Meditation on the Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart: a ground-level report

We are considering the good news of our salvation, as God teaches it to us through Paul in Romans.  There in Romans 9 we find that even Pharaoh (an ancient king of Egypt) is useful for magnifying this grace of God.  “The Scripture says to Pharaoh:  ‘For this very purpose I raised you up ~ to demonstrate My power in you, that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.’”  But it is most clear in Exodus that Pharaoh never had anything like saving faith in the God of Israel, and actually, he is the Bible’s ultimate illustration of one who was very hard against (hardened against) the true God.

Also in Exodus we see that this hardening was due to both the Lord’s good pleasure and Pharaoh’s stubborn rebellion (even as another Egypt-based story showed us that the selling of Joseph into slavery could be both a wicked scheme of his jealous brothers and the brilliant plan of his saving God).  But for these minutes of meditation I urge you to see that this Pharaoh (so distant from us in terms of time, miles, language, and culture) is exactly like us as a fallen, sinful person.  Although the Bible tells us clearly that God was involved in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, let us recognize that this divine truth gave Pharaoh no excuse for his own disobedient choices, nor did it make this king feel as if some external power was forcing him to act against the good things he really wanted to do.

Actually, there were many inputs and much counsel during that disastrous month for Pharaoh which should have moved this king to “do the right thing” (to let enslaved Israel go into their freedom) ~ if not out of reverence for the true God, then only to spare his land and people and treasury from absolute destruction.  We read that this was the plea of Pharaoh’s top advisors on more than a few occasions, and nearly ten times we witness this wicked man himself ‘coming to his senses,’ figuring it out, making arrangements with Moses (and thus with God) so that these terrible plagues would cease.  And yet, each time, Pharaoh changed his mind and came back to his hard stance against the people of God.

Our simple assignment here ~ in two minutes ~ is to consider why?!

In a way, the answer is very simple:  Pharaoh was an idolater!  Well, of course, the Egyptians of thousands of years ago were notorious for having many gods, and many images of those gods.  It is well known that the ten plagues (chosen by the true God) were ideally suited to shame the popular, powerless idols of Egypt (like the Nile River, cows, the shining sun, and even the next Pharaoh).  But I am referring to a deeper form of idol worship which continues to plague us today, even Christians, the kind which the Apostle John warns us against almost at the end of the New Testament (1 John 5:2) = “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”  I highly commend the book, Idols of the Heart, by Elyse Fitzpatrick, for grappling with this subject.  So here is where ancient Pharaoh and modern you and self-worshiping “I” are very much alike.

Briefly, in Pharaoh’s case, pertaining to that infamous month of heart-hardening which brought his nation to its grave, the idol of his heart (which he simply had to worship) was his insistence on being in charge ~ of Jewish slaves and of many thousands of Egyptian citizens too.  It was both ironic and tragic that we see in Pharaoh a self-worshiping king who would prefer that there not even be an Egypt if that nation would not bow to him and would not submit to all of his desires.  So there was after all a rationality to his irrationality.  How crazy, to make choices which over and over lead to your country’s demise ~ unless your higher goal is to have absolute obedience from everyone.  Concerning your little contest with the Lord Jesus Christ, are you saying:  “We will not have this Man to be King over us!”?