Pharoh's mummified heart 

Pharaoh hard heart
In our relationship with God, we are usually either moving closer to Him with greater openness, or moving away from him either slowly through distracted drifting or more quickly through hardening of our hearts (hardening of our hearts is probably best understood as becoming more set in our wills/ways - a stubbornness towards change that God might want).   The story of Moses and Pharoh gives us an insight into how this heart hardening can happen and thus help us to avoid it in our own lives.

Bible Verses Pharoh's story How that might work for us
Ex7:8-13 Pharoh asks for a miracle but then discounts it because the Egyptian magicians could  do a similar thing.  His refusal to listen and respond, harden's his heart. We get a message that may or may not be from God.  We ask for some confirmation but then we explain it away as just a natural event or coincidence.
Ex 7:14-24 The repeated message from God through Moses is immediately confirmed with an accompanying sign without Pharoh asking for it.  But when the magicians do something similar, he again refuses to listen and act, hardening his heart.  Then he also walks away back into the palace. We get the same word from God, maybe more strongly or clearly or with other confirmation.   But because of our first refusal  we are more inclined to explain it away and ignore it again.
Ex 8:1-15 The message comes from God a third time, again confirmed immediately by an even more dramatic sign - frogs.  Although the magicians could do a similar thing, the situation is more difficult.  Pharoh asks for Moses to pray that God would take the frogs away and promises that he will then obey the message.  Moses even gives Pharoh the chance to set the timeframe. But it is only an apparent change of heart.  When the frogs go and relief comes the apparent openness to God disappears and he refuses to listen to Moses and Aaron God speaks to us again with even clearer signs or difficult circumstances to get our attention.  While we might be able to explain the signs away, they are inconvenient and so we try and bargin with God - if you just take xyz away or make it easier then I will respond to your message.  Out of His grace, God may respond to our request.  This appears to be greater openness to God but in reality it is just a desire to avoid suffering or difficulty.  As soon as the difficulty eases, our apparent openness to God disappears and we become more set in our ways
Ex 8:16-19 God sends the sign of gnats.  This time the magicians couldn't replicate the gnats and they belatedly come to the realization that it is actually God.  They tell Pharoh this, but his heart was too hard and he wouldn't even listen to his own magicians. We might get to the point where those around us (even sceptical friends) might start to advise us that we should pay attention to God.  But once you start in a direction of hardening your heart, it can generate a momentum of it's own.
Ex 8:20-32 God tells Moses how to get access to Pharoh so Pharoh can here His message again.The subsequent plague of flies is so serious it catches Pharoh's attention.  He attempts to negotiate with Moses a reduction in what God was asking.  Moses explicitly warns him against changing his mind. But as soon as the flies are gone, Pharoh hardened his heart again. At this stage God may again get our attention with a more serious difficulty, but unlike the apparent full openness in the Ex 8:1-15 stage, this time we offer a partial apparent openness.  We say will will do part of what God is asking but again it is only to see the difficulty removed.
Ex 9:1-12:42 There are a series of escalating plagues and a continued refusing of Pharoh to respond.  In Ex 9:12 it actually says 'the Lord hardened Pharoh's heart.  Maybe God was saying - if you really want to harden your heart, let me help you.  After the last plague and much avoidable suffering, Pharoh eventually relents and lets the Israelites go. (but even then, later he changes his mind again and chases the Israelites!) We need to remember that God is Sovereign and His grand purposes (like the liberation of the Israelites) will eventually be accomplished maybe after much avoidable suffering and delay.  They will accomplished either with us or without us.  It seems God is gracious enough to give us that choice.

While Pharoh's story is sobering, we can:

  • learn from Pharoh's mistakes,

  • identify warning signs in our own lives so we can change direction, and

  • take hope from the fact that God gives plenty of opportunities for us to change our hearts and minds.

photo credit: King Tut Burial Mask via photopin (license) 

David Wanstall, 02/03/2016