Message – Hardening of the Heart
Series: Thru the Bible – Exodus 4-11
Hardening of the Heart
Last week we read where God told Moses that the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart would be His work within Pharaoh so that he would not let His people go.
“(21) 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.”
So at least on some level it “appears” that it was always God’s plan to harden Pharaoh’s heart and to use that hardening to progress the plagues in Egypt so that it would obtain the two results He points out later:
“(13) Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me, (14) for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. (15) Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth. (16) But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. (17) As yet you exalt yourself against My people in that you will not let them go.”
Now this was said at a very pivotal time. If you remember, I looked up the words hard, harden, hardening & hardened and found 13x’s examples of this in regards to Pharaoh’s heart.
- 7 were seemingly attributed to Pharaoh hardening his own heart.
- 6 attributed to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart.
Let’s look at them…
- Exodus 7:13 (Sign of serpents) – grew hard
- Exodus 7:22 (Waters to blood copied by magicians) – grew hard
- Exodus 8:15 (Saw relief from frogs) – he hardened his heart
- Exodus 8:19 (Magicians couldn’t make lice) – grew hard
- Finger of God revealed.
- Exodus 8:32 (After flies left) – hardened his heart at this time also
- Difference made between Israelites and Egyptians
- Exodus 9:7 (Livestock) – became hard
- Pharaoh checked to make sure only his land was affected.
- Exodus 9:12 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh
- Exodus 9:34 – he hardened his heart
- Exodus 10:1 “I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants”
- Exodus 10:20 “…the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
- Exodus 10:27 “…the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
- Exodus 11:10 “…the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart”
- Exodus 14:8 “…and the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt”
As you can see, Pharaoh had already determined to be unresponsive to God and calloused his heart to God’s words and miracles 6x’s! ONLY AFTER Pharaoh had 3 testimonies confirming that this was in fact God he was dealing with, did God get involved in “sending the plagues to his very heart”.
The words “hardened heart” essentially means for a heart to become firm, dull and insensible to the voice of God.
So, Pharaoh did not allow his heart to be influenced by the miracles and judgments of God.
James 4:6 tells us,
“GOD RESISTS THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
So it could be said that the influence which had the power to save Pharaoh, was the very influence which hardened his heart due to his PRIDE.
Pharaoh was determined to not listen to God, Moses & Aaron or let the Israelites go. It was only then that God is said to make judgments concerning the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart…
Now, it appears that God was giving Pharaoh time and opportunity for repentance (a change of heart).
Question: If God knew Pharaoh was going to harden his heart anyway – why bother with all of this? Why not just harden his heart from the beginning?
Rom. 3:3-4, “(3) For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? (4) Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND MAY OVERCOME WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED.”
So it appears that the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was both his own work and the work of God.
I like what Keil and Delitzsch (dee-litch) say about this (I updated some of the language),
“As the freedom of the will has its fixed limits in the unconditional dependence of the creature upon the Creator, so the sinner may resist the will of God as long as he lives. But such resistance plunges him into destruction, and is followed inevitably by death and damnation. God never allows any man to scoff at Him. Whoever will not allow himself to be led, by the kindness and earnestness of God’s warnings to repentance in humble submission to the will of God, must ultimately perish…
But God not only permits a man to harden himself; He also produces obstinance within him and holds this sentence over the impenitent. Not as though God took pleasure in the death of the wicked! No; God desires that the wicked should repent of his evil way and live as Ezekiel says in Ez. 33:11;
“Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’”
“He desires this most earnestly, for “He will have all men to be saved and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1Tim. 2:4, cf. 2Pet. 3:9).
As God causes His earthly sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), so He causes His sun of grace to shine upon all sinners, to lead them to life and salvation. But even as the earthly sun produces different effects upon the earth, according to the nature of the soil upon which it shines, so the influence of the divine sun of God’s grace brings different results inside the human heart, according to its moral condition.”
So let’s look at some other scriptures about the hardening of the heart.
This first one seems difficult at first, because it shows God’s promoting one above the other due to his hatred of one and His love for the other BEFORE they were even born!
“(1) I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, (2) that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. (3) For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, (4) who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; (5) of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, Who is over all, the Eternally Blessed God. Amen. (6) But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect.
We know that right? What did we read on Sunday which told us that?
Isa. 55:10-11, “(10) For just as rain and snow fall from heaven, and do not return there without saturating the earth, and making it germinate and sprout, and providing seed to sow and food to eat, (11) so My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty, but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it to do.”
For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, (7) nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED.” (8) That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. (9) For this is the word of promise: “AT THIS TIME I WILL COME AND SARAH SHALL HAVE A SON.” (10) And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (11) (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), (12) it was said to her, “THE OLDER SHALL SERVE THE YOUNGER.” (13) As it is written, “JACOB I HAVE LOVED, BUT ESAU I HAVE HATED.” (14) What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness [injustice] with God? Certainly not!”
“(1) Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. (2) Let my teaching drop as the rain, My speech distill as the dew, As raindrops on the tender herb, And as showers on the grass. (3) For I proclaim the name of the LORD: Ascribe greatness to our God. (4) He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He. (5) “They have corrupted themselves; They are not His children, Because of their blemish: A perverse and crooked generation. (6) Do you thus deal with the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you? (7) “Remember the days of old, Consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; Your elders, and they will tell you: (8) When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, When He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples According to the number of the children of Israel.”
“(15) For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOMEVER I WILL HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOMEVER I WILL HAVE COMPASSION.”
So it becomes important to see WHO God wills to have mercy & compassion on!
“(12) Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people.’ But You have not let me know whom You will send with me. Yet You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’ (13) Now therefore, I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” (14) And He said, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (15) Then he said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. (16) For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.” (17) So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” (18) And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” (19) Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” (20) But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”
“(16) So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.
But can we safely assume that God is doing this based upon mere whim and not in response to our choices and actions? In other words, are these verses saying what we do plays no role or that the final decision is in the hands of THE JUDGE?
(17) For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I HAVE RAISED YOU UP, THAT I MAY SHOW MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MAY BE DECLARED IN ALL THE EARTH.” (18) Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
(19) You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” (20) But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” (21) Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? ***REMEMBER THIS***
(22) What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, (23) and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, (24) even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? (25) As He says also in Hosea: “I WILL CALL THEM MY PEOPLE, WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, AND HER BELOVED, WHO WAS NOT BELOVED.” (26) “AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, ‘YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,’ THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF THE LIVING GOD.” (27) Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: “THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL BE AS THE SAND OF THE SEA, THE REMNANT WILL BE SAVED. (28) FOR HE WILL FINISH THE WORK AND CUT IT SHORT IN RIGHTEOUSNESS, BECAUSE THE LORD WILL MAKE A SHORT WORK UPON THE EARTH.” (29) And as Isaiah said before: “UNLESS THE LORD OF SABAOTH HAD LEFT US A SEED, WE WOULD HAVE BECOME LIKE SODOM, AND WE WOULD HAVE BEEN MADE LIKE GOMORRAH.”
Listen to the words He uses – “Endure with much long-suffering”.
The word long-suffering means, “Forbearance and long lasting self-restraint before proceeding to action. The quality of a person who is able to avenge himself yet refrains from doing so.”
Why would God have to avenge something if He were the One Who caused it?
This is where it becomes necessary to seek the understanding of one passage by the greater counsel of God’s word.
Turn to 2 Tim. 2 while I explain something.
In regard to deductive reasoning, it is important to realize “limiting” factors – meaning, those issues or events or fact which place limits on how far you can take something.
So when looking at God’s sovereignty regarding the heart, we if we see an example where it looks like God is acting upon whim and others where His decision is based upon the heart responses of individuals – we have to side with the later. Because in the verses where it appears God is acting upon whim further information is simply excluded, were as in the other examples it is INcluded. If God does not change and is no respecter of persons, then we have to conclude with the more conservative answer.
Let’s look at such a passage. Call to mind the words I asked you to remember earlier “vessel of honor”.
“(1) You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2) And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (3) You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (4) No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. (5) And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. (6) The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. (7) Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. (8) Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, (9) for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. (10) Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (11) This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. (12) If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. (13) If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. (14) Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. (15) Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (16) But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. (17) And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, (18) who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. (19) Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (20) But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. (21) Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. (22) Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (23) But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. (24) And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, (25) in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, (26) and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”
So when it tells us in Roman’s 9 that God has power of the clay to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor, we see what it is referring to is God’s sovereignty as judge of all creation. The final decision – the final “ruling” is in His hand and no one can change it!
So going back to our example of Pharaoh – we see that God did not seem to judicially agree with the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart until four things happened…
- God stopped sending the plagues to Goshen.
- The Egyptian magicians were unable to reproduce the miracle of God and called the plague the result of the finger of God Himself.
- Until Pharaoh confirmed that Goshen was unaffected by the 5th plague against livestock.
“(16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (17) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (18) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (19) because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. (20) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, (21) because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) Professing to be wise, they became fools, (23) and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. (24) Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, (25) who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (26) For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. (27) Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (28) And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; (29) being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, (30) backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, (31) undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; (32) who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”
Finally, is there any example where God reveals that at least some of the decision is in the hand of man?
Deut. 15:7, “If there is among you a poor man of your brethren, within any of the gates in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother,
So the answer of whether the hardening of the heart is the work of Man or the work of God is…BOTH
Prov. 16:1-9, “(1)The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. (2) All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the spirits. (3) Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established. (4) The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom. (5) Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; Though they join forces, none will go unpunished. (6) In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the LORD one departs from evil. (7) When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (8) Better is a little with righteousness, Than vast revenues without justice. (9) A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”
Prov. 21:1-4, “(1) The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. (2) Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts. (3) To do righteousness and justice Is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. (4) A haughty look, a proud heart, And the plowing of the wicked are sin.”
There is more information in the audio/video of the actual message. I hope you listen, learn and enjoy!
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