Gospel Gazette Online
Volume 17 Number 5 May 2015
Page 7

Priscilla's Page Editor's Note

Hardening of the Heart Is an Inside Job

Marilyn LaStrape

Marilyn LaStrapeThere are many great messages found in the Book of Hebrews. One message is the warning against hardening one’s heart through unbelief. Hebrews 3:7-9 reads, “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years.’” More is stated in verses 12-13. “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.”

In his book, Studying Sin Seriously, Wendall Winkler lists seven practical ways in which sin is deceptive and disillusioning.

Several years ago this writer read the following statement that still resonates: “Sin that we thought would be a delightful servant becomes our horrifying master!” Paul writing to the church at Rome said, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).

One of the most compelling figures in the Bible who demonstrated this hardening of his heart, despite the overwhelming display of irrefutable evidence, was the Pharaoh of Egypt during the time of Moses. As one good minister phrased it, “Pharaoh wanted to know who God was; so God gave him a 10-lesson correspondence course, and Pharaoh failed the class miserably!” Giving him benefit of the doubt, he probably did not know who the God of the universe was. However, nothing melted his hardened heart! The hardening was an inside job.

When Pharaoh asked Moses and Aaron who God was in Exodus 5, God proceeded through His two spokesmen not only to tell him who God was, but also to show him! The evidences continue through Exodus 11. Sadly, Pharaoh learned the lesson too late. Only after his firstborn son died did he relent! He then complicated his situation to the point of no return. In the stubbornness of his heart, he decided to pursue the children of Israel after they had departed from his land. God overthrew all the Egyptians in the midst of the Red Sea.

Exodus 15:1, 4-5 recorded the ultimate cost Pharaoh paid for his hardened heart. “Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: ‘I will sing to the LORD for He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea! Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea. The depths have covered them; they sank to the bottom like a stone.’”

Throughout the account of God’s dealing with Pharaoh, it says God hardened his heart or Pharaoh hardened his own heart. How did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Through the actions that He took to gain his attention, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart as He had told Moses and Aaron (Exodus 7:3-5).

From the beginning of the encounter with Pharaoh, he was uncooperative. It started with the testing of the rods becoming serpents. Aaron’s rod swallowed up the magicians’ rods. Exodus 7:13-14 is the refrain throughout their confrontations: “And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said. So the LORD said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh’s heart is hard, he refuses to let the people go.” With each plague that was brought upon Egypt, he would relent. Once the plague was removed, Pharaoh would harden his heart. The hardening was an inside job.

In Exodus 10:1-2, God told Moses precisely what He was doing and why. “Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.’”

Pharaoh absolutely refused to humble himself before God! Pharaoh stands on the stage of life to show us how arrogance, pride, stubbornness, rebellion and obstinacy lead straight to destruction! The hardening was an inside job.

Unlike Pharaoh, God had given King Nebuchadnezzar honor and majesty. All peoples, nations and languages trembled and feared before him. Daniel speaking to Belshazzar about his father said, “Whomever he wished, he executed; whomever he wished, he kept alive; whomever he wished, he set up; and whomever he wished, he put down” (Daniel 5:19).

The king’s world came crashing down around him beginning in verse 20. “But when his heart was lifted up, and his spirit was hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him.” God had to get this man’s attention and remind him of who was really in control. Also, unlike Pharaoh, the king came to himself after a most severe chastening by God in a most inhumane experience.

We must beware of the dangers of a hardened heart as described in the following passages.

In the book, Know Your Bible by Frank J. Dunn, he makes this observation. “When a person continues to reject God’s word and disobey His commands, he will resist the word more and more and his heart will become hardened, until his conscience is seared so that he will not hear God (1 Timothy 4:1-3).”

The call and challenge is to cultivate the kind of heart David describes in Psalm 119:34-36. “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” (ESV).

[Editor’s Note: Certainly today, if not historically, too, mankind often circumvents personal responsibility and blames others – even God – for his shortcomings. One old saying aptly illustrates the hardening of the human heart. “The same sun that melts butter also hardens clay.” The sun both melts butter and hardens clay. The variable is not with the sun, but it lies with the differences of the substances on which sunlight falls. So is it with mankind. The variableness regarding the hardening of human hearts lies not with God, but rather hardening of the heart is a reaction by some souls to God and His Word. Truly, the hardening of human hearts is an inside job. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]

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