He would be proven right and just before his Maker. Do you and I have the same confidence?
Check your heart. Better yet, allow God to check it regularly. Be open and transparent before Him. It’s the only way I know to keep a clean heart and a right mind before God and others. The LORD is the best heart doctor available, and He does home visits if we invite Him in.
Only when our hearts and minds are open and right before God can we freely pray, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Response: Heavenly Father, probe my heart so that I can repent of anything that displeases you. I want to bring only joy and pleasure to the heart of my Father. Amen.
Your Turn: Why do we resist allowing God to examine our heart issues? Are we afraid of what He may find?