“So the Lord said to Moses: ‘See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.’ ” Exodus 7:1-4
There was a song that I used to hear from time, it was sung by Amy Grant, some of the words of the chorus explain a reality that was being demonstrated in Pharaoh’s reaction and response to God’s calls to let Israel go, “The same sun that melts the wax hardens clay and the same rain that drowns the rat will grow the hay…”
God foretold that Pharaoh would not heed his demand for the release of the children of Israel. The same signs and wonders that had been enough to convince the elders of the people that God had not forgotten or abandoned them would only serve to harden Pharaoh’s resolve to not relent. Even the plagues when they fell one by one only served to motivate Pharaoh to push back harder against the pressure God was exerting to subdue his stubborn heart.
The thing is that there was no question as to the source of the miracles and disasters that came upon Egypt as signs of God’s authorship of the call for the Israelite slaves to be released. Pharaoh knew that he was wrestling with God and he was determined that he would not give in, even if it destroyed everything. And it very nearly did destroy everything. Crops, property, and cattle lost as a result of the plagues. All the first born dead, from the son of Pharaoh to son of lowliest slave, to the offspring of the livestock. Finally, Pharaoh had had enough and he gave in. Israel could go.
But after his initial grief had cooled it was transformed into anger. Israel would not go free. The army was called up and Pharaoh himself led them to go and compel the slaves to return to their labors. Everything God had done had only served to harden Pharaoh’s heart against God and against Israel.
Revelation foretells that the same is true of the devil and the wicked that God will finally have to destroy so that he can make an end of sin. Everything God has done, both the blessings and the cursing, has been so that he could in some way convince the people to stop opposing him and choose life, but for some all those efforts will not be enough. Instead they drive them to wage war with God.
But the difference isn’t God. It’s us and our response to him. We’re not predestined to oppose God; Pharaoh got to choose for himself and we each get to choose for ourselves.
Will you choose God? Will you choose life?