Why I’m Thankful God Hardens Hearts (I Know, Surprising)

“As the LORD had said,” is the last five words of verse 13. It refers to the LORD’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. And is the closing refrain to the hold-your-breath second encounter between Moses, Aaron, and Pharaoh. The one where they obediently did just as God commanded, throwing Aaron’s staff to the ground so it could miraculously turn into a serpent and prove their legitimacy.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 7:8-13
Key Verse: “Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.” Exodus 7:13


It’s a phrase we’re good with when it frames instances such as the birth of Isaac or the fulfilling of covenant promises. But when it’s attached to something like the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, we squirm. Causing at least me (and I’m thinkin’ a few others) to question the inevitable truths pouring fourth from its reality.

Did God really harden Pharaoh’s heart? Or did he just predict it? I’d like to think he just predicted it, but there’s no denying God had something to do with it. In Exodus 7:3 God tells Moses, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.” (Sounds pretty cut and dry if you ask me.)

And so with Aaron’s staff turned serpent slithering about the room, Pharaoh called for backup. His magicians, Jannes and Jambres, according to 2 Timothy 3:8, were able to mimic the same miracle without much effort. “For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents” (v. 12).

Taking the hissing slithering snake count from zero to three in a hurry. These were no garden snakes either. The Hebrew word used here for serpent is tannin which can also be used to refer to large reptiles like crocodiles. A possibility I wouldn’t rule out seeing as it was Egypt and not some place like Ohio. But the same Hebrew word is used in Deuteronomy 32:33 to refer to venomous snakes – something along the lines of a cobra.

Which is the direction I’m leaning for several reasons.

#1 The Bible says serpent. (So let’s not complicate things).

#2 The serpent was the symbol used by Egyptian Pharaohs to signify their sovereign, fierce, and undisputed power, typically displayed on a headdress they wore. (So I just think it makes sense.)

#3 This wasn’t just a diplomatic get together or a quarrel among men. But a spiritual battle of epic proportions against Satan, the ancient serpent (Rev. 12:9), who stood no chance of winning against the one and only Almighty God. Exemplified for everyone in the room when Aaron’s staff turned serpent easily swallowed the serpents of Pharaoh’s magicians. (Spoiler alert: Jesus wins.)

(And thus ends my three-part thesis as to why I’m going with snakes and not crocodiles. You can thank me later.)

I’m guessing tensions mounted quickly when the count went from one to three venomous snakes. Did anyone panic?  Did the guards flee? Were Moses and Aaron a bit taken back? I can’t help but wonder how long it took before Aaron’s staff swallowed theirs? Seconds? Minutes? Was it loud? Swift?

Inhaling for the first time in who knows how long, I’d have had a hard time not exhaling a big fat “What up now Pharaoh?”

But it wouldn’t have mattered. Pharaoh’s heart was hard, as the LORD had said, not only prior to this encounter, but all the way back in Midian when God told Moses, “But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go” (Ex. 4:21). A theme we’re going to see mentioned another 16 times before we’re out of Egypt. So apparently, it’s something God wants us to pay attention to.

But why? Doesn’t it put God in a bad light? If God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, isn’t he the one responsible for Pharaoh’s sin?

Some explain the concept away by saying Pharaoh’s heart was already hard. God knew what was in his heart (which is true), so he just went ahead and made sure it stayed hard during the plagues. (A theory I won’t argue against.)

But this isn’t the only time we see God harden a heart. Psalm 105:25 says God turned the hearts of the Egyptians “to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.” Deuteronomy 2:30 says the LORD hardened King Sihon of the Amorites so he would not let Israel pass through. Joshua 11:20 speaks of the LORD hardening the hearts of the Canaanites “that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction.”

Aye yi yi, is this the God we love and serve? Yes, yes it is. God said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Exodus 33:19). “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Rom. 9:18).

“You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resister his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?” (Rom. 9:19). (Paul’s words via the Holy Spirit, not mine, just so there’s no confusion.)

The truth is – we’re not going to understand it because His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are far above our thoughts. But here’s where we can rest: “His work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut. 32:4).

If he hardens the heart of man (or woman for that matter) it’s done in holiness and faithfulness and perfection. It’s done in wisdom. It’s done without iniquity and is fully just. Desiring that all men come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), God does not harden the heart of a man for pleasure (Ezekiel 33:11), but for purpose.

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart that his power might be seen and his name proclaimed in all the earth (Rom. 9:9). Hence, we’re still telling the story today!

But you know who else God hardened? Israel. So the Jews of Christ’s day would put him on the cross. So the prophecies would be fulfilled. So every bit of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection could take place “as the LORD had said.” So we the gentiles, could have a chance. Could experience his mercy. Could be grafted in as sons and daughters of God; heirs of the promise of Abraham. (Anyone else besides me starting to feel differently about this hardening thing?)

My friend, if it weren’t for God’s ability to harden the hearts of men, we’d all be in trouble. Additionally, if He has the power to harden, He also has the power to soften. To not only turn the heart of the king (Prov. 21:1), but the hearts of my kids and my heart and yours and our neighbors and loved ones. Oh how thankful I am for God’s sovereignty over the hearts of men because it’s His mercy he continues to let in.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Does the concept of God hardening the heart of Pharaoh, or anyone for that matter, bother you? Or is something you readily accept?
How does the fact that God hardened the hearts of the Israelites, so that salvation could be available for all people, help you better understand the concept?

Truths to Dwell in on Election Day

If there’s an emotion I struggle with most, it’s anxiety. That all too familiar feeling of uneasiness that wraps itself like a noose around my heart when I linger too long on the I-have-no-control-over-this-issues or the how-is-this-going-to-work-out scenarios or the what-if possibilities or the I-can’t-help-but-worry situations.  

And once I let it take hold, it’s hard to shake. Anxiety has a strong grip. Refusing to leave me alone, even in the most mundane tasks – following me from room to room while I put away toys and pick up clothes and throw away diapers I should have tossed in the diaper champ three days ago. (Just keepin’ it real.)

Tired of giving uneasiness a free ride, I take deep breaths – pausing to see if it’s better with each exhale. It’s not.

I’ve found only one way to loosen the grip of anxiety — grip harder to the word of God. And I mean tight. With an earnest effort. The kind that might be deemed excessive.

Isaiah 26:3 declares, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Perfect peace doesn’t come with a long run or a warm bath – it comes with a mind fiercely fixed on Christ.  

A mind willing to take every thought and doubt and question and shove it deep into the heart of Scripture. Again and again and again.

This. This is my approach as tomorrow turns into today and Americans vote not just on the next President of the United States but on my future and my kids future and our rights as Christians and my future freedoms or lack thereof.

It’s enough to make my insides simmer. The power that’s at stake – the supreme court judges that will be appointed to either uphold Biblical standards or spit on them. The knowing that above all else I will choose God and be a champion of His word no matter what it might cost me.

I don’t like. I really really don’t like it.

But there’s only one way and that’s straight through it. So I’ll tackle the apprehensions climbing up my throat with God’s Word diligently pouring through my mind. Anchoring me to the one ultimately in control. And I’ll do it with these four truths and the Scriptures that back them.

1. God is sovereign.
The presidency is not determined by us, it’s decided by God.

A friend kindly reminded me the other day that God is not sitting up in heaven nervously hoping enough Christians vote. He knew long ago who would be named President in 2016.

Jeremiah 27:5 says, “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me.”

And again…
“I will appointment the leader of my choice. For who is like me, and who can challenge me? What ruler can oppose my will?” (Jeremiah 49:19b, NLT)

Whether it be for the rod or revival it’s God who allows the scepter to slide from one man’s hand to another (or woman for that matter). We may be surprised, but God never is.

“The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has sworn this oath: “It will all happen as I have planned. It will be as I have decided.” (Isaiah 14:24, NLT)

Yet God says to the righteous, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)  Thank you Jesus.

2. Christ is King.
No matter who sits in the Oval Office, Christ sits on the throne of Heaven.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: The LORD is our righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:5-6

“And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:14

“On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” Rev. 19:16

3. Truth will prevail.
I can’t stand lies. Yet for months the news has been brainwashing us with them, many have been led astray to believe them, and Satan (the father of lies) has been hard at work to uphold them.

But the Word of God is truth (Jn. 17:17) and it will not pass away. It will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8). It may be shoved aside for now. It may be forgotten. It may be torn apart by people who make it say whatever they want it to, but ultimately it will prevail! And be upheld! And be the standard by which Christ rules.

For He is truth (John 14:6). And speaks only truth (Isaiah 45:19). “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160)

Those who live by the TRUTH will be rewarded with eternal life, “but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom. 2:8).

In the end, truth wins.

4. Those who fear God will be blessing.
It may not look like blessing. It may be harder than we ever anticipated. But there is blessing in store for the Christ follower who fears God enough to wholeheartedly obey him. Especially in the midst of a society that doesn’t.

“Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” Proverbs 28:14

“Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments….He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” (Ps. 112: 1,7)

Not afraid of bad news…

If you need me in the next few days, I’ll be right here smack dab in the middle of these truths. Will you?

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Truths to Remember When the Unthinkable Happens

I don’t know what’s happened in your life the past week but I know God is still the same God he was a week ago, a year ago, ten years ago, two thousand years ago, and beyond. He is still “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6). And He always will be.

Even when the hard things happen. The things that leave us with more questions than we have answers. More doubt than we have certainty. More fear than we have faith.

This world is not what He hoped to give us, though he knew it would happen. He knew sin would leave its scar on us all. He knew death would overshadow us. He knew life would not be easy. But he also knew his love could overcome it all. “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Jesus has overcome my friend! And I don’t know about you, but I sometimes need that reminder. Along with a few others:

  1. God is forever faithful. It’s who He is. “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9). It’s who He’s always been. And who He will always be. His faithfulness endures to all generations. (Psalm 119:90) “For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness” (Psalm 33:4).
  1. God’s mercy is new every morning. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23). Even when the morning brings heartbreaking news. Even when the day doesn’t end as it should, He is still merciful.
  1. He is close to the brokenhearted. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). This is one of my all time favorite verses. I have it highlighted, underlined, and circled in every Bible I own. He cares my friend. He is near the brokenhearted. Waiting to comfort. Waiting to instill hope and peace. If we would simply turn to Him.  
  1. God is good (Ps. 25:8). And does good (Ps. 119:68). Even when I don’t see it. Even when I don’t understand or can’t explain it. He is still good. “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).  
  1. God is sovereign. He’s in complete and total control. “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:11). Though it may not seem like it. Though it may feel as though God has turned his back. He has not. He works all things according to his purpose. Which is for “all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4.)
  1. He has gone to prepare a place for us. (John 14:3). This life is not the end. It’s only a beginning for those who confess Jesus as LORD and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9). These “momentary afflictions” will be far outweighed by an eternal glory we now cannot even begin to comprehend! (2 Cor. 4:17) There is so much waiting for us. Heaven is not a figment of our imaginations, it’s simply more than we could ever imagine. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
  1. Jesus is coming back. He really is. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

These are truths we can stand on every single day my friend. Truths that are constant and unchanging. Truths we can share no matter one’s nationality or personality or upbringing or lack thereof. Truths the entire world needs to hear. Truths we can live by and wrap ourselves in when uncertainty is the path before us. Truths we can sometimes forget. But not today. Today we remember, even in the hard things. Even in the unthinkable things. 

(Photo credit: Pixabay)