Hardheartedness

Preaching and Worship Resources about Hardheartedness

Hardheartedness is an unwillingness or inability to be moved to love or joy or compassion or sorrow or any other religious affection.

In Scripture

He would not listen "Still Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he would not listen" (Ex. 7:13).

Pharaoh hardened his heart "But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart, and would not listen" (Ex. 8:15).

The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh "But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he would not listen" (Ex. 9:12).

Why should you harden your hearts? "Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had made fools of them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?" (1 Sam. 6:6)

Calamity "Happy is the one who is never without fear, but one who is hard-hearted will fall into calamity" (Prov. 28:14).

Not willing to listen "But the house of Israel will not listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me; because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart" (Ezek. 3:7).

God removes our hearts of stone "I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, so that they may follow my statutes and keep my ordinances and obey them" (Ezek. 11:19 - 20).

Adamant hearts "They made their hearts adamant in order not to hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his spirit through the former prophets" (Zech. 7:12).

The law as a response to hardheartedness "They said to him, `Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?' He said to them, `It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so'" (Matt. 19:7 - 8).

Jesus grieved "Then [Jesus] said to [some Pharisees], `Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?' But they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man [with a withered hand], `Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and his hand was restored" (Mark 3:4 - 5).

Storing up wrath "But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed" (Rom. 2:5).

Mercy and hardheartedness "[H]e has mercy on whomever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomever he chooses" (Rom. 9:18).

Darkened in understanding "They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity" (Eph. 4:18 - 19).

Deceitfulness of sin "Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called `today,' so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb. 3:12 - 13).

Points to Ponder

Pharaoh's hard heart The texts in Exodus about Pharaoh's hard heart, particularly 9:12 and its repetitions, have long troubled sensitive believers. Could it be that a just and merciful God hardens Pharaoh's heart and then blames and damns Pharaoh for his hard heart? No. If believers thought that God proceeds in this way they would no longer have any idea of what they mean when they say God is just. Fortunately, as Brevard Childs shows in his commentary on Exodus, the hard heart texts in Exodus are open to a wholly different reading. Sometimes the narrative does say that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, but sometimes it says Pharaoh hardened his heart, and sometimes it says simply that Pharaoh's heart hardened, without giving any indication who was doing the hardening. The narrative is casual about the cause of the hardening because its real point lies elsewhere, as Childs observes. Its point is that Pharaoh's hardness prevented him from gaining the knowledge of God revealed by the plagues and that Pharaoh's hardness resulted in the multiplication of the plagues. To read the narrative as if its topic is predestination and free will is to over-interpret it.

God's supreme goodness and justice It's in this spirit that Romans 9:18 is to be read. To repeat: If believers were forced to accept that God hardens people's hearts and then blames and damns them for their hardness, most believers would give up their religion because they felt forced to attribute demonic behavior to their beloved God and Savior. God's supreme goodness and justice are anchor attributes of God. No text may be read in such a way as to contradict these attributes.

God "gives people over" More plausibly, we may interpret Romans 9:18 in the light of Romans 1:24, 26, and 28, which speak of God "giving people over" to their evil. If God gives them over to their evil, one result is going to be their hardness of heart, which then becomes their judgment.

God's rejection of Israel N. T. Wright believes that Romans 9-11 are not really about individual election or salvation, but about God's rejection of Israel for a time so that the gospel could go to the Gentiles.

God's "Yes" God's "No" to Israel becomes God's "Yes" to the Gentiles and eventually God's "Yes" to Israel as well. "Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy" (Rom. 11:30-31).

Urgency Scripture is urgent about the deadliness of a hard heart. Hardness keeps a person from listening to God. "They would not listen" is the tragic harbinger of approaching disaster. A hard heart is willful, obtuse, and stubbornly resistant to the call of God, the cry of the prophets, the teaching of the Savior. Not listening is the tripwire that leads to disobedience and all its woes. A "hard heart" stands for stubborn pride, which is pro-self and anti-God and therefore an overflowing fountain of evil.

Hard heart vs. healthy heart A hard heart cannot be moved to all the good emotions that flourish in a healthy believer's life. A healthy believer will be moved to remorse over her sins, to joy over her salvation, to gratitude to God for God's goodness, to love of God and of neighbor. She will be moved to compassion at the distress of others, feeling a mirroring distress in her own heart. She will be moved to enthusiasm for God's program of reclamation and justice in the world and for her own calling within the program.

Sin and hardheartedness Accordingly, because hardness of heart blocks the lively exercise of what he called "religious affections," Jonathan Edwards concluded that "sin does very much consist in hardness of heart" and virtue in tenderness of heart.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.