Exodus 5.1-2, 7.13-14
A week ago on Tuesday night in Ephesians we discussed hardness of heart. By coincidence (not a kosher word) the following Shabbat we studied Y'shua's parables on the cost of discipleship. It turns out that the two concepts are nicely related.
Paul says, "Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity." (Ep 4:17-19)
Saying this another way, Gentiles are ignorant and isolated from God because of their hardness of heart. It is not the case that their hearts become hard because of their isolation; rather the converse is true. Hardness comes first then isolation. This isolation leads them to descend into every kind of impurity. (The Romans passage says the same thing.)
When we study the origins of the term 'hardness of heart', we fetch up first in Exodus where God is dealing with Pharaoh. The process starts in Ex 5 where Moshe makes a reasonable request that Israel be allowed three days to go out and worship - basically a long weekend. Pharaoh says, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go."
After that declaration, Pharaoh ceased to be in control of the process. God took over and made sure that Pharaoh did not waver until the ten plagues had run their course and Israel was delivered. Early on, Pharaoh hardened his own heart, but later it was God who did the hardening to keep Pharaoh from caving in and letting Israel go early.
So too with everyone. As the Isaiah passage and the Romans passage show, when an individual or a nation hardens itself, denies God and falls into wickedness, He will at some point judge and decree a correction. As with Israel, that correction may not come immediately, but is sure. In such cases, as with Pharaoh, it is God who hardens the heart "lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed." (Is 6:10)
In part 2 of this article, we'll discuss Y'shua's perspective on this and His remedy.