They are at opposite ends of the spectrum. They comprise the two outer most points on the continuum. They are Josiah and Zedekiah, both kings of Judah. Josiah, chosen by the people, became king at eight years of age (2Chron. 34:1). Zedekiah, a puppet king put in place by Babylonian authority, began to reign at twenty-one (2Chron. 36:10-11). Both were presented with the word of God . . . Josiah through the written word when a long lost copy of the Law of Moses was discovered in the temple . . . Zedekiah through the spoken word as Jeremiah, the prophet, spoke to him “from the mouth of God.” But while both were kings . . . and both heard the word . . . that’s where the similarity ends. For their hearts were in very different places.
And when the king [Josiah] heard the words of the Law, he tore his clothes. . . . Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the LORD.
(2Chronicles 34:19, 26b-27 ESV)
[Zedekiah] did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the LORD. . . . He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD, the God of Israel.
(2Chronicles 36:12-13 ESV)
Josiah read the Word of God and it melted him. This kid king who, at the age of twelve, “began to seek the God of David” . . . and began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the places established for idol worship, . . . he knew things were not as they should be amongst the people of God. But when the word of God, given through Moses, was read to him . . . when he connected the dots between the judgments of Deuteronomy and the reality of his kingdom . . . he realized, to a whole next level, how far God’s people had strayed.
His heart was tender . . . and the Word had its impact. And the king humbled himself . . . and sought the LORD . . . and the LORD heard him.
Swing the pendulum to the other end of the continuum. Zedekiah didn’t need to look very far to know that things were not as they should be in Judah. And, if he had any doubt as to why, God sent a prophet to reveal the “behind the scenes” workings of God as to why heaven had permitted the Babylonians to come to power over Judah. But instead of submitting to the Word of God and submitting to the authority of Babylon, Zedekiah rebels against Babylon’s king . . . just as he had set his face to defy Heaven’s king. Unlike Josiah, he would not humble himself . . . unlike the tender heart of the kid king, this puppet king hardened his heart against turning to the LORD.
Pretty stark contrast . . . Pretty clear continuum . . .
Tender Heart <—————-> Hard Heart
Where does my heart lie? Pretty sure it’s not hard like Zedekiah’s . . . but is it as tender as Josiah’s? How supple is my heart in the hands of the Spirit? How ready is it to receive and respond to the Word of God?
I could never make my heart tender. God did that when He redeemed me, replacing my heart of stone with a heart of flesh (Ezek: 36:26). But I can harden that new heart. Through neglect I can allow it to grow tough and leathered . . . losing its holy sensitivity to the things of God. I can drift from the tender area of the spectrum if I turn my face from seeking God’s face . . . if I allow His Word’s access to my heart to be cut off . . . or, I only entertain the Word that I want to hear.
O . . . to protect a tender heart. To desire a humble spirit. To respond to a gracious God. To be on the Josiah end of the continuum.
By His grace . . . for His glory.