Chapter 14 is the last time you will read about it in the Exodus story, but it has been a prominent part of the narrative since the beginning.
I’m talking about the “hardening” of Pharaoh’s heart – mentioned specifically 18 times.
It’s a synonym for stubbornness. Pharaoh is guilty on his own. He makes himself stubborn. But God is also active, hardening Pharaoh’s heart himself when he needs to.
There is a reason for this hardening. God wants Israel to leave Egypt, but His goal is not just an exodus. God is teaching a lesson. Every move God makes just angers the Egyptians even more. Israel has to believe this isn’t the way to win friends and influence people. If they DO get to leave, it will be with the great hostility of the Egyptians. And yet, amazingly, the Egyptians become favorable toward Israel and actually give them parting gifts. On the other side, the plagues turn many of the gods of the Egyptians against them: frogs, the Nile, cattle, the sun, all let Egypt down and the Lord of Israel demonstrates He is in control of them all.
It would have been easy enough for God to have simply destroyed the Egyptians, but that wasn’t his plan. He said to Pharaoh: “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:15).
Pharaoh’s heart was made stubborn so that in God’s time, Israel would be released in precisely the way He wanted, and the Egyptians would learn Israel’s God was in control of everything.
If God would do this to Pharaoh, might he not also harden our hearts so that we cannot be saved? The answer is “yes.” But remember this: God is in the saving business, not the hardening business. Hardening comes as one steadfastly and increasingly turns from God. Eventually, one reaches a point of no return.
Got you worried? Then you aren’t there yet. Change your life before you get there. The sovereign God of the Exodus is sovereign still.