“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you go back to Egypt, see that you do all those wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in your hand. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.’” (Exodus 4:21)
The concept of hardening one’s heart also appears in the NT. For example, in the answer from Jesus to the question posed by the Pharisees as to why Moses had granted a decree of divorce, he responded in part “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Some folks charge God with saddling people with an unchangeable heart. Jesus said it was the peoples’ fault.
Nonetheless, the use of the phrase may leave the impression that God forces persons into performing his will. And if that is the case, any discussion of free will is absolutely meaningless. We (along with Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and variously, the people of Israel) would be completely helpless pawns in life. However, a look at the context will dispel that.
Without the idiom employed, the phrase would read, “but I will permit Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened, and he will not let the people go.” And Moses also recorded this in reference to Pharaoh and God solidifying his purpose. “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said.”
Like Pharaoh of old, today God will allow us to go right out the door on our own and into a completely destructive state. He will let us be contrary to his Word and to what is good, if that is what we chose and what we want. We can wander off into the proverbial wilderness of sin without either help or hindrance. It seems we must set ourselves to do something to end up otherwise.
You can now find around 1,200 different churches teaching some form of “Christianity” and nearly as many ideas as to how to come to Christ. To look at it, instead of one body and one head, Christ is now more like some Hollywood movie monster with a thousand bodies and no head. The woods, it seems, are chock full of hardened hearts and nonsense. Some teachers hardened out long ago and turned off the road and onto a siding they liked much better than the roadway God had provided to them. Others have followed intuition and instincts, or the things they were taught. Yet there is still just a single set of scriptures. And all of the rest amounts to rebellion. People can believe what they want and worship at the golden calf of their own choice, but in so doing they too will become hardened in time. As misery (in this case: destruction?) likes company those doing their own thing will get better at it and farther away from God’s Word each and every day. And they will be happy to tell their friends how wonderful it all is. They may say that they have found a better way. They may say nothing at all and simply go their own way into eternity’s night. And it will be free will that puts them there. Sometimes it is our own foolishness in the guise of free will that puts us in danger. We simply do as we have been instructed without ever consulting God’s Word. What do you follow and why do you follow?
Exactly how did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? All he did was to stand back and let Pharaoh’s own ego take over, so that he ignored what was taking place right in front of his very own eyes. God destroyed him and his army. Do you suppose that all of Pharaoh’s charioteers thought it was a good idea to ride down into the middle of the Red Sea with a wall of water standing over them on each side? They followed because they had to, and they were destroyed for being against the Lord God, even though they knew next to nothing about him.
Isn’t that also what happened to Israel, excepting they knew more?
What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, but the elect did. The others were hardened, as it is written:”God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day.” And David says: “May their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them. May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see, and their backs be bent forever.” (Romans 11:7-10)
What are you going to believe, God’s Word or your own instinct and reason?
Open the eyes; read and understand what God has said. Stand up straight and do what you have been instructed. It requires no spin.
An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes when he finds out his iniquity and when he hates. The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; He has ceased to be wise and to do good. He devises wickedness on his bed; He sets himself in a way that is not good; He does not abhor evil. (Psalm 36:1-4)
So that there may not be among you man or woman or family or tribe, whose heart turns away today from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations, and that there may not be among you a root bearing bitterness or wormwood; and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, `I shall have peace, even though I walk in the imagination of my heart’ as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. (Deuteronomy 29:18, 19)