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The Hardened Heart Problem—Continued

The Hardened Heart Problem—Continued

Exodus 9:12

But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he did not listen to them, as the LORD had spoken to Moses.

When diving again into the deep, hermeneutical waters of Moses’ words here that “The LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart,” there are two interpretational extremes that we should be wary of. On the one hand, we shouldn’t physicalizethe expression by thinking that God reached His hand down against Pharaoh’s will to harden a heart that may have otherwise softened, because that would place the blame for Pharaoh’s sinful pride squarely on God’s shoulders, which James makes clear in chapter 1 of his epistle is not possible. Yet, on the other hand, we shouldn’t completely allegorize the expression by assuming that the words are merely describing God’s desire for Pharaoh’s heart to remain hardened, because that collides with Ezekiel 18:23, in which God explicitly asks, “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked … and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?”

Only God can regenerate a dead heart or soften a hardened one, and He works through the will of man via repentance to bring about the metamorphosis, so two things are clear at once: God must soften Pharaoh’s heart for conversion to happen, and since softening comes through confession, which doesn’t happen, Pharaoh is exactly in the same place he’s always been. To say that another way, God has hardened Pharaoh’s heart indirectly in the sense that he hasn’t interceded to soften it, but Pharaoh’s been hardening his heart toward God through a lifetime of sinful thoughts and actions, pursuing the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the pride of life rather than the Lord of life, so God effectively leaves him in the pit of his own making.

But remember, friend: orthopraxy is what orthodoxy is for, so here’s a practicable truth we can live out today from Exodus 9:12: keep saying with Samuel, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening!”, and keep praying with David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me!”, and you’ll never have to worry about God hardening your heart.