Tuesday, August 23, 2005
HARDENING OF THE HEART
Centuries of critics have accused God of unfairly judging His enemies after having hardened their hearts. Is God guilty-as-charged? God repeatedly hardened His Old Testament enemies' hearts and then judged them with annihilation. He hardened Pharaoh's heart so that self-proclaimed god would chase the Hebrews into the wilderness, and die in the process. God hardened Judas' heart so that he, in his greed, would betray Jesus, and end his own life. That sounds unfair for good reason: we know only half the story--the superficial, human half. What is hardening of the heart? Does it mean those whose hearts God has hardened have no free will? The inhabitants of the Promised Land worshiped gods to whom they attributed lust for sex and children's blood. The people happily "obeyed" the inert idols and practiced the most fowl forms of debauchery and human sacrifice. Their sensuous religion was a cancer that, if not excised, would infect God's people. Pharaoh was a proud man who enslaved an entire race of people for his fun and profit. He and his people also worshiped lustful gods, also practiced depraved religion. His lust for power, if not ended, would enslave not only the Jews, but any people weaker than Egypt. Judas was greedy, worshiping and lusting after money and power. His spirit of greed, if not quelled, would spread throughout the church. When he discovered that his betrayal would cost Jesus' life, his pride made him commit suicide to end his dishonor. God didn't make these people depraved idolaters or prideful profiteers. Their sin was their own choice. In hardening their hearts, God simply prevented their poison from spreading and allowed them to reap the harvest of their sin. Hardening their hearts kept them from becoming fearful and changing their minds for the wrong reason. Fear of God's punishment doesn't bring repentance. It brings rationalizations, excuses and attempted evasion of sin's consequences. Repentance comes from the reverential fear of God's holiness. Were those people whose hearts God hardened likely to repent of their evil and devote themselves to obeying God? No mere human could answer that question, but God knows each person's intentions perfectly. If He hadn't hardened their hearts God knew they would have continued in their rebellious, cruel lifestyles, plaguing His people until the end of time. God simply allowed their evil intentions to kill them, without escaping through caution or fear. As from the beginning, sin enslaves those who give themselves to it. God only hardens hearts that have already surrendered completely to depravity. Everyone who has sinned in any way has already sold themselves into bondage to the lowest bidder. That includes all of humanity because all have sinned. Jesus died and rose from the grave for one purpose: He was the price God paid to buy back our sinful lives. Only those who have accepted the opportunity Jesus bought for us, and turned away from their self interest and self gratification, have a choice of whether or not they will sin. Now we know the answer to the centuries-old question. God was NOT unfair in hardening His enemies' hearts--or in any dealings with His creation.