S (Scripture) – Acts 28:23-29 When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, “The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say, “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand, and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive, for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.”‘ Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.” When he had spoken these words, the Jews departed, having a great dispute among themselves.
O (Observation) – Paul finally had the opportunity to share the Good News with the leading men of the Jews (v.17), and solemnly testified about Jesus “from morning until evening.” He logically and methodically explained exactly why Jesus was the promised Messiah based on the very Scriptures that these men had most likely memorized as young boys. Yet, some believed Paul, and others did not. How can so many people all have access to the same information, but some choose to believe the truth, and others reject it? The same situation is still happening today all around us. It is possible to hear without understanding, and see without perceiving. This happens because of a heart that has become dull; the NIV uses the word “calloused.” Jesus used the same words to explain why He taught in parables (Matthew 13:14,15), John referenced this passage from Isaiah to indicate why so few Jewish followers had responded to Jesus’ message (John 12:40), and then Paul referenced them here to explain why he was about to change the emphasis of his ministry from the Jews to the Gentiles.
A (Application) – The Greek word used for “hardening” is similar to the word for “calloused,” and means “to petrify, render insensitive.” “Petrify” means “.” This particular word is used by Paul when writing to the church at Ephesus when he said,
“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more (4:17-19).”
What makes someone’s heart hardened, calloused, and as a result leaves the person unable to see, hear, and perceive the spiritual things of God all around them? It is simply living in rebellion against the Lord – our own selfishness, pride, arrogance, and refusal to believe that we need anything or anyone to tell us who we are, or what we should, or shouldn’t be doing. The moment we change our minds, get off the selfish train of thought going in the wrong direction, step into the right train of thought that agrees with God about who He is, who we are, what sin is, and acknowledge our need for a Savior…everything changes. The blood of Jesus is applied to us by grace, God removes our hearts of stone, and puts a new spirit within us.
Ezekiel 11:19-21 says, “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. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. 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.”
P (Prayer) – Search my heart, O Lord. Find anything that is displeasing to You, and empower me by Your Spirit to turn away. I want to know You more, Lord. It’s impossible to go deeper with You when I am still harboring sinful thoughts, attitudes, and actions. May my heart never become calloused from daily habits of bad choices. Draw me closer to You.