Signs of a Hard Heart

by Joe Quatrone, Jr.

“I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you” (Exodus 7:3-4).

Have you ever met someone who was just plain stubborn?  You might know people within your circle of friends who insist on having their way.  They are hardheaded and obstinate about what they want (a moment of reflection may cause us to think of ourselves too). God calls it a heart problem.  This problem of self-centeredness has existed from the beginning of time, documented in the lives of people we read about in Scripture as well as people we live with today.

Pharaoh is probably the best illustration in the Bible of a person with a hard heart.  He was exposed to the truth over and over again, yet refused to respond accordingly.  Pharaoh was presented with overwhelming evidence.  Plague after plague, sign after sign, miracle after miracle, but still he refused to accept God’s warnings and let the Israelites go.  God repeatedly presented Pharaoh with the truth of who He was, yet Pharaoh wouldn’t bow.  Even when faced with undeniable evidence that he was wrong, Pharaoh wouldn’t give in.  He refused to acknowledge that another kingdom was greater than his.  His pride, stubbornness, and hard-heartedness caused him great grief and distress.  His overexposure and under response to truth proved to be extremely costly for him, his family, and his kingdom.

Notice God said, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.”  God engineered the situation we read about in Exodus.  In doing so, God displays His power and provides a blueprint for what happens when a person refuses to accept and bend the will to the truth.

All of us have experienced the stubborn desire to have things the way we want them, even when “our way” isn’t God’s way.  That’s what Pharaoh was doing.  If we are wise, we will learn from his experience.  Every time we say no to God, we live in rebellion, stubbornly asserting our selfish will over His will for our lives.  Just as Pharaoh stubbornly clenched his fist and said no repeatedly to God, we too cannot do that for long without developing a hard heart that will lead to destruction.  We stand in danger of following in the footsteps of Pharaoh if we refuse to submit to God’s standard.  The more we can be duped into believing we’re right and God is wrong, the more we are in danger of developing a hard heart.

Although we must be careful, we need not despair.  One of the primary reasons I believe God initiated this entire sequence of events was to provide us with a lesson plan for notfollowing the way of Pharaoh.  God wouldn’t leave us without a way to experience victory over our tendencies to assert our rights over His truth.  We can rejoice in the graciousness of God as we study the lesson He gave us and apply its truth to our lives.

Let’s be honest.  We all want things the way we want them.  We all want what we want when we want it.  I’m more comfortable when things are the way I like them.  All people are.  The tension comes into play when what we want is not what God wants, when the two conflict.  Refusal to act on the truth time and time again will corrode the heart of man until nothing can melt the hardness.

Paul wrote, “Although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).  It’s dangerous to say no to the truth because there will come a time when God allows us to have our own way: “Since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind” (1:28).  Paul clearly portrays the inevitable downward spiral into sin when a hard heart develops.  God does not cause this steady progression towards evil.  Rather, when we reject Him, God allows us to live as we choose.  He gives us over or permits us to experience the natural consequences of our sin.

We can count on this: frequently saying no to God will eventually result in God letting us have our own way.  Sounds pretty good?  Don’t bet on it.  How many children have cheered their independence from mom and dad only to weep in the dark of the night because they discovered having their own way was not always as appealing as it seemed?

To avoid the pitfalls that are sure to occur in our paths, we must understand the danger signs of a hard heart.  Otherwise, we can and will rationalize ourselves into disaster!  The saga of Pharaoh supplies us with signs to use as a checklist for a hard heart.

There is more at

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