Hard Hearts

June 18, 2017

David Sorn

Why does the Bible say that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, and yet other times it says that Pharaoh hardens his own heart? And what do we need to do to soften our own hearts?

Hard Hearts

June 18, 2017

David Sorn

Why does the Bible say that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, and yet other times it says that Pharaoh hardens his own heart? And what do we need to do to soften our own hearts?



Morning. I’m still David Sorn 

Every year, we go through a book of the Bible, chapter by chapter. 

For 2017…and maybe a little into 2018 even…we’ve been going through the Book of Exodus. 

We’ve had a little break since March, but we are rejoining the series today. 

3. So, I want to take a minute and get you caught up, since I know many of you are new to our church even since March, some of you may be in town today visiting for the child dedications

1. Exodus is the story of God’s rescue of his people (the Israelites) out of slavery in Egypt 

2. Here’s what we’ve seen so far: 

1. The Pharaoh’s of Egypt are incredibly cruel. 

1. They’ve enslaved over a million people .

2. And even resorted to genocidal population control by killing off some of the male Hebrew babies

2. However, God has one baby escape that murderous edict (baby Moses), who is floated down the Nile River by his mom, only to, fascinatingly, arrive at Pharaoh’s palace…

1. Where he will grow up a prince, learning many of the skills he needs to one day lead God’s people. 

1. God is the great table turner. 

3. However, as Moses hits 40 years old, he’s still not ready to lead God’s people…he ends up murdering an Egyptian who’s beating a Hebrew slave, and Moses flees to the desert for 40 years. 

1. After another 40 years, God speaks to Moses through a burning bush, and tells him to go tell Pharaoh to “let his people go” 

1. Moses gives God a million excuses why he can’t, but God will have none of that. 

4. And when we left off in March, Moses (and his brother Aaron) had just asked Pharaoh (for the first time) if the Israelites could leave

1. Pharaoh basically laughs, and then doubles the manual labor required of the Hebrew slaves. 

1. And they’re left wondering, “Is God really in it when He has you walking the path of difficulty?” 


1. So let’s rejoin the story there 

1. (Page 49) 

2. (Renovation App) 

2. We left off at the very end of chapter 6. 

1. God is giving Moses some final instructions before Moses & Aaron return again to confront Pharaoh. 

3. (Exodus 6:28 – 7:7) – NIV 

4. 28 Now when the Lord spoke to Moses in Egypt, 29 he said to him, “I am the Lord. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I tell you.” 30 But Moses said to the Lord, “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?” 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. 2 You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”

6 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded them.7 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.

1. We’ve now reached the section of the story called the 10 plagues. 

1. Where God famously rains down all sorts of calamities on Pharaoh and the Egyptians because they keep refusing to let their Israelite slaves go 

1. Today, we’re going to cover a really difficult question that people always seem to ask when they read the plagues, and then in 2 weeks we’re going to talk extensively about why God chose the particular plagues he did and their relationship to the so-called Egyptian “gods.” 

1. By the way, next week, international evangelist Sammy Wanyonyi is going to be here speaking. 

1. Sammy has led over 250,000 people to Christ, so make sure you’re here…and a friend. ☺

2. But let’s get to this difficult question that always comes up when people read about the plagues.

1. What you’ll see, is that after every plague, there is a statement made about the condition of Pharaoh’s heart. 

1. Usually the story will go something like this: 

1. And then hail devastated the land (sound familiar?!?), so Pharaoh asks Moses to make it stop

1. But after it stops, we’re told this happens

1. (Exodus 9:34) – NIV 

2. When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts.

1. Doesn’t sound too weird….

3. But did you catch in our opening verses what it said about Pharaoh’s hard heart? 

1. This is God talking…

2. (Exodus 7:3a) – NIV 

3. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart

4. And this is usually the MOST common question I get about this section of the Bible:

1. Why does it sometimes say that Pharaoh hardens his own heart, and yet other times that God is hardening Pharaoh’s heart? 

2. Take a look at this chart: 

1. The Ten Plagues and Pharaoh’s Heart
1. Blood: Pharaoh’s heart “became hard” (7:22)
2. Frogs: Pharaoh “hardened his own heart” (8:15)
3. Gnats: Pharaoh’s heart “was hard” (8:19)
4. Flies: “Pharaoh hardened his own heart” (8:32)
5. Livestock die: Pharaoh’s heart “was hard” (9:7)
6. Boils: “The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (9:12)
7. Hail: Pharaoh “hardened his own heart” (9:34)
8. Locusts: God announces that he has “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (10:1,10:20)
9. Darkness: God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (10:27)
10. Death of the firstborn: God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (11:10)

1. Pharaoh actually hardens his own heart 5 times before God hardens it

5. So how do we make sense of this? 

1. I think we do a disservice to the text if (like many people) we just say it’s one of them (like: It was God doing all the hardening) and pretend the other doesn’t exist… 

1. And it’s okay if we can’t perfectly work this out. 

1. The art of understanding how God’s plan and human free will seem to work together is a bit of a mystery. 

1. And that’s okay. 

1. If we could easily understand everything about the way God works, then He wouldn’t be God. 

6. But there are some key things we can notice in these passages that should help us understand how God works these two things together. 

1. Firstly, notice that God did not harden Pharaoh’s heart against Pharaoh’s own desire. 

1. It’s not like Pharaoh was this super good guy and called Moses his BFF, and then God hardened him to say, “No, you guys can’t leave.”

1. No, Pharaoh was already wicked and he had already hardened his heart 5 times before God ever hardened it Himself. 

2. In a sense, God confirmed Pharaoh in his wicked inclination against Israel. 

1. God doesn’t will the evil be done, but he does harden Pharaoh’s heart against desiring to show mercy. 

1. So yes, God can just harden a heart if He wants to, but He always seems to work in conjunction (this is the mystery part) of what the human heart is already doing anyway. 

7. It’s also possible that the hardening of the heart is a judgment on Pharaoh. 

1. The Bible also often uses the word discipline here. 

1. If God disciplines you by having something negative happen in your life in order to wake you up from sin, is that not okay? 

2. This is a little bit like when the 18-year-old who’s not quite yet ready for the world says to their father, “I don’t like you, and I don’t your help anyway.” 

1. And the Father says, “Okay, you can move out of the house now, and see how it goes for you.” 

1. Every once in a while, as a parent, we’re complicit in the hardening of our kids’ hearts because we know that our kids haven’t yet comprehended the consequences of their desires, and sometimes…the only way they learn, is the hard way?? 

1. So you harden it with him because sometimes it’s the only path towards a softening of the heart. 

8. The New Testament explains this concept well. 

1. In Romans chapter 1, The Apostle Paul is talking about people who are aware of God, but harden their hearts towards Him 

1. And here’s what he says God often does in response to person’s own hardening: 

1. (Romans 1:24-25) – NIV 

2. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

1. They hardened their hearts, and God “gave them over in their sinful desires.” 

2. Essentially, when a person continually hardens their hearts and says, “God, I’m suppressing the truth of you,” God gives you over to your hardened heart. 

1. He removes His help, and is essentially saying, “Perhaps the only way for you to know you need me is for you to see how horrible a life without me truly is” 

2. Keep in mind here…God is not hardening Pharaoh’s heart in a permanent state here. 

1. That’s why it’s continually mentions (Pharaoh hardened it again)…

1. Which means, that for a time it was unhardened (Pharaoh keeps asking Moses to pray to His God to make the flies go away…make the hail go away. 

1. Can he make my hail damage go away? 

2. Pharaoh keeps getting chances…but he keeps hardening his heart.

9. And even if we don’t (in our own historical & cultural bias) feel comfortable with some of this stuff, God can do what He wants, can He not? 

1. Or do you need to tell God what you think He should be like?

2. Look at what Paul says in Romans 9 while reflecting about Pharaoh 

1. (Romans 9:17-20) – NIV 

2. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[g] 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”

2. Which makes people nervous. 

1. Maybe you don’t like that God could do that…interfere. 

3. The problem is…you can’t have it both ways. 

1. It’s not Christianity, but Deism that says, “God created the world and left it alone.”

1. Most Christians actually love it when God intervenes…in a positive sense. 

2. We love it when God (not hardens), but “softens our heart towards goodness.” 

1. If your heart already wants something holy & good (like to be free from addiction), and God miraculously intervenes and supernaturally changes/softens your heart so that you no longer want the thing your addicted to. 

1. We love that. 

2. We never question that God is intervening to change the status of our hearts and further strengthen it in the direction it’s already going. 

1. But we, rather inconsistently, don’t like the opposite version of that. 

4. Sometimes God will harden people’s hearts, as part of a well-planned detour 

1. Just like God arranged for Joseph’s brothers to be hard of heart and sell him into slavery…all as a part of a plan to get Joseph to Egypt, so he could one day end up saving much of the entire region. 

2. Just like God arranged for the hardness of hearts of the Jews and Romans to crucify Jesus…so that the world could have salvation!

1. God does not tempt, he does create evil, but in order to accomplish his magnificent and grand purposes, he sometimes hardens the hearts of those who have already hardened them themselves. 

3. And so, it’s through the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, that the ten plagues are going to show the sovereignty of God 

1. And it’s through the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, that God is going to now lead the Israelites out of Egypt in a grand and glorious fashion that would have never happened if Pharaoh just would have immediately said, “The blood in the Nile is creeping me out, just get out of here,” 


1. So here’s the question: If this is true…and a hard heart that is set against God…sometimes is hardened even further by God…

1. How do you and I avoid that?! 

1. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that!

1. I’m not looking to imitate Pharaoh’s life here! 

2. First, we need to figure out what a hard heart looks like, so we can identity it

3. And Secondly, we need to think really hard about how we can soften our own hearts!

1. So what does a hard heart even look like? 

1. Because yes, Christians can develop a hard heart. 

1. The Bible says (in Ezekiel and other places) that, “God, in a sense gives you a new heart when you become a believer in Jesus…you believe He died for your sins on the cross” 

1. Yet, in a letter written TO Christians, the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 4 says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not HARDEN your hearts!” 

4. So how can you spot the warning signs of developing a hard heart? 

1. Let me quickly give you 3 warning signs of a hard heart that we can see in the plagues section of Exodus. 

1. I’ll put them in the order of increasing hardness. 

5. Firstly, Hard Hearts also always want to negotiate with God 

1. Pharaoh is constantly doing this throughout the plagues. 

1. God is telling him what to do, but Pharaoh doesn’t want to fully surrender. 

1. Is this happening to you right now? 

1. God said, “No, I want you to listen to EVERYTHING I’m saying. Let my people go. Completely. All of them.” 

2. But Pharaoh, in his hard-heartedness is constantly negotiating. 

1. After the Plague of the Flies he says, “How about you guys just go worship your God here in Egypt? Just have a festival here.” 

1. Moses is like, “You’re not listening!” 

2. Between the plagues of hail and locusts, Pharaoh says, “How about just your men go and do a worship festival, but leave your women & children here.” 

2. God is showing you a picture of a hard heart. 

1. Has he been bugging you on something, but you’re just negotiating…trying to meet Him halfway? 

1. Let me tell you, there’s no such thing. 

1. When God asks, you don’t negotiate. 

1. Negotiation is a sign of a hard heart. 

6. Secondly, hard hearts often only use God as a means to an end. 

1. You can see this in just about any of the plagues, but take the plague of the frogs for example. 

1. God sends frogs to descend all over Egypt, Pharaoh and his people were grossed out because who wants to find frogs in their bed, so Pharaoh asks Moses to pray to God to take them away…saying He’ll even let the people go!

1. So Moses prays, and the plague is over… 

2. But then this happens: 

1. (Exodus 8:15) – NIV 

2. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.

1. In other words after all the frogs are gone and the problem is dealt with, “Nah, on second thought, you guys can’t go anywhere” 

2. And God becomes just a means to an end (in this case, getting frogs off his kitchen table) 

1. Is your heart like that? 

1. When you pray, what do you pray about? 

1. Do you talk to God about anything, confess, tell him you love Him, worship Him…

2. Or do you just present a list of needs to Him about life-improvements, and become frustrated if God doesn’t deliver?

2. Or a similar warning sign would be…

1. Like Pharaoh, you cry out to God when things are going poorly, but once things are okay, you’re back to your own ways…that’s a sign of a hard heart. 

7. Thirdly, Hard hearts will find the things that oppose God and choose them, even if they don’t seem to make sense. 

1. When Moses warns Pharaoh that the plague of the locusts is coming, and that the locusts will absolutely devastate the fields in Egypt and fill their houses, look at what Pharaoh’s officials say to him:

1. (Exodus 10:7) – NIV 

2. Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?”

1. But Pharaoh’s heart is hard…so he won’t listen to reason. 

2. You ever just sat across from another Christian who’s making a terrible mistake with their life and said, “Why would you do this? Can’t you see the ramifications of your choices?” 

1. But they just can’t see it…

1. Because their heart is hard. 

3. And how do you know that that’s not you?? 

1. How does the irrational person know they’re irrational? 

1. Christian community. People who can see you better than yourself. 

1. This is why being in a House Group is so important. 

1. If you’re not in one, get in one when sign-ups start at the end of summer. 


1. It’s really not an easy thing to diagnose how hard your heart is. 

1. It’s something I encourage you to take to God in prayer. 

2. It’s something I encourage you to get counsel from other people on. 

1. People who can probably see your heart better than you can. 

2. But I think the point for all of us is that we want to make sure our hearts are softening, not hardening. 

1. If God has made himself real to you, or is making Himself real to you, give Him your life. 

1. He will STRENGTHEN you in your surrender. 

2. But as I warn you, almost monthly, if you’re not growing closer to Him, you’re drifting farther away. 

1. And if you’re growing farther away, don’t let it get to the point where God gives you over to the hardness of your heart. 

1. Whether He’s doing it as discipline, or a way to win you back the long-way-around, you don’t want to be on that path either way!

1. Take seriously the mission to guard the softness of your heart towards God’s leading. 

3. It’s not an easy thing, but the fastest way to softening your heart is repentance. 

1. That’s confession of sin, with a willingness to turn away from it. 

1. It’s means to do a 180 from a certain sin. 

2. This is why REPENTANCE is important: It’s nearly impossibly to make your heart soft again when you hold on to sin. 

1. You can’t make your heart soft to God, when you’re purposefully holding on to sin at the same time. 

1. You can perhaps see this principle more easily in human relationships. 

2. If adultery happens in a marriage, and the hurt spouse decides to stay in the marriage, but demands (rightfully so) that the offending spouse cut off all communication and ties with the person they had an affair with. 

1. The offending spouse absolutely needs to comply. 

3. That offending spouse can’t re-develop a soft heart towards their spouse again if they’re holding on to sin at the same time. 

1. It’s the same with God. 

3. You can also picture it this way. 

1. If someone was in a battle, and a tiny piece of shrapnel, lodged in their skin, the skin will harden all around and under it. 

1. It’s only chance to grow soft again is to remove that piece. 

2. For some of you, the only chance you’ve got at softening your heart to God’s leading again, is to remove that piece of sin from your life. 

1. It’s to repent. 

1. And if you don’t…you’re not going to follow God’s leading. 

1. You won’t. 

2. Your heart will keep getting harder 

1. You will get farther away from Him. 

2. And you’ll find yourself: 

1. Negotiating. 

2. And using him as a means to an end

3. And rationalizing. 

3. And pretty soon, you just won’t care what He says. 

1. Repent now. 

4. And finally, your heart will always begin to soften when you get in His presence. 

1. This is similar to any relationship too. 

1. Take marriage again…

2. If you don’t spend any quality time together, your hearts will grow hard towards each other 

1. But if you do, and you go on dates…no matter how old you are…

1. And you spend some extended time together each year…even if it’s just one weekend…no matter how many kids you have. 

2. If you do those things, and you work at it, in each other’s presence, your hearts can stay soft towards each other. 

3. It’s the same with your relationship with Jesus. 

1. It’s why daily prayer…and the Spiritual disciplines are SO important. 

2. It’s why coming to church (LIVE) is so important

1. Especially to worship through song. 

1. Please, don’t just show up here when you’re on the volunteer schedule. 

1. That’s an easy way to let your heart start to harden towards Jesus. 

2. Don’t just listen to a message online….yeah, if you’re out of town, catch up. 

1. But come, be in the presence of God through worship, so God can continue to soften your heart to His leading. 

5. And know that no matter where you’ve been…or no matter what you’ve done…God can soften the hardest of hearts. 

1. When he gives you a chance…like right now…tell Him you want come back…that you want Him to soften your heart to his guidance again. 

1. And he can do that. 

1. Let me pray.

Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN

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