He grew up poor and barefoot in a small, southern town in the states. The youngest of eleven children, he had little much to call his own. Clothing, toys, and the few possessions he owned had belonged to someone else before it was given to him… and he longed for more. So at an early age, he determined he would not live in poverty the rest of his life and when a scholarship to college became available, he went for it with all the gusto and grit he could muster… because he longed for more. Whatever it took to become successful, he would do. Whatever sacrifices, he would lay them down at this altar, to obtain his dream. And successful he was. He became a multimillionaire, buying homes all over the world, enjoying every luxury the world could offer and yet, he felt unfulfilled… because he longed for more.
One morning he awoke, bone-weary exhausted and he began to think about his life… all he had accomplished… all the work year after year… and he came to the conclusion that the money, pleasures and comforts that he had so relentlessly striven for, had not given him peace or happiness. All of it, all of the work amounted to nothing… endless striving… work upon work and yet, no reward… he longed for more. So in that moment, that single moment, he felt the full measure of the bitter bile that he had been pushing down for years… buried deep… hidden and locked away from everyone including himself. This angst of soul, pleasures of the world could not heal. He was trapped behind bars imprisoned in a cage that he created himself. Yes, he admitted it, he had designed the cage… every bar and lock long ago, and he knew that he had thrown away the key. He was need of rescue… because he longed for more. Who could free him from these bars of bondage, this prison of pleasure?
God… I AM. God came to him and tendered his heart, transforming it to a heart bent towards God. Yes, God tendered this man to Himself.
What does it mean to be tenderhearted towards God; to be tendered toward God’s Spirits?
We could look at the synonyms for the word, tenderhearted and they are: affectionate, all heart, benevolent, caring, charitable, compassionate, considerate, emotional, forgiving, gentle, humane, kind, kindhearted, lenient, loving, merciful, mushy, sensitive, sentimental, soft, softhearted, sweet, sympathetic, thoughtful, understanding, warm, warmhearted.
Conversely, if we wanted, we could examine the antonyms for the word as well. They are: cruel, fierce, inhumane, merciless, uncivilized, uncompassionate, unkind, unsympathetic, violent.
But neither synonym or antonym will give us the full meaning of what it means to be tenderhearted towards God? In the bible, we are told about the life of a prophet whose name was Ezekiel and he had a lot to say about hard hearts or stony hearts and how we can have a heart that is tenderhearted towards God.
Ezekiel was of a priestly family (1:3), and his name meant God strengthens. He spent his early years in Jerusalem until he was taken with the other hostages by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon in 597 BC. He prophesied for 22 years. Ezekiel prophesied at the same time as Jeremiah and during the early years of the ministry of Daniel. Ezekiel’s ministry was to remind the exiles of the sins that had brought Gods judgment and to reassure them of God’s future blessing in keeping with His covenant, if they would return to him.
Ezekiel 11:19-20 “And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I
will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a heart of flesh; that they may
walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be
What does it mean “I will give them one heart”?
God will give them one heart: a heart entire for the true God and not divided or distracted as it had been among many gods that they worshiped. A heart that is firmly fixed and resolved for God and not wavering, but steady and consistent.
What is the significance of this statement, “I will put a new spirit within you”?
That he will put a new spirit within them. When we become believers we are given The Holy Spirit to live, abide, tabernacle, to dwell in us. We are a living sanctuary, a dwelling for God.
There are other scriptures that back this up.
Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me”.
1Corinthians 6:19 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you,
whom you have from God? You are not your own…”
2Tim 1:14 “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you”.
When we are given a new spirit, we are quite different from what we were; our spirit has been changed…we have new principles, walk by new rules, and aim at new ends, we have a new name, we are new… a new creation.
2Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed
away; behold, the new has come”.
Gal 6:15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
What does a stony heart look like? How would one behave?
That he will take away the stony heart out of their flesh, out of our corrupt nature. A stony heart is dead and dry to God. It is hard and heavy, as a stone, no longer capable of bearing good fruit, so that the good seed is lost upon it, as it was on the stony ground.
Mark 4:5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it
sprang up, since it had no depth of soil.
What would a heart of flesh look like?
That he will give them a heart of flesh, not dead or proud flesh, but living flesh; he will make their hearts long for spiritual pleasures, long for relationship with a holy God. God will make them tender. This is God’s work. It is His gift; His gift by promise; and a wonderful and happy change, from death to life.
2 Colossians 3:3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not
with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human
When we become believers, we receive a new heart but there are times when we let it become hard and stony like it was before… We lose our first love for God…How can our hearts be tendered once again? With meat that is hard, tough and stringy, we marinate it. We need to be marinated by Gods word, soaking in His spirit. Verse 20 in the book of Ezekiel is key, and God put it there because He knew we would need it.
Ezekiel 11:20 “…that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall
be my people, and I will be their God”.
What does this mean and why is this important?
That they may walk in my statutes – Walk in holiness, they live shall prove the work of God upon their hearts by how they live. Then it shall appear that I am their God, because I have done such things in them and for them; and their holy conduct shall show that they are my people. When we hang around God who is holy, we become holy. We see our sin and we ask for forgiveness. This is our redemption story…
Ezekiel 36:22-28 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your
sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have
profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name,
which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations
will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness
before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and
bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all
your uncleanesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and
a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give
you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and
be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall
be my people, and I will be your God.
Does it matter if we ask for forgiveness 50 times a day? No. It just means God is not finished with us yet and we are in the processes of sanctification…. My body is clean but I am in need of a feet washing.
John 13:10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet,
but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”
John 15:3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us
from all unrighteousness.
Ezekiel 37:26-28 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant
with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their
midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be
my people. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary
is in their midst forevermore.”
Jeremiah 31:31-34 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their
fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant
that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. But this is the covenant that I
will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within
them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for
they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will
forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Sometimes we look for God in the dramatic or in an explosive, demonstrative action, like a firework display and God does choose to act and intervene in this manner when the need arises, but more often than not, God is found in the simplest things… the still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12), the glory of a flower, a silkworm or a spider’s web. In one of my favorite movies, Amazing Grace: The Life of William Wilberforce, there is a scene in which he having experienced what he called his “great change,” by becoming a committed Christ-follower tries to explain the metamorphosis taking place in his life. Talking to his Butler, he tells him why he is suddenly so amazed at the spider’s web, the grassy dew, the budding flower. “Did you find God, sir?” asks his servant. Wilber laments back. “I think God found me. Do you have any idea how inconvenient that is?”
William Wilberforce would write in his diary soon after his conversion: “To endeavor from this moment to amend my plan for time. I hope to live more than heretofore to God’s glory and my fellow-creatures’ good”.
Holy God, we need you. We need you not only to make known to us divine things, but to make us take notice of them. You wake us morning by morning; You waken our ears, Isaiah 50:4. We beg you sweet Lord to awaken us, and stir us to be tenderhearted toward you, create in us a soft heart, that seeks to please you… because we long for more.