One cannot read the account of Benhadad and Hazael in God’s word not be overcome by a certain sense of sadness. You recall Benhadad was ill and sent Hazael to the prophet Elisha to make inquiries regarding his recovery. Elisha told Hazael that Benhadad would not die from his illness, but that he would nevertheless, die. Elisha then stared with horror at Hazael before suddenly bursting out in tears. Not understanding what was happening to Elisha, Hazael asks him why he was crying. Elisha tells him that he was weeping for the children of Israel. It pained Elisha to foresee the horrendous suffering Hazael was going to inflict upon the people of Israel. He tells Hazael that he “will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women. "
But with righteous indignation Hazael admonishes Elisha for suggesting such a despicable thing and told Elisha that he was not even in a position that would make such an act possible. Then Elisha tells him that he would be king over Syria. Hazael was clearly upset by the predictions of Elisha. Yet, we learn that on the following day, Hazael kills Benhadad and succeeds him as King of Syria.
I do not think that Hazael beforehand could have imagined himself a murderer. After all, he was a human being like you and I. Benhadad apparently trusted him enough to carry and bring back messages that were important to him. And so I am inclined to think that Hazael probably thought a lot of himself as a person and felt murder in any of its many forms were beyond his capability. And yet, he killed.
This suggests to me that man is extensively ignorant of the evil that lurks within. We are not cognizant of all the dirt and filth and meanness that reside in our hearts; the supreme deceiver.
It was Jeremiah who declared that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" We do not and cannot fully know the carnal heart. And this ignorance is almost universal. Self-righteousness inevitably leads to undue self-estimation. We imagine others to be so wicked, so perverted, so low-down, so deadbeat, so barbaric, so inhuman, while we think ourselves to be above these things. We believe we function on a higher plain and could never stoop to the depths of all those other degenerates. But Scripture teaches us that this is not true. The possibility of committing all kinds of heinous act is always in our hearts. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, *** immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. ” Matthew 15:19.
And so we need to stop thinking we are so good and stop talking about what we absolutely will not do. Holy Writ succinctly reveals the condition of our hearts and declares that we are capable of doing just about anything. We need to stop viewing ourselves in worldly mirrors and start seeing ourselves through the divine mirror – God’s word. As long as we view ourselves in the world’s mirror, we will see only what we want to see; we will see only the exterior, only the dust. But when we look at our selves through God’s divine mirror, we see things that make us cringe; we see things we did not know existed, we see ugliness and meanness and deception. When we have a look at ourselves in God’s mirror, we do not see a pretty picture. So if you look in the mirror and see all beauty and goodness, you can rest assured you are looking through the mirror of the world. You are being deceived by your own heart.
You see, the heart can deceive us because that is where sin is. The sinful heart makes right seem wrong and wrong seem right. Deceitful hearts distorts judgment and darkens understanding; it binds the will, pollutes conscience and betrays memory. It deceives the whole man, both physical and moral and mental with hypocrisy and cunning trickery. David Black observed:
There is not anything in the history of mankind more surprising, or at first view more unaccountable, than the self-partiality which prevails in the world. One would be apt to imagine, that it should not be so difficult to arrive at the knowledge of our real character, possessing, as we do, every possible advantage for attaining it. But we see, in fact, that of all knowledge this is the rarest and most uncommon. Nor is it difficult to account for this fact, since the heart is deceitful above all things. Self-love casts a veil over the understanding, the judgment is warped by various circumstances, and hence it is, that many seem to be almost entire strangers to their own character. They think, and reason, and judge quite differently in any thing relating to themselves, from what they do in those cases in which they have no personal interest. Accordingly, we often hear people exposing follies for which they themselves are remarkable, and talking with great severity against particular vices, of which, if all the world be not mistaken, they themselves are notoriously guilty. It is astounding to what a pitch this self-ignorance and self-partiality may be carried! How frequently do we see men, not only altogether blind to their own character, but insensible to every thing that can be said to convince them of their mistake. In vain do you tender to them instruction or reproof, for they turn away everything from themselves, and never once imagine that they are the persons for whose benefit these counsels and admonitions are chiefly intended.
(continued in Part 2)
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D. D. , is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach which can be reviewed on her site. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, is expected to be available soon.
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