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Presented at Trinity Fellowship on 08/18/1996
10:1 The Lord said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I made a mockery of the Egyptians, and how I performed my signs among them, that you may know that I am the Lord." 3 And Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, "Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, 'How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go that they may serve me. 4 For if you refuse to let my people go, behold tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory. 5 And they shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one shall be able to see the land. They shall also eat the rest of what has escaped--what is left to you from the hail--and they shall eat every tree which sprouts for you out of the field. 6 Then your houses shall be filled, and the houses of all your servants and the houses of all the Egyptians, something which neither your fathers not your grandfathers have seen, from the day that they came upon the earth until this day.'" And he turned and went out from Pharaoh. 7 And Pharaoh's servants said to him, "How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go . . . Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?" 8 So Moses and Aaron were brought back 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 shall 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 unto the Lord." 10 Then he said to them, "Thus may the Lord be with you if ever I let you and your little ones go! Take heed, for evil is in your mind. 11 Not so! Go now, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you desire." So they were driven out from Pharaoh's presence. 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 plant of the land, even all that the hail has left/" 13 So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord directed an East wind upon the land all that day and all that night; and when it was morning, the East wind brought the locusts. 14 And the locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled in all the territory of Egypt. They were very numerous. there had never been so many locusts, nor would there ever be so many again. 15 For they covered the surface of the whole land so that the land was darkened; and they ate every plant of the land . . . Nothing green was left on tree or plant of the field through all the land of Egypt. 16 Then Pharaoh hurriedly called for Moses and Aaron and he said, "I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. 17 Now therefore please forgive my sin only this once, and make supplication to the Lord your God, that he would only remove this death from me." 18 And Moses went out from Pharaoh and made supplication to the Lord. 19 So the Lord shifted the wind to a strong West wind which took up the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea; not one locust was left in all the territory of Egypt. 20 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go. 21 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward the sky that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt." 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. 23 For they did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their swellings. 24 Then Pharaoh called to Moses and said, "Go, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and herds be detained. Even your little ones may go with you." 25 But Moses said, "You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice them to the Lord our God." . . . 27 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he was not willing to let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, "Get away from Me! beware, do not see my face again, for in the day you see my face you shall die!" 29 And Moses said, "You are right; I shall never see your face again."
We have seen in these last weeks a clinical study of spiritual arteriosclerosis: the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. We have seen how it comes from a failure to respond properly to the removal of pressure (8:15); how it comes from self deception (8:29); how it comes from the tendency to minimize our guilt (9:27) and the attempt to retain control (9:28). We have seen that if you harden your own heart too long, God will judge you for this by helping you, by hardening it himself. Today in one sense there is nothing new--just a picture of all these tendencies now in total control and progressing to their logical conclusion: destruction. There is in this a powerful warning to us: Do not harden your heart!
This warning against hardening our hearts is a theme throughout Scripture because it is always needful. Did Israel learn anything from Pharaoh's example? Sadly, we would have to say, "No." Very quickly they will be whining at the Red Sea, "Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?" (14:11). It would have been better to die in Egypt! Then in the wilderness they complain about their diet: would we had died in Egypt when we sat by the pots of meat, but you have brought us out here to starve us to death (16:2-3). And the very first Sabbath after the Manna began to fall, many of them disobeyed the Lord's instructions and failed to gather twice as much on the day before (16:27-28). Time would fail us to rehearse their constant grumblings about water, lack of meat, and their failure at Kadesh Barnea. After watching what happened to Pharaoh when he failed to believe God and disobeyed him, how is this possible? Yet five hundred years later when the Psalms were written the Lord thought it necessary to say, "Today, if you would hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers tested me. They tried me though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, 'They are a people who err in their heart, and do not know my ways.' Therefore I swore in my anger that they would never enter my rest" (Ps. 95:7-11). But surely after the Resurrection, in the New Testament Church, this will no longer be a problem? Why then does the author of Hebrews quote this very passage and then add, "Take care, brethren, lest there be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "today," lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Do not harden your hearts! Apparently this is a warning that we too should take to heart.
How then do we harden our hearts? None of us sets out to do so, but our spiritual arteries seem to get clogged anyway. One reason this happens is that we do it in steps so small that we do not even recognize what is happening.
Do not say, for example, "It is just a small sin after all; it doesn't really matter." But the smallest and most venial sin is the transgression of the will of your Creator, your King, and your Redeemer; it is a violation of his holiness; it displeases the One whom we should love and want to please above all. This is a serious matter. And in addition, "small" sins deprive us of the great blessing that comes to those who are faithful in small things (Mt. 25:21). To say such things is to deceive ourselves, attempt to deceive God, fail to respond to his mercy and patience, minimize our guilt, and try to retain control. They are all ways in which we harden our hearts!
Do not say, "I'm not going to do it; I'm just going to think about it." But "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." And Jesus himself taught us that hate is in his mind--the only one that matters--the moral equivalent of murder, lust the moral equivalent of adultery. To say such things is to deceive ourselves, attempt to deceive God, fail to respond to his mercy and patience, minimize our guilt, and try to retain control. They are all ways in which we harden our hearts!
Do not say, "But nobody will know; and besides, who is it going to hurt?" Nobody will know? Is it nothing to you to grieve the Holy Spirit? And no one will be hurt? Is it nothing to you that all the effects we have seen from Pharaoh's playing of the same game will accrue in your own life? To say such things is to deceive ourselves, attempt to deceive God, fail to respond to his mercy and patience, minimize our guilt, and try to retain control. They are all ways in which we harden our hearts!
And do not say, "I will repent--tomorrow." To say that one will repent tomorrow is to say that one will not repent today. Now is the day of repentance, today is the day of salvation; tomorrow is promised to no one. To say such things is to deceive ourselves, attempt to deceive God, fail to respond to his mercy and patience, minimize our guilt, and try to retain control. They are all ways in which we harden our hearts!
None of these gambits seems terribly and overtly rebellious. But they are all ways in which we deceive ourselves, attempt to deceive God, fail to respond to his mercy and patience, minimize our guilt, and try to retain control. They are all ways in which we harden our hearts! They may be tiny steps, but they are steps on that road that leads to the place where Pharaoh found himself. And that place is destruction.
We harden our hearts because we want to continue in sin, and because, deceiving ourselves, we hope to get away with it. So I want to point out the obvious: that this effort is doomed to failure. It is doomed to failure because of the very nature of God, the essence of who he is.
In the first place, God is omniscient. He sees and knows everything. You can't shut him out of your heart or of your life. (The essence of hardness is to try.) You can only choose whether to know him in blessing or in judgment. In addition, he is omnipresent. You can't get away from him. (The essence of hardness is to try.) But if you take the wings of the morning and flee into the depths of the sea--yea, if you make your bed in Hades--he is there. Not only that, but he is omnipotent. He is all powerful. He cannot be resisted. You will not shut him out; you will be made to know him as Lord and as God. This doom cannot be avoided. (The essence of hardness is to try.)
You can know God as your Judge or as your Savior; you can know him as your Enemy or as your Friend; you can know him as the Angel of Death or as the Giver of Life; you can know him as an intolerable Fire or as a sweet Light; you can know him as the eternal "No!" to your wickedness, or as your heavenly Father. Your heart can be soft and pliable in his hands, and the Potter will make of you a vessel of beauty and service; or you can be hardened and thus shattered irreparably by the hammer of his judgment. And which of these fates is yours depends not only on the "altar-call" decisions but also on the little ones you make day by day.
God loves you; he sent his Son to die for you. Therefore, if you have never given your life to Christ, do it now. Do not harden your heart! And if you are already a believer, do not play games with God. Do not resist him if he is dealing with you about some sin that remains in your life, but give up, repent, and return to him that we may receive times of refreshing from the hand of the Lord. Amen.
Here endeth the lesson.
Dr. Donald T. Williams