God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
Pharaoh hardened his heart.
Pharaoh’s heart was hard.
Which one is it? Yes. Perhaps you’d like to pretend that these things were happening at different times and that it all started with Pharaoh hardening his own heart; that God only steps in to further harden that which is already irreparably hard. Make God’s hardening pointless—that’ll solve our problems? Nope. Can’t do that. These are synonymous. These are all happening at the same time; and over them all, God is sovereign. God declares that this is His intention from the beginning (Exodus 3:19, 20; 4:21) , and He tells Pharaoh why, “For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth (Exodus 9:15–16).” YHWH could have made quick work of Pharaoh, but that won’t do. God want’s wonder upon wonder to fall on Pharaoh so that His renown might echo through the earth.
How’s that for a truth to make palatable? More sugar please? This makes no sense, unless YHWH is YHWH. Own that, and you’ll bow. Jonathan Edwards got this (by got, I mean received; and by received, I mean by grace).
He hath mercy on some, and hardeneth others. When God is here spoken of as hardening some of the children of men, it is not to be understood that God by any positive efficiency hardens any man’s heart. There is no positive act in God, as though he put forth any power to harden the heart. To suppose any such thing would be to make God the immediate author of sin. God is said to harden men in two ways: by withholding the powerful influences of his Spirit, without which their hearts will remain hardened, and grow harder and harder; in this sense he hardens them, as he leaves them to hardness. And again, by ordering those things in his providence which, through the abuse of their corruption, become the occasion of their hardening. Thus God sends his word and ordinances to men which, by their abuse, prove an occasion of their hardening.
There it is. YHWH is YHWH. God is God. Because of the curse, for soil to grow hard and wild, nothing need be done but let it alone. So it is with man’s heart. So it is because of man’s heart. Dirt is a parable (Matthew 13:1–7). Soil isn’t self-softening. The Farmer doesn’t just spread the good seed, He preps the soil. We’re rocks. God restrains. If He did not, we would plunge into darkness. Down. Down. Down. This is our sinful trajectory. We are totally depraved. Sure, we’re not as wicked as we could be, but we are totally, altogether wicked. None does good. Any “civil virtue” we may exhibit is really “pretty idolatry.” In unbeliever’s every “good” act, something is being worshipped, and it ain’t Jesus, or they wouldn’t be unbelievers. Wickedness is in every crevice of our being: will, affections, desires, thoughts, inclinations, et cetera. We’re not a sin blackout, but every part is shaded in. We’re not naturally good. We’re subdued, limited, restrained, and most importantly, graced. Should God let the rocks fall, it would be nothing but an act of justice; a holy, righteous judgment on every son of Adam.
YHWH is YHWH. This is His prerogative. “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy (Exodus 33:19).” “The LORD,” meaning YWHW, and YWHW, in part meaning, “I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” Some receive mercy. Some receive justice. No one receives injustice. Behind all of this: YWHW. “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory (Romans 9:19–23).” Justice justly falls on some to magnify the graciousness of grace. “But we all deserve grace!” Isn’t that a contradiction? Further, if we’re not in hell, we’re all experiencing some degree of grace (common, non-salvific grace, but grace nonetheless) and spurning it, thus proving, we don’t at all, all deserve grace.
Moses is a sinner. Praise God, Moses, by the Spirit, paints Moses as Moses was. In chapters two through six Moses beats everyone else to the punch and roasts himself. God is the hero. Pharaoh sins again and again and finds justice. Moses, along with Israel, sins again and again, and finds grace. The only thing that makes the difference, is YHWH, the covenant God of unfailing love for His elect people. YHWH is YHWH. Realize this, and you don’t choke on the thought of sovereign justice; you get choked up thinking about sovereign grace.