by Michael E. Brooks
“But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets” (Zechariah 7:11-12 NKJV).
Christians in the western world often perceive their societies as Zechariah described Judah in the sixth century before Christ, with obstinate hearts, refusing to listen to his message.
Though much of the world’s population remains willing or even eager to hear the good news of salvation, we often face stubborn resistance. Additionally, national laws pertaining to travel, evangelism, and conversion often make traditional mission work difficult.
Majority religions regularly oppose or even persecute those who would preach a different doctrine.
The prophet Zechariah described his contemporaries as having “hearts like flint.” What a graphic and accurate picture.
Flint is one of nature’s hardest substances. Before matches and lighters were available, flint and steel were the most convenient and widespread fire starters. When a piece of smooth steel is struck by a flint stone, it is the steel which yields tiny flakes, creating the spark that ignites the fire. The flint remains intact.
Though the Biblical writer does not use this exact language, one may compare God’s word to the steel. When it confronts the obstinate hearer, it is the Word which may be perverted (in the hearer’s mind) in order to gain some measure of acceptance.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:4-5).
Some who teach missionary methodology respond to this attitude by advocating accommodation to customs or traditions.
Worship is altered to be more acceptable to local preferences. Doctrines are restated or de-emphasized to avoid offense. Treasured elements of traditional local faiths may be integrated into (synthesized with) Christian practice to make the new religion more user-friendly in local environments.
Flint and steel, when struck together, create sparks. The Gospel of Jesus, when preached to an obstinate, unbelieving audience also ignites conflict and conflagration.
“Do not think I came to bring peace on earth. I came not to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
Earlier in the same chapter Jesus said:
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. . . But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues . . . And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake . . . A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matthew 10:16, 17, 22, 24).
Jesus anticipated resistance to his message. He experienced it himself. Yet he did not tell the disciples to change that message to accommodate other desires or beliefs.
He, and the apostles after him, insisted that we stand firm upon truth, preach the word of God as we have received it, and not allow hearts of flint to destroy or alter the gospel (Jude 3; Galatians 1:8).
God’s word alone is truth (John 17:17). Let us preserve it always.