As we read through the Old Testament, we encounter many villians. Out of the Garden of Eden grew evil individuals, but when wickedness overcame rulers and people with power, entire empires became subject to the tyranny of wicked hearts. There was perhaps no greater demonstration of this than Pharaoh of Egypt, who held God’s people captive and kept them as slaves for hundreds of years. Under his dominion, the Jews were building pyramids and doing hard labor in the heat of the desert, day after day. Clearly, Pharaoh felt untouchable in his power, so when Moses emerged as an unlikely spokesperson for the Jewish people, he didn’t think too much of it. Although he was warned of plagues and curses, his ego kept him high and mighty with a heart that was infinitely hard.
That said, I believe it’s significant to look more specifically at the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart because there’s a progression as to who made it that way. After the first five plagues that God brought upon the Egyptians, the king either hardened his own heart or it was kind of passively hardened. On the contrary, when we get to the sixth curse, we see that the Lord hardened his heart. He gets one more chance after the seventh, but again, Pharaoh chooses to harden his own heart, and from that point on, God does the hardening. Why the discrepancies here? I believe it’s because the Lord loved this king, as evil as he was, and even though he murdered, tortured, dominated, conquered and enslaved, his Maker was still chasing after him in hopes that he might repent. Unfortunately, with each plague, Pharaoh became angrier and angrier until he no longer had the choice to turn and do the right thing; he gave himself over and the Lord hardened his heart because he was so entrenched in evil.
Friend, have you ever had a hard heart? Has the soil of your soul been stepped on and trampled? If so, I want to encourage you with the truth that God cares for you. The same Lord, who in His infinite mercy gave Pharaoh ten chances to get it right, has not given up on you. Even if your life is steeped in wickedness or you have repeatedly rejected the One who made you, His Hand is still outstretched. I encourage you today to reach out Jesus and allow Him to saturate your heart with the wonder of His love and goodness. As you do, He will melt walls of anger, doubt, and fear, and replace them with Heavenly rest and trust. Isn’t that wonderful news?