Unyielding and Hardened for the Glory of God

January 2nd, 2009 by

Editor’s Note: A previously published article from Dr. Brown. An important message to take to heart for those of us trying to make an impact in our culture.

When we think of the words “unyielding and hardened,” we think of stubborn sinners defiantly refusing to heed the message of God, of proud and obstinate rebels firmly entrenched in their arrogance and intransigence. We think of sinful hearts that refuse to bow, of determined and resolute wills that mock that which is sacred and disdain that which is holy. We think of the image of the earthly, not the heavenly.

Yet sometimes it is God Himself who makes His servants unyielding and hardened. He does it for His glory, and He does it for their good. It is part and parcel of the prophet’s call. The prophet must be immovable — utterly. The prophet must be a rock.

The Lord said to Ezekiel that:

the house of Israel is not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to Me, for the whole house of Israel is hardened and obstinate. But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are (Ezek. 3:7-8).

The Lord fights fire with fire!

God’s people would not listen to His words. They were defiant and resistant. How could the prophet withstand the pressure? How could he weather the storm? How could he stand firm and hold fast to the commission of the Spirit? The people were so hard. The prophet had to be harder still! Once he moved an inch, the battle was lost.

I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house (Ezek. 3:9).

Yes, Ezekiel, I will make you harder than flint!

This was also the word of the Lord to Jeremiah:

Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land — against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land (Jer. 1:18).

Jeremiah had to be “a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall.” He was standing against everyone!

Some of us get rattled when one unkind word is spoken against us, or when a leader doesn’t pay sufficient attention to us, or when our friends fail to recognize our gifts, or when our unsaved co-workers avoid us because of our faith. Talk about shallow security and shifting assurance! What would we have done if were in Jeremiah’s shoes?

The kings, the princes, the officials, the priests, the prophets, the people as a whole, and even his family stood against him. He had no wife or children, by the direction of the Lord (Jer. 16:20), and he was almost completely without friends. This man was alone in this world. Yet God told him to stand against the crowd, to refuse to be moved, to proclaim a word of terrible judgment and hardship, to declare that the ruthless enemy king was actually the servant of the Lord, that it was God’s will that the chosen people go into exile. How could this be?

“Jeremiah, back down! Look at this thing rationally. Listen to the voice of reason. Everyone can’t possibly be wrong. The leaders can’t all be misled. The prophets can’t all be deceived. The priests can’t all be in error. Nobody else is proclaiming such harsh things. Nobody else is telling us that our women will be raped, our children orphaned, our men slaughtered in battle. Nobody else is telling us that the Temple of the Lord — the very dwelling place of the God of the whole earth — will be destroyed. Never! Jeremiah, come our way and join the crowd. It feels so right to be accepted. It feels so good to be loved. Surely you’re not the only one hearing from God. You’re not a fanatic, right?”

Actually, what God calls faithful the world calls fanatical. Sometimes the pressure is intense! It is true that the prophet is made for pressure and that pressure makes the prophet, but Jeremiah was human, just like us. He needed affirmation and encouragement. He longed for moral support just like we do. The insults and taunts and hatred and rejection of the people must have stung him deeply. What did it feel like to be Jeremiah? His suffering was almost unbearable:

Alas, my mother, that you gave me birth, a man with whom the whole land strives and contends! I have neither lent nor borrowed, yet everyone curses me (Jer. 15:10).

O LORD, You deceived me, and I was deceived; You overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long (Jer. 20:7-8).

Surely a little compromise would be acceptable. Surely there must be some movement on Jeremiah’s part. It was impossible that so many good people could be so wrong. Surely the Lord understood both sides of the story. Surely He was not so inflexible. Hardly:

“Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze; they will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you to rescue and save you,” declares the LORD (Jer. 15:19b-20).

There it is again! The prophet was called to be a mountain of holy resistance. “Jeremiah, do not budge!”

Listen to the cumulative force of these words from the Lord. God made the prophets as unyielding and hardened as the most obstinate sinners, with foreheads like the hardest stone, harder than flint, like a fortified city, a bronze wall, and an iron pillar. God built them up and God backed them up.

For the prophet, compromise was more bitter than death, and finding the middle ground was an act of treachery against the Lord. As Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Matt. 12:30). Jesus was no people-pleaser either. In the prophet’s education and calling, there is no “Politics 101.” Who ever heard of a politically correct prophet? How we need the true prophetic spirit again in our day!

Of course, as to our character and attitude we must be meek and lowly, quick to listen and slow to speak, easily approachable, ready to learn, willing to receive correction, open to godly reason, submitted and submissive, teachable and kind, not argumentative but speaking the truth in love. Still I ask you, didn’t Jesus exemplify those characteristics to perfection? And yet He was absolutely inflexible and unyielding when it came to doing the will of His Father. He could not be moved. And wasn’t Paul a walking model of a godly, Spirit-filled minister? Yet who more than Paul refused to go the way of the crowd? Who more than Paul shunned compromise like the plague? It was Paul who asked the Galatians:

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ (Gal. 1:10).

Pleasing men and serving the Lord are often incompatible — totally.

Of course, I know there are fanatics and weirdoes who have separated themselves from the Body and who think they are on some kind of divine mission. They and they alone have the revelation. They and they alone — along with their motley little group of self-anointed spokesmen and self-appointed martyrs — have the truth. I am fully aware that there are some flakes out there who believe that the Spirit tells them to wear shorts and a tee shirt in the snow as a test of their obedience. (Why is it always those people who tend to be the most bold and vocal “witnesses,” always carrying their Bibles — their very big, prominent Bibles, of course — and never failing to show up just when you are finally reaching someone with the Good News? Why are they often the ones whose vehicles are so covered with gospel bumper stickers that you can’t even tell if they’re driving a car or a truck?)

To such people I say this: Grow up! Get into a congregation and practice submission. Take the low road and learn in quietness. If God has given you a word, He will make it known. Get your personal life in order and make a meaningful contribution to society (maybe starting right in your own home?). Your end-time prophetic mission to the universe can wait a few more years.

More seriously, there are really tragic cases of truly fanatical acts. I cringe when I think of the deeply deceived and disturbed individuals who have burned babies in ovens and shot, stabbed, and strangled at the supposed direction of the Lord. What a terrible and pathetic shame. What an ugly, inexcusable reproach. The Word of God and the voice of God never led these people to commit such atrocious acts, and nothing I am writing here is directed to such demented souls. What they need is a new heart through repentance and faith. What they need is to be saved from their sins.

But please hear me: There have always been religious fanatics, spiritual weirdoes, Bible-quoting flakes, and demonized pseudo-believers misrepresenting the Spirit of God. There have always been counterfeit Christians, bogus believers and satanized saints wreaking havoc in the name of the Lord. They existed in the days of Jesus, and they exist in our day too. Our error has been to retreat from righteousness because of the extremists and to tone down our message because of the fanatics. Our sin has been to compromise for the sake of “correctness” and to muddle the truth for the sake of middle ground. We justify our comfortable seat on the sidelines of non-commitment because others “take things too far.” As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow expressed so well, “We often excuse our want of [involvement] by giving the name of fanaticism to the more ardent zeal of others.”

This is sheer spiritual suicide, and it is guaranteed to fail. It is the way of the world and the formula of the flesh. It is Satan’s trap, and it is set to ensnare. Only the inflexible will escape. Are you entrapped? How have you fared on the day of testing? Remember: Temptation can come in the form of death threats or in the form of sweet promises. Have you held your ground in the face of temptation? Have you withstood the onslaught of the enemy and the world?

Are you inflexible when it comes to the clear and indisputable standards of God’s Word? Or have you compromised your convictions to keep the peace or to make your way up the ladder in your church or business? Have you quenched the persistent voice of the Spirit because it was too hard to go against the grain? The world can be intimidating. The church can be intimidating. Your friends and family can be intimidating. Your fellow-leaders can be intimidating. Have you feared the face of man, or have you feared the face of God?

And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house. You must speak My words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious house; open your mouth and eat what I give you (Ezek. 2:6-8).

Do you grasp what God said to Ezekiel? They are rebellious; they don’t listen to Me. Don’t you be rebellious! Receive My commission, ingest My message, and declare My words to My rebellious people without flinching, without holding back, without watering down the truth. Not to speak is to rebel.

Again it is recorded in the book of Jeremiah:

Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: “This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word (Jer. 26:1-2).

Tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

This was a quality that made Samuel great. When he was still young and after receiving his very first word from God — a frightful, terrible word — the Scripture says: “So Samuel told him [i.e., Eli the priest] everything, hiding nothing from him” (1 Sam. 3:18). He held back nothing, even though that word from God promised judgment and destruction on Eli’s very household. Samuel told the truth. As a result,

The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and He let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD (1 Sam. 3:19-20).

God would back us up too, if we would learn to declare His Word, directly and without dilution.

Yet so often we are weak-kneed wimps. We crumble like cookies and have as much staying power as spaghetti: When the water gets hot, we get soft. Where is our courage? Where is our conviction? Where is our commission?

It will take faces like flint and foreheads like bronze to stand strong in the midst of the world’s immoral madness and the church’s moral morass. Only those who are deep in Him will be able to confront the shallowness of this superficial age. Only those with roots will withstand the flood to come. Are you standing today? Are you firm? Are you moved forward by God, or do you move backward away from God?

For many years I have written and preached that we hardly realize how far we have fallen — as a nation, as families, as individuals, as a church. True restoration will be more radical than most of us (including myself) can imagine. And while we are certainly making spiritual progress in many ways, and while the Lord is truly moving in our midst, we dare not think that we have arrived, that times of refreshing are proofs of total approval, that an increase in spiritual life and power means an increase in prophetic truth and character. No! We must make a determined, fresh stand. We must recover the spirit of holy inflexibility, of divine immovability, of prophetic intransigence. We must reclaim the posture of the uncompromising overcomer — even if it costs us our lives:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12:10-11).

May this be our story too: overcoming the pressures of this age, refusing to cave in or give up, ruthless with the flesh, radical in the Spirit, obedient even to death. May God make us harder than flint. May we yield to Him alone.

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