Simply put, the rebellious heart says “No” to God. When we stiff-arm God, ignore His commandments, turn a deaf ear to His voice, and take matters into our own hands, we show forth our rebellion. One may consider a rebellious heart as only residing in a wicked person. But, in actuality, all of us experience our own form of rebellion during both the years or seasons when we turned away from or refused to acknowledge God, and in those random times when we stand fast in our prideful place and purposefully or inadvertently walk away from God in either heart, mind and/or action.
In the biblical text we see examples of the rebellious heart both in the life of the unbeliever and in the follower of God. in Isaiah we find this warning, “Woe to the obstinate children, to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin” (Isaiah 30:1). He describes the rebellious with these words, “These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction…Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” (Isaiah 30: 9-11).
In 1 Samuel 15 we learn about King Saul’s human condition. He was more concerned about man-pleasing than he was about serving God. He selectively obeyed some of God’s commands and manipulated others to fit his own desires. Because of his disobedient and rebellious heart, God removed his kingship. In defending his actions, Saul’s true heart was exposed by Samuel, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams, for rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king” (1 Samuel 15: 22,23). Saul’s rebellion was paralleled to witchcraft, and his imperfections are in stark contrast to King David who was a man after God’s heart, despite his many imperfections.
Ultimately, it’s one’s rejection of the Word of God that kindles a rebellious heart. “If anyone turns a deaf ear to the law, even his prayers are detestable” (Proverbs 28:9). In other words, the prayers of a rebellious heart are an abomination to the Lord. This is one of the harshest words God uses to describe an action that He hates. But, consider why…if you turn your heart against God and against His Word, how would you have the audacity to pray to the very God you rebel against? Isaiah’s remedy to our rebellion? “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: in repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).
A rebellious heart refuses to repent. But, only in repentance and rest will a rebel find salvation. When a rebellious heart is open to God and willing to come clean before the Lord, then the loving Father welcomes that child home with a loving, eternal embrace. And that’s exactly what happens to the rebellious younger son in Luke 15. As the rebellious prodigal son comes to his senses and turns back home, the prodigal (another word for extravagant) God runs his direction to offer an embrace, a kiss, a robe, a ring, new sandals, and a party to celebrate his repentance and renewed trust in God.
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6: 1,2). Is it time for you to reconsider the rebellious corners of your heart, where darkness and sin may reside? “Thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6: 17, 18). Confess those parts of you that reflect a rebellious heart and be set free to surrender into the fullness of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!