We Are Our Own Worst god’s
12 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and just as the Lord had predicted to Moses, Pharaoh refused to listen.
You, like me, have probably read the story of Moses and Pharaoh in Exodus countless times and thought, wow. Why would God do that to Pharoah? On the surface it seems unfair and unjust. Why would a loving God cause anyone to harden their heart against His will unto destruction? Isn’t God’s core desire that we all would be saved and none would perish (2 Peter 3:9)? It would seem that Pharoah never had a chance for salvation if God hardened his heart against Him.
Without context, it’s easy to begin to believe that God unfairly picks on some people and shows favor to others. Though when we look closer at the text we can clearly see this is simply not true. Remember, God gave Pharoah at least 10 opportunities to repent and yield to His sovereign will. Yet Pharaoh refused, and instead chose to assume himself as the only god of the captive nation of Israel. So the problem clearly isn't that God didn't give Pharoah the chance for repentance and salvation. In fact, God gave more signs and opportunities for Pharaoh to repent than anyone could ask for. God did not predestine Pharaoh for destruction. If that were the case, there would be no reason for God to warn Pharaoh that his actions had consequences. Pharaoh is not an obstacle for God, at any moment God can smite Pharoah and instantly set Israel free. God had and has the ability to change history with just the breath of His lungs. But that’s not our God's nature. It’s grace for God to use Moses to warn Pharaoh. The problem for Pharaoh was himself and the environment he grew up within. Pharaoh had been raised and groomed from birth, to believe that he himself was almighty god. Thus he was unwilling to yield his glory or kingdom to another deity.
In ancient Egypt, Egyptians believed that their Pharaoh was a divine god that took on flesh and became human in order to graciously live in and rule over Egypt and the known world. Egypt had produced perverse counterfeits of Emmanuel to rule their nation for generations. From the time this Pharaoh could remember, he was trained to believe that he was a god in human form and that his privilege was divine. You can imagine why hearing there was another God who claimed to be the one true God was a hard pill for him to swallow. It also did not help to be in charge of a company of magicians that could counterfeit and mimic the power of God at Pharaoh’s command. Pharaoh had it ingrained into his heart and mind that there was no other god that could stand up to him and his personal sovereign will.
Even still, when we look closely at the Hebrew text in the passage above, it reveals more answers. ”But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart”, sounds like God made Pharaoh against God before he had the chance to decide. That’s the wrong way to read what is really written. The Hebrew word for “hardened" being used in this passage is “chazaq”. Chazaq means to strengthen, empower, to make resolute and prevail. The word for heart is “leb”, which means, inner man, heart, will, or understanding. A more simplified way to read God hardened Pharaoh's heart could be, “God galvanized what Pharaoh had already decided, and gave him the ability to stand strong in his decision”.
God hardening Pharaoh's heart was actually God giving Pharoah what He wanted, while simultaneously strengthening Pharoah to be able to withstand all he and his nation were enduring. In this way, God actually put the ball in Pharaoh's court throughout the entire story, and gave Pharaoh the autonomy to choose whatever outcome he most desired.
Despite this, the exodus was an unstoppable moment in time and demonstration of God’s will and glory being revealed on the earth through His people. It was what we call a "Kairos moment”, and instead of just destroying Pharaoh and all of Egypt in a moment, God used Pharoah’s extraordinary stubbornness and bad decisions to continue His plan and reveal Himself as “El Shaddai ''(God Almighty). Remember, from the first plague all the way to the moment he is engulfed by the Red Sea chasing Israel, God is always presenting the opportunity for Pharaoh to repent and generously asking Pharaoh to “Let His people go”. Just the idea that God would ask Pharoah to oblige, instead of just crushing him and all of Egypt in a moment, demonstrates God’s patient grace and desire for Pharaoh's repentance. Unfortunately for Pharaoh, he is never able to swallow his pride and lay down his pseudo-deity at the feet of our one true God.
Let this be a lesson for all of us. What we want for our own lives may not be what God has planned. Is it possible, without realizing it, we might allow our will and desire to stand in opposition to God? In our modern culture, all of us are groomed and raised to believe that we are our own god’s. Of course no one is actually worshiping you or obeying your every whim and command. Even still our culture has ingrained into us, to follow our own desires and inhibitions. Even at the expense of our souls. We focus our lives around self gratification. We demonize anything that stands in the way of what we want or believe to be best for ourselves. We celebrate our personal truths, and bow down to how we feel. This is not a new phenomenon. It’s the same pattern every godless society has ever followed since the fall of man in the garden. Society says worship self and so we do and we call it righteousness.
In this way, even when we come to salvation in knowing Jesus, we still have to begin the sanctifying process of painfully letting go of our own desires and will. This gives us the ability to be joined in the glory of Jesus’s perfect plan and will for our lives. God is so patient and kind, His prevenient grace is fashioned to sustain you and empower every step of your life (even while you're lost in sin) so that you may eventually come to him in humility and repentance. As it was with Pharoah, it’s only God’s sanctifying grace that can empower us to humble ourselves to the reality of who He is. It’s only through His grace that we are able to learn His ways are much higher than our ways. In essence we die to ourselves and the substandard life of serving self, in order to resurrect in Christ and inherit the abundant life of serving the Father. This is the battle most fail to fight. We think coming to know Jesus as God and being saved is enough. We refuse to allow ourselves to enter into the sanctification process and submission to His divine leadership, because we fear what we have to lose. Like Pharoah we can confuse our fleshly desires with God’s perfect will. Not because God has chosen for us not to know him, it’s because we have chosen to disregard who we are created to be in God. Unfortunately, as Pharaoh discovered this is a self destructive lifestyle, not only for ourselves but for the people around us. Like Moses we all need to receive and respond to God’s word. We must also learn to ask God to show us if there might be any hidden desire within us that is in conflict with what His Word has intended for our lives. This is always a painful process, but when we embrace His life wholly, He always reveals His love in greater ways through us.
This has been my prayer as we read about the self inflicted destruction of Pharaoh..
Jesus, help me to let go of things I want, that stand in opposition to what You're doing. Thank you for Your grace that sustains and empowers me to crucify my flesh and live in your divine Word. Show me the desires within me that are robbing me of knowing your love even more. Position my life to reveal your Glory to the world around me. Amen.