The battle of the wills between Pharaoh and God begins a little like dueling banjos: first God performs a miracle through Moses and Aaron, then Pharaoh comes back with his magicians and does the same miracle…at least for a time. Soon the tricks up the sleeves of Pharaoh’s magicians run dry and Pharaoh begins to waffle.He relents, repents and releases the Israelites often—only to renig as soon as each plague clears up. Even the confession from his magicians that “This is the finger of God” does nothing to soften Pharaoh’s hard heart.
It would be almost comical if it weren’t so familiar. We will soon read that Israel, after gaining its freedom from Egypt, has just as hard of a time with hardness of heart. They seem almost bi-polar in the way they so easily and quickly turn from their miracle-working God to the gods made by human hands.
That hardness of heart remains within the Jews even when Jesus comes. Jesus quotes Isaiah words about them saying, “For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them” (Matt. 13:15).
And here’s where it all hits home: we all struggle with hard hearts. Our hardness of heart manifests itself in more subtle ways but it’s still there. Pharaoh and the Jews turned their backs on God’s display of power in plagues and pillars of fire and smoke (spoiler alert!). Later, the Jews hardened their hearts to the myriad of miracles from Jesus.
But us? We just save prayer as a last resort and an afterthought. We skip our Bible reading for days, weeks at a time. We only hang out with Christians when we have to.
These don’t make you right with God, but these are all to some measure tests of the heart. Do you love talking to him? Do you love his revealed word? Do you love his children? Take heed and take steps so that you will not be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Hebrews 3:12).
1. Based on what you know of Pharaoh and Israel’s hardness of heart, what might hardness of heart look like today in our cultures and our churches?
2. Can you remember a time when you felt your heart was hard toward God? What changed?
3. Read Hebrews 3:7-13. What does the author call the believers to do (and not do)? Why would a church or community group be essential in order to obey this? Do you feel like you have those sorts of close spiritual relationships?