Aug24WedAugust 24, 2016
Our daily Scripture reading takes us to the incredible, historical account of Pharaoh’s battle with the Lord as Moses pleaded with the Egyptian leader to release Israel from bondage to slavery in Egypt. Each time Pharaoh said no, the Lord sent a plague to display His sovereignty. By the seventh plague, the Scriptures say that even Pharaoh’s own servants were listening to the word of the Lord from Moses (Ex 9:20). And yet, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened and he did not let the people of Israel go” (Ex 9:35). This moment displays the common battle between human will and God’s will.
However, many Christians struggle with Exodus 10. The eighth and ninth plague include a phrase which reads, “The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Ex 10:27). When we read those phrases, it is easy to think, “Does that mean that God overrides the desires and actions of humans and, on occasion, causes them to do evil things?” Certainly the Bible is clear that it was the Lord who acted in this moment. But what do we make of that? Does it mean that there is evil, unrighteousness or injustice in God’s character? The Apostle Paul responds to that very question in Romans 9 and declares, “By no means” (Romans 9:14)!
If God is not causing Pharaoh or anyone else to sin, how do we make senses of Exodus 10?
Part of Paul’s argument on this topic is that God has the right to do whatever He wants! And He’s free to do so. That’s the benefit of being God (read more in Romans 9:14-23). But with all of God’s power, He never creates an evil desire in an innocent man. That would compromise His character.
According to Martin Luther’s deep study in this subject, all that God needs to do to harden a heart is to withhold His grace. When He does that, He is simply giving that person over to the desires already present. A hard-hearted person is one who refuses to let God take over and change them.
Often times, people see this passage of Scripture as a problem because they believe that God is imposing himself onto Pharaoh’s free will. However, isn’t that what Christians want and pray for? Don’t we want to be filled and led by the Holy Spirit each day?
For example, I used to think that God had already given me a heap of patience…until our son Luke was born. My patience quickly runs out with our fourth and orneriest child. During those times, I’m pleading with the Lord to superimpose Himself into my life and replace my anger with His Spirit of gentleness, compassion and self-control. Without God’s divine intervention, I would be a terrible, reactionary father. Do you find yourself similarly asking God to take your will or impulses and conform it into His?
As you read through this account, consider the various ways that you may have grown hard-hearted towards the Lord. Not because He has imposed evil upon you, but because you have pushed His grace away. Praise the Lord that He is not content to leave us with our own desires! And may we learn to be more like Moses and less like Pharaoh.