God Hardened Heart?
When one first reads those verses in Exodus about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart, he can so easily arrive at the conclusion that God forced Pharaoh to do wrong. He can decide that man does not have free will for God totally controls the will of man. Is it possible to reconcile these two concepts?
To answer that let me ask, “How does your heart feel toward the Fijian government’s plan to increase import duties on merchandise from the Cook Islands?” Is your heart hardened toward this? Is your heart tender toward such actions? The truth is that your heart is indifferent and neutral toward this.
Now consider Pharaoh’s heart toward God before Moses came to confront him. Was his heart “pro-God” or “anti-God”? It was neither. He had lived all of his life with a neutral heart toward God. This obviously changed once he met Moses. He was forced to take a position—either positive or negative toward God’s messenger.
Look carefully at those verses in Exodus. On two occasions before Moses ever confronted Pharaoh, God told Moses that He would harden the king’s heart (Ex. 4:21; 7:3). How did Pharaoh react when he saw Moses’ rod become a snake? He could no longer be neutral toward God, but when the Egyptian magicians duplicated what Moses did, “…the king’s heart grew hard” (Ex. 7:13). When Pharaoh saw the plague of the frogs he told Moses to remove the plague, and he would release the Jews, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the Lord had said” (Ex. 8:15). God did not force Pharaoh. The king hardened his own heart when confronted by God.
The same reaction was seen after the plague of flies, for “…Pharaoh hardened his heart” (Ex. 8:32). It was the same after the death of the cattle (Ex. 9:12). Read carefully what was said after the plague of hail. “He sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart” (Ex. 9:34). Confronted by the miracles he saw, God indeed hardened the king’s heart (Ex. 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27), but it was Pharaoh who made the decision!
So, what about God hardening your heart? Before you first confronted the Lord in your life, you were neutral, but that confrontation forced you to make a decision—you had to make a decision. If your heart was hardened, it was done because the Lord’s gospel forced you to make a decision, but it was you who made the choice.
You can remain neutral about the Fijian/Cook Islands problem the rest of your life, for it does not involve your life. However, the response to the Lord’s teaching will either cause your heart to grow more tender or grow harder. God will force you to make that decision. You cannot remain neutral!