The Hardened Heart
Father God, You called me into being through Your Spirit. I call on You today, confident that You listen.
Read EXODUS 11
Now the Lord had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” 3 (The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)
4 So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.
9 The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“I am the holy Lord God, the one who rescues you. For your own good, I teach you, and I lead you along the right path” (Isa. 48:17, CEV).
Have you ever watched a film, like Schindler’s List or The Boy with the Striped Pajamas, where you are at the same time shocked and devastated by terrible cruelties and also encouraged and given hope by the love and concern shown in those situations? Reading this chapter brings something of the same experience. Pharaoh’s cruel oppression was awful, but twenty-first- century readers can’t help feeling that the death of all of the Egyptian firstborn was awful too. It is perhaps important to remember that the escape of the Israelites was a vital step in the long process that would lead to the potential for eternal salvation for Israel and Egypt alike.
Pharaoh had steadfastly refused to listen and steadfastly refused to allow the people to go—even for a three-day religious pilgrimage for sacrifice and worship. His heart was certainly hardened. It is sometimes suggested that if God hardened Pharaoh’s heart then surely it wasn’t Pharaoh’s fault and the plagues were unfair, but that is to misunderstand the issues. In these chapters we are told seven times that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and three times that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Romans 1:24–26 speaks of God giving people over to the “sinful desires of their hearts.”
A point comes when God will allow the inevitable consequences of a refusal to listen to him. The conviction of God’s sovereignty often led the Biblical writers to speak of God doing things when they had already made it perfectly clear that human actions had taken place. God is involved in our lives, but his involvement never removes our responsibility for the actions we take. This chapter, like many television drama series, ends with a somewhat negative cliffhanger, but remember—there is still another series to come!
We all sometimes harden our hearts. Do a reality check to see whether you are really listening and responding to God.
Holy God, grant today that my words and actions may point others to Christ, the Light of the World.
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