We’ve heard a lot about walls over the past several years, walls that would serve to keep people not in, but out. President Trump ran on building a border wall to keep out illegal immigrants. In many countries where crime is out of control, such as my wife’s native South Africa, people build security walls around their homes to keep the criminals at bay.
This came to mind as I was reading this passage in Hebrews 4 recently,
For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
Ever since Adam and Eve sought to hide from God in the Garden of Eden, humans have been building walls around their hearts, attempting to hide from the Lord. It is an instinctive act in a fallen world. It may be that we want to hide our guilt and shame. Or perhaps we seek to keep the Lord from interfering with our desire to live life on our terms. Or maybe we want to protect ourselves from being hurt as we have been hurt by others who have had authority over us. It is likely we build walls at various times in our lives for all these reasons.
When the Scriptures speak of hardening one’s heart, they are speaking of building walls to keep God at bay. The Israelites hardened their hearts in the desert at Meribah when they were desperately thirsty. They hardened them again just outside of the Promised Land when they feared what lay ahead. Jesus also questioned whether or not his disciples’ hearts were hardened when they could not understand his teaching.
To build walls around our hearts is to take a stand against God. We are saying, in essence, “I will not allow you to have control over me.” And these walls can also serve to defend our justification for this. From behind them we can hurl accusations against God. As did the Israelites, we can say the Lord cannot be trusted. Or we might go as far to say he doesn’t even exist, or craft our own preferred version of God and, like arrows, shoot them from the safety of our enclosure.
Walls give us a sense of protection, but it is a false sense. The reality is, as Adam and Eve found out, we cannot hide from God. It is an illusion. In truth, we always remain naked and exposed before God. We can hide behind the wall of religiosity; we can hide behind the wall of busyness and distraction; we can hide behind the wall of wealth and success; but we cannot build a wall high enough or thick enough to keep God out. But here’s the thing: Why would we want to?
God created us. God loves us. He knows what is best for us. He can heal the brokenhearted. He is slow to anger and rich in love. He desires us to enjoy intimacy with him. He is for us, not against us. It is literally self-destructive to build our walls and attempt to hide our hearts from him.
Since that is the case, then there is only one culprit behind this urge to do that which is harmful to us—Satan. As Jesus so succinctly describes his intent: he comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He deceives us into thinking walls protect us, when in reality they lead to our destruction.
It is the Lord’s desire and a demonstration of his grace to have us dismantle those walls, to allow ourselves to be exposed voluntarily before him. Our Enemy claims he will shame us and condemn us, that he can’t be trusted. Of course he says that, because lying is his native language. He is indeed the one who can’t be trusted.
As I have read and studied the Scriptures for decades, the Lord has consistently sought to reveal my walls, walls of fear and shame. I admit it has been a very slow, sometimes glacial, process to bring them down. And still the demolition work continues. Yet, they are far fewer than they once were, as my trust in the Lord grows more and more. And he has shown me the abundance of his grace by being patient and not just blasting through them.
The walls we seem naturally to want to build are what keep us from enjoying the abundant life that Jesus promised. In our best interests, he wants them torn down so he can do the work that needs to be done to perfect our hearts. The best decision we can make in our lives is to start trusting God and allowing our hearts to be exposed. This is the only way we can begin to experience the depths of his love and the abundance of the life he has for us.
© Jim Musser 2020 All Scripture references are from the Christian Standard Bible.