They Made Their Hearts as an Adamant Stone

“But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, And stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, And the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: Therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; So they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts:”
(Zechariah 7:11–13, KJV)

The free will of humankind is a great gift from God — and it’s difficult to separate it from the gift of life itself. But God’s giving us free will is rather like a parent giving a teenager a car. On one hand, a car represents freedom, growth… and a tenuous trust. But on the other hand, it represents destruction. Power is intrinsic to volitional beings, but power is never without peril.

God knew this when he created us, however. So, he metes out power in the context of a household. In this way, he buffers it with good things. For instance, he has seen to our salvation, our education — given us myriad gifts and advantages — but let’s not forget about the car. We may drive it carefully, we may use it to serve others… or we can steer it into a bridge abutment.

The latter would be a shame, of course… but that’s the nature of free will. We can use God’s gifts to serve him, or we can consume them upon our own lusts… but we are not without guidance here. Just as God gave us physical laws to help us navigate the universe, so he has given us moral laws to help us navigate our behavior — and the penalties for breaking the moral law can be as harsh as hitting a bridge abutment! … just not as sudden.

Today’s passage is a picture of rebellion. Imagine a child pulling away from you, turning his back, putting his hands over his ears and yelling, “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!” We’ve all seen that physical posture… but this reflects the condition of the heart… which is troubling. The heart is the tenderest of commodities. But we can make it hard as stone through the agency of our free will. We choose to be tender… or we choose to be like flint. But there are penalties if we choose the latter… and that’s what Israel did.

The Jews exercised their free will to become selfish and hard-hearted. So God activated the "what goes around comes around" version of his wrath. Zechariah reminded the people that, just as they stopped up they are ears to God and their fellow man, so had God had stopped up his ears to them. Now, God is not bound by our sense of parity… but parity is served in this punishment. The Jews suffered for centuries because they made bad decisions while “driving” through the wilderness.

By turning from God, the nation stalled… and the people lived lives that were not whole because of that folly. But God had made promises to the patriarchs which he would never break… like providing salvation for all people through the person of Messiah — their very blood! But if we fast-forward several centuries, we’ll see where they used free will again… but this time to drive Jesus into the ditch! Fortunately… that’s where the cross was hiding.

And it is because of that cross that things are different today. God will not refuse to hear one of his own. But this is because we are family… although not perfect family. Yet we have open access to a Father who will always listen. This makes it especially sad when his children grow hard and cold through their own choices. This is selfish and immature.

I realize that we living in the age of grace… and that God indulges us quite a bit. But God forbid that we use his grace to be graceless. Then we’d be like the Jews… the difference being that they lived in the age of the law where things were spelled out. So — and since they were well-informed — they made an informed decision to choose rebellion over the law of God… instead of our version of rebellion under grace. But the way I see it, flint is flint in any age. 

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