Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Response to a Hardened Heart

This blog is my place to be brutally honest. Here it is: One of my greatest struggles this last year has been with (generally) men in positions of leadership who have a hard heart, or stopped up ears, to women and their suffering. 

In the past, I have been put off by women whose desire to help (specifically in the area of abuse) comes across as brash, disrespectful, and demanding. I avoid their writing, teaching, and communication because their person and message feel so charged with anger and bitterness.

However, I have to admit that I have struggled with those same feelings and frustrations.

Recently, I have been blessed by the book of Exodus--specifically Pharaoh's hardened heart. Sometimes Pharaoh chose to harden his heart* (חָזַק "to be or grow firm or strong, strengthen"). He determined not to free Israel from his bond.

The majority of the time, the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart or it was done to him--his heart was hardened.**

Over and over and over Moses repeated the message, to free God's people from bondage and servitude for the purpose of worship. Over and over, Pharaoh said, "No"--after gaslighting, posturing, blame-shifting, intimidating, using tactics we can see and refer to in contemporary terms.

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. (7:3)

“Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, so that I may perform these signs of Mine among them..." (10:1)

And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” (14:4)

And as for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. (14:17)

God does His work, not in spite of hardened hearts, but through them, in them, because of them. The work is not ours. It is His.

Moses experienced rejection after rejection. He was demeaned, belittled, and rebuffed. But, because God had given a command and God enabled him to persevere, Moses went back over and over again regardless of Pharaoh's response. He didn't need Pharaoh's approval. He served God alone. He didn't need Pharaoh's permission. But God did an amazing work and revealed Himself in ways never seen.

The example of God freeing Israel from Egypt was a sign of His might, power, goodness, and provision to this day. Generation after generation recalled the escape from Egypt. It is a picture of Jesus purchasing our freedom from sin and death.

In and through it all, what was Israel's job? First, they cried out and God heard them. Then He sent Moses. And it was theirs to listen. Trust God. And obey. Regardless of desperate circumstances--as slaves, through the plagues, as the firstborn were slain, with their backs against the Red Sea. Cry out. Listen. Trust. Obey.

When God allows people to say, "No" to a good thing, to living out the image of God in worship and freedom, we can be downhearted and disheartened. But I have been encouraged that God uses even this for His glory. In fact, He is behind it all for a greater purpose. God is God. He is working. I can trust Him. I am simply called to obey in the tasks He puts before me. I am not to give in to despair, hatred, or reviling. My words and behavior need only reflect our Lord Jesus Christ whether they are appreciated or not; listened to or not; respected or not. Pharaoh did not listen. And that was God's doing. For His purpose. For His glory. And the deliverance of His people.

As Pharaoh approached, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were coming after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord.  Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?  Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone so that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness!”

But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will perform for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again, ever. The Lord will fight for you, while you keep silent.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. As for you, lift up your staff and reach out with your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land. And as for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots, and through his horsemen.” (Exodus 14:10-18)

*Exodus 8:15, 8:32, 9:34--and in this verse it is referred to as sin

**Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 7:13, 7:22, 8:19, 9:7, 9:12, 9:35, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8, 14:17