The Stubborn Heart Digs In
1Then the Lord said to Moses, “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, 2and 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.” 3So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. 4For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, 5and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, 6and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh. 7Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” 8So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the Lord your God. But which ones are to go?” 9Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.” 10But he said to them, “The Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. 11No! Go, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence. 12Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.” 13So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. 14The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. 15They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. 16Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. 17Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the Lord your God only to remove this death from me.” 18So he went out from Pharaoh and pleaded with the Lord. 19And the Lord turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea. Not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. 20But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.
My children were on the front end of the car seat generation. It began in 1978 and by 1985 all 50 states required them. My oldest was born in 1980 – so it was a car seat for her from the very beginning. (I grew up in cars that didn’t even have seat-belts installed! We actually rode in the back window sometimes to look at the passing clouds!) Anyway, when Hannah was 8 months old, we made a trip from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Caledonia, Michigan. It’s about a 4 hour trip. She decided about 15 minutes into the trip that she was not interested in that 5 point harness and began to strain against it and scream – loudly. Frankly, every parent’s been there. She continued this behavior for the next 4 hours. It was absolutely miserable. We stopped briefly to do a diaper change and then back in the car. The tears and screaming stopped for those few brief wonderful moments and then as soon as the buckle snapped into place we were right back in that hell. She was relentless. There was nothing that would take her mind off of that car seat and it’s restraint on her life. She was red-eyed and horse by the time we got to Caledonia. Her tenacity, while admirable, was painful. I was immediately reminded of that event when I read the story of Pharaoh’s unrelenting stubbornness in the face of even more pain in today’s reading. By the time we get to this, the 8th plague, even Pharaoh’s advisers are crying “enough”. They want him to relent and let the people go. Clearly, the God of the Hebrews is powerful indeed. But as the story continues the Pharaoh does not relent and God once again proves that His might is far greater than anything the Egyptians can fathom.
We too can be a stubborn people. Have you ever decided to “dig in” to a stance, a belief, or a behavior simply because it suited your desire, needs, or maybe eve sinful desires? Let me answer for you – of course you have! We all have. Pharaoh is just taking it to an extreme even the face of completely insurmountable odds. You have to believe that in his heart he knew that he was never going to win. But the chief of all sins – pride – steps up and takes control. Even though he is going to lose his people to death, he will not relent. This is the perfect example of the stubborn heart. It would be swell to say that I haven’t ever experienced this for myself. But that would be a lie. I do believe the difference between myself and Pharaoh is that I will relent before people die – he would not.
God allows us to hold on to our hard hearts but we do so at our own peril. Jesus died to forgive our sins and the Holy Spirit comes to convict us when we choose hardness over repentance. It’s the perfect plan to redeem us from the sin that entangles us. The message is old but the renewal is fresh every day.