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The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
December 11, 2021 12:01 am

The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 11, 2021 12:01 am

Did God harden Pharaoh's heart? If so, how could Pharaoh truly be accountable for his sin? Today, R.C. Sproul explains how God is just and righteous in His sovereign dealing with fallen human beings.

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In Exodus chapter Barbara told God hardened Pharaoh's heart almost seems as if God is in a merciless way playing with Pharaoh as a puppet in his hand hardening his heart and then judging him for the actions that he takes as a result of this hardened heart that was given to him by God. But how are we to deal with this difficult concept here in Scripture's message because you confusion did not really because Pharaoh didn't do evil, and if so, does that make God the author of evil today of Renewing Your Mind. We returned to Dr. RC scroll series hard sayings of the Bible and the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. In the book of Exodus certainly qualifies as RC continue now with our study of some of the hard sayings of the Bible were going to give our attention today to one that is debated constantly in the life of the church and that is the one that has to do with the biblical reference to God's hardening Pharaoh's heart that raises all kinds of questions about God's relationship to evil and human responsibility. Let's look at one of the references to this that we find in the Old Testament in chapter 7 of the book of Exodus Exodus chapter 7 beginning at verse one so the Lord said to Moses, see, I have made you as God to Pharaoh and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you and Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to send the children of Israel out of his land and I will hardened Pharaoh's heart and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt, but Pharaoh will not heed you so that I may lay my hand on Egypt and bring my armies and my people, the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt by great judgments and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them. Of course this is not the only reference in the book of Exodus to God's hardening the heart of Pharaoh we see following chapter 7 the Chronicle narrative of the succession of plagues that God sends via Moses on the land of the Egyptians, the frogs in the license and so on the river, turning to blood, and what happens is a kind of oscillation here whereby, after one plague comes upon the people of Egypt, Pharaoh will relent for a season and said okay.

You can leave and just whenever it looks like the Israelites are going to be liberated, then we read again the refrain, then God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, Pharaoh changes his mind and said no you can't go out in the wilderness to serve your God, and he continues to enslave them until another plague is sent upon them, and he now begins to melt and to be inclined to allow the Israelites to leave and then we read again that God hardens Pharaoh's heart and at first glance, it almost seems as if God is in a merciless way playing with Pharaoh as a puppet in his hand hardening his heart and then judging him for the actions that he takes as a result of this hardened heart that was given to him by God. How are we to deal with this difficult concept here in Scripture. The first place. We have to see that the Scriptures explicitly describe the hardening of Pharaoh's heart to God not only in terms of a description of what takes place seriatim through these various plagues, but initially before the plagues even begin God announces to Moses that that's exactly what he's going to do. He said I want you to be as God, to Pharaoh, you're my spokesman of empowered you with miracles and so on. And Aaron is the one who will deliver the message to Pharaoh that I want you to know that he is not going to listen to you because I will harden his heart.

Now usually we dance around this sort of thing and say that while what really happened was that Pharaoh hardened his own heart and God had nothing really to do with it because, far be it from the judge of all of the earth to do anything evil and for God to coerce a human being to do evil, and then punish that human being who he has coerced would be a gross injustice and would be the occasion for evil within God himself so we can see. I hope and feel the intensity of this dilemma that we face as a result of these descriptive terms while again .1 thing we have to understand look squarely in the eye, is that the Scriptures make it clear that the ultimate causal agent for the hardening of Pharaoh's heart is all mighty God now the first thing that we have to understand about this is that whatever the text means by God's hardening Pharaoh's heart. We know that God is not hardening the heart of the holy and righteous, innocent man that the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. However, it is accomplished is already a judgment of God upon a person who's already recalcitrant in his soul, and at enmity against his creator is already living as a desperate as a tyrant enslaving people cruelly and unjustly and living a daily life of radical disobedience to the heavenly King, to whom Pharaoh himself is always accountable and so Pharaoh in a word is a sinner and a sinner who is behaving in a very sinful manner before there's any discussion about God's hardening is hard to know what that means is this that when God hardens Pharaoh's heart. The act of divine hardening, whatever it means is a judgment of God upon someone who is already sinful and it is a judgment that is completely consistent to what the Scripture says throughout about the manner by which God will judge the wicked and the final scenario of the last judgment that we read in the book of Revelation. The judgment upon the sinners who are impenitent is simply this. Let him who is wicked be wicked. Still and elsewhere. The Scriptures describe one way of God's judging people is to give them up or give them over to Satan.

In addition to that we read in the New Testament that one of the ways in which God distributes his common grace upon the world is by restraining human sin. God puts restraints upon the wicked, we may look later on at the passage in the New Testament in the Thessalonica and correspondence where Paul talks about the coming manifestation of the man of lawlessness in this period of unparalleled wickedness when the restrainer or the one who restraints is taken out of the way and again that's another controversy. What is the specific reference that Paul has there in Thessalonians to the restrainer who is the restrainer or what is the restrainer is a matter of ongoing debate. But one thing is clear under the divine government of world history. There is restraint that ultimately is set forth by God. God does not allow us to be as wicked as we possibly could be if he were to remove all of is restraint that we've talked about this and other circumstances and have asked people to question if we would make a list of people write their names down on the blackboard who you would regard as being the most diabolical. The most wicked people ever to walk on the stage of history. When I ask people to give their rogues gallery of the great evil persons of history the same names come up over and over and over again.

People will talk about the rope. For example, or they will talk about Pharaoh and so on. But there's one name that occurs every time is makes everybody's list of bad guys. Who is it Hitler, Adolf Hitler, another one that ranks high in the 20th century catalog of evil's stall in millimeters. Take these three figures, Nero, Hitler and Stalin and asked what they have in common. I mean, obviously, one was Roman one was Russian and one was a Bavarian corporal paper hanger hit okay so we have these three different times, different places, different forms of government. In fact, but they were all the head of the nation. They all had virtually supreme authority vested in the role that they had the office they held and the unlimited virtually unlimited power that they exhibited who was able to restrict Nero and his wickedness who was able to restrain Hitler from the unmitigated evil. He perpetrated on the world install and slaughter of millions of people in the Ukraine and elsewhere came about through his plenipotentiary authority and power as the premier of the Soviet union now in our country. In America, we've had some rogues who have ruled over us on more than one occasion, but our system of government initially was designed to have a check and balance system so that there could not be too much power or too much authority invested in one single individual from the lesson of history. The aphorism emerged that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. That statement is not true. Absolutely it's only true relatively. It is only true when applied to human beings because God and God alone is absolute power and there is no corruption in him whatsoever, but in any case we have with these earthly figures in enormous level of power and authority by which these guys could do pretty much what they wanted without the fear of restraint. The ones who restrained Hitler NRA were the leaders of other nations. He ran into the restraining influence of Churchill and of Roosevelt and of the Allied forces who finally did defeat him in his desires to expand his own wickedness, so I'm saying simply, is that when we give a catalog of the great villains of history, they tend to include people who add enormous levels of political power and authority, which means they had very very little if any human restraint upon them. Now keep in mind that when were talking about Pharaoh, we are talking about such a person who is the most powerful man on the face of the earth in his day, the song of the Egyptians was ruled Egypt. Egypt rules the world.

That was their song unless they were singing Egypt Egypt Huber Allis, but in any case, they had this kind of authority and Pharaoh was the one in whom it was all vested so that really the only significant restraint on Pharaoh was God the only one more powerful than Pharaoh was God and the only reason why the Israelites who were enslaved had not suffered even worse crimes and atrocities at the hand of Pharaoh was the restraining hand of God, that when we study the doctrine of divine providence, we see that God in his power and it is government rules over all earthly kingdoms, and over all earthly individuals. He raises nations up and he brings nations down so that Pharaoh in reality couldn't rule for five seconds. In Egypt, were it not for the sustaining governing power of the providence of God, so that in the ultimate sense Pharaoh can only do what is permitted him to do by the sovereign governor of the universe. Now God is said is the one who hardens Pharaoh's heart and we are told in these chapters of Exodus that he does it for a reason and it is plain throughout the Exodus account that the principal reason why God hardens the heart of Pharaoh is so that the people he is redeeming this people that he is liberating and gathering to himself to be his chosen people to be a holy nation might understand unambiguously that salvation is of the Lord and only of the Lord, lest they think that they've accomplished their redemption through their own efforts or through their own power or even through the good graces of Pharaoh. God is going to make it abundantly clear to the Israelites and to the Egyptians that it is God who is performing this miraculous work of redemption.

So we see the reason why God does this.

I'm going to show you. He says to his people.

All of the resistance of the power of Pharaoh to be brought against your deliverance and I'm going to deliver you anyway so that you may know that I am the Lord your God, so we still say well to God's purpose in God's intent in all this may have been a good intent and a good purpose in the redemptive end in view, but still we asked the question how can it justify God's forcing Pharaoh to commit evil and then punishing Pharaoh for committing that evil while the keyword in that little question is the word force that we have to ask that the bottom line is, what does the Bible mean when it says that God hardens the part of Pharaoh. How does he do it. There are at least two distinct possible ways that God could harden the hard Pharaoh, one of which would be utterly inconsistent with what the Scriptures teach us about the character of God and the other one would be perfectly consistent with what the Scripture elsewhere teaches us about the character of God. Let's look at the one that would not be consistent with the character of God, and that is this that God could harden Pharaoh's heart by intervening in his soul in his spirit and creating fresh evil out of good in his heart and then punishing him for doing what comes naturally.

That raises all kinds of problems. I have to say. Just as an aside, even that view could theoretically be validated if we go in the some very deep discussions about God's sovereign judgment on people but is looser described.

Luther argued this way, that in the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. God did not come in and directly and immediately create fresh evil in Pharaoh's heart, but the way God harden Pharaoh was to remove his common grace to take the leash off the remove the restraints because the only thing that had kept that heart from being any harder than it already was. Was the tender grace of God and for God to make Pharaoh's heart harder. He doesn't have to create fresh evil in that heart only has to do is take his mercy way remove the restraints, take the leash off step aside and let them do whatever he wants to do and as I said this is consistent with what the Scripture speaks elsewhere about the awful judgment of God when he gives people over to their sin, which incidentally is what is indicated in the final act of church discipline.

When a person is excommunicated. They are delivered to Satan and exposed to the temptation of the evil one. The heads of divine protection such as that which had surrounded Joe before Satan was given permission to have at Job. This is what happens every time someone is excommunicated in this makes excommunication such a dreadful thing to comprehend, but it is consistent with God throughout biblical history to speak to sinners who want to sin who want the restraints removed who want the leash untied and they're begging to be ultimately free to express the wickedness that is stored up in their hearts, and when God judges them. He said okay if you want evil without reservation. I'll let you have it all remove my restraints. I will remove my common grace and abandon you to your own evil inclinations and dispositions.

I personally think that's exactly what God did with Pharaoh. He let Pharaoh be Pharaoh. I once had a conversation with a person who was involved in a serious fall into evil who was involved in the process of church discipline in her life and process of church discipline follow several steps.

The last of which is excommunication and each step is designed to encourage the person to repent of their sin, and if they repent of their sin.

They enjoy restoration of full fellowship with in the church and I talked to this woman said, do you realize that you're now facing the last step in that if you don't change this course of action. You will of course be excommunicated and she said why don't be excommunicated, but I don't want to change my course of direction either and she knew very well that if she persisted in her behavior and was excommunicated, she can go right down the street to the next church on the block and be welcomed into their fellowship and I sit here. Do you realize which communication is the church is abandoning you turning you over to Satan who will sift you like wheat to remove the means of grace from your life that so protect you from godlessness. Think twice before you open yourself to this kind of abandonment of the means of grace. I like to say that she wasn't a man repented she didn't.

She went right ahead. Think of the old consequences that will be God did Pharaoh ultimately excommunicated. That's a sobering messages in it with an application that all of us as Christians should consider God didn't create evil in Pharaoh's heart, but he did turn Pharaoh over to the evil that was already in his heart glad you joined us for Renewing Your Mind on the Saturday timely web and in just a minute will hear from leader teaching fellow Dr. Bert Parsons about some more hard sayings that we read in Scripture. I hope you'll stay with us each Saturday we featured Dr. RC Sproul's examination of some of the most difficult text in the Bible we like to send you a digital download of the series 15 messages and all for your donation of any amount to later ministries the title of the series again is hard sayings of the Bible and you can reach us online at Renewing Your or you can call us with your gift at 800-435-4343 Elizabeth to Dr. Bert Parsons Joyce be here the studio.

He is the pastor of St. Andrews Chapel. Our chief publishing officer here at later ministries and the editor of table talk magazine a bird can we tackle another. These misunderstood saying Sabbath to Matthew chapter 7. Yeah, Matthew 71 Jesus said in the sermon on the mount judge not that you be not judged, and that is a verse that is taken and used and maligned throughout the world.

People both outside the church and even those who are inside the church would claim to be Christian say what we can't be judgmental. We can't judge. Of course we don't have a spirit of Judge mentalism. We don't want to have a spirit of being judgmental. That's that is that is clear yet.

We are taught in Scripture that we are to discern and we are to make wise decisions. We are to discern not only between truth and falsehood, truth and error, but truth and partial truth. We are called to judge false teachers and false prophets by their fruits. We are called to discern those who are repentant and those who are impenitent and unrepentant those that need to be admonished those that may need to be disciplined by the church. We are called to make judgments. We are called by God to call sin sin and we are called by God to discern what is right from what is wrong and so when Jesus says judge not that you be not judged. He's not saying that we should not make judgments or we should not be discerning.

We should not call what is right right what is wrong, wrong. The point there is that we should not be hypocritical that we must be very careful and how we make judgments because at the same measure that we judge others that same measure will be used with us both on earth and in some sense before God.

That is a helpful word of caution and thank you for sharing that with us. Dr. Parsons, by the way table talk magazine often deals with the commonly misunderstood passages in Scripture table talk is a great companion in your own Bible study and if you've never subscribed before you can receive a free three month trial subscription when you go to try table and again Dr. Parsons thank you for being with us the next week. Dr. Spruill will address the hard say we find in Joshua chapter 2 is God actually honor Rahab for we hope you'll join us next Saturday for Renewing Your Mind

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