Hearts Like Flint
Living lives without integrity often has natural consequences that are quite unpleasant. One consequence of pretending to be something, but not being that in truth, is that it requires removing self-reflection and self-awareness. This is becoming easier in our society through our obsession with chemical substances that alter our perception, and also an obsession with privacy.
Privacy is a new concept for humans, because traditionally we have had communities to keep our lives consistent with our claims. However, when we remove all correcting voices, we never hear those important indictments and challenges. This becomes even easier in the digital age when we can simply unfriend or unfollow someone who corrects us in a way we don’t like.
Israel also had a problem with not listening to correcting voices, and this attitude remains a warning to us today. When God reached out in graciousness to help His people walk in His ways, it was the duty of the people listen, but they rejected His loyal warnings. Hosea explained their attitude. “Yet let no one find fault, and let none offer reproof / For your people are like those who contend with the priest.” (Hosea 4:4) The people were in dire straits, but they had no respect for God’s appointed leadership.
This is certainly not a solitary claim of Israel’s failure but was a pattern of behavior. Isaiah described how they would speak to God’s messengers. “For this is a rebellious people, false sons / Sons who refuse to listen / To the instruction of YHWH; Who say to the seers, ‘You must not see [visions]’ / And to the prophets, ‘ You must not prophesy to us what is right / Speak to us pleasant words / Prophesy illusions. / ‘Get out of the way, turn aside from the path / Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’” (Isaiah 30:9-11) A main theme of Jeremiah was this very same issue. (Jeremiah 7:24-26; 13:1-11; 25:3-6; 29:18-20; 35:14-16; 44:2-5)
Ultimately, there were consequences to this refusal, and God had to use other means to get their attention. “...they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing. They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which YHWH of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from YHWH of hosts.” (Zechariah 7:9-12, cf. II Chronicles 24:18-19) What a sad story, and one that we should take to heart.
It can be easy to think that we have no prophets sent by God today, and therefore we are immune to these warnings, but God has indeed provided leadership for the churches that functions to give us warnings. The church is to have evangelists, elders, and also deacons who can speak truth and give correction, but we bear the responsibility of listening and obeying. “Obey your leaders and submit [to them,] for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17, cf. I Corinthians 16:15-18)
What kind of people are we going to be? Are we going to be those who use God’s loving gifts to our benefit, accepting correction with loyalty? Or will we be stubborn and rebellious, like those who contend with the priest to our own destruction?