A Heart Like His
What do we need to become people after His own heart?
Of all the metaphors in the Bible, there is probably no other that engages my attention in such a way as the vivid trope “heart of stone.” After all, a heart of stone is an absurdity, an oxymoron.
A heart of stone might make a great sculpture or an odd memento. It is not meant, however, to be installed in a human body. It is cold and heavy, as cumbersome and bloodless as boulders in the mineral realm are meant to be. You don’t jump-start a stone by giving it the shape of a heart, for that matter. A heart of stone does not contract; it neither beats or pumps. It is actually a heart turned stone; not a life-giving organ but a petrified epigraph.
My physician friends tell me there is a condition commonly called “heart of stone.” Its medical, high-sounding name is “cardiac calciphylaxis.” Often a result of severe and long-standing renal failure, cardiac calciphylaxis is the last stage of a process by which the vascular system of a patient begins to literally “collapse.” This usually leads to vascular thrombosis, skin necrosis, and sepsis. In its most severe version, the vascular calcification reaches the heart (thus its name). When this happens, there is not much left for the physician to do. A heart of stone is not meant to live for long. It is the death sentence to a sham life.
The Bible reveals at least two behaviors that trigger the onset of “spiritual cardiac calciphylaxis.” The first has to do with the clogging effect of disobedience. In the Epistle to the Hebrews, we are bidden to exhort each other daily, not to “be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). And quoting Psalm 95, its author adds: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (verse 15).
"A heart that beats with the heart of the Infinite is never again in danger of suffering from spiritual calciphylaxis."
The second behavior relates more to a lack of action. In the story of Jesus’ encounter with two mourning disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), our Lord chastises His hearers, telling them: “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (verse 25). Especially as regards Bible prophecies, Jesus says, sloppy study habits and halfhearted beliefs have the potential of making our hearts slow, heavy, and unfit for vigorous, healthy, spiritual pumping!
Thus, whether by commission or omission, a failure to act according to the written and the incarnate Word places us in a dangerous heart-hardening zone, from which recovery seems to become harder by the moment. Progressive calciphylaxis indeed!
Ask Your Doctor
Thank God, there is hope for hearts in the process of life-threatening calcification. The solutions are provided in the context of the same passages referred to above. “Do not harden your hearts,” reads Psalm 95:8. But in that song, the psalmist introduces us to the antidote even before referring to the problem. He writes, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, for He is our God” (verses 6, 7). As we worship and acknowledge God as our Creator and Redeemer, keeping in mind that as creatures, “we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand” (verse 7), our hearts find a fulfilling and uplifting way of staying responsive to the promptings of His voice.
The second prescription is found in the same story of the road to Emmaus. After the heartbroken disciples discover they had been walking with Jesus all along, they say to one another: “‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked to us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:32). Indeed, meeting Christ sets lukewarm hearts aflame. After eagerly drinking the words of Jesus and enjoying His presence, slow and foolish hearts cannot help but burn, giving away light and warmth to an otherwise coldhearted world.
The Ultimate Solution
Sin is so numbing, we might feel at times our hearts have been traveling along the hardening road for too long to apply for their tender reversion. But Ellen G. White aptly advises, “Be not discouraged because your heart seems hard. Every obstacle, every internal foe, only increases your need of Christ.”* Indeed, the Master Physician invites us to adopt His most drastic approaches to spiritual calciphylaxis. Once more, His treatment is twofold.
First, the Lord calls us to “circumcise the foreskin” of our hearts—another great Bible metaphor! This is an invitation to leave aside everything that makes our heart ordinary so it can become a chosen heart, one that carries in it the very marks of the distinctiveness assured by the reality that “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Second, God offers us the ultimate solution for a calcified heart: As we surrender to Him, He promises to give us “one heart” and to “put a new spirit” within us. Thinking of His children, the Lord declares, “[I will] take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh” (Eze. 11:19). A brand-new heart! Nothing less than an outright and comprehensive heart transplant!
As in the case of a medical intervention, the goal of the Lord’s heart surgery is not without a purpose. He makes it clear, “that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them” (verse 20). A heart of flesh is obedient and wise, for it belongs to a thriving person who delights in the law of the Lord (see Ps. 1:2). It is a throbbing organ, protected from the onset of calcification. And a heart that beats with the heart of the Infinite is never again in danger of suffering from spiritual calciphylaxis. Indeed, it will be tender and pliable, ever ready to reflect, return, and be renewed.
God’s offer includes His “divine pacemaker,” His Spirit (see Eze. 36:27), because He longs to bestow on us a heart attuned to the One who gave it all to remedy once and for all our hearts of stone. He promises us an organ that forever beats and pumps in rhythm with the will and ways of the Lord of the universe.
In short, He offers us nothing less than a heart after His own heart.
*Ellen G. White, Messages to Young People (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1930), p. 112.
Marcos Paseggi is a translator, Bible researcher, and author from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.