Heart of Stone

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  (Galatians 5:1)
7 Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the desert, 9 where your fathers tested and tried me, though they had seen what I did. 10 For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways." 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, "They shall never enter my rest." (Psalm 95:7-11)
24 For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.  (Ezekiel 36:24-27)
The Apostle Paul is very clear with us. It is for freedom that Jesus set us free. He is also very clear with us that many of us are not experiencing that freedom. We have become chained up afresh in wrong thinking and wrong attitudes which make our experience of life feel ‘heavy’ and unfulfilling. That’s why I hope this week of Everyday Devotions will be such good news for us. Jesus wants to remove those self-inflicted chains from us and to help us to live in the joy of his freedom.

Psalm 95 identifies the first of these self-inflicted chains as the ‘heart of stone’. Speaking through the psalmist, the Lord warns us not to harden our hearts as the Israelites did in the desert under Moses. They had been saved through the blood of the Passover Lamb. They had been baptised in the waters of the Red Sea. They were drinking water from the rock and feasting on manna every day. They had everything going for them. And yet, because they allowed themselves to develop a heart of stone, they missed out on the Promised Land. If we allow our own hearts to get hardened then we will miss out on God’s rest, joy and freedom too.

A heart of stone can be defined as “a defence mechanism, a wall that we erect around our hearts to protect us from hurt”. We may do this because we were hurt in the past by somebody that we trusted. We may do this because we felt let down in the past by God. We may do this because we got excited in the past about something that never quite materialised for us in the present. The tell-tale signs of having developed a heart of stone are cynicism, coldness towards others or using humour to push other people away. Other tell-tale signs include looking down on others and refusing to listen to their input into our lives. A heart of stone can even dress up in respectable clothes, making us happy to minister to others but reluctant to receive ministry from others.

People develop a heart of stone towards others in order to protect themselves from pain. Sadly, however, it always ends up causing them even more pain. The biggest tell-tale sign of all is loneliness, because a heart of stone isolates us from others, leaving us feeling miserable. Can you identify with this in any way in your own life? Most of us can to some degree!

The wonderful news is that the Lord promises us in Ezekiel 36 that he will remove our heart of stone if we ask him. He assures us that “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you.” Who wouldn’t want to say yes to such an amazing promise? Right now God is speaking to you, inviting you to experience his true freedom.
  1. Which of the tell-tale signs of a ‘heart of stone’ can you spot in yourself?
  2. What do you think caused your heart to become hardened in those ways?
  3. What do you make of the Lord’s promise to remove your heart of stone and to give you a tender heart again? Do you want him to do that for you? If so, then speak out loud to him and tell him so.
Father God, I confess that my heart has become hardened in many ways. Thank you so much for challenging me about that in Psalm 95. I really do want to live in the fullness of your freedom, so please do for me what you promise in Ezekiel 36. Please remove my heart of stone from me and give me a tender heart instead. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were written by Phil Moore, who leads our team of whole-church elders.
If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.
Today’s Everyday Devotions have also inspired a devotional video that you can watch on our YouTube channel.
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