Have you ever wondered why some people are bent on making wrong choices or why some national “leaders” seem to be incapable of making a decision that is anything other than a decision that embraces a culture of death or embraces abnormal morality? It is as if the course they are on is unalterable or irreversible and they can do other. As I heard a person once say, “I knew the choices I was making were wrong and harmful, but I could not alter the path I was on. The dye had been cast and I could not reverse my actions neither did I want, too.”
The story of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart has much relevance in regard to where we are in our nation today. The story gives us an understanding of human responsibility and of God’s sovereignty, particularly as it relates to His work of hardening the hearts of those who continually harden their hearts against Him and suppress the truth.
We know the story all too well. Moses approaches the Pharaoh of Egypt with the request to let the Hebrew people go who had been in slavery for 400 years. Of course, Pharaoh refuses to do so, even though ten plagues are sent as judgments for his refusal to let the Hebrew children go. Only after the last plague, which resulted in the death of Pharaoh’s son, does Pharaoh reluctantly let them go. While the Scriptures clearly tell us God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, God’s hardening was solely a response to Pharaoh’s prior self-hardening. The ultimate reason God hardened Pharaoh’s heart was that Pharaoh first hardened his own heart. God’s further hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was judicial in response to Pharaoh repeatedly hardening his own heart.
As one reads the account in the Book of Exodus the general flow of the narrative presents Pharaoh’s self-hardening mainly at the beginning and God’s hardening mainly at the end. God’s justice in hardening Pharaoh’s heart is in response to Pharaoh’s self-hardening. We see both human responsibility and God’s sovereignty throughout the narrative. There are many verses dealing with Pharaoh’s personal response to Moses’ request to let the Hebrew people go. Ex 7:13 Pharaoh’s heart become hard; Ex 7:14 Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; Ex 7:22 Pharaoh’s heart became hard; Ex 8:15 [Pharaoh] hardened his heart; Ex 8:19 Pharaoh’s heart was hard; Ex 8:32 Pharaoh hardened his heart; Ex 9:7 his heart was unyielding. Pharaoh continually hardened his heart until it set-up like concrete to where the course he was on became irreversible. It was then the sovereignty of God further hardened Pharaoh in his own sinful defiance.
Walt Kaiser observes the following concerning the hardening of Pharaoh: “In all there are ten places where ‘hardening’ of Pharaoh is ascribed to God (4.21; 7.3; 9.12; 10.1, 20, 27; 11.10; 14.4, 8, 17). But it must be stated just as firmly that Pharaoh hardened his own heart in another ten passages (7.13, 14, 22; 8.15, 19, 32; 9.7, 34, 35; 13.15). Thus the hardening was as much Pharaoh’s own act as it was the work of God. Even more significant is the fact that Pharaoh alone was the agent of the hardening in the first sign and in all the first five plagues. Not until the sixth plague was it stated that God actually moved in and hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9.12), as he had warned Moses in Midian that he would have to do (4.21).”
Yes, God sovereignly acted in hardening Pharaoh’s heart, yet we also see the clear responsibility of Pharaoh in the matter, as he hardens his own heart. While Pharaoh was totally responsible for the hardening of his heart, the Bible teaches God’s justice often is meted out by Him further hardening man’s heart in his own hardness which he has chosen. When one continually suppresses the truth there comes a time when they are turned over to the consequences of their own hardened heart.
When we see those in “leadership” positions continually making decisions that radically go against, not only biblical teaching, but against commonsense, common moral decency, and centuries of proper protocol, and common consensus of what is morally right and wrong, we scratch our heads and say, “How can anyone make a decision like that?” It is because they have become hardened in their own morally bankrupt heart, so much so that the concrete has hardened in their suppression of the truth. In God’s sovereignty he has turned them over to their own hardened heart to where the course they are on is now set like a flint.
But let me add, in God further hardening Pharaoh’s heart, God revealed His own overriding master plan, by which He not only copes with man’s rebellion but turns it into an occasion for the Lord to display both His righteousness in judgment and his grace in redemption. Even in the hour in which we live when we see the hardened heart of man exercising evil edicts that further embrace a culture of death and a plunge society into deeper moral depravity, God in His sovereign timing will display both his righteous judgment and His saving grace. Let us never forget the main reason for a hardened heart lies not with God, but with a rebellious heart that suppresses the truth in unrighteousness.
We are not responsible for the choices of others, but only our own. God called Pharaoh to humble himself and acknowledge the God of Heaven as Sovereign of the universe, yet he refused to do so and continually hardened his heart. Men today, like Pharaoh, may try to redefine good and evil, yet in their suppression of the truth they are hardening their own hearts and setting out on a path that will only find their hearts further hardened. That is the danger of a hardened heart, that it will become hardened in its hardness.
Let us earnestly pray in the day in which we live that our hearts will be sensitive to hear the Lord’s voice and continually stay pliable to follow Him unreservedly. And not knowing where one who makes ill-advised choices and decisions are on in their march toward Accounting Day before God, let us pray the Lord will change their hearts before it is eternally too late.