HOW DID GOD HARDEN PHARAOH'S HEART?
By Elder Mike Montgomery
I have always felt and believed that God is not the author of sin and I still feel and believe that is the truth, yet scripture does record both that God hardened Pharaoh's heart and that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Since it is God’s inspired word that records it, I sincerely believe both to be true. Here is my explanation for how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
First, to lay some ground-rules, let me state up-front, clearly, and plainly that God is not the author of sin. God never made and He never wanted anybody to sin, so God hardening Pharaoh’s heart cannot mean that God made or wanted Pharaoh to sin. God’s very nature is holy meaning He cannot sin and will not sin; therefore, He cannot and will not motivate anyone (not even a wicked non-Elect) to sin. Certainly, God has on occasion turned the evil of men into good but this does not mean He caused the evil to happen.
Second, I feel that this lesson's primary concern is the sovereignty of God. Yes, we must be careful not to ascribe sin to God, yet we must be careful that we do not take away from the sovereignty of God in His dealings with men. Romans 9:14-24 has as its core doctrinal theme the sovereignty of God and the Apostle Paul uses the occasion of God hardening the heart of Pharaoh to prove this point. God has the right, as the sovereign ruler of the universe, to do with His creation as He sees fit. We cannot and must not gainsay the words of the Apostle Paul that he wrote by Divine inspiration, "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth." Romans 9:18
Exodus 4:21 says, "And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go." If Moses had not done all that the Lord had said and in the manner in which God told Moses to do it, Pharaoh’s heart would not have been hardened; therefore, Pharaoh’s heart was not hardened until after Moses came with this basic message, "The LORD God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go."
Herein lies part of the answer to how God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. All God did to harden Pharaoh’s heart was to send a meek and lowly prophet to demand of Pharaoh, the mighty king of Egypt, to let God’s people go. Remember that these people were Pharaoh’s slaves. This "LORD God of the Hebrews" meant nothing to Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s pride was provoked and God, through the pride of Pharaoh, hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
Consider this text from Daniel 5:20, "But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him." It cut Pharaoh to the heart for Moses to demand of him to let the Israelites go. In Acts 7, when Stephen preached so ably and God was blessing him with such grace to preach, didn’t the same thing happen to those Jews who were listening as did happen to Pharaoh?
I think so. Acts 7:54 says, "When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth." All Stephen did was preach the truth to them just as Moses did to Pharaoh and both the Jews who heard Stephen and Pharaoh who heard Moses had the same basic reaction.
Time and again, Moses came to Pharaoh and essentially said, "Let my people go." His very presence was a nuisance and agitation to Pharaoh and the more Moses appeared to Pharaoh, the more Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. At one point, Pharaoh told Moses that if he ever saw Moses again, Moses would die that very day. Now notice this text from Proverbs 29:1, "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy."
The more that Moses came to Pharaoh, the more Pharaoh would harden his heart. In other words, God, through His messenger Moses, reproved Pharaoh and this reproof acted to harden Pharaoh’s heart.
Even after some of the plagues had come, Pharaoh would seem to be ready to let them go, but just as soon as the plague was lifted, Pharaoh would revert back to his hard-hearted position and not let the people go. Even after the death of the first-born, when Pharaoh let the Israelites depart, he still reverted to his old hard-hearted position and gathered his army to go after them.
By this time, Pharaoh’s heart was so hardened by wounded pride and persistent reproof that he sent himself and his whole army into destruction. In this, God received the glory.
In all this, God dealt with Pharaoh in such a way as to harden his heart. God raised up Pharaoh for this very purpose: to show His power in both Pharaoh’s downfall and the deliverance of His people. Pharaoh was a proud vain man and God cut right to the core of his pride. The more God through Moses demanded of Pharaoh, the more obstinate Pharaoh became.
God knew Pharaoh inside and out as only God can know. As it is written in Proverbs 21:1, "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will."
God knew the predisposition of Pharaoh, so He sent the very sort of person in Moses, who made the very sort of demand, in the very sort of manner, over the very sort of time-frame, that brought about this very sort of hard-hearted reaction by Pharaoh. In this, Moses is a type of our Lord. Jesus came as the meek and lowly Lamb of God, did no sin, committed no trespass of the Law yet, because of the carnal nature of the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees, the way He conducted Himself brought about a very predictable response from them.
God was not any more responsible for their crucifying the Son of God than He was for Pharaoh’s hard-hearted actions.
Submitted in love,
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HOW DID GOD HARDEN PHARAOH'S HEART?