By A.W. Pink
From Studies in the Scriptures Publication: October, 1939
Because thine heart was tender" (2 Kings 22:19). We have already considered the circumstances and significance of these words last month. Let us now proffer a few remarks upon how a tender heart may be preserved. This is a matter of great importance, for though such a most desirable possession be obtained as a sovereign gift from God, yet it can only be retained by much diligence on our part. This should scarcely need any arguing, yet hyper-Calvinists are likely to demur, supposing that an insistence upon Christian responsibility is the same thing as crying up creature ability. But does not the natural shadow forth the spiritual here, too? Is it not a fact with which we are all familiar that the more "tender" any object or creature be, the more care and cultivation it requires?
"Keep thy heart with all diligence" (Prov. 4:23). This must put an end to all quibbling on the part of objectors: where God speaks there must be an end of all strife. And diligence, great and constant diligence, is required on our part if a tender heart is to be preserved. How? In what directions? First, by guarding against everything which is hostile to it. To be more specific: it is sin which hardens the heart. In exact proportion as sin obtains dominion over us, do we steal ourselves against God. And it is just here that our accountability comes in: "Awake to righteousness, and sin not" (1 Cor. 15:34). Thought we cannot impart a tender heart, we can certainly impair one. "Harden not your hearts" was the Lord's call to His people of old, and to us also today; and if we are to comply therewith we must fear, hate, and resist sin.
Sin is insidious. Scripture speaks of "the deceitfulness of sin"(Heb. 3:13). If we are not on our guard, it will steal upon us unawares; unless we are wide awake and alert to the danger, sin will overcome us like the fumes of a deadly gas. That is why the Lord bids us "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation" (Matt. 26:41). Yes, watch as well as pray, and pray as well as watch. We all know what happened to Peter because he failed so to do, and his case is recorded as a solemn warning for us. "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away" (Prov. 4:14, 15). Notice carefully how the same prohibition is iterated and re-iterated again and again in these verses. It is the first approach of sin we most need to resist. It is by making conscience of its earliest stirrings within that a tender heart is preserved.
Every Christian will readily allow that sin is insidious, but it is one thing to recognize this in theory and quite another to be regulated by it in practice. All will agree that one of the most effective means of victory over sin is to steadfastly refuse its first advances; yet the fact remains that few do so. It is at this very point we must take our stand if a tender heart is to be retained. But how? By guarding against carnality. Things indifferent become a snare if they are not kept within due bounds. That which is lawful is not always expedient. An immoderate use of the creature will bind chains upon us which are not easily snapped. Inordinate affection for those nearest to us will sap true spirituality. Beware, then, of setting your love too much upon mere things or creatures.
Nothing will keep the heart tender so much as cultivating the spirit of filial awe. Alas that this is now so rarely insisted upon. "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil" (Prov. 8:13). Necessarily so, for God is ineffably holy, and where He is revered sin is loathed. "By the fear of the LORD men depart from evil" (Prov. 16:6), for two cannot walk together except they be agreed. The more concerned I am not to displease my Master, the more shall I eschew that which He forbids. "Be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long" (Prov. 23:17), for "Happy is the man that feareth always" (Prov. 28:14). We must strive to be in the fear of God not only in the first hour of devotion, but throughout the day. The more we live in the conscious realization that the eyes of the Holy One are upon us, the more will our hearts be kept truly tender.--A.W.P.