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This week, I have been studying Exodus, specifically the 10 plagues. I noticed the phrase “hardened heart” appeared frequently within this portion of scripture (just within the five chapters (8-12) I was focusing on, the idea of a hard heart is referred to over ten times in the King James Bible). I began to think… What is the result of a hardened heart? What does a hardened heart look like? How does it act?

By looking at Pharaoh’s actions throughout Exodus 8-11, we can answer these questions.

First, a hardened heart will not listen. Exodus 8:15 says, “… [Pharaoh] hardened his heart and would not listen…” Again, in verse 19 it reads, “…Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen…” And, once more, in Exodus 9:12, “… [Pharaoh] would not listen to Moses and Aaron…”

Secondly, a hardened heart is a dishonest one. Exodus 8:29 says, “… Only let Pharaoh be sure that he does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.” At this point, Pharaoh has lied about letting the Israelites go three times prior- and will continue to do it seven more times.

In addition, a hardened heart extends counterfeit repentance. Pharaoh admits his sin and appears to be remorseful multiple times, as seen in Exodus 9:27, 34: 10:16-17

Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong…. When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. (Exodus 9:27, 34)

Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the Lord your God to take this deadly plague away from me.” (Exodus 10: 16-17). … Except, three short verses later, we see Pharaoh refuses to let them go once again.

Next, a hardened heart does not fear the Lord. Moses identifies this in Exodus 9:30 when he confronts Pharaoh, “But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.”

Additionally, a hardened heart is one that insists on its own terms. Pharaoh attempts to “bargain” with Moses and Aaron, who are being directed by the Lord, in both Exodus 10:8-11 and 10:24.

Moses answered, “We will go with our young and our old, with our sons and our daughters, and with our flocks and herds, because we are to celebrate a festival to the Lord.” Pharaoh said, “The Lord be with you—if I let you go, along with your women and children! Clearly you are bent on evil. No! … (Exodus 10:9-11)

Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Go, worship the Lord. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.” (Exodus 10:24)

Finally, a hardened heart affects, and ultimately harms, others. Pharaoh’s disobedience, resulting from his hardened heart, resulting in many Egyptians losing their lives, livestock, and other possessions. In Exodus 9:21, 25, hail strikes down servants, beasts, and herbs. In Exodus 10:7, some of Pharaoh’s officials attempt to reason with Pharaoh, pointing out their land had been destroyed, however, he refuses to listen to their council (see #1). Then, in Exodus 12:29-30, we see many, many, many firstborn sons, including Pharaoh’s, lose their lives. The Bible says, in verse 30, “… for there was not a house where there was not one dead.”

Now that we’ve seen the undesirable results and actions of a hardened heart, let’s look at what the Lord desires to replace it with:

A humble heart.

Exodus 10:3 reads, “… Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me? …”

If you resonate with the state of a hardened heart: struggling to listen, dishonest, counterfeit repentance, lacking a fear of the Lord, insisting on having it your way, or hurting those around you…

The Lord desires to replace your hardened heart with a humbled one as well.

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