The eighth plague, the plague of locusts, gets to the heart of the matter (pun intended).
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD” (Exodus 10:1 – 2).
Pharaoh is suffering from a hard heart. The big question is, “Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart?” Did the Lord do it, or did Pharaoh do it to himself? In many places (including this passage, 7:3; 9:12; 10:20; 10:27), it says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but in others, it says Pharaoh himself was responsible (8:15; 8:32; 9:34).
I remember teaching this principle to children during Vacation Bible School. We conducted a “science experiment.” The children made things out of clay, and I filled a plate with a pound of butter. Then we put them all out on the hot Phoenix summer sidewalk and left them for an hour. Both were exposed to the sun. What do you think happened? Yup, the clay turned into bricks, and the butter melted into a soupy mess. The same sun that hardened the clay melted the butter. No surprise!
One of the early church leaders was “Manaen, a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch” (Acts 13:1). Jesus called Herod the tetrarch “that fox” (Luke 13:2). He was responsible for beheading John the Baptist and crucifying Jesus. Manaen and Herod Antipas grew up together. They had the same education and opportunities, so why did one grow up to become a monster and the other died a beloved leader of the church? The same sun was shining on them both. The answer is in their hearts.
As I was working on this lesson, a dear friend of mine asked me, “What are the warning signs of a hard heart?” His answer is brilliant: EGO. A raging ego is a precursor to a spiritual heart attack. No wonder the Scripture repeatedly calls on Christians to humble themselves! Thanks, Tom.
Finally, the Apostle Paul told the Ephesians:
“You must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (Ephesians 4:17 – 19).
Exercise: Underline the issues Paul shares in this passage that lead to or result from “hardness of heart.”