Hard Words Concerning Hard Hearts

1 “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. – Deuteronomy 24:1-4 ESV

Divorce. It’s a controversial topic among Christians that not only destroys marriages but that can do serious damage to a wide range of relationships. The loss of long-term friendships can be an unfortunate byproduct of divorce. Children can be forced to take sides in a divorce, leaving them alienated and estranged from one of their own parents.  Churches have found themselves divided over how to properly handle the divorces taking place among their congregations.

Divorce is divisive and destructive. And it was never intended as an option by God. The book of Genesis clearly reveals the will of God concerning marriage.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24 ESV

There was to be a unity and permanency to marriage. The very fact that God created Eve from the rib of Adam conveys the intimacy and indissolubility of their union. In God’s eyes, the man and the woman were one, inseparable whole.

But sin eventually entered the scene and damaged everything God had made, including the marriage union. It would not be long before the sanctity of marriage would be destroyed by the selfishness and self-centeredness of sin-prone human hearts. Marriages would continue to take place but, far too often, they would be driven by lust, not love; and marked by an egocentric, what’s-in-it-for-me attitude that puts self-interest ahead of God’s will.

In this section of Deuteronomy, Moses finds himself having to deal with the topic of divorce yet again. Sadly, divorce had become a real-life issue among the Israelites. Their marriages were just as susceptible to brokenness and division as those of the pagan nations around them. The Jews were just as prone to falling in and out of love as anyone else. But Moses wanted them to remember that God had very strong feelings about marriage and divorce. The prophet Malachi would later articulate God’s view concerning divorce:

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” – Malachi 2:16 ESV

And this is the very issue Moses deals with in this passage. Moses describes a case where a husband has “found some indecency” in his wife that has caused her to lose favor in his eyes. In essence, he has fallen out of love with her. Moses does not elaborate on the nature of the indecency committed by the wife, but the Hebrew word is `ervah, which can literally be translated as “nakedness.” The context seems to indicate that the wife has been found guilty of sexual sin, as in adultery. And, as a result, the husband has chosen to issue her a certificate of divorce.

This brings up an important question. Does this passage condone or sanction divorce in the case of unfaithfulness or adultery? Jesus addressed this very question in His Sermon on the Mount.

“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” – Matthew 5:31-32 ESV

Jesus seems to support the idea that divorce is acceptable when sexual immorality is involved. But he also makes it clear that anyone who divorces his wife for any other reason will ultimately be held guilty of adultery – his own and that of his ex-wife. If they divorce for any reason other that sexual immorality and end up marrying other individuals, they will be committing adultery in God’s eyes.

Later on in His earthly ministry, Jesus would have to address this issue again. A group of Pharisees approached Him with a question regarding divorce. “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (Matthew 19:3 ESV). This was a hot topic among the Jews and they were attempting to get Jesus to share His opinion on the matter. If He came down on the side of those advocating divorce, He would alienate the conservative hardliners. If He stood opposed to divorce under any circumstances, He would find Himself losing favor among the common people. So, Jesus answered them:

“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” – Matthew 19:3-6 ESV

Jesus went back to the book of Genesis and the creation account. He reminded them what God had done to set apart a man and woman as one. And He clarified that no one had the right to separate what God had joined together.

This answer prompted the Pharisees to ask a second question. They sensed that they had Jesus in a predicament, because it appeared that He was contradicting the Mosaic Law. So, the crafted a question based on the words of Moses found in Deuteronomy 24:1: “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” (Matthew 19:7 ESV).

They had Him, or so they thought. According to their interpretation of the Mosaic Law, Moses had clearly given a get-out-of-jail-free card when it came to sexual immorality on the part of a spouse. But Jesus took the opportunity to explain the underlying motivation for Moses’ words.

He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”– Matthew 19:7-9 ESV

Yes, Moses had provided sexual immorality as the single circumstance under which divorce could be sought. But it had never been God’s will. Sin had left mankind with permanent heart-damage and this had produced the need for this exemption clause concerning marriage. But none of this was what God had wanted.

Sin never produces anything of value. It is always damaging and destructive. And while Moses had provided a means by which a man could divorce his unfaithful wife, it was going to result in the potential for further sin. Take a look at the scenario that Moses paints. A man divorces his wife for marital unfaithfulness, then she goes and marries another man. That man ends up divorcing her as well. And Moses has to go out of his way to explain that the first husband is not free to remarry his wife. Why would he have to bring that up? Because of the wickedness of the human heart.

This whole convoluted scene illustrates just how twisted things can get when man does things his own way. Moses is having to paint every conceivable scenario that can come about as a result of divorce. He even describes that woman remarrying and her second husband dying. Even in that case, the first husband is not free to remarry his ex-wife.

You almost need a program to keep up with all the various permutations Moses paints. But why did he go into such great detail? Because he knew the hearts of his own people. He knew what Jesus knew: that their hearts were hard and they would find themselves following one sin with another one. So, he had to cover every conceivable scenario, providing the people of Israel with precise instructions designed to prevent further sin in the camp.

When all was said and done, this had less to do with divorce than it had to do with holiness. Moses had an ulterior motive behind these regulations regarding divorce and remarriage.

“…you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.” – Deuteronomy 24:4 ESV

It is a non-debatable fact that one sin tends to lead to another. While Moses had provided the Israelites with the certificate of divorce as a means of dealing with sexual immorality within the marriage union, it was going to produce further problems. The very fact that Moses describes the husband as willing to remarry his ex-wife reveals that he had not really fallen out of love with her. Her unfaithfulness had angered and hurt him, and caused him to seek a divorce from her. But as the old saying goes, time heals all wounds. Eventually, he would find himself missing his wife and tempted to remarry her when the opportunity presented itself. But Moses had to restrict his behavior. One sin could not be followed by another. Two wrongs do not make a right.

It would seem that God would prefer that the husband and wife not divorce, even in the case of unfaithfulness. Forgiveness and restoration would take precedence over divorce and the destruction of the marriage. But as Jesus said, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives.”

Hardened, sin-filled hearts rarely produce wise decisions. The heat of the moment can produce unhealthy outcomes that bring little more than regret and further heartache. God designed marriage to be permanent, not perfect. Two sin-prone people make a perfect marriage impossible. But when Christ is part of that marriage, and the Spirit of God indwells the two people who make up that marriage, unity and permanency is achievable – even in the face of unfaithfulness.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Day 92 – Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12

Jesus Said It, Not Me.

Matthew 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12

He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.” – Mark 10:11-12 NLT

I’ll be honest. This is not my favorite topic. But if you’re going to read through the Gospels and have committed to blog your thoughts on a daily basis, it was inevitable that I would have to deal with this passage. It comes straight from the lips of Jesus Himself, and so we have to deal with it – like it or not. Jesus was making His way down from the region of Galilee in the north and heading toward Judea. He ended up in the region known as Perea, just east of the Jordan. Jesus’ earthly ministry is quickly coming to an end as He begins to focus His attention on Jerusalem and the coming Passover celebration, when He would be betrayed, tried, and crucified. During these final days, His enemies, the religious leaders would ramp up their efforts to expose Him as a fraud. A steady stream of Pharisees, Saduccees, and other leaders would make their way to Jesus, equipped with questions designed to trap Him and reveal that He was just a common peasant, not the Messiah.

On this occasion, they asked Him a controversial question – even for their day. It involved divorce. “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?” they asked. There were two schools of thought at the time. One group held a more liberal view that said divorce was permissible for any reason whatsoever, at least from the male perspective. The other group were the traditionalists who held that divorce was only allowed when the other spouse had been unfaithful. As usual, these men wanted Jesus to choose a side, in order that He might alienate a portion of the crowds that were following Him. But in His typical style, Jesus does not answer their question directly. Instead of talking about divorce, He addresses the issue of marriage, because that is the real heart of the matter. People were not taking marriage seriously. They did not view it with the same intensity and holiness that God did. Instead, they treated their commitments and covenants lightly and flippantly. Divorce had become a quick and easy way to nullify a God-sanctioned covenant, with little or no regret or remorse. Women were treated like property. If a man tired of his wife, he could simply divorce her. He could hand her a piece of paper and send her packing. No stigma involved. No guilt necessary. But Jesus reminds them that marriage was God’s idea, not man’s. It was a God-ordained institution that was based on a concept of unity and oneness. “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one. Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together” (Matthew 19:5-6 NLT). Ah, there’s the key phrase: “what God has joined together.” From Jesus’ point of view, marriage was a work of God. God made man as male and female, and He intended for them to be joined together as a single unit. Those two individuals were to become a single unit comprised of two united souls. And NO ONE was to split them apart for any reason. That was God’s original intention.

But the Pharisees brought up a problem passage found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4. This involved instructions from Moses to the people of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. He had seemingly given them the right to divorce their wives by simply handing them a “written notice of divorce.” Moses wrote, “Suppose a man marries a woman but she does not please him. Having discovered something wrong with her, he writes her a letter of divorce, hands it to her, and sends her away from his house” (Deuteronomy 24:1 NLT). If you look closely, Moses is NOT justifying or sanctioning divorce. He is not providing an outlet from marriage by suggesting that all that is required is a piece of paper. And Jesus makes the meaning of this passage clear when He says, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended” (Matthew 19:8 NLT). Moses was dealing with a predominantly pagan people who had spent their entire lives growing up in the confines of Egypt. They had adapted themselves to the Egyptian culture and had adopted their false gods. Much of Moses’ time was spent attempting to get these people to understand the ways of Yahweh, their true God. Men were treating marriage flippantly, divorcing their wives at the drop of a hat, simply because they didn’t please them. They were free to find anything wrong with their wives. It had become ridiculous. The idea of oneness and unity had been forsaken altogether. Moses knew there was no stopping these people, so he tried to get them to understand the gravity of their decision. In the next three verses, he tells them the ramifications for their choosing to divorce their wives. As soon as a man handed his wife her walking papers, she was free to marry another man. If that man tired of her or found fault with her and divorced her, the first husband was not free to take her back. That door was closed to him. The same was true even if her second husband died. Moses wanted them to understand that divorce was final. He uses a very strong term to make his point. He tells them that “the first husband may not marry her again, for she has been defiled” (Deuteronomy 24:4 NLT). The word he uses meant “to become impure or unclean.” Once the decision was made to divorce, there was no going back. This is not a passage that is commending or sanctioning divorce. It is illustrating its devastating repercussions. Moses closes his statement on the subject by saying, “That would be detestable to the Lord. You must not bring guilt upon the land the Lord your God is giving you as a special possession” (Deuteronomy 24:4 NLT).

Back to Jesus. He closes His remarks by saying, “And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery – unless his wife has been unfaithful” (Matthew 19:9 NLT). Mark adds, “And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:12 NLT). These were powerful, shocking words coming from the lips of Jesus. There were people standing in the crowd that day who had been through divorce, including some of the religious leaders, more than likely. It was a common practice because it had become so easy to do. Jesus, like Moses, is trying to remind them of the sanctity and holiness of marriage. It is not something to enter into lightly. Even the disciples get that point, because they respond, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!” (Matthew 19:10 NLT). In other words, if you can’t divorce your wife for any reason without being guilty of adultery, then why get married at all? You can hear in their statement just how easy divorce had become and just how difficult they viewed marriage to be. The truth is, marriage is difficult. God is bringing together two individuals with two sin natures and asking them to spend the rest of their lives together. He is asking them to love one another unconditionally. He is demanding that they sacrifice their rights for the good of the other – regardless of each others’ fault and failings. In any marriage, there will always be plenty of things not to like about the other person. Husbands and wives tend to irritate, disappoint, anger, and even embarrass one another. Finding fault in one another is not a problem. Remaining faithful and committed to loving one another through it all is a problem. And only God can make it possible. God never said marriage would be easy. He never promised it would be a bed of roses. The miracle of marriage is that God takes two extremely selfish, self-centered, sinful people and molds them into a single unit. He makes two into one. Bad math, but great theology. Only God can do that kind of math.

I know there are those reading this blog who have been through divorce. In no way do I want to heap guilt on you. That is not my intent. God is forgiving and gracious. He allows new beginnings. He is a God of grace, not guilt. But it is important that we all deal with the holiness of marriage. We must recognize that divorce grieves God. It was never His intent. Divorce is a vivid illustration of the hardness of man’s heart and the devastating presence of sin in our lives. Those who have been through divorce and don’t recognize that reality, run the very real risk of repeating their mistake all over again. The real issue here is marriage, not divorce. If you have been divorced and are now remarried to a wonderful individual, will you make that new marriage a godly marriage? Will you view it through His eyes and not the world’s? Will you remain committed to that new spouse regardless of any and all circumstances? Will you forgive regularly, love unconditionally, sacrifice willingly, die to self daily, and commit to one another permanently? Will you agree with Jesus that the two of you are no longer two, but one, and that you will not allow anyone or anything to split apart what God has joined together?

Father, we talk more about divorce than we do about marriage. We don’t understand or appreciate just how precious marriage is to You. We treat it flippantly and frivolously. We enter into marriage lightly, not weighing the commitment it requires. We don’t value the covenant it requires and the holiness it should represent. We forget that You invented it and that You highly regard it. Give us a new view on marriage. Help us to see it through Your eyes and to value it the way You do.  Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 63 – Matthew 16:1-4; Mark 8:10-13

How Much More Proof Do You Need?

Matthew 16:1-4; Mark 8:10-13

“When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.’” – Mark 8:12 NLT

Rarely did the Pharisees and Sadducees ever agree on anything. They were both religious parties of the Jews, but they disagreed about a number of things and disliked one another very much. But they shared a common enemy: Jesus. And on this occasion they joined forces in order to trick and trap Jesus. Their life ambition was to eliminate Jesus as a threat to their way of doing things. His arrival on the scene had disrupted their way of life. He had stirred things up with His message about the kingdom and his constant use of miracles. The people were flocking to Him in droves and they didn’t like sharing the spotlight with anyone. And Jesus hadn’t done Himself any favors with the way in which He talked about these men. He was unrelenting in His criticism of them, exposing them as hypocrites, charlatans, and unworthy of trust or admiration.

But the one thing that meant more to these men than anything else was the concept of authority. In their religious world, you had to have authority to say or do anything. And authority was passed down from one influential rabbi to another. They put high stock in tradition and deemed it necessary for anyone who wanted to make a statement about anything, to have received authority to do so from someone other than themselves. As far as they were concerned, Jesus had no authority. He had sat under no one’s leadership or tutelage. He had not apprenticed with any known rabbi or religious expert. Much of what He was saying and teaching was heresy to them because it was new information. He was teaching things they had never heard before. And He had no authority to do so. That’s why you see them constantly confronting Jesus about where He got His authority to do what He did. And that’s what was driving them on this day. Mark tells us that when they arrived, they “started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority” (Mark 8:11 NLT).

It is interesting to note that Jesus had already claimed to be the Messiah. He also claimed to have been sent by God, His own Father. He had healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead. But that was not enough proof for these men. They had already attributed Jesus’ powers to Satan, not God. They considered Him a blasphemer for claiming to be the Son of God. The healings he performed were not enough for them. They wanted more. They wanted a sign from heaven. More than likely, they were looking for signs like Moses had given the Israelites in Egypt. They probably wanted to see Jesus bring down fire and brimstone on the Romans. They would have loved to have seen Him strike dead all the firstborn males in all the Roman households. They wanted a sign from heaven – from God Himself. Then that would prove Jesus’ authority. But they really never expected Him to be able to pull off such a feat. Because they didn’t believe He was who He said He was. Honestly, Jesus had already done more than enough to prove who He was and to demonstrate His authority. And He wasn’t going to do anything more. He would not give them the kind of sign they were looking for because that is not why He came. He did not come to set them free from Roman rule. He came to set men free from slavery to sin. And for that to happen, Jesus had to die. And the amazing thing is that even after Jesus had died and was miraculously raised back to life by the power of God, these very same men would deny the veracity of the disciples’ claim that Jesus was alive. They would go out of their way to disprove it and discredit the disciples.

Jesus refused to give them the kind of sign they were looking for. And the one sign that should have proven to them once and for all that He was the Son of God – His resurrection – they would eventually choose to ignore and deny. To their own detriment. Refusing to recognize Jesus’ authority is a dangerous thing. Denying His God-given right to rule and reign in the lives of men is an unhealthy game to play. But like the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day, there are thousands upon thousands of people doing just that today. They refuse to acknowledge Jesus’ authority over their lives. They can’t bring themselves to believe that Jesus has authority over sin and death. They struggle believing that Jesus alone has the authority to set them free slavery to sin. “So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake” (Mark 8:13 NLT).

Father, it is so hard to understand why so many still reject Jesus’ authority over their lives today. But I know it happens. Their hardened hearts blind them to the reality of who He is. They stubbornly refuse to acknowledge His God-given authority and His power over sin and death. And as a result, they remain in their sins, unforgiven and unrepentant. Open their eyes Father. Help them to see. Give those of us who know Your Son the courage to speak openly and honestly about what we know and what we have seen. But only You can open the eyes of men and soften their hearts to see the truth. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 43 – Matthew 13:1-52

The Secrets of the Kingdom.

Matthew 13:1-52

He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” – Matthew 13:11-12 NLT

Jesus is sitting in a boat along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, teaching a crowd of people. He has just had a series of confrontations with the Pharisees, where they have confronted Him over healing on the Sabbath, and even accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan. They even demanded that Jesus perform some kind of a sign to prove who He was – in spite of all the miracles and wonders He had already done right in front of them. It is important to keep all this in mind as you read the events of chapter 13. It contains a series of seemingly unrelated parables that deal with everything from seeds and soil to the Kingdom of God and judgment. Jesus uses all kinds of imagery and metaphors, and it can be easy to get bogged own by it all and lose the point of what He is trying to tell His disciples. While Jesus is speaking to a crowd of interested onlookers, He only explains the meaning of the parables to His closest disciples. And He tells them that He is sharing with them the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. In other words, He is letting them in on some previously hidden information regarding God’s Kingdom and how it functions. This is information not known to the Pharisees. In fact, they were operating under some serious false assumptions regarding God, the Messiah, and the Kingdom. Jesus accuses them of looking, but not really seeing. “They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand” (Matthew 23:13 NLT). Notice all the times Jesus uses words related to seeing and hearing in this passage. That is the real message behind what He is saying. As the Son of God, He came with a message about the Kingdom of God that was new. He was revealing a new way to have a right relationship with God. No longer would it be based on human effort and hard work. He came bringing a message of grace that was based on faith, not works. But the majority of the Jewish people, including the religious leadership, refused to hear it. They saw Jesus perform miracles, but couldn’t see who He really was. They heard Jesus speak, but could comprehend what He was saying. Why? “For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes – so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them” (Matthew 13:15 NLT).

That is the real point of Jesus’ message. And using a series of parables, Jesus reveals to His disciples what is taking place around them. There are those in the crowd who hear His message, but don’t get it. There are others who hear it with great joy, but the shallowness of their lives give it no place to root and the troubles and cares of the world cause them to fall away. Still others hear Jesus’ message about the Kingdom only to have the worries of life and the love of wealth crowd it out. But there are those few “who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Matthew 13:23 NLT). And these fruitful few would find themselves surrounded with all the others, attempting to live their new life among the shallow, ignorant, worldly and worriers.

Jesus was letting them know that His Kingdom was not going to be an earthly Kingdom where He would set up a throne and rule from Jerusalem. At least, not yet. No, His Kingdom was going to be made up of followers who lived as a faithful citizens in the midst of a hostile environment. And while His kingdom would start out relatively small, it would grow and spread, like yeast in dough. It would expand and flourish like a tree. And it will continue to grow until the judgment, when God will separate out the people of the Kingdom from those who belong to this world and to the prince of this world – Satan. Jesus is trying to help them understand the nature and importance of His Kingdom. It is valuable. It is worth giving up anything and everything for. Any sacrifice required to become a part of this new Kingdom will be well worth it in the long run. Any short-term sacrifice will have long-term benefits. This is not about a temporal, earthly kingdom, but an eternal, spiritual one. And membership in this Kingdom will not be based on nationality or bloodline, but on belief and faith in Jesus Christ. This was new information. Jesus described what He was sharing as “new gems of truth.” He was completing the redemption story begun by God in the Old Testament. He was fulfilling the law of God and completing the plan of God for the salvation of mankind. And it was important that they saw the difference and heard the truth of what He was saying. Their hearts had to be willing to accept this new news willingly, faithfully, and gladly. Even in spite of all those around them who refused to see and hear.

Father, I am glad You gave me the capacity to hear Your message of grace and forgiveness in Christ clearly. Only You could have given me the ability to truly hear and understand the message of salvation through Christ alone. The Good News was new news to the people in Jesus’ day and it made no sense to many of them. It went against their expectations. It sounded far-fetched and too good to be true. It was difficult to understand because it didn’t require human effort or reward good works. It was the goodness of God expressed through the gift of the Son of God, and based on faith, and nothing ore. Thank You. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

1 Kings 21

Hardened Hearts.

“And then seat two scoundrels across from him who will accuse him of cursing God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” ­– 1 Kings 21:10 NLT

How do two people get to the point that they are willing to kill to get what they want? How did Ahab and Jezebel, the king and queen of Israel, find themselves so morally corrupt that they were willing to twist the very laws of God to fulfill their own selfish desires? It was all a matter of the heart. Their hearts had become hardened after years of living in rebellion against God. Over in Proverbs, Solomon warns, “Blessed is the one who is always cautious, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into evil” (Proverbs 28:14 NET). The NET Bible study notes read, “The one who ‘hardens his heart’ in this context is the person who refuses to fear sin and its consequences. The image of the ‘hard heart’ is one of a stubborn will, unyielding and unbending (cf. NCV, TEV, NLT). This individual will fall into sin.” Ahab and Jezebel had developed calloused, hardened hearts characterized by a stubbornness and insensitivity to the will and the ways of God. They both knew that it was impossible for Naboth to sell his vineyard – it would have been a breech of the Law for him to sell his family inheritance. But Jezebel was not only willing to break that law, she was willing to twist another law of God to suit her own selfish agenda. She used the law of blasphemy to have Naboth falsely accused and executed. Once he was out of the way, she could get his land.

In his letter to the Ephesians church, Paul describes the ungodly is terms that seem as if he is describing Ahab and Jezebel. “Their closed minds are full of darkness; they are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They don’t care anymore about right and wrong, and they have given themselves over to immoral ways. Their lives are filled with all kinds of impurity and greed” (Ephesians 4:18-19 NLT). Closed minds, hardened hearts, an indifference to right and wrong, lives filled with impurity and greed. That is exactly what was wrong with Ahab and Jezebel. When they had decided to turn their backs on God, their hearts began to turn hard. Without hearts that were tender toward the ways of God, they were capable of doing anything. Their hearts were driven by selfishness and self-centeredness. This whole story revolves around Ahab’s desire to have a vegetable garden! A man loses his life and his family loses their inheritance all because Ahab wanted to have a garden. According to Elijah the prophet, Ahab had “sold” himself to doing evil. He had surrendered himself to a life of doing what was against the will of God. And the result was going to be his own destruction and that of his family. God would not and could not allow Ahab and Jezebel to continue to mock His name and His law.

How did Ahab and Jezebel get to this point? It all began when they decided to disobey God and live according to their own set of standards. Hard heads develop hardened hearts. An unwllingness to listen to God turns into an inability to know right from wrong.

Father, hard hearts don’t happen overnight. They develop over time. And it begins with a willingness to disobey You in the small areas of life. As we do, we become increasingly more insensitive to Your will and Your ways. Please protect me from disobeying You and justifying it. Don’t let me rationalize my sin and excuse my disobedience. It will only result in a hardened heart. Keep my heart tender and sensitive to You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org