When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, “What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” So he made his chariot ready and took his people with him; and he took six hundred select chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them. And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he chased after the sons of Israel as the sons of Israel were going out boldly. Then the Egyptians chased after them with all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, his horsemen and his army, and they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, in front of Baalzephon.
When we read the phrase, “Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart” we are reminded again of the influence that certain people in authority have over others. This could be rulers or bosses or parents or teachers. The responsibility for others is an awesome one. It is not given to everyone and it comes from God. It is imperative that we use it wisely and under His direction. Unfortunately, it can also be greatly misused.
And is it not interesting that what Pharaoh and his own servants were really concerned about was that they lost their personal means of being served through the slavery of the Israelites. When the responsibility for authority has gone awry, there is often a sense of self-interest or egotism involved. Here we see the self-interest of both Pharaoh and his servants and in addition, the egotism of Pharaoh. If we have been granted a role of authority over others, we need to make sure that we check to ensure those two human characteristics are not being felt or exhibited, lest God deal with us in the way He was about to deal with the Egyptians. And for that matter, in the way He has dealt with every evil leader since then.
To feed their selfishness and Pharaoh’s conceit, Scriptures tell us that Pharaoh got over six hundred chariots ready to go after the Hebrews. In fact, these were just the “select” chariots. (They must have been souped-up in some form making them superior, or they had won chariot races. Who knows?) In addition, the text says he took all the other chariots “of Egypt” with him. And each group of charioteers driving those vehicles had their own officer to oversee them. It was a truly impressive posse, being led by their sheriff Pharaoh, to capture the escaped slaves, the children of God. The Egyptians should have thought it out first and included Him in the equation.
God’s strategy worked perfectly. Pharaoh allowed his heart to be hardened again. He pursued the Israelites and found them camping exactly where God had placed them for him to do so. Several thoughts come to mind here.
First, it always seems to be about the heart. The text does not say, “God changed what Pharaoh was going to do.” No, it says, “God hardened the heart of Pharaoh.” As I study Scripture, I am more convinced that God is keenly interested in our “hearts” – what they are feeling and desiring more than He is in what we do. That is not to say He will allow us to do anything as long as our hearts are right by Him. He won’t. And in fact, when you think about it – when our hearts are right by Him, there is little chance we will do what is unacceptable to God. When our hearts are right by Him, we will be doing everything we can to please Him.
Second, this brings us to a most interesting dilemma. Perhaps one that we cannot solve, but let me at least in my attempt to be totally open with you as I write these thoughts, share with you what I had in mind. Is it possible that while God intends to harden our heart to do evil (as in Pharaoh’s case), we are still able (or perhaps allowed by God) to do the right thing? That is, is it possible for us to say to God, “No, Lord, I won’t allow you to harden my heart against You. I will indeed serve You and love You.”? Put another way could Pharaoh have surprised God?
Okay, I know that puts the discussion on a whole new plain. God is never surprised. God is never thwarted in His plans. Does God still even harden people’s hearts today? And we do know God does want us to serve and love Him. This presents a dilemma.
Perhaps the matter can be answered as follows: If God knew that Pharaoh wanted to serve and love Him now, He would not have hardened his heart at this time. He would have given Pharaoh every opportunity to do just that. We are left, therefore, with the fact that God is omnipotent and omniscient. He did what He did with Pharaoh because of what He knew about Pharaoh. At least that’s my take. What’s yours? We may find we would end up in a debate about predestination and I certainly do not want to do so here.
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