The Danger of a Hardened Heart

Posted: October 25, 2018 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 9-10, “The Danger of a Hardened Heart”

It’s been often said that the first rule to getting out of a hole is to stop digging. If you find yourself in trouble, stop doing what it is that caused you to get into trouble in the first place: turn the car in the opposite direction, stop spending money on wasteful things, stop engaging in harmful habits, etc. Just stop, and then figure out what comes next. 

The problem is, we don’t always want to stop. At a certain point, our pride kicks in and we think we can just push through. That might work on occasions (such as sudden pain during a race), but there are almost always consequences that follow (physical damage and prolonged healing time). Other times, it doesn’t work at all, and it can lead to dire results. (Ignore chest pain, and you might end up dead of a heart attack!)

Such was the case with Pharaoh. He got himself into a bad situation, a pretty deep hole – but instead of stopping what he was doing, he kept digging. At any moment he could have humbled himself and repented towards God; instead he doubled down on his sin and continued to lead himself and his nation to destruction.

Remember the context: After 400 years of slavery, God raised up Moses as a deliverer to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, returning them to the homeland promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Despite having the word of God given to him, and miracles of God shown to him, the Pharaoh despised Moses and the Lord God. Pharaoh not only refused to recognize YHWH as God, but he also refused to allow the people of YHWH to leave Egypt.

That’s when the plagues began. First there was the water of the Nile river turning to blood (becoming blood no matter if it was in the river, or in buckets on land). Then there were frogs – so many that they infested the ovens and beds of the people. This was followed by a massive outbreak of lice/gnats, as if the sand of the desert had come to life – and followed again by swarms of nasty, biting flies (though only on the people of Egypt; the Hebrews were spared). As time went on, the severity of each of the plagues increased, and through each event, Pharaoh hardened his heart exactly as God said that he would (7:3).

Pharaoh’s hardened heart would continue to get him into trouble. God had been merciful with all of the many opportunities He gave to Pharaoh to repent, but Pharaoh simply refused to do it. Pharaoh’s heart was filled with pride, being convinced he could somehow outlast the infinite God. It can’t be done! Things would get far worse for Pharaoh before he finally learned his lesson.

Don’t be too proud to stop before God! The more you resist God, the harder your heart becomes, and the more you want to resist God…all the while piling up more judgment upon yourself. All it takes is one single lasting moment of repentant faith…but that comes through brokenness; not pride. Hardened hearts are proud hearts, and pride kills.

Exodus 9

  • Plague #5: Animals diseased (9:1-7)

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 2 For if you refuse to let them go, and still hold them, 3 behold, the hand of the LORD will be on your cattle in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the oxen, and on the sheep—a very severe pestilence.

  1. Starts with the same pattern as has been seen with the other plagues: God’s name, God’s command, and God’s warning.
  2. God’s name: YHWH Elohim of the Hebrews. Remember that the Egyptians worshipped a large pantheon of false gods, Pharaoh himself being considered divine. For Moses to give a message in the name of God, Moses needed to be very specific as to which God (who is the only God). He is “I AM, Creator God of heaven and earth, the God who chose the descendants of Abraham as His own people.” With that kind of name, there could be no mistake!
    1. In our own culture, it is becoming increasingly important that we are specific about the God we serve. The word “god” is used so generically that it can refer to any higher being of any person’s imagination (if not the person himself!). We too, can (and should) use how God has revealed Himself to us to identify Him to others. How did He reveal Himself to us? Through the person of Jesus Christ! Jesus is the image of God, the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15) – He is the Word of God (Jn 1:1) – the one who has seen Jesus as seen the Father (Jn 14:9). When you witness, be specific regarding of Whom you witness!
  3. God’s command: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.” From the very beginning words to Pharaoh, this is the repeated command: the Hebrews were to be released to serve & worship God. The Hebrews did not belong to Pharaoh; they belonged to YHWH. They were His people, and He had a purpose for them.
    1. Just as we are His people today, and He has a purpose for us: to make disciples of all the nations, and to declare the praises of God!
  4. God’s warning: “if you refuse…” Anytime that Moses announced a plague to Pharaoh (which wasn’t every time), God always gave Pharaoh the opportunity to obey. None of the plagues had to come – any one (or all!) of them could have been avoided if Pharaoh had heeded the command of God. He did not, so there were consequences. It was a classic if/then statement: “Free the people, but if not, face the judgment.” Sadly, Pharaoh consistently chose to face the judgment.
    1. So do far too many people today! They have the opportunity to repent; they just don’t take it. (Don’t miss your opportunity!)
  5. The actual plague: pestilence/disease upon the livestock animals. Some have suggested that it was an outbreak of anthrax due to all of the dead decaying frogs, lice, and swarms of flies. Speculation is rather futile, and it takes away from the obvious and purposeful supernatural aspect of the plague. The fact is that this plague was sent by God, upon the livestock, and the humans were unaffected. If this were a natural (though dangerous) epidemic, why weren’t the people infected – why did only the animals die? Natural explanations fall short. This was undoubtedly a work of God.
    1. BTW: Why the animals? Why should all of the livestock of Egypt die due to the sin of Pharaoh? This is just part of the cruelty of sin. Sin always has unintended consequences…always. There’s no such thing as a “victimless” sin. What one person does always ripples out to someone else. In this case, the innocent animals of Egypt bore the brunt of the punishment due to Pharaoh. Obviously, it was better that the livestock be diseased than the people, but they were still innocent victims of Pharaoh’s sin.

4 And the LORD will make a difference between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt. So nothing shall die of all that belongs to the children of Israel.” ’ ”

  1. As with the swarms of biting flies, there would be a distinction between the Hebrew & Egyptian livestock. This is not the case every time, but often God determined to show mercy to His people, while the fateful judgment fell upon Egypt. It would be one more factor declaring that the judgment was a supernatural work of God; not a simple (albeit devastating) natural disaster.
  2. Does God always shelter us from the judgment He pours out on the nations? Sometimes He does, but many times He does not. (Just ask born-again Christians living in persecuted lands today.) Even during the Great Tribulation although the church will be raptured away from the terrible judgments to come on the earth, there will still be men & women coming to faith during that time, and they will need to endure. Even so, does God “make a difference” between us and the rest of the world? Absolutely, yes! We are His children – we are indwelled by the Spirit – we are His ambassadors to the world. He always makes a distinction between us and the world!

5 Then the LORD appointed a set time, saying, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing in the land.” 6 So the LORD did this thing on the next day, and all the livestock of Egypt died; but of the livestock of the children of Israel, not one died.

  1. Note: Even in this proclamation of judgment, God gave Pharaoh a window of opportunity to repent. Pharaoh had the time from the announcement of Moses & Aaron until the next day to make a decision. “Tomorrow the LORD will do this thing.” At any time during those hours, Pharaoh could have humbled himself and come to his senses. Sadly, he didn’t do it. He wasted his opportunity to be saved. (Don’t waste yours!)
  2. Just as God warned, there was a massive death-toll of animals the next day. Some have criticized the statement that “all the livestock of Egypt died,” considering that animals are seen in Egypt during the later plagues. There are explanations for the other animals (as we’ll see); the bigger problem is why so many people are willing to water down the word of God at the first potential difficulty. When there is a question, always give the Bible the benefit of the doubt. What God inspired to be written is not going to be mistaken. It might be misinterpreted, misapplied, etc., but it will never be incorrect. God, being God, is fully capable of diseasing every livestock animal among the ancient Egyptians, while keeping the Hebrew livestock alive and healthy. Unless there is clear reason to believe otherwise, we should believe the Bible at its word.

7 Then Pharaoh sent, and indeed, not even one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh became hard, and he did not let the people go.

  1. Pharaoh hardened his heart. He had heard the warning, and he saw the results, and it meant nothing to him. Although God clearly worked in his midst, Pharaoh was unwilling to humble himself & instead continued to harden his heart, just as he had done many times before.
  2. What does it mean to have a hard heart? It is to have a “heavy” heart. Like a stone, the hard heart sinks in selfishness, stubbornness, and sin. The word used here is the same root that in other grammatical contexts & constructions is sometimes used for “chabod,” or the weighty honor & glory of God. What’s the difference between hard stubbornness and weighty honor? It’s whether one serves oneself or serves the Living God!
    1. Serve the Lord! Get your eyes off of yourself & onto the Risen Christ Jesus! Stop resisting the conviction of the Holy Spirit in your life – stop hardening your own heart. Make the choice to humble yourself & repent!
  • Plague #6: Boils (9:8-12)

8 So the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take for yourselves handfuls of ashes from a furnace, and let Moses scatter it toward the heavens in the sight of Pharaoh. 9 And it will become fine dust in all the land of Egypt, and it will cause boils that break out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.”

  1. Notice there was no warning with this plague. This was the 3rd plague in the 2nd cycle, and every 3rd plague was a judgment. God simply gave instructions to Moses, and Moses acted in obedience.
  2. This particular judgment: boils. It may have been similar to what was experienced by Job in his suffering. Job 2:7–8, “(7) So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. (8) And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes.” Imagine being covered in burning blisters all over your body, like bad reactions from poison ivy that bubble up into large boils. It would have been awful for everyone who experienced it!
    1. FYI, there is also a potential parallel to the 1st bowl judgment of Revelation, the loathsome sores (Rev 16:2). What was seen and experienced in Egypt may one day be experienced again on a world-wide scale. 
  3. Note: They were to appear on “man and beast.” Question: if all of the Egyptian livestock died in the 5th plague, where did the animals come from in the 6th plague? There are varying explanations: (1) “All” the Egyptian livestock might refer to all in a certain geographic area in Egypt, or, more likely (2) The Egyptians acquired more livestock as replacements. Perhaps they purchased them from Cush/Ethiopia, or perhaps they simply took some of the Hebrew livestock for themselves. Considering that animal livestock is crucial for an agricultural economy to survive, it seems unlikely that they would have gone too long without finding some source of animals for themselves.
    1. The better question isn’t where the animals came from; it’s why the Egyptians didn’t sooner rise up to Pharaoh demanding his repentance towards God! Pharaoh may have been the absolute ruler in Egypt, worshipped as a god by his people, but every nation has a breaking point. The Egyptians waited an absurdly long time before trying to convince Pharaoh to repent.

10 Then they took ashes from the furnace and stood before Pharaoh, and Moses scattered them toward heaven. And they caused boils that break out in sores on man and beast. 11 And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians and on all the Egyptians.

  1. Why the ashes? God didn’t “need” ashes for the miracle; this was a symbol, and a step of faith for Moses. Some have speculated that the ashes came from one of the furnaces used to bake the bricks. If so, it would have been a powerful symbol of the abusive slavery of the Hebrews by the Egyptians being turned against them.
  2. Interestingly, no distinction between Hebrew and Egyptian is listed. Perhaps there is an implied distinction in verse 11 regarding the boils being on “the magicians and on all the Egyptians.” (No Hebrews mentioned.) That the magicians were affected was significant. Earlier, they seemed to duplicate (to a lesser extent) some of the effects of the plagues, although they were unable to remove them or offer any relief. Later, they were unable to duplicate anything, and were found ineffective. Now, they were harmed by the plague of God, coming under direct attack just like all the other Egyptians. Step by step, God revealed the Egyptian magicians to be utter frauds and they were totally defeated.
    1. False gods & false religions are just that: false!

12 But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.

  1. For the first time in the series of the plagues, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Earlier, God said that this would be His work (Exo 7:3), but it took six of the nine primary plagues for it to happen. For five of the plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart; finally God is specifically spoken of doing the hardening.
  2. Does God have the right to harden? Yes, without question. (Rom 9:18-21) He is the Potter; we are the clay. He has the right to do whatever He wants with His creation. Is God unjust in His hardening? Absolutely not. Again, Pharaoh hardened his own heart five previous times (and does so again with the seventh plague). Pharaoh was responsible for his own sin & stubbornness.
    1. Although we sometimes have difficulty reconciling the sovereignty of God & the responsibility of man, the Bible has no such difficulty. We see those things as polar opposites; the Bible portrays them hand-in-hand. God cannot be blamed for our sin & lack of repentance. If someone chooses to reject Christ, he/she bears their own sin because it was his/her responsibility to repent.
    2. The point? Make the choice to repent! Stop blaming God (or Satan, or anyone else) for your bad choices – those are yours alone. The only thing stopping you from experiencing the mercy & grace of God is a refusal to repent. You’re digging your own hole…stop digging!
  • Plague #7: Hail & fire (9:13-35)

13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me, 14 for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth.

  1. The next plague starts with the same pattern, but gives a harsher warning: “I will send all My plagues to your very heart.” The severity increases, and Pharaoh will be personally affected. The extent of which, he cannot yet imagine…the final 10th plague will take his own firstborn son. Again, God was giving Pharaoh repeated opportunities to repent – Pharaoh just wouldn’t do it.
  2. God also gives part of the purpose for the plagues: so that Pharaoh would recognize YHWH as God. Remember when Moses first approached Pharaoh with God’s demand for Hebrew freedom, and Pharaoh flatly turned him down. Exodus 5:2, “And Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.”” Then, Pharaoh did not recognize the Lord; now God declares that is precisely what the plagues would force Pharaoh to do. Each one of the plagues was an additional testimony of the reality of YHWH, God of the Hebrews.
  3. The purposes continue…

15 Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. 17 As yet you exalt yourself against My people in that you will not let them go.

  1. The plagues were God’s mercy. God could have killed Pharaoh instantly, but He didn’t. He allowed Pharaoh to live through each and every one of these events, giving him opportunity after opportunity to repent.
  2. The plagues were God’s testimony. The whole world would see what God did in Egypt, and they would fear the God of the Hebrews. And it worked! Forty years later, when Joshua finally led the people into the Promised Land, the city of Jericho was terrified of the Hebrews, in part because of what the Lord did to the Egyptians at the Red Sea (Josh 2:10). There may not have been mass media in those days, but news of the miracles of God travelled fast!
  3. The plagues could have been temporary. The reason they continued was a direct result of Pharaoh’s pride. Pharaoh exalted himself rather than God. Not only did God use the plagues to witness to Pharaoh, but God used them to humble Pharaoh. Eventually that hardened heart would be broken, though it would take massive death and judgment before it happened.
    1. Clay can be reshaped in two ways: when it’s soft, it can be molded; after it’s fired & hardened, it must be broken. Keep your heart softened!

18 Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to rain down, such as has not been in Egypt since its founding until now. 19 Therefore send now and gather your livestock and all that you have in the field, for the hail shall come down on every man and every animal which is found in the field and is not brought home; and they shall die.” ’ ” 20 He who feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his livestock flee to the houses. 21 But he who did not regard the word of the LORD left his servants and his livestock in the field.

  1. Strict warning of imminent death
  2. Everyone had the chance to believe, and respond.

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt—on man, on beast, and on every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt.” 23 And Moses stretched out his rod toward heaven; and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire darted to the ground. And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt. 24 So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, so very heavy that there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation.

  1. Massive hail & fire rained down on Egypt.
  2. For all the various speculations of how some of the previous plagues could have come about through natural means, there is no natural explanation of this possible. Hail, perhaps…but not fire. Likewise, there’s no foundation to write off the “fire” as mere lightning that accompanied a violent storm (as both the NIV & HCSB translates it). There is a difference between the Hebrew words for “lightning,” (בָּרָק) and “fire,” (אֵשׁ) and it is the word for “fire” used here.
    1. Beware of those who try to write off the supernatural in the Scripture! Were it not for the supernatural interaction of Almighty God, none of us would be saved!
  3. Unique in Egypt. Unique in history. Not unique in the future! Revelation 8:7, “The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. And a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up.” It will happen again, but on a scale heretofore unseen by the world!

25 And the hail struck throughout the whole land of Egypt, all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail struck every herb of the field and broke every tree of the field. 26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, there was no hail.

  1. Again, massive death toll. Anyone (human or animal) in the open, died.
  2. Again, a distinction was made between the Hebrews and Egyptians.

27 And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. 28 Entreat the LORD, that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.”

  1. Pharaoh actually admitted some sin, but only some. “I have sinned this time.” What about all the other times?! His hard heart prevented him from seeing the full scope of his sins. He confessed God’s righteousness and begged for mercy, but he wasn’t surrendering himself into God’s hand. Thus, this wasn’t a change of heart for Pharaoh. Although it seemed that he humbled his heart, he didn’t. Even as he begged for mercy from God, Pharaoh lied (and Moses knew it).

29 So Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. 30 But as for you and your servants, I know that you will not yet fear the LORD God.”

  1. Moses agreed to act, knowing that even the cessation of the hail was a witness to God.
  2. Even so, he knew the truth of Pharaoh’s heart, that Pharaoh was lying. Pharaoh did “not yet fear the LORD God.

31 Now the flax and the barley were struck, for the barley was in the head and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the spelt were not struck, for they are late crops.

  1. Spring crops destroyed; fall crops unaffected.

33 So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and spread out his hands to the LORD; then the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain was not poured on the earth. 34 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 So the heart of Pharaoh was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

  1. True to his word, Moses acted in faith, and God’s power was evident in the relief from the plague.
  2. Sadly, it made no impact on Pharaoh. Once out of danger, “he hardened his heart” and changed his mind. And it wasn’t just Pharaoh. Even his servants hardened their hearts!
    1. Just like faith can be contagious, so can rebellion. Be mindful of the influence you have on others!

Exodus 10

  • Plague #8: Locusts (10:1-20)

1 Now the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son’s son the mighty things I have done in Egypt, and My signs which I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

  1. Question: Who did the work of hardening Pharaoh’s heart: Pharaoh or the Lord God? Both! Here, God spoke of His own work – and it wasn’t just with Pharaoh, but with Pharaoh’s servants. They were in a similar position as their king, first hardening their heart and then God confirming their terrible choice.
  2. God also gave another reason for Pharaoh’s hardened heart and the plagues: as signs to Israel. In Exodus 9:14, God said the plagues were witnesses to Pharaoh – in 9:16, God said the plagues were witnesses to the world; in 10:2, God says that the plagues are witnesses to the Hebrews. The Hebrews needed to know the power of God – they needed to understand His holy justice & His might – they needed to know to what extent God would go to keep His promises. All of that can be seen in the plagues.
    1. Look around and see the work of God! How far will He go? To the cross & resurrection!

3 So Moses and Aaron came in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? …

  1. However Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, the ultimate issue was pride. He consistently refused to humble himself before God.

… Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 4 Or else, if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. 5 And they shall cover the face of the earth, so that no one will be able to see the earth; and they shall eat the residue of what is left, which remains to you from the hail, and they shall eat every tree which grows up for you out of the field. 6 They shall fill your houses, the houses of all your servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians—which neither your fathers nor your fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were on the earth to this day.’ ” And he turned and went out from Pharaoh.

  1. This was Pharaoh’s last chance before the locusts came. Egypt’s agricultural economy was already devastated – this would be a knockout blow. The locusts would destroy anything remaining. How bad would it be? The locusts would be unavoidable and undeniable.
  2. There’s an interesting change/addition to this particular plague account: a little extra note at the end of verse 6 that Moses gave God’s warning, and left. The implication is that Moses didn’t stick around waiting for an answer. He already knew what Pharaoh’s response would be, so he left.
    1. Notice that didn’t stop Moses from delivering the message! Even though he knew Pharaoh’s heart was hard – even though he knew Pharaoh was a liar deserving of God’s judgment – Moses was still faithful, delivering the message from God exactly as God instructed him to do.

7 Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet know that Egypt is destroyed?”

  1. Even the servants begged Pharaoh to relent! They saw what Pharaoh refused to see – what his hard heart had blinded it from. 
  2. And Pharaoh listened! At least partly, as he called for Moses and Aaron to return. 

8 So Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh, and he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. Who are the ones that are going?” 9 And Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” 10 Then he said to them, “The LORD had better be with you when I let you and your little ones go! Beware, for evil is ahead of you. 11 Not so! Go now, you who are men, and serve the LORD, for that is what you desired.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.

  1. Although Moses’ request was reasonable, Pharaoh denied it, insulting Moses in the process. He questioned Moses’ manhood & ejected he & Aaron from the Egyptian court.
  2. This is the danger of pride! Pharaoh was so close to experiencing peace and relief from the plagues, but his pride wouldn’t allow him to admit defeat.

12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come upon the land of Egypt, and eat every herb of the land—all that the hail has left.” 13 So Moses stretched out his rod over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind on the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts. 14 And the locusts went up over all the land of Egypt and rested on all the territory of Egypt. They were very severe; previously there had been no such locusts as they, nor shall there be such after them. 15 For they covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every herb of the land and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left. So there remained nothing green on the trees or on the plants of the field throughout all the land of Egypt.

  1. Pharaoh’s last encounter with Moses had sealed his judgment from God, and it came forth strong! A supernatural swarm of locusts totally destroyed the land. Nothing like this had ever happened before. The Egyptians had seen locust swarms in the past, but this was unnaturally thick.
  2. How bad was it? Verse 14 said that “They were very severe,” the word “severe” being the same word used earlier to refer to Pharaoh’s hard heart. It might be translated, “They were very heavy / very weighty.” What a response to Pharaoh! As hard has his heart was, so was the severity of the swarm of locusts upon his land!

16 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste, and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. 17 Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and entreat the LORD your God, that He may take away from me this death only.”

  1. Was Pharaoh ready to admit defeat? His response was similar to that with the fiery hail. On the surface, he seems as if he’s ready to be humble, but upon a closer look, he wasn’t. Notice that Pharaoh was blinded to the extent of his sin. He wanted forgiveness “this once,” and to have “this death only” taken away – as if he had only sinned the one time.
  2. True confession is utter openness with God. It’s agreeing that our sin is truly sinful, separating us from Him in rebellion. It’s no excuses, no holds-barred, no conditions. If we’re not willing to do that, then we’re still holding onto pride. 

18 So he went out from Pharaoh and entreated the LORD.

  1. Notice how Moses was merciful every time Pharaoh asked. Moses was under no obligation to pray on Pharaoh’s behalf. He had been commissioned to speak for God; not Pharaoh. Yet he did it anyway. Moses was an intercessor to someone who didn’t deserve intercession.

19 And the LORD turned a very strong west wind, which took the locusts away and blew them into the Red Sea. There remained not one locust in all the territory of Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the children of Israel go.

  1. More hardening…this time it was the Lord God who did it to Pharaoh. Once again, God confirmed the choices Pharaoh made for himself already.
  • Plague #9: Darkness (10:21-29)

21 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, darkness which may even be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another; nor did anyone rise from his place for three days. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.

  1. This was the final plague of the final cycle of plagues, thus it was a judgment plague given without warning. “This plague is comparable to the silence in heaven, just prior to the last and terrible plague (Rev 8:1),” (NET Bible).
  2. Darkness might not seem so bad. But consider the extent of the darkness. How bad must it have been, for the thick darkness to be “felt”? Have you ever been in a cavern when the lights are turned out & it become pitch-dark? It’s a scary thing when you can’t see your hand right in front of your face, and you know your eyes will not adjust. That’s a darkness you can feel – perhaps not physically, but viscerally. That was what came upon the land of Egypt (though not upon the land of Goshen). God gave palpable darkness to the Egyptians, while He gave light to the children of Israel.
  3. Ultimately, this was a direct hit on the most revered false god of Egypt: Ra, the sun god. This was the chief god in their pantheon, and he was shown to be powerless in the face of YHWH. God is the only God!

24 Then Pharaoh called to Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be kept back. Let your little ones also go with you.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also give us sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. 26 Our livestock also shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind. For we must take some of them to serve the LORD our God, and even we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.”

  1. At first glance, it seems that Pharaoh is ready to admit defeat. He gave limited permission to Israel.
  2. Moses didn’t accept it. Why not? He knew better! He knew what God had commanded of him, and what to expect. He wasn’t about to settle for less.

27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me! Take heed to yourself and see my face no more! For in the day you see my face you shall die!” 29 So Moses said, “You have spoken well. I will never see your face again.”

  1. God may have hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but Pharaoh’s anger was his own. Every word Pharaoh spoke, and every reaction he had was his own choice. He made some very poor choices along the way! (Just like us!)
  2. Sadly, Pharaoh was closing himself off from any opportunity to hear of God’s mercy & grace, cutting himself off from every opportunity to repent. He demanded Moses leave and never see his face – but Moses was the only one who could intercede to God on his behalf. Like the man or woman who turns away from Jesus (our only hope), so did Pharaoh turn away from Moses (his only hope). People need a Mediator between us & God, and there is only one Mediator offered to us today: Jesus! Don’t turn away from Him!

Conclusion:

Hardened hearts are dangerous! Hearts become hard due to proud rebellion against God, and pride kills. It’s always been that way. Satan became proud, and desired to be in the place of God, only to be cast down out of heaven. Adam and Eve were tempted through their pride to know as much as God, only to fall from grace and be cast out of the Garden of Eden. Pride is not only the downfall of obviously sinful people like Pharaoh; it’s the downfall of all of us.

For Christians, it can be difficult to see how the pride of Pharaoh relates to us. It shouldn’t be! In the first place, at one point we were all like Pharaoh, exalting ourselves above God, rebelling against His every command. Though He graciously gave us many opportunities to repent, we didn’t. Instead, we dug in our heels against Him, and He had to bring us to the point of breaking or to some other point where He could no longer be denied. (Some of you might still be at that point today!) The good news is that once we did humble ourselves before Jesus, repenting of our sin & believing upon Him, that’s when He saved us by His grace. Thus, we can look on Pharaoh & thank God that He saved us out of that place!

At the same time, pride isn’t something that only affects the reprobate. Each one of us, even as born-again Christians, can sink into the quicksand of proud, hardened hearts. Yes, we initially repented & placed our faith in Christ, but we found other areas of our lives that we weren’t ready to surrender to God. We had things pop up along the way that we kept for our own, being unwilling to give to Jesus – being unwilling to obey what the Scripture tells us to do with them. We’ve nursed our grudges, neglected to serve others, made ourselves our priority, etc. By refusing to give those things over to the Lord, we’ve opened the door to hardened hearts. Beware! That won’t lead to ultimate judgment, but it will lead to God’s firm discipline. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble,” (Jas 4:6) That truth never changes, even for believers in Christ.

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