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02(Exodus 08-11) A Heart of Stone in the Hands of God

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I.       The stony hearts of God’s enemies.

A.     Pharaoh’s hardened heart.

§  Exodus 7:3 “And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.”

§  This, of course, is exactly what Moses feared would happen, Pharaoh would not listen to him. But it wouldn't be because of Moses' faltering lips, but because Pharaoh's heart was hard.

§  Again and again through the series of plagues we read about Pharaoh's hardened heart. After every one of the ten plagues, and the initial miracle, the state of Pharaoh's heart is reported. And in every case the verdict is "hardened".

B.     But how did it end up hardened?

§  On a number of occasions Pharaoh hardened his heart

§  On a number of other occasions simply that Pharaoh's heart was hard.

§  A number of further occasions God hardened Pharaoh's heart.

§  We see all three together at the end of chapter 9 and beginning of 10.

§  Exodus 9:34-10:1 And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 So the heart of Pharaoh was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the LORD had spoken by Moses. 10:1 Now the LORD said to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him,

C.     So which was it? Who hardened Pharaoh's heart?

§  All we can say is that both are true: God hardened Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh hardened his own heart against God.

§  Hardening someones heart seems like a strange activity for God to be involved with. But he had his reasons. We read earlier in chapter 9:16 that God says to Pharaoh,

§  Exodus 9:16 "But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”

§  By hardening Pharaoh's heart against himself, God was able more clearly to show his power and his glory. Because of Pharaoh's hardened heart, God was able to multiply his miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt.

§  The Apostle Paul makes this comment on this verse:

§  Romans 9:18 “Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.”

§  In short, God is completely sovereign, even over human hearts.

D.     Doesn't that make God unfair to Pharaoh?

§  No, for two reasons. First Pharaoh also hardened his own heart — he is completely guilty and complicit in his rejection of God.

§  Second, as the Apostle Paul goes on to say, who are we to judge God? It is God who defines what is fair, not us. How dare we accuse him of doing wrong?

E.      The lesson for us is that there will be people who will never listen to our message.

§  Their hearts are hard, because they have made them hard themselves, and because God, for reasons of his own has hardened them. Some people are implacably hostile to God. Perhaps you know someone like that.

All we can do is pray for these people, just as Moses pleaded for Pharaoh. God is sovereign over their hearts; he is capable of softening as well as hardening, and we must trust him to do the right thing.

II.    The stony hearts of God’s people.

A.     But how does God deal with the hardended hearts of His children?

§  Quite differently!

§  The Christian’s heart in the hands of God is a thing of wonder and awe.

§  He is the master potter, able to make of the same lump vessels of dishonor and of honor.

B.     For His children, the potter has one desire: a vessel of honor.

§  Ezekiel 11:19 "Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,

§  Ezekiel 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

III. God's hand

A.     What was the point of the plagues?

§  We're left in no doubt by the Bible's account that the plagues of Egypt are brought about by God's hand at work.

§  Sure, Moses and Aaron are told to stretch out their hands, and their staff, but it's very clear that really it's always God's hand that's at work.

§  Exodus 9:14 "for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth.

B.     But surely God's fist could have delivered a knock-out blow much earlier.

§  Couldn't God have done the same? Well, yes he could. In chapter 9:15, we read that God says:

§  Exodus 9:15 "Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth.

C.     Why so many plagues, and why so nasty? Why prolong the agony?

§  We're told in chapter 7 that God's purpose in the plagues is that the Egyptians may know that he is the Lord, and in chapter 9 that the Israelites may know that he is the Lord.

§  But the Egyptians' and the Israelites' respective experience of the Lordship of God is quite different. One lot experiences his hand in judgment, the other experiences his hand in salvation.

§  We see both sides of this back in our passage in chapter 7: look at it one last time. We're told at verse 4-5:

§  Exodus 7:4 "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. 5 "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."

§  The Lord's hand judges Egypt, and saves his people.

D.     God’s Hand at work among His people.

§  Ezek 36:16-38

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