Ralph's Daily Devotional - Friday, June 15

At the burning bush, God shares His foreknowledge, saying, "I know the king of Egypt will let you go only because of a greater might."  Sarma concludes, "The obvious implication here is pharaoh is possessed of a ruthless and stubborn character, devoid of all compassion.  He will eventually yield, but reluctantly, and only under compulsion of an overwhelming force."  But then a seemingly contradictory statement arises with God, hardening the heart of pharaoh ostensibly and making God the blame for his evil.

In the Bible, the state of the heart defines the character of a person.  To be hardened in heart is to lose the ability to be open to the possibility of repentance and a change for the good, and to become numb to the point of entering a state of moral atrophy.  The pharisees, we are told, "grieved and angered Jesus for their hardness of heart."

Between chapters 4 and 14, hardness of heart appears 20 times, and is cleanly divided in two between God's hardening of pharaoh ten times and pharaoh himself hardening his heart ten times.  Interestingly, the first 5 plagues are exclusively due to his own hardening of heart.  Only in the sixth plague and forward do we see divine intervention on God's part in hardening the heart of pharaoh.  We see this principal at work again in Romans 1:18-25 where God's response comes only after people in hardness reject whatever light they have.

Clearly, pharaoh is not an innocent victim.  Neither is God guilty of unjust retribution and subversive motives.  Rather, what pharaoh initiates God progressively culminates.  He will use such hardness for His own end and glory.  Pharaohs were looked upon as gods.  Their word was absolute and intractable.  By making himself a law that cannot be broken, pharaoh's own words, "I will not," become in the end the very means to his own doom.  In the end, predestination involves a moral choice and not simply a fatalistic divine decree.

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