Why did God harden Pharaoh's heart?
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
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So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen. — Romans 9:18
Let's be clear. There is a mystery in God's story that we will never fully solve. That mystery begins in the fact that God is "rich in mercy" (Eph. 2:4), yet doesn't give his mercy to all people with the same measure. Upon some he lavishes his mercy. With others, he withholds mercy.
Romans 9 refers, in particular, to the example of God's mercy as seen in the Exodus. He showers his mercy upon Moses and the Israelites, while choosing to harden Pharaoh's heart. On the surface, this might seem capricious and unfair. But we must remember, first of all, that Pharaoh participated in the hardening of his heart. He was not a victim of divine whim, but someone who chose to reject God's will.
Moreover, we should know that God's purpose in hardening Pharaoh's heart was to display his power and fame throughout the earth (9:17). In other words, the hardening of Pharaoh's heart was part of God's plan to let the whole world know him in truth. God was working through Pharaoh so that all people might see him and ultimately be drawn to him. We will never know for sure why God chose to harden rather than soften Pharaoh's heart. But our trust in God's goodness allows us to live with this mystery.
Moreover, God chooses to show mercy according to his own will, and this fact reminds us to be grateful for what we have received. God hasn't showered his mercy upon us because we deserved it, but because of his inscrutable grace.
Mark D. Roberts is the author of several books including Can We Trust the Gospels? His article is adapted with permission from the original article "The Mystery of God's Mercy" at TheologyofWork.org. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures quoted are taken from the New Living Translation.
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