Does God Cause Some People’s Hearts to Be Hard? What About Pharaoh?
(Ver 1.4) This is the Part 1 in an important series of Bible lessons addressing the primary subject of Extreme Predestination. Many times people read things into the Bible missing what God actually says to make their own independent wrong assumptions. Ignoring all of the words written on one subject they simultaneously jump to the wrong conclusions based upon selective reading. Today’s Bible lesson will be a prime example of this type of error in wrong Bible interpreation. Reading the Bible in isolation and not allowing God to interpret the Bible is one of the most dangerous approaches to take in Bible interpretation. The Bible will always explain the Bible, but we are required to search the Bible in order to find these explanations. The explations are not going to come to you and fall into your lap. I once talked to a man who had graduated from an unnamed theological seminary, who claimed that God causes some people to be saved while choosing for other people not to be saved. This belief is very much the classic manmade “predestination” mentality or philosophy. His reasoning was based upon a combination of the known omnipotence of God, the sovereignty of God and several other beliefs that he attempted to use to explain why things appear to be as if God controls what occurs in the world. Because God is omnipotent and sovereign, his claim was nothing happened unless God authorizes it or commited it. He was very pleased to show me scriptures in Exodus that appear to say that God purposely hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that God could do some spectacular plagues and signs to demonstrate His great power. It is funny how religious minds work and think sometimes. They think they are right, but when you actually study it out you can find something completely different in the Bible. Many times the simple basic things written on the surface of the Bible give way to more elaborate complex spiritual meanings, that can be taken completely different than the surface reading. So this seminary graduate chose to believe something on the surface and did not look any deeper to find out if that was really what the Bible actually said. We as Christians, must weigh every scripture using other scriptures that are relevant to the subject. We must use the Bible to interpret the Bible correctly, because only God knows what it all means and not us! Today I will attempt to give you the rest of the story and help you to see the difference. Here are a couple of the scriptures that my confused seminary brother in Christ used to say that God had hardened Pharaoh’s heart:
Exo 4:21 And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
Exo 10:1 And the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh: for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might shew these my signs before him:
The Bible is written in a style that it can literally be interpreted in many different ways simultaneously depending upon the readers point of view or perspective. From a single verse, 12 different people can read it and get 12 different individual interpretations. This however, does not prove that any of them are right. God purposely selected this method and style of writing the Bible so that mankind would have a choice in what they believe. However, this does not mean every interpretation is correct, just because God allows you to jump to these wrong conclusions. You see in Exodus 4:21 and Exodus 10:1, that God is speaking to Moses directly and God tells him what to do and then tells Moses what will happen as a result of what Moses does. Religious people like to think that God’s will is the only will that is ever accomplished on the earth. If God wants something done a certain way, then God’s will automatically overrides everyone else’s will and God gets His way. That reasoning does not make any sense to me and I haven’t been able to find any Bible verses that directly back that theory. You see that theory would make God the giant puppet master in the sky who pulls everyone’s strings to make them do exactly what He wants, when He wants it done. That does not match the character or nature of God revealed to us in the Bible. This does not match other scriptures that say God has given man choices and decisions to make. If God was calling all of the shots, why would God say “Today I have set before you life and death, therefore choose life”. Bible verses like these tell me that man has a choice and God makes a recommendation which one we should choose, but is not forcing you or I into making this right decision. Therefore, we have a conflict presented to us in the Word of God. Is God a good God, like the Bible says or is He an evil God to some and to others He treats differently. Has God given mankind a choice in the result of their lives and their destiny or has God predestined some to hell and others to heaven? Were angels given the ability to make right or wrong choices? Does God really control everything that happens in the world, good, bad or indifferent? Does it matter what I do today? Can my choices change the results that I get? Will what I do affect anyone else’s results? What is the character of God like? Does God require man to do something that He can do differently and God calls it OK for Him, but sin for man? You have to ask yourself these important questions. These are hard questions and I cannot attempt to answer all of these in this one blog.
I have to admit, that reading just those two verses that I gave you in Exodus, that it really appears that God purposely caused Pharaoh’s heart to become hard, so that He could do some great signs. I mean you can very easily take it this way if you want to, by ignoring the rest of the Bible. However, the Bible is One Book by One Author, who has intentionally revealed Himself in a very tricky way by spreading out little clues about himself from cover to cover. We are required to find these clues first and then to use these clues to interpret the other verses in the Bible using this information. Our interpretation of a single part of the Bible needs to be in harmony with all of the other verses found in the Bible on the subject. One verse cannot contradict or conflict with another. If you think it does, then you are wrong and do not understand what it says correctly! God is always consistent and constant in His character, and His treatment of all people.
Often times people confuse foreknowledge with predestination. Just because God knows your reaction to some event that happens in your life, does not mean that God caused it to happen that way. So when God tells Moses of Pharaoh’s reaction to what Moses was going to do, why didn’t Moses stop and ask God what else can we do that will actually work and let the people go? Don’t you think that Moses could have changed God’s mind and His approach to something that would have actually worked, if there was anything that was going to work? Well the problem is still the question did God intentionally harden the heart of Pharaoh in order to accomplish His greater plan for Israel? I think we need to start this study by defining what it means to be “hard hearted”. Isn’t that what we are talking about? If God made Pharaoh’s heart hard, how did God do this and what transpired or changed in Pharaoh when this occurred? Did God do something in Pharaoh that caused him to react how he did? Was there a specific something that changed within Pharaoh that forced this reaction? Instead of trying to get a definition of “hard hearted” from the dictionary, let’s see if God gives us a definition in the Bible:
Mar 8:17 And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?
Here is a classic definition of being hard hearted directly from God. Jesus is speaking to the disciples about them having no bread. He ends the verse with a four part question that ends with “did you harden your heart”? So why did God ask this question, if God was hardening their hearts? Didn’t God already know if He was intentionally hardening their hearts for some purpose? Isn’t Jesus Christ God in the flesh? I hope you can begin to see how foolish people can be by believing in “predestination”. Here we have God in the flesh asking if “they” had hardened their own hearts by doing what? Part 1 of the question was by “reasoning”. This is a mental operation of an advanced feature of the human capability. You can train a monkey to do something that gives you a specified result, like play a song on a piano, but they will never be able to reason for themselves in order to come up with the notes to a song! If you think differently, you are wrong! Humans have the capability to “think”, to “reason”, to “consider”, to “dispute”, and to “muse”. These are all logical methods of coming to a conclusion and then they also have the ability to discuss their thought process of why they came to this answer. A monkey can do this only in an extremely limited capacity. Keep in mind that “reasoning” ability is based upon knowledge. People are only able to come to conclusions based upon what they know about the subject. The more they know, usually a better decision can result.
So apparently “being hard hearted” involves your mind, your thoughts and your reasoning capability, based upon your previous knowledge. Then Jesus asks parts 2 and 3 of the question, “didn’t you perceive what I said?”, “and didn’t you understand it?” The first word to “perceive” is a very interesting word. It means “to exercise the mind”. It means to “think”. It also means to “observe”. All of these things are mental operations of the human mind. Now the next word translated as “understand” means “to put together”. It also means “to become wise”. It also means “to comprehend”. These are also all mental operations of the human mind. So what was one of the determining factors to why the disciples hearts were hardened according to Jesus and God? It was because they did not understand or see what was being said. They used their minds to reason the wrong things and come to the wrong conclusions based upon the knowledge that they had up to this point. So was this God’s fault or the disciple’s fault? Who caused their hearts to be harden? Was it the words that Jesus spoke or the their own lack of sufficient knowledge and inability to understand what he said that caused their hardness of heart? This is a very important lesson to learn, because it applies to most Christians in the world today. Jesus could ask the same question to most people who write blogs on the internet and even to many who sit in the pews of our churches. I’ll go even further and say Jesus could ask most preachers who graduated from seminary, what are you thinking?
Mar 16:14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
Here is another determining factor in the definition of “hardness of heart” given to us by God. Jesus met with the 11 disciples after He was risen from the dead and He more or less rebuked them for their “unbelief”. Jesus appeared to some and not others and some went and then told the others, but at least some of the others did not believe what was told to them. Jesus called this being “hard hearted”. This is also a key factor to what we find wrong in our churches today, and it speaks to why people do what they do. They either believe what is being taught or they do not! Those who believe are said to be “tender hearted” and those who do not believe are said to be “hard hearted”. Of course we do not believe anything just because someone says it, we have to be smart enough to verify it in the Bible, but that is a different lesson. So what we have learned is that people have a choice in what they believe, don’t they? By making right choices in what we believe we become more “tender hearted”, by making wrong choices in what we believe we become more “hard hearted”. I hope you are grasping these concepts, they do apply to you right now.
Heb 3:13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
So this is now factor three in the definition of becoming “hard hearted”. In, this verse in Hebrews God says to us, that the deceitfulness of “sin” is a key factor to becoming hard hearted. Sin involves missing the intended mark of righteousness and holiness. We are all guilty of this and some more than others. However, it is a determining factor of who is said to be “hard hearted”. Now I do not think that I covered this subject completely, but I have given you several key factors to the definition of becoming “hard hearted”. So let’s review what we have learned as to what causes people to be hard hearted:
- The Ignorance of People Who Do Not Know Any Better!
- Inability to Perceive, Hear, Observe, See Spiritually
- Inability to Comprehend, Understand Mentally
- Distractions of Temptation and Sin Physically
The result of these factors will culminate into:
- Wrong Thinking
- Wrong Reasoning
- Wrong Believing
- Wrong Conclusions
- Wrong Assumptions
- Wrong Actions
So do any of these factors play a role in the life of Pharaoh? If you do not think so, you would be wrong again! God gives us basic clues and definitions throughout the Bible and we must apply them correctly, so here I go. Did what Pharaoh learn as a child make any determination how he would react as an adult? Would being the leader of one the most advanced nations on earth with untold power and riches factor into how Pharaoh would react? Does the fact that Pharaoh and his people worshipped false idols and imaginary gods play any factor into how Pharaoh would react? You know there are just so many different factors to consider that go into this decision process that Pharaoh had, that I cannot come up with them all. But, when Moses appeared to Pharaoh and said “The Jehovah God” has sent me! What would have been your reaction if you were Pharaoh? This was not one of Pharaoh’s gods? Who is this God? That is what I would have thought! What was Pharaoh thinking while Moses asked for the children of Israel to be freed? Here the ruler of Egypt who possessed around 2 million slaves, was being asked to let them go for free and what do you think he thought about a request like that? Do you see how these factors that we just learned of becoming hard hearted from the New Testament apply to what happened in Pharaoh’s heart? Pharaoh did not believe Moses! Moses did not come in the name of any of Pharaoh’s gods! So when the true God says something to someone who doesn’t believe He exists, what is their reaction suppose to be? I hope that you are beginning to see how complex the world and the Bible is.
Let’s continue through the Bible in Exodus and see what else God says about Pharaoh’s heart being hardened:
Exo 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.
This verse is a little different than the first two that I gave you from Exodus. This time it says Pharaoh was the one that hardened his own heart. Moses had been commanded by God what to do and say before Pharaoh. During this time, Pharaoh’s magicians would counter the acts of God with their own similar tricks. Pharaoh saw these great signs of God as just being a magic potion of a sorcerer, which he could also cause to be produced using his own magicians. Whatever, God did, the magicians of Pharaoh countermanded them with their own spectacular results. So far God hasn’t done anything that was spectacular enough for Pharaoh to be impressed with. Pharaoh did not believe in the God of Israel, so there lies the root of Pharaoh’s greatest failure in judgment.
Exo 8:32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.
Here we have another verse that clearly says Pharaoh was responsible for hardening his own heart. Do we have a contradiction in scriptures or just a simple misunderstanding of what it all means? Can God harden people’s hearts simply by them not believing in Him? Will what people think about what is said to them, affect what they choose to believe? Did God harden his heart or did Pharaoh harden his own heart? Can you see how both of these statements are true at the same time? God hardened the heart of Pharaoh and Pharaoh hardened his own heart are two perspectives of the same event. What if Moses had come in the name of the god “Apollo”? Would the reaction of Pharaoh had been different? I do not think so. So you cannot say that it was God’s fault for hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh didn’t believe in “Apollo” any more than He did “Jehovah”. All Pharaoh knew was this was not his god so he was closing his mind to what else was being told to him. Christians do this in churches every day. A new teacher comes to town and says something that doesn’t fit what they think and they shut down and do not hear the rest. It didn’t matter if it was directly from God and the truth, it was just not what they wanted to hear so they ignored it. I know this happens with the things that I write on my blogs. Many read it, but do not believe it, understand it or accept it so they shut their minds down and ignore it all.
1Sa 6:6 Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed?
In this verse we again see a comparison being made between the people of Israel and the people of Egypt ruled by Pharaoh. We can see very clearly that each of these people are responsible personally for hardening their own hearts. There is no contradiction to the scriptures and there is no predestination reality with God. God knows the decisions you will make, but you are still responsible for them, not God.
Eze 36:26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
Do you know this scripture is talking about you? If you are a Christian, you have this new heart available to you right now! Did you notice that God said I will take out your “Stony” heart? Isn’t a “stony” heart a formerly hard hearted person? This again can be taken incorrectly, as something that God is solely responsible for making happen. Some people still think like God is the spiritual surgeon who does a spiritual heart transplant surgical procedure in every believer! But, that would not be a good interpretation of this verse based upon what we have learned. God says I will replace your stony heart with a soft tender heart of flesh. Are these symbolic references? Yes they are! Is God responsible for this happening in you? Yes and No! You still have a part to play in the procedure. God never overrides your will and makes you do anything. God never takes anything away from you that you do not want taken away. God never gives you anything that you do not want to have. This is the character and nature of the God and Man relationship. However, without God doing anything we would all be hopelessly hard hearted. So it is a partnership between us receiving what God has freely given to us by faith. Here is an analogy that helped me tremendously when I studied this subject about the hearts of mankind. I heard a preacher teach this so I cannot take credit for it, but, I will share it with you, so that I can help you to see it also.
Jesus Christ is called Light. Jesus Christ is called the Sun of Righteousness. Jesus Christ is compared symbolically to the natural sun in our sky. The church is said to be in the “Day” and not in the “Night” or the darkness anymore. Darkness represents the domain of Satan and evil. So the church walks in the Light of God and Jesus Christ has risen in our hearts to give us this new glorious light. So what can we learn from this symbolic representation? Does the sun shine on everyone equally? Or does the natural sun in our sky shine only on the righteous and good people in the world? Of course the sun shines on everyone the same. What causes the same light to shine on everyone equally the same with no bias or prejudice towards anyone? Is this the nature and character of God exemplified in a natural part of creation? Are the hidden qualities of God being clearly shown to us by looking at the sun in our sky? Does God treat everyone the same? My Bible says God shows no respect of persons, so God must be fairly treating everyone the same. God has given the same Bible to everyone that contains His words of hope! Yet some believe it and some do not, is this God’s fault? Did God make one person hard towards the Gospel and another He made receptive and tender? Why does the same natural sun in the sky, both melts wax and hardens clay simultaneously? Is it the sun’s fault that these two objects react differently? It is the same heat and light source upon both objects isn’t it? But, the reaction to this light ray is completely different based upon the type of object absorbing or being bombarded by the light. Can people choose to be hard or tender to the Light of the Word of God in the same way? Do people have a choice in what they do, what they hear, is what they think important, what about what they say and how they react? Of course people have these choice everyday and that is exactly why some people harden their own hearts and refuse to hear the truth and others are receptive and open and learn the truth. The same Sun shines on everyone, but not everyone chooses to react the same to this constant light source. You must choose to be wax and refuse to be the clay or you will become harden in your heart toward God also.
This is precisely the situation of Pharaoh in Exodus. God said something that Pharaoh did not want to hear. God said something that Pharaoh did not consider important. God said something that Pharaoh did not think was relevant to him or his situation. God said something that Pharaoh did not believe. So, God knew that no matter what he said, Pharaoh was not going to let the Israel people go. Pharaoh wanted them for their labor and their lives of service for his own good. Pharaoh let power and influence determine his outcome and the result ended very bad for them. If you did not know it, Egypt is a type of the world. Pharaoh is a type of Satan. Moses is a type of Jesus, the deliverer and the children of Israel a type of the Church. These are all types that represents patterns of things that were to come in the spiritual realm in the New Covenant of God. Our spiritual Deliver is Christ Jesus who has freed us from the captivity of sin and Satan. You have to decide right now are you a child of Egypt or a child of Israel and choose to become hard or tender toward what God is telling you right now.
There are many other things to learn from these lessons of Pharaoh, but I have gone too long in this blog. I pray that you received something that was a positive benefit in your spiritual walk with God. God Bless!
If you would like to continue reading in this series about the subject of “Predestination” you may go now to “Part 2“.
Posted on May 1, 2010, in Bible Basics, Bible Study, Understanding and tagged Bible, Christianity, Church, God, Interpretation, Jesus, man, Prophecy, Religion, Revelation, sin, Symbolism, Truth, understanding. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.