Faith and Life,  Scripture

A Hardened Heart

I am working my way through the early books of the Old Testament, beginning with Genesis and currently reading the story of Moses in Egypt, recounted in the book of Exodus. One of the predominant themes in these ancient scriptures is that of the people – and various individuals – pointedly refusing to listen to the God who is revealing Himself as ‘The Lord’.

My readings this morning were continuing the story of Moses and the plagues of Egypt. Pharaoh is giving the people of God a very hard time and The Lord is not at all happy about it.

And so, through the person of Moses, The Lord is visiting a series of plagues upon Pharaoh and his nation. Now initially, Pharaoh would not believe it was the Lord behind all this; even when Moses threw down his staff and it became a serpent, Pharaoh stood fast in his disbelief, since his own magicians were able to replicate what Moses had done.

As time went on and further plagues were both promised and brought about, the ability of the magicians to do the same ceased and Pharaoh was convinced it was indeed The Lord who was at work. However, The Lord had told Moses that He would harden the heart of Pharaoh – and that heart remained hardened. In the readings this evening, I’ll go a little deeper into the story and see what happens next. I suspect it won’t end well.

At Mass this morning, something of this same theme was presented, in St Luke’s account of the poor man, Lazarus. After a life of suffering, Lazarus is taken to Heaven to enjoy eternal bliss. A rich man has also died and is now immersed in eternal torment – because, we discover, in life he ignored the needs of the poor man.

Accepting that his fate is deserved, the rich man asks Abraham to send a warning – courtesy of Lazarus, with more than a touch of irony! – to his loved ones who are still alive, in order to spare them a fate like his own. Abraham tells the dead man that these people – much like the rich man himself – had all the warnings necessary in life yet did not listen, and so a visitation from Lazarus will achieve nothing.

We can all be rather like Pharaoh from those ancient times, and like that rich man who came to a terrible end – despite all the assistance, direction, pleading and warning given to us, our hearts can remains resolutely hardened in one way or another.

We may listen to the message given to us, but we do not hear that message; our hearts are closed.

I can think of any number of occasions in my own life when this has been the case. The Lord whispers and I hear not a word of it; and so He speaks more clearly and perceptibly – but I continue on my merry way. And so finally, after I have closed down all His other means of encountering me and having me encounter Him, finally He shouts. That gets my attention. And then I stop and listen – and hear.

Something of this sort happened fairly recently. I was listening to the Gospel at Mass and the words being spoken were, I am quite certain, written two thousand years ago precisely in preparation for me listening to them that day. Because it was only in that moment of listening that I finally opened my heart just a little and perceived in those words a message the Lord had been trying to knock into my thick head for some time already, through various other means, and to which I had been utterly un-receptive. I’m quite sure that The Lord’s sense of timing is matched perfectly by His sense of humour. Anyway, I got the message – finally.

Pharaoh gets the message eventually, too, as does that rich man St Luke tells us about – but for each of them, it is too late and the damage is already done.

What about you? What message do you suppose The Lord is trying to give you?

Take the suggestion of one very similar and know this – if our hearts remain hardened to the voice of The Lord and we don’t allow Him to whisper in the gentle breeze, then we will certainly hear His voice in the power of the hurricane.


Catholic | Retired Nurse | UK

One Comment

  • jragan1

    We may listen to the message given to us, but we do not hear that message; our hearts are closed. This hits home. Thank you.

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