After prophesying that the Savior will one day establish peace and justice on the earth, Isaiah contrasts God’s steady leadership with the frantic efforts of people trying to do things on their own:
And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart:
The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars (2 Nephi 19:9-10, Isaiah 9:9-10).
The key characteristic of these Israelites is “stoutness of heart,” or in other words, stubbornness. They have watched their buildings and their civilization crumble, but they are still laboring under the delusion that they can rebuild, that they can make things right again on their own.
Aren’t determination and resilience good qualities? Yes, but not at the expense of trust in the Lord. These people have lost everything because they have turned away from the Being who could deliver them, and they are still determined to move forward without His help. “For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts” (2 Nephi 19:13, Isaiah 9:13). They are blinded by pride, and are still unwilling to rely upon the only One who can actually help them rebuild.
In the following chapter, the Lord promises to “punish…the stout heart of the king of Assyria” (2 Nephi 20:12, Isaiah 10:12). After the Assyrian army conquered Israel and Syria, the king would take full credit for the victory: “By the strength of my hand and by my wisdom I have done these things” (2 Nephi 20:13, Isaiah 10:13). But the Lord, through Isaiah, corrects him: “Shall the ax boast itself against him that heweth therewith?” (2 Nephi 20:15, Isaiah 10:15). The Israelites failed to see the Lord’s hand in their loss, and the Assyrian king failed to see the Lord’s hand in his victory.
A stout heart is a stubborn heart. It’s a heart that thinks it’s in charge, that is unwilling to learn and to change. A person with a stout heart must learn by painful experience, because he or she will not listen, observe, and adapt. Other Bible translations render the word “stout” in these passages as “arrogant,” “willful,” or “stubborn.”
Today, I will avoid having a “stout heart.” I will strive to overcome stubbornness, recognize the hand of God in my life, and reconcile my will with His.