In scripture, I always wondered why God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Exodus 4:21 says, “The LORD said to Moses, When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.” Throughout Exodus, it is repeatedly pointed out that Pharaoh hardened his heart, or that God hardened his heart. I read through the verses several times, because I couldn’t understand why God would actively keep someone from believing in Him. I assumed that to have a hardened heart was to rebel against God, and that hardened hearts belonged to unbelievers. Until God showed me my own.
I was in the middle of an argument with my husband, and I was trying to see things from his side. I understood that my words had hurt him, but then I immediately remembered that he had hurt me first. I deserve to be angry about this. As soon as I thought the words, I felt a gentle nudging in my spirit. My own thoughts were replaced. “Do not harden your heart against him.”
I was shocked – was I hardening my heart or just being emotional? I looked up several definitions of the word harden: cold, unfeeling, unyielding. Over the following weeks, I became very aware of my heart. In conversations at home, at work, at church… there were times that someone would say something that made my defenses go up. Each time, that same gentle nudge would remind me that the answer was not to turn off my emotions or put up a wall.
Finally, while reading in Mark, I was able to discern what God was trying to show me. In Mark 6, right after Jesus fed the five thousand, we see where Jesus walks on the water. He climbed into the boat with the disciples, and scripture says, “They were amazed beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.”
I easily recognized that my belief that hardened hearts belonged only to unbelievers was flawed, because clearly the disciples believed in and followed Jesus. I looked up other scriptures about hardened hearts, and found the disciples listed yet again in Mark 8:17. When they begin discussing the fact that they forgot to bring bread, Jesus says to them “Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?” Jesus had already fed the five thousand and the four thousand, and yet the disciples were worried about not having bread. In response, Jesus asks them, “Are your hearts hardened?”
I realized that having a hardened heart doesn’t mean that you are opposed to God, but that your thoughts are opposed to His. We see the miracles, but we don’t trust Him to continue to take care of us. We are amazed by the miracles, which means that we don’t believe God is who He says He is.
Mark 6:52 says the disciples “considered not the miracle of the loaves”. So in the midst of the storm, rather than reminding themselves of what Jesus had already shown them, they focused on their current situation. In the midst of our storms, our hearts become softened toward what we focus on, and hardened to everything else. In an argument with my husband, if I focus on my own emotions and feelings, I become hardened against him.
Going back to Pharaoh, God hardening His heart meant that, though he saw the miracles with his own eyes, he couldn’t understand or perceive what they meant. He was unaffected by the miracles happening around him. His focus stayed on himself, and his own pride, which kept a veil up between Him and God.
“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.” – Ephesians 4:18
To harden your heart against God is to turn away from the life God wants for you. To choose the natural over the supernatural, or to choose your view over God’s view. To remain ignorant and unyielding. To let pride interfere with your relationships. To be unaffected by His words or His work.
When I view my husband as “worthy of my anger”, I am choosing to be unaffected by Christ’s work on the cross. I am choosing my own view over God’s view, and I am hardening my heart. Instead, in the middle of the storm, I have to consider Jesus. I have to remind myself of what has already been finished.