64. Exodus 9: “The Hard Heart”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 6/16/2016
(edited January 2021)
Last Month we looked at God’s calling of Moses and the lack of confidence Moses had in the beginning of his ministry. That was back in Exodus chapter 4. Would he rise to the occasion, lead God’s People, and confront the Pharaoh? Well tonight, in Exodus chapter 9, we will get to see Moses in action:
Verses 1-3: “Then the Lord said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still, Behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.”
What I should have said is, now we will get to see the Lord in action. AND, to his credit, Moses has come along too!
Verse 4 : “And the Lord shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel.”
We already know Moses is afraid. Wouldn’t you be, if God told you to say these things to the most powerful man in the country? I would be.
And, what about Pharaoh? This should have frightened him also, don’t you think? It should of, but it didn’t because Pharaoh had what the Bible calls a hard heart.
Verses 5-7 : “And the Lord appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the Lord shall do this thing in the land. And the Lord did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one. And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.”
I’m not sure I ever truly understood God’s plagues on Egypt. I used to think of this as the Lord, Himself, directly slaughtering the Egyptian’s cattle. But today, and this is just my opinion, I’m more inclined to believe that the Lord didn’t slaughter the cattle. What He did, in accordance with His will, was to withdraw His Hand of protection from Pharaoh’s possessions. I think that without God’s direct protection, everybody’s cattle and everybody’s everything else would come to a bad end. That’s how much we all, whether believer or non-believer, need the Lord every day!
God had told Moses that Pharaoh would not listen! The Lord said, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.” That may sound a bit unfair to Pharaoh, but I believe, kind of like with the cattle, this is not a case of God making a man do evil. Man is naturally evil already. The real miracle is that God is able to “soften” anyone’s hearts. All He has to do is step back and I know for a fact that my old heart will harden on its own. To soften our hearts today, just look at all He has to do. He had to send His Son to the Cross! I can only barely comprehend tonight that my heart and soul are worth that much to Him. But, praise God, it’s true!
Verses 8-12: “And the Lord said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt. And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast. And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses.”
The boils on Pharaoh, his livestock and pets, and on his witch doctors had an effect, I’m sure. But none of it reached into Pharaoh’s heart. Hey, I could stop right now and testify for an hour or more about things that were going wrong in my life before I was saved and yet they did not draw me one inch closer to Christ at the time. Why? Because I had a hard heart. And sometimes I still can act like I have one! You see, I ain’t no better than the old Pharaoh. Not really. We’re not here to pick on him tonight. But we are here to learn from his mistakes:
Verses 13-16: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.”
When you’re a little kid in Sunday School this sounds like a story about cattle and boils. But it’s more than that. These plagues are directed at the cold and unbelieving heart of Pharaoh. And he is, for better or worse, a stand-in for each of us and our hearts today! Aren’t we surrounded by Pharaohs today, that is to say, by the hard-hearted?
Verse 17: “As yet exaltest thou thyself against my people, that thou wilt not let them go?”
“And you STILL won’t let may people go?” God says. Moses is the one speaking to Pharaoh, but the message is all God’s:
Verses 18-19: “Behold, to morrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now. Send therefore now, and gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in the field; for upon every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die.”
Again, God is not so much causing the storm as He is allowing the storm. Maybe one day we will find out that there would have been constant storms here on earth without the Lord’s intervention! Something to think about.
Along those lines, I would say that Hell is not God’s torture chamber, as I understand it. It’s a place not yet experienced, and I hope and pray, not to be experienced, by any of us who are alive today. But it is a place. A place where God is absent, and so is His protection, fellowship, and care. Do you see my point? It’s His absence, not His presence that will make Hell so terrible.
Verses 20-21: “He that feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses: And he that regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field.”
Wow! It wasn’t just Pharaoh’s heart that was hard, was it? There were many hard hearts. Some of them were following their leader to destruction. That’s what a hard heart toward God and His Word does to a person.
Verses 22-33: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch forth thine hand toward heaven, that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, upon man, and upon beast, and upon every herb of the field, throughout the land of Egypt. And Moses stretched forth his rod toward heaven: and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and the fire ran along upon the ground; and the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt. So there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous, such as there was none like it in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. And the hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and beast; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and brake every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, was there no hail. And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Intreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer. And Moses said unto him, As soon as I am gone out of the city, I will spread abroad my hands unto the Lord; and the thunder shall cease, neither shall there be any more hail; that thou mayest know how that the earth is the Lord's. But as for thee and thy servants, I know that ye will not yet fear the Lord God. And the flax and the barley was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled. But the wheat and the rie were not smitten: for they were not grown up. And Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh, and spread abroad his hands unto the Lord: and the thunders and hail ceased, and the rain was not poured upon the earth.”
A hard rain fell in Egypt at that time!
Verse 34: “And when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more, and hardened his heart, he and his servants.”
Still, Pharaoh would not quite believe. He, like many today in even the most horrendous circumstances, would NOT come the Lord on the Lord’s terms. Let’s go back quickly to verses 27 and 28 where Pharaoh did appear to change his mind:
“And Pharaoh sent, and called for Moses and Aaron, and said unto them, I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Intreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.”
Almost there, but he was holding something back. Still trying to come to God on his own terms. Dipping his toe in the pool of faith. And, I can tell you from my own experience with the Lord, that just doesn’t work.
Verse 35: “And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the Lord had spoken by Moses.”
We must surrender our will and our understanding to the Lord and only then will He grant us genuine faith. That’s right, we need His help, even to believe in Him! That’s how weak we are! But, too often, we do just like Pharaoh and company here. When the hail stops falling, we forget all about God. You know, I’ve questioned the Lord at times about why this thing or some other thing is going wrong in my life. Maybe part of the answer is that He knows that my faith is just too weak NOT to have problems to deal with. Just think about that. That’s a shame, isn’t it? I don’t want to have a faith, like the Pharaoh’s, that only kicks in when I desperately need God to rescue me from a big problem. That’s not real faith at all. Real faith is full time faith, no matter what. But that’s not always easy either, is it? Let’s pray.