"'. . . because your heart was tender, and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they would become a desolation and a curse, and you tore your clothes and wept before Me, I also have heard you,' says the Lord" (2 Kings 22:19).
IT IS OUR CHOICES THAT DETERMINE OUR CHARACTER, AND ONE VERY CRITICAL CHOICE IS WHETHER TO HAVE A HEART THAT IS "TENDER" WITH RESPECT TO GOD. Although we have minds that are capable of knowing God, this knowledge is not automatic. We have to choose to be receptive and responsive. Evidently Josiah had made such a choice, and it is a wonderful thing that God said about him: "You humbled yourself . . . when you heard what I spoke." On the other hand, no sadder thing can be said than the verdict pronounced by God upon certain ones in Isaiah's day: "When I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not hear" (Isaiah 65:12). To fail to respond to God is a serious failure.
If we may use the word "impressionable" in a positive sense, that is what the tender heart is. Like clay that is soft enough to receive an impression, the tender heart is capable of being "impressed," or influenced, by God. It feels and responds naturally. The tender heart can be touched. It is moved by the things it should be moved by. To have such a heart is to have chosen to be responsive to God and receptive to the words He has spoken.
Some, however, have a heart that is "past feeling" (Ephesians 4:19). This sort of heart is without "natural affection" (Romans 1:31 KJV), and is not "easy to be entreated" (James 3:17 KJV). Having lost its sensitivity by repeated refusals to respond, the hard heart can no longer be touched or affected by stimuli that once would have moved it quite easily. It's difficult to imagine a more serious problem than this condition of character (Romans 2:5).
In God's providence, each of us is confronted each day with facts that ought to move us. Whether we are willing to be moved is a question of character, and such questions of character demand our most sober attention. The whole issue of spiritual growth hangs in the balance as we make the daily decisions that determine our responsiveness, the sensitivity of our hearts.
"What is this darkness? What is its name? Call it an aptitude for sensitivity. Call it a rich sensitivity which will make you whole. Call it your potential for vulnerability" (Meister Eckhart).