And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. (Exodus 7:13)
Passages like this cause lots of controversy. Why would God harden Pharaoh’s heart? Where’s the grace and the mercy in that?
Same Sun, Different Reactions
I’ve heard it explained this way: If you take a pound of butter and a pound of clay and put them both out in the hot summer sun, what will happen? The butter will melt and the clay will harden. Same sun, different substances. Is the sun acting differently toward the butter than the clay? No. The sun is being consistent with its character. It isn’t changing for either substance.
When God dealt with Moses and with Pharaoh, He didn’t change for either one. Both saw the same miracles from the same God. Moses became meek and Pharaoh only grew more stubborn. Same God, different hearts. When God told Moses that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart. God did not have to do anything special. He remained Himself. The only hardening agent was Pharaoh’s own self-will.
Same Gospel, Different Results
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men.” Titus 2:11
But not all people react to the gospel in the same way. Some, like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, can only find fault with any gospel presentation. Others, like Peter, recognize Christ for Who He is (Matthew 16:16). Same gospel, different hearts. We cannot change the gospel in hopes of winning those who don’t want to accept it. We can only be consistent with what God has said His truth is: People are sinners. They need a Savior. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Him ( see John 14:6).
Same Truth, Different Responsibilities
In speaking of his ministry to the Corinthians, Paul said, “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Planting and watering are our responsibilities with the gospel. The fruit of that labor is entirely in God’s hands.
What if Nothing Happens?
What if Paul planted, Apollos watered and nothing happened? Paul and Apollos would have been guiltless before God because they still would have fulfilled their responsibilities before God. Not even the great apostle Paul saw salvation decisions every time he witnessed. He would preach some would mock, others said, “We will hear thee again of this matter,” but certain of them believed (See Acts 17:32-34).
God changes for no one, not even for Moses. When Moses smote the rock the second time, God denied him entry into the Promised Land for his unbelief. Unbelief was the same issue Pharaoh had. That same unbelief denied Moses a great blessing. God did not change for the sake of His servant. He remained consistent. God expects the same consistence from us when it comes to our testimonies and our presentation of His truth. Some people will yield like butter. Others will harden like clay. Whatever the result, we must be faithful as God is faithful.