Hard Hearts

Guardian Sphinx guarding the tombs of the pharaohs in Giza. Cairo Egypt

Exodus 10; Luke 13; Job 28; 1 Corinthians 14

God’s plan to deliver his people out of Egypt is first revealed in Exodus 7:1-5, which we read this past Wednesday.

And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”

Today’s passage in Exodus 10:1-2 begins this way:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.”

As I’ve studied the story of Moses, Pharaoh and the plagues this week, I keep dwelling on God’s words, “I will harden [have hardened] Pharaoh’s heart”.  This theme starts in Exodus 7 and is repeated through plague 10, the Death of the First Born.  Why would God do this?  It seems so uncharacteristic of what we know about Him.

“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God, so turn, and live, Ezekiel 18:32

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, I Timothy 2:3-4.

Exodus 9:16 makes it clear why God chose this path, “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” To demonstrate God’s power and that his name is proclaimed throughout the earth makes sense, but it doesn’t resolve the inconsistency.  How do you reconcile God’s desire to have all men saved with an action to intentionally harden someone’s heart, which ultimately inhibits salvation?

I think Exodus 8 reveals Pharaoh actually made the choice himself. Exodus 8:15, But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.  Exodus 8:32, But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go. Once his choice was made, God carried out his plan and allowed Pharaoh to affirm his choice on several occasions.

This isn’t how I want things to happen. I often find myself asking God to prevent me from making a bad choice, then saving me from the accompanying consequences. However, sometimes God chooses a different path.  Sometimes he uses our sinful choices to achieve his purposes.

Jump forward to the parable of the Fig tree we read about in Luke 13:6-9 today, do you see similarities?

And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

If God is represented by the vineyard owner in this parable, Jesus is the vinedresser and we are the vines. God shows mercy on us, gives us time to come to him with repentant hearts.  God’s mercy is the picture of Him we want to see.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance, 2 Peter 3:9

God’s patience will eventually come to an end.  Like Pharaoh, we must not give in to the lure of sin and let our hearts become hardened or we risk God’s wrath (being cut down by the vinedresser).  Again, this is not the picture of Him we want to see, but a reality we must accept.

Romans 2:5, But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

Will you join me today and repent of your sinfulness? Confess your need for Jesus.  Ask God to fill your heart with a desire for him.