To understand and believe all that
God has said is a huge challenge.
Scripture Text: John 12:36b-41 Title: Understanding Heart
Question of the Day: How does true understanding come to a person?
Jesus helped make many things clear to us as He walked this earth and taught us the truth of God. The setting for today’s text comes very close to the end of His earthly ministry; many were still talking about the man who had been born blind and about Lazarus who had just been raised from the dead; and the disciples drank all of these events in, but had no comprehension of what was about to take place as Jesus faced the cross. John remembered today’s text some years later and wrote it down for us because he now believed and had great spiritual insight. How does insight and understanding like that come to us?
Here is today’s text: “Jesus spoke these words and then left and went into hiding. Even though He had done so many miracles while they watched, yet they didn’t put their complete faith and trust in Him. This too fulfilled what Isaiah the prophet meant when he said, ‘Lord, who has believed the report we gave about You? And to whom has the strong arm of the Lord God been revealed?’ It seems that those people could not believe because as Isaiah later said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts so that they can’t see with their eyes or understand with their heart so that they can be converted and then I could heal them.’ Isaiah said these things when He saw the glory of God and spoke about Him.”
John commented that even though Jesus did many miracles, yet they would not believe on Him. Jesus had spoken often of the faith in action that must characterize the believer’s life. John picked up on this and remembered what Jesus had said and done at this time in His ministry because what Jesus was about to do for mankind was to take the faith of a believer and put it into action to believe and receive eternal life. Wouldn’t they believe if they saw Him turn water into wine? Or feed 5000 with just a few loaves and a few fish? Or make a blind man who had been physically blind from the day he was born to see for the first time? Or even raise a man from death who had been in the tomb for four days?
John explained this to us to show us the blindness and the hardness of man’s heart. Man cannot see because man does not want to see. The prophets tried to get people to believe and be converted. Even Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord, explained it to people, and was grieved that their hearts were so hard they could not believe. It seems that Isaiah must have been somewhat incredulous—how could people hear the message of the gospel and not believe and accept it? The ones who believe are the ones to whom God has revealed “His arm”. In the Scripture the arm of the Lord is seen as the power of God stepping in to do for helpless man what he could never do for himself; and for God to save a person is the primere way for man to demonstrate saving faith.
Why does man find it so difficult to place faith in God for salvation? Isaiah says that they can’t believe because God has blinded their eyes and God has hardened their hearts. Why would God do that? The primere example of hardening of one’s heart is when God hardened the heart of Pharaoh’s at the time of the Exodus. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart only after Pharaoh had hardened his own heart a number of times. When man turns away from God time after time, their hearts are hardened; and when man hardens his heart toward God instead of becoming more and more responsive, then God steps in and hardens that person’s heart.
What happens when man hardens his heart and then God further hardens their hearts? First, they cannot see with their eyes. How can anyone with eyes not see? Many times the Scripture is using the example of the physical to explain to our hearts and minds spiritual truth. Man wants to see things with his physical eyes and touch with his hands; but God is Spirit, and the greatest understanding comes when we learn to discern things spiritually—with our spirit. That’s why the Christian life begins with spiritual understanding and spiritual discernment that comes from a spiritual rebirth. Second, unbelievers can’t understand with their heart. Isaiah went on to explain that true understanding comes from a change of heart. Man thinks that a change of mind brings understanding; but the real change that comes to man starts in the change of the heart. When man’s heart is right, then everything else falls into place and even the mind has much better understanding. Hebrews 11:3 says it all when it says, “By faith we understand…”
What we must do is to cease straining to understand everything with our minds and intellect before we accept the truth of God by faith. We know that faith opens the door of eternal life for us, but faith also takes us deeper and deeper into an intimate walk with God by leaning on Him and not on our own understanding. Straining to understand the ways of God and what He is doing in our world with our minds is exhausting; but resting in the fact that our great God is always in complete control is faith that is resting in Him completely. It is a fact that faith brings spiritual rest and refreshment.
Prayer: Lord, teach my heart to learn to rest in You by faith. My desire is that every bit of hardness of heart be removed and that healing and restoration come to this fretful heart. Teach me that true rest comes, not from straining to understand with my mind, but to believe with my heart so that You can change my heart. Thanks for the understanding that comes from just believing and resting. Amen!