August 29 – Stiff Necks, Hardened Hearts

“A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.” – Proverbs 29:1 (NASB)

It was during the reign of King Hezekiah that 137 proverbs spoken by Solomon were copied into the collection in chapters 25–29. Solomon warns us of the danger of fighting God’s will in our life. Resistance can leave us useless. In Exodus 4:21 is the first mention of a heart being hardened. The Lord’s direct and personal involvement in the affairs of men to accomplish His purposes is revealed when God informed Moses what would happen with Pharaoh. Pharaoh was also warned that his own refusal would bring judgment on him (Exodus 4:23). God told Moses that Pharaoh would certainly refuse* (Exodus 3:19). In the letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul used this hardening as an example of God’s enigmatic will and absolute power to intervene as He chooses, yet never without loss of personal responsibility for actions taken (Romans 9:16–18). The theological conundrum posed by such interplay of God’s acting and Pharaoh’s acting can only be resolved by accepting the Biblical record as it stands and by taking affirmative refuge in the omniscience and omnipotence of God who planned and delivered Israel from Egypt, and in so doing also judged Pharaoh’s sinfulness.

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* This interplay between God’s hardening and Pharaoh’s hardening his heart must be kept in balance. Ten times (Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17) the historical record notes specifically that God hardened the king’s heart, and ten times (Exodus 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35; 13:15) the record indicates Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

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