One of the memorable details in the Exodus is Pharaoh hardening his heart. Despite the miracles, the plagues, the pronouncements of Moses, he persisted, and the end result was God’s judgment on him and his nation. Pharaoh wasn’t the only one with a hard heart. Israel soon developed one in the wilderness. In the Old Testament and New Testament, we are warned not to harden our hearts. It doesn’t happen overnight though. It starts with an action or an attitude and before we know it, we are cold and indifferent to God and His word. We’ve begun considering some cautionary signposts that mean we are on the road to a heart hardened toward God. So far we’ve discussed disobedience, wealth, and discontent. Today, let’s look at rejecting correction.
What does it mean to reject correction?
A large portion of the Old Testament narrative details how God graciously warns His errant people. He sends prophets to tell them where they have gotten off track and what changes they need to make. Unfortunately, they categorically ignored all those warnings. They refused to change, and instead were settled in their hearts and minds that they were okay. The prophets were either misinformed, making a big deal out of nothing, or they were in fact false prophets they should not listen to.
Here’s one example from the time of King Joash. He was a good king who took a hard turn to apostasy later in life.
Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the LORD; and they testified against them, but they would not listen. Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He also has forsaken you.’ ” So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD.2 Chronicles 24:19-21
Rejecting correction can lead to a rejection of God’s standards, even with shocking results.
Jesus also warned about the dangers of rejecting a clear message to repent.
The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.Luke 11:32
How does this produce hardness?
Rejecting correction is evidence that we believe we are right and God is wrong. It may not be so overt at first, but that is the foundation we build on. We have no need to change. We self-justify. Our own standards are the ones that matter and we have not violated them. We become arrogant. We don’t need to submit to God.
How do you soften a heart hardened by a rejection of correction?
David’s great psalm of confession and repentance, Psalm 51, serves as a blueprint.
He asks for forgiveness (v. 1-2).
He confesses his sins (v. 3-6).
He prays for cleansing from the sin (v. 7-12).
He recommits himself to God’s service (v. 13-17).
He ends the psalm by praying for his nation (v. 18-19).
Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.Psalm 51:4
Note that David is not rejecting God’s correction but fully agrees with God and recognizes God’s right to correct him.
Another important thing to remember is that God only corrects His children. Correction is actually confirmation that He loves us and is doing a work in us.
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”Hebrews 12:5-6
We don’t like to be corrected. It blows up our illusion that we are okay. But rejection of correction when it comes has far more dire consequences. Let’s keep our hearts soft.