That Isn’t a Toy!

That Isn’t a Toy!

Here is a sobering thought that ought to humble us: God will receive glory either through our soft hearts or our hard hearts. Again and again in the Exodus narrative, God reminds Israel and Egypt that he is sovereign over the events and even Pharaoh’s heart, and it is all for his glory. Before the climactic events where God leads Israel through the Red Sea and destroys the Pharaoh and his armies, God says, “And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen” (Ex. 14:17-18).

“That isn’t a toy!” parents warn a child playing with a knife or a hammer.

Pharaoh thought he could play a game with God and win. He lost.

Your heart is not a toy.

The story of God’s battle with Pharaoh in the book of Exodus is the story of the consequences of a hardened heart. It’s the story of someone who thought they could toy with God and with their heart. We cannot.

In the first five plagues, Pharaoh’s hardens his heart three times and his heart “is hardened” (it’s ambiguous who is doing the hardening) twice. Over the course of the final five plagues, Pharaoh actively hardens his heart once, his heart “is hardened” once, and three times God hardens his heart (see chart below). Pharaoh thinks he is in control of the his circumstances and his heart. He isn’t.

The consequences are disastrous. The result of his hardness of heart is the loss of his son’s life, his own life, and the devastation of his nation. The stakes over the hardness of our own hearts are (spiritually speaking) no less.

We might chalk up Pharaoh’s hardness of heart to his pagan worship. Pharaoh worships false gods, after all. But right beliefs do not prevent us from the dangers of a hardened heart. We can care about religious things but be calloused to God. Our religious convictions can even multiply the hardening of our hearts. When those at the synagogue were trying to catch Jesus healing on the Sabbath “so they might accuse him,” Jesus asked, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?”

Those listening couldn’t get past their religious convictions that the answer was no, even with a man with a withered hand right in front of them. They met Jesus’ question with silence. Jesus “looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 3:5).

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