When the 21 year old Zedekiah became king of Judah (subsequently reigning in Jerusalem for eleven years), he did evil in the eyes of the Lord his God and did not humble himself before God or King Nebuchadnezzar. “He became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the Lord, the God of Israel” (2 Chronicles 36: 13). One of a string of kings who continually defied and defiled the ways of God and took matters into their own hands, Zedekiah mocked God’s messengers and stood up against anything that would breathe godliness into his heart.
When we stand up against God’s Word, defy His reign in our hearts and lives, we may not be as dramatic as Zedekiah but in fact our necks stiffen and our hearts harden nonetheless. Ever see such a display of arrogant exile of the heart? Ever experience it yourself? I recently confronted one such leader about the defiance in his heart toward God and those he was called to lead and serve. I could almost see his neck stiffen as he was confronted by truth about God and himself. He didn’t like what he was hearing and even though I could see a seared conscience, he resisted the invitation of God to soften his hardened heart. A sad sight indeed.
“Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 36: 14). The fruit of a hardened heart, and the sad reality, is unfaithfulness and defilement among others…the ripple effect of a stiff-necked person is that they espouse and encourage similar hearts to grow in others.
The invitation from God is quite the contrary…”Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95: 7,8). Instead, let it be softened by God’s Word, in prayer as you hear his still small voice, and in community as you are challenged to embrace the truth (which will set you free!) from a brother or sister who cares enough to confront a hardened heart. The world needs leaders who confess their hardened heart and allow the Spirit to soften it for God’s glory.