As has just been said: Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion. (Hebrews 3:15)
My neighbor called me yesterday to tell me about his recent medical experience. It seems that, feeling short of breath and achy, he headed to the hospital only to discover the need for a five-fold bypass. Jim, a machinist during his working years, puts me to shame when it comes to keeping his farm machinery lubricated, sharpened, and otherwise in good working order. Apparently, his attention to the maintenance of his heart did not rise to quite the same level. To his credit, he knew to head for help when the negative symptoms appeared.
Despite transplants, surgeries, and artificial replacements, the human heart should not be neglected. Damage to it cannot be laughed off the way a broken nail can be. Typically, a first heart attack diminishes the maximum performance of that heart in the future. Jim will certainly be better off with his newly rerouted arteries, but he’d have been better off still had the surgery not been required.
When the Bible speaks of the heart, of course, it is not referring to that blood-pumping organ. Instead, it uses the physical heart as a metaphor for mental and emotional attitudes of love, concern, and openness. “Do not harden your heart,” does not mean to eat lots of anti-oxidants and exercise regularly. It means to we should respond to things–our own disobedient nature in this case–in the way God would respond to them.
My prayer is that Jim will recover nicely. Perhaps he’ll quit smoking and make it to the gym with perfect regularity. He might wind up stronger despite his surgery than he was before. Happily, such improvements can happen. Despite damage, the hardened heart can be softened. Let it be so with all of us.