Devotion - June 23

Psalms 111-115 / Proverbs 23 / Ezekiel 36:25-27 / Matthew 13:14-16

In the middle of the parable of the sower – between the story and its explanation – Jesus quotes the prophecy from Isaiah 6:

For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.


Calloused hearts. Callouses develop because of friction, pressure or irritation – the skin becomes tough and thick as a sort of self-protection mechanism I suppose (she says, recalling that the Dr. before her name isn’t medical …).

What causes a heart to become calloused? Sin will do it. Our own sins – the sins of others – the places a person needs to toughen up under the friction, pressure or irritation of living immersed in the world. Idolatry takes its toll on the heart – both our own places of misplaced allegiance and the damage caused by the false claims and foolish pursuits of the age. I wonder where the callouses have grown in your heart?

I can’t give you a solution to callouses on your skin or hands, but Scripture does give a prescription for calloused hearts. It depends on God’s activity – the new hearts promised in Ezekiel 36:25-27. Begins with being forgiven (sprinkled clean of impurities and idolatries) and receiving God’s Spirit – the Spirit who leads us in obedience. Our first step to softened hearts – hearts able to receive the announcement of the kingdom of God hidden in Jesus’ parables – is repentance from the sins that harden. My repentance participates in this spiritual heart transplant. Let’s ask God’s Spirit to convict us of our sins, the ones that harden our hearts to the God’s word and call.

Let’s also tell the truth here: obedience won’t alleviate the friction or pressure or irritation of immersion in a broken and sinful age. A heart of flesh and Spirit empowered obedience – those are not force fields or suits of armor. There are calloused places in our lives that develop in self-protection. The promise of a heart of flesh is more than the promise of forgiveness – it is also the promise of healing (turn, and I would heal them -- those are the Lord's words that Jesus quotes). I wonder where your heart has been broken, or simply worn down from friction or pressure? Where do you need to be healed? God rushes to heal, even when healing is so slow. Hearts of flesh stay tender to those things that break God’s heart, suffer rather than strike out, forgive and seek peace. That is only possible in hearts that have been healed by God’s Spirit, Jesus’ great gift to us.

Today, let’s ask Jesus’ Spirit to reveal the places our hearts have grown calloused, either as a result of our own self harm through sin, or damage done through the sins of others and the world – reveal in order to heal, restore, and renew our capacity to follow God’s word and way today. Lord Jesus today -- give us the grace to hear with our ears, see with our eyes, understand with our hearts and turn to you for healing.
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