Summary: The case, cause, caution & cure of a hardening heart.
A Hardening Heart
By David Moore, Pastor, Braehill Baptist Church, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Aim; To show how hardness of the heart develops, how God deals with it and how it can be rectified.
Text: Exodus 7:1-6
Introduction: From time immemorial one of the most difficult and debated of theological issues has surrounded the matter of God’s Sovereignty as opposed to man’s responsibility. In other words is salvation all of God to such an extent that man has no choice, or is it of man to the point that God has very little to do with it. Today we refer to this as the argument between Calvinism and Arminianism. Calvinism with its leaning upon the doctrines to the Reformer John Calvin teaches that a man is unconditionally elected and irresistible drawn to salvation. That he has no choice in the matter. Arminianism – which in my view is great heresy teaches. Armininans follow the teachings of Jacobus Arminius, a 16th century theologian and minister of the Dutch Reformed Church who opposed the strict Calvinist teaching on predestination. It has to be said that the modern philosophies to which these men gave their names are now much more extreme than either Calvin or Arminius ever envisaged.
As with most extremes the truth usually lies in between. Without the participation of God there can be no salvation. “Salvation belongeth unto the LORD.” (Psa 3:8) Yet withal, man has a responsibility in salvation to respond to God’s invitations. God can hardly judge a man for disobeying something he had no ability to obey, which is the argument of extreme Calvinism. Now, why I bring all this up is simply this – in our opening text we have a predictive statement. In verse 3 Moses is told by God “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 7:3) Now I say this statement is made on the basis of foreknowledge. God already knew that Pharaoh would not let the Israelites go. He has told Moses this several times, and the statement about hardening is based upon foreknowledge - God will at some point harden Pharaoh’s heart. Others will see this as foreordained. That God foreordained the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart so that the old king never stood a chance. He was doomed from the first. Friends, that is an indictment upon God. However, if we can learn one thing from this episode it is this, that every rejection of truth adds to a heart’s hardening, to the point that God Himself may harden the heart, and if God hardens the heart the sinner is damned beyond all hope.
I. The Case of A Hardened Heart
A. The case of Pharaoh is one of the most lucid cases of a hardened heart in all the Word of God.
1. It is interesting that 9 times are we told that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but also that 9 times we are told that Pharaoh hardened his own heart.
2. Whilst me take extreme positions in theology, you will find Scripture is always perfectly balanced.
3. Human responsibility couples with Divine Sovereignty in arriving at eternal choices.
a. Where one leaves off and the other begins it is hard to say, but both God and man are active in the process of salvation – not, I hasten to add that man adds anything to it of any merit, but that he chooses either to place his sinful souls at the mercy of God, or he rejects God and takes the consequences of his own sinful actions.
B. In all there are 18 references in the Bible to Pharaoh’s heart being hardened, and if we were to sit down and consider each one in turn this is what we would find;
1. The first two references in 4:21 and the one in our opening text state that God WILL HARDEN Pharaoh’s heart at some time in the future.
2. The next ten references, with the exception of one indicate that Pharaoh hardened HIS OWN heart.
3. Then the final six explicitly state that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
4. Sixteen times in all is Pharaoh faced with God’s demand, nine times he hardens his own heart and seven times God hardens his heart, but as the story progresses you begin to see that the initial hardening was Pharaoh’s that God only intervened after Pharaoh had chance after chance after chance to do the right thing.
a. You see here is the danger of constantly rejecting truth.
b. When the Word of God is preached God’s honour is at stake – either men will believe His word or not.
c. If they do not God’s integrity is insulted – it is as though that man or that woman steps right up and calls God a liar to his face.