Pharaoh’s Heart | Bible Class on God’s Hardening Pharaoh’s Heart
The Exodus is a vital piece of biblical history.
The Exodus was the fulfillment of a divine promise.
God to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Gen 15:13-14).
The Exodus demonstrated the power of Yhwh.
The plagues on Egypt show His power. When the children of Israel would later commemorate the Passover, they were to wear their sandals (Ex 12:11)—that would remind the people of God’s power. The dividing of the Red Sea . . . The pillar of cloud and fire . . . Water from a rock . . . Quail and manna to eat . . . His appearance on Sinai to Moses in the cloud and lightning . . .
The Exodus shows God’s concern for His people.
He was fulfilling a promise to Abram. He provided for His people (even though they were disobedient) during the journey from Egypt to Canaan.
The Passover is important for Christians. We “date” Jesus by the Passover. “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Lk 3:23). What does “about thirty years of age” mean? Over or under? By how much over or under? Jesus was likely born somewhere between 8-4 BC (yes, our calendars are off by a few years).
Jesus celebrated at least three Passovers with His disciples. The Synoptics indicate three Passovers; John seems to indicate a fourth. Scholars, therefore, feel fairly certain that Jesus’ ministry lasted at least three and, at most, four years.
The Passover is important for Christians, not only because we have some idea of when Jesus lived on earth, but His death is our “Passover.” “Purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor 5:7). We have been redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet 1:19).
Paul also teaches us that Christ was present with His people during the Exodus (1 Cor 10:1-4).
In the Exodus, we have some important lessons to learn.
One: God will be glorified in our lives, whether we like it or not.
Pharaoh had not desire to glorify Yhwh, but he did! Even if we reject the Lord, He will be glorified in our lives! How might God be glorified even if we reject Him? Philippians 2:9-11. Spiritual (and natural) laws will be carried out.
Can you think of biblical examples of people who glorified God unintentionally? Herod the Great and Herod Antipas. Pilate. Nebuchadnezzar.
Two: God’s will cannot be thwarted.
God had promised Abram that He will bring his descendants out of Egypt. Pharaoh could not thwart God’s will. God’s will in Pharaoh: Exodus 7:1-6.
We obviously cannot thwart God’s will. God’s will:
- Fearing Him and keeping His commandments are the dual purposes of human life (Eccl 12:13).
- All of human history is moving toward the consummation of all things in Christ (Eph 1:10; 1 Cor 15:25-28; Rev 5).
- Part of the fact that all things are moving toward the consummation of all things in Christ is the fact that God reigns over the kingdoms of men (Dan 4:28-33; Rom 13:1-7).
How do some people seek to thwart God’s will?
Three: We learn that disobedience carries a heavy penalty.
The plagues, each more horrible than the last, come because Pharaoh refuses to obey Yhwh and allow His people to go. The final plague—the death of the firstborn—is unimaginable in its terror. We were outraged and wanted justice in the wake of 9/11. Can you imagine the terror if throughout the land every firstborn child had died?
We all know that sin carries a heavy penalty. One horrible thing about sin is that it often carries more than one penalty. What are some of the penalties of sin that people face? Spiritual death (Rom 6:23). Host of others.
Four: We must guard our hearts.
Pharaoh gets into trouble over the hardening of his heart. Skeptics love this episode, for, in their thinking, God comes across as extremely tyrannical. He kills all the firstborn throughout the land of Egypt. He is seen as not allowing Pharaoh any choice, for He hardens Pharaoh’s heart (the Calvinists like that part, too).
God does harden hearts. He hardens Pharaoh’s heart (7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8). He hardens the hearts of the Egyptians (14:17).
Why would God harden the hearts of Pharaoh and the Egyptians? Does God harden hearts today? Romans 1:22-27. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.
Pharaoh’s role in the hardening of his heart cannot be overlooked. He hardened his own heart (8:15,32; 9:34). He refused to humble himself (10:3). He was stubborn (13:15).
What’s happening with Pharaoh’s heart? Some have done extensive work and have elaborate theories of what’s going on here. Some of their work is helpful; however, much of that work is far more complicated than I think is necessary.
The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart seems quite simple to me. I believe Pharaoh first hardened his heart. I know chronologically it’s first said that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It’s obvious that Yhwh knew that Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened by the plagues. Because God knew that Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened by His might acts, it may be correctly stated that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God sent the plagues, the plagues caused Pharaoh’s heart to be hardened (someone else might have been humbled by them); therefore, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It’s evident from Scripture that if someone gives up on God, God will give up on him.
Important: Our hearts can become hardened. We are urged not to allow our hearts to become hard. Psalm Ps 95:8; Proverbs 28:14; Proverbs 29:1; Isaiah 42:25; Romans 2:5; Hebrews 3:12-13. How can we keep our hearts from becoming hard?