21 Sep A Stubborn Heart
At this point in the Exodus narrative, the first three plagues have occurred over the land of Egypt, and Pharaoh has not budged in his stance of holding the Israelites captive (Exodus 7:3-5).
These first three plagues take place throughout the land, likely affecting both Egyptians and Israelites. Now, with the fourth, fifth, and sixth plagues, God eliminates any opportunity to give credit to human hands or Egyptian gods, targeting Egyptians and sparing Israelites, revealing His sovereignty over animals, insects, and human health.
We see the pattern of Pharaoh’s heart: At first he simply refuses to acknowledge that it is God causing the plagues. As the Lord makes it more evident that it is His finger moving behind the scenes, Pharaoh’s heart tenses up. Over time, he digs his heels in and holds his ground against the Israelites and against the Lord.
Pharaoh pushes his own agenda throughout the story. Earlier, he refuses to acknowledge that it is the God of Israel carrying out these mighty acts. Eventually he begins to recognize God’s work but only bends his will to gain some relief from the current calamity; he immediately retracts his promise to let God’s people go when the plague is no longer on him (8:14). God’s power becomes increasingly evident, and Pharaoh runs out of excuses.
” . . . Pharaoh’s heart tenses up. Over time, he digs his heels in and holds his ground against the Israelites and against the Lord.”
Now he’s just being stubborn.
If you’ve ever spent time with a three-year-old, you likely have an awareness of the pattern and development of a stubborn heart: it begins with desiring something and not wanting to give it up. However, over time, the desired object fades in significance and what becomes most important is holding ground. The toddler soon forgets why he even wants the desired object, but becomes confident in determination to not let go. While we often laugh or roll our eyes at the fierce will and tenacity of a three-year-old to hold so fast to a particular toy or snack, we too can have stubborn tendencies that parallel with these, but on a grander scale.
In my own life, this stubbornness of heart is often revealed in my tendency to become resistant as God gently nudges me to relinquish control. Like Pharaoh, I try to push my own agenda.
Rather than living with a trusting spirit, acknowledging God’s hand in my own life, I rely on my own performance to obtain certain outcomes in school, work, and relationships with those around me, trying to control and manipulate others’ view of me and my own success by projecting an image of perfection.
“I rely on my own performance to obtain certain outcomes in school, work, and relationships with those around me, trying to control and manipulate others’ view of me and my own success by projecting an image of perfection.”
In a cloud of entitlement and an illusion of power, I try to match God’s sovereignty by putting the pieces of my life together, planning the next few days and weeks and years, begging for clarity. I am relentless in my desire to manage life on my own, turning to God only to beg for a whisper of insight into the future, making deals with Him that I don’t intend to keep, asking him to take away or alter pieces of my current circumstances. I tidy up my own life and perfect my performance, using woo and hard work to manipulate approval of others and perceived success at whatever I’m doing, ultimately trying to create some stability around my own performance.
While I’m not refusing to let go of control over an entire nation, my stubbornness to relinquish control over my own life still uncannily parallels Pharaoh’s, as it reflects a hardened heart that is trying to be elevated above God. The danger remains that in refusing repentance I am becoming numb to the existence of sin in this heart attitude.
Just like a toddler with a furrowed brow and white-knuckled grip on his or her toy, over time, we may not be able to see past the position we’ve chosen to plant our feet in. We may become unrelenting and foolish in our consistent resistance of repentance.
How often do I act similarly to Pharaoh—refusing to move if it isn’t on my terms? I so frequently brush aside commands like “do not fear” or “trust the Lord with all your heart” because they don’t fit in line with my own agenda.
“While I’m not refusing to let go of control over an entire nation, my stubbornness to relinquish control over my own life still uncannily parallels Pharaoh’s, as it reflects a hardened heart that is trying to be elevated above God.”
The author of Hebrews encourages us to develop community and help each other in this, “You must warn each other every day, while it is still ‘today,’ so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” (Hebrews 3:13). On the other side of repentance is forgiveness, freedom, and eternal life (Romans 6:23).
What does it look like to move in community, move toward repentance, and move toward God today?
Audrey is a Clemson student and big fan of warm weather, fall hikes, and anything sweet. You will most likely find her sipping on coffee, laughing off her awkward moments, and spending time with her family and friends. Audrey attends our Powdersville campus.