Today’s verse for Blogging Through The Bible in 2020 brings us to a controversial topic. Though I will say that it is only controversial if we choose to believe that there is only one right answer to the question. The question is, who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Was it God? Was it Pharaoh? Ultimately this comes down to a question of is God sovereign or does man have what is often referred to as free-will? So, let’s look at the text. Exodus 7:3 says, “And I (God) will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My sign and My wonders in the land of Egypt.”
Some might be wondering why bring up such a controversial topic here? I believe it is important to discuss topics like this, because they relate to so much of our life. While this text is specifically talking about what God was going to do in Egypt in accomplishing His plan to free Israel from slavery; this issue extends further than that. It plays into the saving of people from their sin, as well as, who is responsible for the decisions we make and who is to blame for the mess we see in the world. This is not going to be a full treatment of the texts involved in this, but I hope by the end we can see a clearer answer, and better understand ourselves and the world around us. The context here is God is speaking to Moses, telling Moses what He is going to do in order to liberate Israel from their slavery in Egypt. God is being patient with Moses and his excuses, by reminding Moses that He is going to be with him. In the text, God is declaring what is going to happen. It is important to see the wording of the text. God said, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart”, not “I have hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Therefore, this is God declaring what is going to happen down the road, not at this precise moment. This is important, because that helps us to make sense of verses like Exodus 7:13-14, 22 and Exodus 8:15 which says, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the Lord had said.” That verse makes it very clear that Pharaoh played a role in the hardening of his own heart. All in all, there are 10 verses that speak of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, and there are 10 verses that speak of Pharaoh hardening his own heart. So, what does this mean for us?
In one aspect it means that we are responsible for the decisions that we make. That is why I prefer the phrase “man’s responsibility” instead of the term “free-will.” In our society today, there are many who want to play the victim all the time. It is never their fault, someone else always did it or did something that “made” them do what they did. Any parent who has multiple children knows this all too well. I always say the two most popular children in our house are “somebody” and “nobody.” Somebody did something, but nobody knows who. The Bible shows us over and over that we are responsible for our decisions. On the other hand, these texts also show us that God is sovereign, which means He is in control. This is one of the main reasons that God told Moses what was going to happen with Pharaoh before it happened. God was trying to reassure Moses that not only was He with Moses, but that He knew what was going to happen, and He had a plan to handle it. God’s sovereignty should be one of the most comforting things for us to know. Because if someone isn’t in control, and if someone doesn’t know what is coming next, and how to make something good out of all the bad can you imagine how much worse life would be? We would walk around in constant fear of the danger that we believe is lurking around every corner. However, when I remember that God is in control, and that He can make something good out of something terrible; then, I don’t have to be afraid of what’s coming next. I can lay my head down at night and sleep well, knowing that I don’t have to have all the answers nor do I have to figure it all out. I can place my heart and my life in God’s control and know that there is no better place to be than in God’s control. There is no better place because as I read the Bible I see that God is loving, kind, merciful, gracious, forgiving, and just among other things. He is a good Father who wants the best for His children. Oftentimes, the reason we struggle with God’s sovereignty is it allows for bad things to happen in life. Does this mean that God condones evil or sin? Absolutely not! But it does mean that He can use what others mean for bad, and bring something good out of it. We certainly saw that in the case of Joseph back in Genesis. The ultimate example of this is the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus was treated horribly, and unjustly condemned to die. However, because of Jesus’ death, sinners can be reconciled to God. But our common retort when something bad happens to us it “that’s not fair.” And this is something we must reconcile in our minds. The Bible says that God is just, it doesn’t say anything about fair. Fair has its basis as equality. If you get something good, then I deserve something good. If I do good, then good should come back to me. However, justice has as its basis, what is right. God being just means that He does the right thing, the right way, at the right time, for the right reason. That can work itself out very differently that fairness. Was it fair that Jesus was lied about? Was it fair that Jesus was mocked, spit on, beaten, and crucified even though they could never prove He did anything worthy of any punishment? By the way, they couldn’t prove it, because He didn’t do it. None of that was fair. But what if we applied God’s sense of justice to the situation? No it wasn’t fair that Jesus went through all of that, but had it not happened, you and I would stand zero chance of being forgiven for our sins and having a relationship with God. In God’s justice, it was not only right for Jesus to suffer for mankind’s sin, but it was necessary in order for us to have an opportunity to be saved.
I apologize that this post is long. I wanted to keep it as brief as possible. But I want to close this week’s posts with two important thoughts on this difficult issue. First, we must trust God. When you can’t see or understand what He is doing, trust who He is. Second, instead of focusing on what you don’t know or don’t understand; let’s focus on obeying what we do know God wants us to do. Have a great day and weekend, and we will be back here next week.
By His grace and for His glory,