On Healthy & Sick Hearts

On Healthy & Sick Hearts

This morning I’d like to speak to you from the bottom of my heart for I hold each of you close to my heart. When I see the love you have for one another, I’m reminded that you are sisters and brothers after my heart. So many of you have hearts of gold and it’s my heart’s desire that as a family we draw nearer both to our wonderful and awesome Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and one another. However, it’s inevitable that there will be times when we break each other’s hearts but my prayer is that if and when that happens, we’ll be able to ask forgiveness and grant forgiveness, knowing that our hearts are in the right place. For it would be tragic for us to close our hearts to one another or to lose heart or, worst of all, for us to develop hearts of stone. Okay. I’m done wearing my heart on my sleeve since I think I’ve taken these heart metaphors as far as I can—or should!

Now just as in everyday usage we speak of our hearts to represent our attitudes, so, too does Scripture. For as we’ve already seen, the greatest challenge that Moses and Aaron had to confront was that of Pharaoh’s hard heart. Since Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, he refused to allow the people of Israel go and worship the LORD their God. Consequently, the LORD warned Pharaoh, through Moses and Aaron, that there would be severe repercussions if he didn’t let his people go worship him. By way of a series of miracles and plagues, God demonstrated to Pharaoh and the Egyptians—and reassured his people Israel—that there is no God but the Maker of heaven and earth; there is no God but El Shaddai, God Almighty; there is no God but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; there is no God but the LORD, Yahweh.

As we saw a few weeks ago,[1] the LORD’s display of his power began by his having Aaron throw down Moses’ staff before Pharaoh as it became a snake. Yet because Pharaoh’s magicians did the same by their secret arts, “Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.”[2] Next the LORD brought the first miraculous plague upon the Egyptians by turning the Nile River into blood. Yet because the Egyptian magicians did the same by their secret arts, once again, “Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart.”[3] And so we pick up with Exodus 7:25 where we’re told, “Seven days passed after the Lord struck the Nile.” Exodus 8:1 then introduces the second plague, stating,

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials.’”

In reading about this plague, I was reminded of my grandmother on my mother’s side who was terrified of frogs. I learned this one day when, at about the age of eight, I proudly brought home a frog I had caught in a nearby brook. This frog was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand. When I found my grandmother in the kitchen, I walked over to her with my prize cupped in my hand and declared, “Guess what I have?!” When she turned from her cooking to look, I pulled away my top hand to reveal this small frog—only to have my grandmother start screaming and almost creating a new door in our kitchen wall as she desperately tried to escape—have I mentioned that this frog couldn’t have been more than an inch around?? This second plague would have constituted the stuff of my poor grandmother’s nightmares.

But even for a frog-lover like myself or for anyone, this plague—this “unusually large number”—of frogs would similarly constitute a nightmare for, as stated in verse 5, once the LORD had Moses tell Aaron to stretch out his hand with his staff “over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt,” the whole country “teem[ed] with frogs.” The whole country swarmed with frogs. There were frogs in the palace. There were frogs in the bedroom. There were frogs on the bed—on the bed. There were frogs in the houses of the officials. There were frogs on the people. There were frogs in the ovens. There were frogs in the kneading troughs. Frogs were everywhere, as far as the eye could see. There was no place one could go to escape them. As stated in verse 6, when “Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt,… the frogs came up and covered the land.” The land had become a carpet of frogs. And as the plague upon the Nile River might be viewed as a judgment upon the Egyptians for revering this river as a god, so might the plague of frogs for, as one commentator notes, “Frogs represented the primordial goddess Heket in Egyptian religious life.”[4] Yet these false gods were no match for Yahweh, the LORD. Even so, as had occurred with the staff becoming a snake and the Nile River becoming blood, as stated in verse 7, Pharaoh’s “magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.”

Now though Pharaoh’s magicians were able to reproduce this miraculous plague, they weren’t able to undo it. Therefore, “Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said,” verse 8, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.” It seems that despite his hard heart, at some level Pharaoh understood that the signs the LORD was performing by way of Moses and Aaron were qualitatively different from those performed by his own magicians. Consequently, he promised Moses and Aaron that if the LORD would but remove these frogs—again, something his own magicians couldn’t do—he would allow the people of Israel go and offer sacrifices to their God. But to make crystal clear that only the LORD could do this, “Moses said to Pharaoh,” verse 9, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.” Now why Pharaoh answered “Tomorrow” instead of “Immediately!” is beyond me. Regardless, as stated beginning with verse 10, Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the Lord our God. 11 The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.” Once again we see that part of the purpose of these miraculous plagues was that all would see and know that “there is no one like the Lord our God.” The plagues were an opportunity and opening for belief in the LORD. Their coming and going weren’t coincidental but were completely in his sovereign control.

Thus do we see, as stated beginning with verse 12, that “12 After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the Lord about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. 13 And the Lord did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. 14 They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them.” As the LORD had brought the plague of frogs upon Egypt, so now the LORD removed it. Upon Moses crying out, the frogs died at the time Pharaoh had requested. Again, the death of frogs in the houses, courtyards, and fields—but not in the Nile River itself—was no coincidence; it was a miraculous act of God. And whereas it appeared that Pharaoh’s heart might be starting to soften when he asked Moses, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord,” (verse 8), in the end it didn’t. As stated in verse 15, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.” Yet again, although we might be surprised that the miraculous death of the frogs in this plague had no impact upon Pharaoh’s hardened heart, the LORD was not. Pharaoh’s actions were in keeping with what the LORD had said.

The time for a third plague had arrived. As stated in verse 16, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron, “Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,” and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.’” That God is God over nature—that he is God over all things—continues to be made abundantly clear. This truth was also borne witness to years later by the prophet Isaiah through whom God declared, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God…. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.”[5] Clearly, there is no one like God. And given Pharaoh’s reticence to acknowledge this, it’s worth noting that the LORD went on to state, “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?”[6] Woe, indeed. There are consequences for those who defy God and disobey his Word.

Not surprisingly, what the LORD had had Moses tell Aaron yet again came to pass. As stated in verse 17, “They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats.” However, for the first time, Pharaoh’s magicians were unable to reproduce this miraculous plague. As stated in verse 18, “But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not.” What is more, “Since the gnats were on people and animals everywhere, 19 the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’” With the previous miraculous acts—turning the staff into a snake, water into blood, and causing frogs to appear—the magicians were able to figure out ways to imitate them. However, when it came to bringing forth multitudes of gnats descending upon people and animals so that “All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats” (verse 17b), the magicians were forced to acknowledge, “This is the finger of God.” Pharaoh’s magicians were no match for “the finger of God,” for the power of God.[7] Yet whereas the magicians knew the limits of what their secret arts could—and could not—do, Pharaoh remained unpersuaded. As stated at the end of verse 19, “But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said.”

Now although earlier in our study of Exodus, we considered the importance of having a soft heart,[8] the continuous commenting upon Pharaoh’s hard heart throughout these plagues merits a second look upon this theme. For Pharaoh wasn’t unique in having a hard heart. In fact, any person who doesn’t believe in God whose image they have been made;[9] in God who has revealed himself through Scripture and in his Son, Jesus Christ, is a hard-hearted person. This doesn’t mean that they’re “incapable of being moved to pity or tenderness” or that they’re “unfeeling” as the dictionary would define hard-heartedness. No, I’m using “hard-hearted” in the way that the Old and New Testament Scriptures do: a hard-hearted person is anyone who doesn’t believe in and obey God. So, for example, when asked why he spoke in parables, Jesus indicated that it was because people didn’t believe—their hearts had become hard, “calloused”—and, because they didn’t believe, even what they understood would “be taken from them” as prophesied by Isaiah.[10]

The point is that throughout Scripture, belief in God—and living according to that belief—indicates a soft heart; lack of belief in God—and living according to that unbelief—indicates a hard heart. Too, as we noted a few weeks ago,[11]  in Scripture there exists a clear connection between miracles and belief in God. Whether these miracles are performed before Pharaoh by Moses and Aaron by the power of the LORD or directly by our Lord Jesus Christ who is God in the flesh, it’s evident that the purpose of performing—and witnessing—miracles is in order that people might come to a saving faith in God.[12] Therefore, it’s no coincidence that our New Testament passage from John 12 begins by stating, “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him” (emphasis added). John could just as easily have said, “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, their hearts remained hard.” But as was true with Pharaoh, so it is with all who have hard hearts: hard hearts are no surprise to God. As John goes on to state in verse 38, this lack of belief in Jesus as God, despite his having performed so many signs in their presence, “was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet.” John then references two verses from the Book of Isaiah, Isaiah 53:1 and 6:10. Isaiah 53 speaks of God’s Messiah as his Suffering Servant and asks, “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” The implied answer, as applied in this context, is “Not those who have witnessed the many signs Jesus did in their presence.”

Concerning Isaiah 6 John states, “39 For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: 40 ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.’” With this second reference we’re once again brought into the mysterious space between God’s hardening of human hearts and humans hardening their own hearts. For all who have hard hearts; for all who do not believe in God, genuine faith can occur only by a supernatural quickening. It can only occur by the Holy Spirit’s taking us from spiritual death to spiritual life.[13] Through the prophet Ezekiel the LORD pointed to a future day in which, “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.”[14] With the coming of Christ Jesus, God’s promised Messiah, that day had now arrived. As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, only the Holy Spirit is able to give us supernatural birth; only the Holy Spirit is able to give us birth from above.[15] Therefore, if people in and through Christ’s Spirit would but believe the signs of God, the signs of Jesus, they would have sight rather than blindness; righteousness rather than sinfulness; hearts of flesh, rather than hearts of stone; the cleansing and healing of their souls, the salvation of their souls, rather than soul-sickness and damnation.

In verse 41 John states, “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.” As Ezekiel by God’s Spirit saw the day of Christ, so, too, did Isaiah. As one scholar suggests, in referencing these two passages from Isaiah, “John seems to be claiming that when Isaiah saw the exalted King and the suffering servant, he saw Jesus’ glory.”[16] By God’s Holy Spirit, Isaiah understood that when Messiah was sent to earth, when Christ the Son was sent to earth, to perform many signs in order that people might believe in him, though many would indeed believe that Jesus is God, many would not. For, as another scholar states, “Jesus’ earthly public ministry was a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy which was largely one of judgment upon unbelieving Israel. Jesus pronounces the judgment, previously announced by Isaiah, that must precede the coming kingdom.”[17]

An example of this is found in verse 42 which states that though, “…many even among the leaders believed in him…, because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.” This alleged belief among the leaders didn’t constitute genuine belief for as Jesus said elsewhere, If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels”[18] Faith that is ashamed of Jesus isn’t genuine faith; faith that is more interested in human praise than in God’s praise, isn’t genuine faith; faith that doesn’t openly acknowledge Jesus isn’t genuine faith. Contrast the response of these human-praise-loving Pharisees with the Apostle Paul. Though he, too, was a Pharisee,[19] he nonetheless declared, “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”[20]

The greater love that these believing Pharisees had for human praise than for God’s praise may be why Jesus then “cried out,” as stated beginning with verse 44, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”[21] Our faith in Jesus should never be hidden under a bushel. No, as Jesus declared in his Sermon on the Mount, his disciples, those who are the light of the world, are to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”[22] Unlike what the believing Pharisees did, faith in Christ should be openly acknowledged, not hidden. For to share faith in Christ is to share faith in God who made the universe. For genuine faith, soft-hearted faith, understands that Jesus is one with the Father; that to believe in Jesus is to believe in God the Father; that to see Jesus is to see God the Father; and, as indicated in verse 50,[23] that to obey Jesus is to obey God the Father. This is why not to believe in—nor see—nor obey Jesus is the same as not believing in, nor seeing, nor obeying God the Father, and will result in judgment. As stated in verse 48, “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” But to accept Jesus’ word—which is God’s word—and do what he commands leads to eternal life.[24]

So, dear brothers and sisters, we need to ask ourselves: what is the state of our heart? For if our hearts are sick—if we have hearts of stone—if our hearts are hard, then we’ll give into temptation and sin. We’ll ignore or even run away from God. We’ll love the praise of people more than the praise of God. We’ll choose God’s condemnation over the salvation he so freely offers and which cost him his very life to give.

But if our hearts are healthy—if we have hearts of flesh—if our hearts are soft, then when we are tempted, even if we should submit to temptation, we’ll turn away from our sin and confess it to our gracious God knowing that he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.[25] We’ll run to God and seek ever to draw near to him knowing that he is with us and for us and has given us his Holy Spirit that our union with him and all who believe might never end. We’ll love God’s praise more than that of people and seek to do what pleases him. We’ll declare our faith in Christ not only in word but also in deed.

Therefore, may we this morning and ever be those who tend to the state of our hearts.

Let us pray.

Benediction: Numbers 6:24–26: 24 The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

[1] See sermon preached on September 5, 2021, On Miracles, Magic, and Sorcery on Exodus 7:8–24.

[2] Exodus 7:13.

[3] Exodus 7:22b–23.

[4] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on Exodus 8:3. The Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Exodus 8:2 similarly states, “The frog (or toad) was deified in the goddess Heqt, who assisted women in childbirth.”

[5] Isaiah 45:5, 7.

[6] Isaiah 45:9.

[7] In the Gospel of Luke, after Jesus drove out a demon from a man who was mute, he similarly declared, Luke 11:20, “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

[8] See sermon preached on August 29, 2021, How to Soften Your Heart, on Exodus 6:28–7:7.

[9] Genesis 1:26–28: 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

[10] Matthew 13:10–17: 10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” 11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 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.’[Isaiah 6:9, 10] 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” The Apostle Paul also spoke of unbelief and hardened hearts by referencing Isaiah 6 in speaking to some local Jewish leaders in Acts 28:21–31: 21 They replied, “We have not received any letters from Judea concerning you, and none of our people who have come from there has reported or said anything bad about you. 22 But we want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.” 23 They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet: 26 ‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 27 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.’[Isaiah 6:9, 10] 28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” [29] 30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!” See also Hebrews 4:7 quoting Psalm 95:7, 8. Hebrews 4:1–13: 1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, “So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”[Psalm 95:11] And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”[Genesis 2:2] And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.” Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”[Psalm 95:7,8]  8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.; See also Hebrews 3:7–19: So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested and tried me, though for forty years they saw what I did. 10 That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’ ”[Psalm 95:7–1] 12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”[Psalm 95:7, 8] 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

[11] See sermon preached on September 5, 2021, On Miracles, Magic, and Sorcery on Exodus 7:8–24.

[12] See, for example, Jesus’ addressing his disciples concerning the miracle of feeding 5000 with but five loaves and two fish in Mark 6:47–52: 47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.; and Mark 8:14–21: 14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” 16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” 17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. 20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” 21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

[13] Note Lydia in Acts 16:13–15: 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us. (emphasis added.)

[14] Ezekiel 36:25–27. See also Ezekiel 11:19–21: 19 I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 21 But as for those whose hearts are devoted to their vile images and detestable idols, I will bring down on their own heads what they have done, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

[15] John 3:3–7:Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.[or from above]“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[pl] must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

[16] Crossway ESV Study Bible note on John 12:41.

[17] Reformation ESV Study Bible note on John 12:38.

[18] Mark 8:38. See also Luke 9:26: Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

[19] Philippians 3:4b–6 (see verse 5): If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.; Acts 23:6: Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.”

[20] Romans 1:16–17. Paul is referencing Habakkuk 2:4: “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by faith.”

[21] See also John 8:12: When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”; John 1:1–5: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

[22] Matthew 5:16.

[23] John 12:50: I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.

[24] John 12:50: I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.

[25] 1 John 1:9.