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Exodus: Hard Heart

Recorded on November 4th, 2018

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Having a hard heart prevents you from experiencing God’s best for you. Pastor Rothschild takes us through Pharaoh and his hard heart, and how that impacts us.

Transcript of Sermon:

[Music] afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said this is what the Lord the God of Israel says let my people go so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness ferrell said who is the Lord that I should obey him and let Israel goal I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel goal then they said the God of the Hebrews has met with us now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword but the king of Egypt said Moses and Aaron why are you taking the people away from their labor get back to work then Pharaoh said look the people of the land are now numerous and you are stopping them from working that same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people you are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks let them go and gather their own straw Thank You Ellen that was fabulous we are in our second week of our series on Exodus Exodus like I told you last week is probably one of the most crucial books of the Bible although it’s easy to overlook that being that it’s so early on in Scripture that it’s part of the Old Testament but as you see over these next few weeks the Exodus in what God shows himself to be through the Exodus and God how God shows who we are through the Exodus informs our faith still today it’s interesting I was reading the story today we’re gonna be talking about Pharaoh and Pharaohs heart heart and as I was thinking about Pharaoh’s heart heart and our hard hearts I went looking for stories of stubbornness in humanity I know that I’m stubborn in a lot of ways a lot a lot of ways and I know that some of us here are sub ern but I thought what are some of the great stories of all time of people who are really stubborn well I ran across this story of a man named Harry Randall Truman Harry Randall Truman lived in Washington State and when Mount st. Helens was about ready to explode about ready to erupt as the correct word for weeks and weeks and weeks the news agencies and government officials had been asking people to evacuate the Mount st. Helens area and Harry who was 83 thought that he knew better instead he stayed put insisting to reporters that the smoldering mountain behind him was just a molehill and that they were all acting like wimps no I may have acted like this once a while not around a volcano but maybe a little stubborn like this he said the mountain is a mile away that mountain ain’t gonna hurt me well depending on whether or not you think that lava is painful or being hit by boulders are painful he could have been right but as Joe’s dad has said to us more than one time you can be dead right right see Harry never left he was stubbornly certain that he was right I think that a lot of us have that experience every once in a while where we think that well I’m not really stubborn I’m just always right I may have thought that once or twice or I’m not stubborn my way is just better I mean think about it what I’m saying to you is obviously better than what you were thinking yourself we as humans often are very stubborn people with Moses last week we talked about what happens when Moses went before Pharaoh and asked for release we talked about who Moses was we talked about where he came from that he was a baby that was in a basket pushed down a river that he was raised in Pharaoh’s home even though he was a Hebrew that he was murdered and is an Egyptian and that he was a shepherd for 40 years and when he was over 80 years old he was called by God to lead the Israelites out of slavery from the Egyptians and we talked about how scary that must have been for Moses because he’s just a real big nobody a sinner in life just like you and I and he was asked to do this incredibly unbelievable task of asking Pharaoh telling Pharaoh really to let God’s people go and today we’re going to look at what happens as Moses asks Pharaoh to let God’s people go next week we’re going to look at the same part of Scripture but we’re going to look at it through the god lens and seeing what we can understand about God through the plagues and through this section of Scripture but today we’re gonna focus on Pharaoh and the one thing we’re gonna focus on is this idea of a hard heart because with the passage that Alan read to you what does Pharaoh say the very first time that Moses goes before him Pharaoh says are you kidding me you really think I’m gonna let all of this free slave work go you’re crazy not only does he not let the Israelites go but what does he do he makes their lives incredibly harder they have to output the same amount of work but they have to do more of the work themselves Pharaoh has a hard heart now the way I think about it we shouldn’t really be surprised by this because this is like we talked about last week somebody from Haiti a little tribe in the Pharaoh’s Palace so he doesn’t know who this is he doesn’t know who this God is and he it has all of this free workers what’s gonna make him think that he has to give this away what makes us think that he would say immediately yes of course go away if God says so not only that I would think that this would be the same response that any leader would give given this kind of question without any real understanding of where this ask is coming from I also think that we shouldn’t be surprised because just mere a chapter before where we are now in Exodus 4 we are told that the Lord said to Moses when you enter Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you to the power though the power to do but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go God said that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh would not let the people go and honestly in Christianity and in the study of theology and the study of the Bible this questioning of how does Pharaoh’s heart get hardened is one of the most debated items because if we think that God is hardening Pharaoh’s heart then are we supposed to believe that Pharaoh is just a puppet that he doesn’t really matter that he has no choice in what’s happening or does God just for know what Pharaoh is going to do does God just know what the outcome is going to be and when you look at this you’ll see that throughout this section of Scripture which is basically chapters four through 14 in Exodus you see that plague events happening where Moses will go before Pharaoh ask him to release the Israelites and Pharaoh will say no and the God will send a plague to the Egyptians it’s this cycle that happens it actually happens nine times plus 1 and the plus one is the Passover event that happens at the very end so 9 times Moses goes before Pharaoh and throughout all of these accounts there’s different ways that we are told Pharaoh’s heart is hardened we are told that Pharaoh himself hardens his heart like in verse eight TM in Chapter eight 15 it says but when Pharaoh saw that there was relief he hardened his heart we are told that it’s just a statement of fact that Pharaoh has a hard heart like in 722 it says but the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret acts and Pharaoh’s heart became hard so God didn’t harden it necessarily Pharaoh didn’t hurt it necessarily it was just hard and then like we saw in 421 there are examples of God actually hardening Pharaoh’s heart so all told there’s three times that Pharaoh is told to have heart in his own heart there are eleven times when it is said that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart and there are five times when that’s just a statement of fact Pharaoh has a hard heart now we’re a little bit tight on time today because of our beautiful communion so I’m gonna try and not talk too fast and I’m sorry if I do but this is a topic that I find super interesting because I think it really applies to us the first thing we need to understand is what is a hard heart a lot of times we take words for granted we don’t really look at what they actually mean in this context a hard heart means a strengthening of resolve a strengthening of will it means stubbornness kind of like we talked about at the beginning today in Hebrew in that context the heart was not the place where all the emotions are held like we see here today in our world where we think something of the heart we think our feelings and our emotions the heart in the Hebrew world had nothing to do with feelings and emotions it had everything to do with your intellect and your will and so what is happening here when we say hard heart it means that you’re being stubborn about something now there are times in life where it’s really good to be stubborn when you are told by a doctor that you are sick and that you decide you’re going to fight that sickness that stubbornness is an asset that is a good thing in life but when God asks you to do something and you decide to be stubborn or when your spouse asks you to just to do something and you decide to be stubborn that might not be the best time to use your strength and your resolve in your will right so stubbornness really has to do with our response how are we responding one to what’s being asked of us when something is hard with something in our world is hard say a stick of butter the way that we fix it is by the way that we softened it is by heating it up and the way that we soft in the way that we harden soft butter is by cooling it down so within material things we use heat and cooling to soften and Harden but with people when you want to get somebody to agree with you or when you want to help somebody strengthen their resolve we use images we use facts we use their personality to tie and paint a picture for them of what’s coming and that’s exactly what God does here when we’re talking about hardening your heart when God wants to harden somebody’s heart when we hear that God is hardening Pharaoh’s heart he’s simply reminding Pharaoh of what he might lose if he does what is being asked of him so he’ll lose this slave waiver he will lose all of these inhabitants that he’s been using to his own betterment to his own people’s betterment and that’s probably what hardening means but the most important thing to understand about hardening is that it’s not permanent and that you get to choose you get these images put before you you have a situation before you you ultimately Pharaoh ultimately always had the opportunity to choose his response to what was happening so do we it’s our response that matters when we look at these accounts in Exodus we see a lot of refuse language for example it says go to Pharaoh and say to him this is what the Lord says then let that my people go so that they may worship me if you refuse to let them go I will send a play a plague of frogs so if he chooses then this is going to happen but the important part for us to see here we’ll get into the actual plagues next week the important point for us to see here is that he had a choice if you do this then this will happen so there’s a choice happening here see hardening does not either make us impervious to change sometimes we have a hard heart but that hard heart can softened and we see this happen in the Exodus dialogue in Exodus 9 it says that when Pharaoh saw the rain and hail and thunder had stopped he sinned again he and his officials hardened their hearts but then a chapter later the officials go to Pharaoh and say how long will this man snare us let the people go so even within Exodus you see an example of somebody hardening their heart and then choosing to change their mind and soft in their heart towards what’s happening I was reading some commentary about this and one example really got my attention because I think it does a great job of helping us understand how our hard hearts can lead us to a point where there is no return because Pharaoh ended up at the point of no return he had denied God’s will so many times that he could no longer turn back and obey the way that he could have had he chose to obey from the beginning if you ever have canoed or if you can picture a river and at the end of this river is a waterfall and you launch out at the top of wherever the river is or wherever you are and you and you float down the river canoeing and it’s a grand old time but you know that you need to go to the shore at least maybe a quarter mile before that waterfall comes or you’re going over with it right and that’s the same thing with a way the way that we live if you don’t get off before that point of no-return you’re going over no matter what you actually want to do in our lives this happens to say you have a son who’s 14 years old and you tell them hey son you’re almost 16 years old you’re going to be needing a car soon you have two years to save some money for that car because your father and I are not going to purchase that car alone for you and for two years the son says to himself well I still have time I’m gonna use my money for this well I still have time I’m gonna use my money for this and then he gets to be about 16 and he thinks oh I should save some money now well guess what he’s way too close to that waterfall it’s going over there’s no way that his choice now can change the outcome that’s going to happen he’s led himself his series of decisions in life against what was best against the will of God led him to a place where he could no longer turn back from those decisions and there’s a crash coming and I think we might have all experienced one of these crashes in our lives sometimes that crash is a marriage that fails there’s so much hard heartedness in that relationship time over time and decision after decision and action after action and no matter what you want to do where you end up now is at the end and there is no turning back from that no matter how much you want to save it you can’t save it anymore we have this happens to us financially and we end up in bankruptcy where we know we should be making smarter decisions but we just can’t seem to make them or we don’t really want to in the moment because future me can handle that future me can handle a lot of things but future me I promise you gets into a lot of trouble too future me experiences a lot of pain and sorrow because now me is too something to do it for them now not every crashing over the waterfall is something huge and super painful we don’t always die from the decisions that lead us over a waterfall but we experience a lot of life pain we experience a lot of relational life pain more often than not what happens to us because of our hard hearts is that relationships are broken our hard heartedness usually affects the people around us whether we can’t forgive somebody in our life because they have a different political belief than you have or they root for a different football team than you do and they shove it in your face every single week I know friendships that have broken up over that is the craziest thing or whether it’s because we just can’t seem to see a different population of people in this world as equally worthy of God’s love and grace and mercy as I am worthy of God’s grace and mercy and the more that we act on that hard-heartedness the more that we choose to respond with continued hard-heartedness the farther we go down that river and the closer we get to the eventual fall which is usually broken relationship or a difficult time in our lives but the good news is the good news is we have a choice we have a choice we can choose differently but we have to choose to soft in our hearts I have an experience of having had a hard heart towards somebody in my life I’ve shared with you that I my father left us when I was a very young child and I didn’t really know him most of my life and for most of my life I had an extremely hard hard heart the hardest stone that there is and I wish I knew what that was I don’t but whatever that is that was my heart towards my father I was so brokenhearted and then over time as I began to love and trust Christ my heart started to softened and it got softer and softer towards this person that I had not seen in decades and decades and so one day my sister called me just a few years ago and said I’ve met our dad and he would love to meet you if I hadn’t allowed God that opportunity to soft in my heart towards that person that had caused me so much pain I had a righteously hard heart right things had happened to me that weren’t very great and it was okay for me to have a hard heart in my mind but over time that had softened and all of the hurt and the anger had gone away and I had the opportunity to meet my dad again to get to know this human being and if I’d had that hard heart I couldn’t have done it that same can be true for you in your life you just have to choose to let the softening happen and you have to choose not to be dead wrong dead right you don’t wanna be dead wrong either but you don’t want to be dead right we may be the most righteous person in this relationship that’s broken that doesn’t mean we need to stand on that righteousness with hard hearts can you think of all the healing that could happen in this world if you alone soft in your heart towards people in your life and then those people received your responsive softheartedness and we’re blessed by that maybe they too then would soft in their hearts towards people in their life who were hurting them what we get to do today is a body of believers is to choose a hard heart or a soft heart a heart after the will of God or a heart after the will of this world in our righteousness I know in my experience the soft heart always wins but it’s always harder and it doesn’t always feel good in the process but you don’t have that crash of the waterfall on the other side instead there’s blessing a blessing from God let’s pray God we thank you so much for giving us the ability to soft in our hearts when they are hard Lord I would believe that we all have hard hearts towards something in our lives God show us where it is that we need to soft in ourselves to you to your will and to others in our lives that we may be a force for good a force for change and a force for love it’s in the name of Jesus we pray amen you