Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hardened Heart

My article from today's Algona Upper Des Moines on the hardening of Pharaoh's Heart:

Q:  What does it mean when it says in Exodus that “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart”?  If God is loving and wants all people to be saved, why would He do that?

The idea of a “hardened heart” is occasionally found throughout the Bible.  When the Bible speaks of a person’s heart being hardened, it means that a person persistently resists God when he reaches out to them through Jesus, the Prophets, or the Apostles, as if their heart had a hard wall around it.  Over half of the instances of this wording are within or in reference to the events between Moses and Pharaoh in Exodus, and the remaining instances of this wording primarily speak of a person hardening their own heart against God or warn the reader not to harden their hearts against God. 

The Bible does say in that “[God] wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4), but that God would also harden a person’s heart against Him is not a contradiction.  Other Old Testament books comment on God’s hardening if Pharaoh’s heart, and clarify what happened.  Samuel points out that Pharaoh actively hardened his own heart against God (1 Samuel 6:6), and Joshua points out that the purpose for which God did this was so that He could save the people of Israel (Joshua 11:20).  Jesus also talks about God hardening the Pharisees’ hearts when they come against Him (John 12:40). 

Two Biblical truths are important to remember when trying to understand why God would harden a person’s heart against Him.  First, if anyone is saved, God always gets all the credit.  Second.  If anyone is lost and condemned, they themselves always bear all of the blame.  In the Bible, God desires to save everyone, but some reject Him.  Sometimes people fear that God might decide to harden their hearts against Him and they will be lost, but it is not necessary to be afraid of this.  God never hardens the heart of those who believe in Him or average unbelievers in the Bible, and it is never done randomly or spitefully. 

The Bible only attributes this action to God on very rare occasions, and in every instance of a heart being hardened in the Bible, it occurs to achieve some greater good.  Pharaoh is hardened so that God can defeat Him and save the people of Israel, who will later give birth to Jesus.  The Pharisees are hardened against Jesus so that they can have Him crucified to suffer punishment for the world’s sins.  Additionally, whenever someone in the Bible is hardened against God, it is always a person who has heard God’s message and seen God’s works, and persistently rejected Him.  God is simply allowing them to have what they already desire by allowing them to reject Him. 

Jesus says in John 6:40, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."  God’s will for the events of world history is to save as many people as possible, by all means necessary.  God knows all things, even those which have not yet happened.  Since He knows that Pharaoh will continue reject Him, He can graciously use his opposition, and even Pharaoh’s death, for His glory and to bring about the salvation of others by freeing the Israelites from slavery and even brought some of the Egyptians to trust in Him when they witnessed these events.  Even when God executes His wrath on an individual, he is doing so for the greater purpose of saving a multitude of others.

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