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Exodus 10:1–2

“Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.”

Just before Moses and Aaron’s announcement of the eighth plague to Pharaoh, the Lord meets with Moses to remind the prophet again that He is ultimately behind all that has been happening in the king of Egypt’s resistance (Ex. 10:1–2). No doubt, this serves to encourage Moses to press on in faithfulness to God’s mission. After all, the Lord has now unleashed seven plagues on Egypt (7:14–9:35), but Pharaoh has not freed Israel from bondage. It would be easy for Moses to get discouraged and to believe that things are not going according to plan, that the Lord might even fail to secure the liberation of the Israelites. Hearing that the king’s rebellion is actually ordained by God will motivate Moses to keep going back to Pharaoh with the words of the Lord even when the king rejects him, for he will see that everything is proceeding according to God’s design.

As noted, the Lord’s providence includes Pharaoh’s stubborn opposition to God’s demands. Today’s passage even tells us that God Himself has hardened Pharaoh’s heart, as He promised when He first appeared to Moses (10:1; see 4:21). Many people find the idea that God hardens some sinners against Him difficult. Nevertheless, Scripture says here and in many other places that the Lord will confirm people in their sin in such a way that they remain guilty and the only party culpable for wickedness. Scripture never tells us that we can blame God for our sin. Moreover, while God’s hardening does not operate at the same level as sinners’ hardening themselves, thus maintaining His righteousness, God’s hardening of sinners consists not merely in His standing back and watching sinners go their own way. Proverbs 21:1 tells us directly what the exodus account reveals in historical narrative: “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” God Himself is directing Pharaoh’s actions, albeit in a way that allows Him to maintain His holiness. This, indeed, is a great mystery.

God continues to harden Pharaoh so that He can keep on doing signs and wonders that will make it clear to the Israelites that Yahweh, the Lord of Israel, is God (Ex. 10:2). The Lord wants to show His people convincingly who He is as the Creator and Master of the universe. God also continues hardening the heart of Pharaoh so that the Israelites can tell their children about Him (v. 2). The story of these plagues will be told and retold to future descendants of God’s people so that the true faith may be passed on in every generation.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

John Calvin comments, “Pharaoh was, therefore, hardened by the marvelous providence of God with this object, that the grace of His deliverance might be neither despicable nor obscure.” The Lord moves in order to make Himself and His ways plain to mankind. Our job is to tell others of how He has done this so that they may know and love Him. To whom can you declare the ways of the Lord today?

For Further Study
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  • Ephesians 6:4

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