So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. (ESV)
Moses and Pharaoh. What do they have in common? Have you ever stopped to consider that question? They both had evil hearts. They were both murderers. You may remember that Pharaoh ordered all Jewish babies to be killed. Moses was spared. Moses as a young adult saw one of his fellow Hebrew slaves being beaten by an Egyptian and Moses murdered the Egyptian.
Let that reality sink in for just a moment. We love to paint our biblical heroes with perfect colors. We eliminate the flaws and celebrate how wonderful they were. We forget that all of mankind is born in sin with a propensity to do more sin. Moses was no different. Neither are you. Moses and Pharaoh had a sinful heart in common.
What set Moses and Pharaoh apart? God chose to have mercy on Moses. God hardened Pharaoh. This is a very difficult concept for us to grasp so let's break it down a bit. At first glance it seems that God creates evil in Pharaoh. That would be problematic. James says that God is not the author of evil. The reality is that Pharaoh was evil in his nature. God did not make him evil.
In hardening Pharaoh's heart, God simply withheld any restraints to keep him from freely pursuing the true evil that was in Pharaoh's heart. In other places in Scripture it actually says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Both points are true. As my father used to say, "God did not harden a heart that wasn't already willing to be hardened."
Give praise to God for his amazing mercy. Without it we would be left completely to our own devices. Our hardened hearts would lead to endless evil. Praise God for his mercy.