As we read the scripture from the Old and the New Testaments, it is interesting how the reading are so often connected. Today, we read from Exodus how Moses went to Pharaoh asking that he let the Israelites be free. Pharaoh wavered, making a promise to Moses when suffering from a plague but promptly reneging on that promise when there was relief. We are told that Pharaoh had a hardened heart. Although the words “hardened heart” are not part of the reading from Luke 23, Jesus was facing the hardened hearts of the religious leaders. (a warning that even religious leaders can fail to recognize what God is doing)
What does it mean to have a hardened heart? Hardened means cold, insensitive, unfeeling, and unyielding. It can be a positive when a hardened heart shuts out negative influences. A hardened heart toward temptation is a good thing. But in today’s readings, Pharaoh’s hardened heart kept resisting God’s purposes. The religious leaders in Luke hardened their hearts to understanding who Jesus was and what his true purpose was. They felt threatened and thus hardened their hearts. A hardened heart is focused away from God, resisting what God could do.
It is now four days since leaving Kenya. During our mission experience it was easy to stay focused on God. I was ready for whatever God could do in and through me. But the moment I stepped on the airplane home, I began thinking of all that I needed to do as we returned home. It is so easy to get distracted and to lose a Godly focus. A hardened heart makes it difficult to know and to follow God’s purposes.
I’ve described how meaningful it became for me to be invited into Tea Time every morning. It was a call to stop whatever I was doing, to slow down, and to give thanks. In the words of Psalm 46:10, to “be still and know that I am God.” It does not need to be a cup of tea, but some daily practice of stepping away from my focus and being available to God’s focus – that’s what will soften my heart to the things of God.
May it be so.