Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,(Heb 3:7-8)
It is worth remembering that it is possible for us to harden our hearts against God. This is something to be avoided, at all cost. Perhaps the best known example of someone hardening their heart is Pharaoh, when Moses asks him to let the people of Israel go and worship in the desert. You can read the details of this in the first 14 chapters of Exodus. When God first explains to Moses what He is planning, He clearly states that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart. It is easy to think that God is being unfair on Pharaoh, but as the story unfolds we see a very different picture, and God shows great patience with Pharaoh and it is only when Pharaoh has hardened his own heart many times that God undertakes any hardening. The account starts with Moses and Aaron appearing before Pharaoh and making the request to release the people of Israel. They demonstrate God’s power by Aaron turning his staff into a snake, which then swallows the snakes formed by Pharaoh’s magicians. It is at this point we read that Pharaoh’s heart is first hardened; but that hardening is by Pharaoh, himself. There then follow three plaques affecting the whole land (blood, frogs and lice), which, while severely inconvenient, cause no lasting damage, but after each of them it is again Pharaoh that hardens his own heart. From the fourth plaque (flies) onwards, they only affect the area inhabited by the Egyptians and not the Israelites. It is this fourth plaque that the Egyptian magicians cannot replicate and testify to Pharaoh that this is God’s work. With this plaque and the next (livestock dying) it is Pharaoh again that hardens his own heart and it is only with the sixth plague (boils) that we first read God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. But this is not the end, and Pharaoh again hardens his own heart against God for the seventh plaque (hailstones). It is only for the last three plaques (locusts, darkness and death of the first born) where it is God alone that hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Furthermore, Pharaoh himself admits to sinning in resisting the seventh and eight plaques, but it appears that by then it is too late and God is confirming the desires of Pharaoh’s own heart by hardening it for him.
It is almost unimaginable that a person could harden their heart against the almighty God, but this record shows that for sinful man this is a real possibility. This sobering story gives us a warning that we are well advised to note carefully. While we cannot really understand the dealings of God with a man, and at what point God chooses to confirm a man in his own folly, we see that this possibility exists. The writer to the Hebrews includes this entreaty not to harden our hearts, because it is so important. We are to respond as soon as we can to anything that God speaks to us. If we continue to resist His entreaties, there may come a time when it is too late!