Heart Responses to God
But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and did not let the people go. Exodus 8:32
He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. Matthew 17:5-6
The God of the Bible has revealed Himself in human history, but the responses are mixed. Some, like Pharaoh, harden their hearts. Others, like Peter, James, and John, fall on their faces terrified.
Pharaoh saw God’s power bringing plagues upon him and the nation. In the first two instances, his magicians were successful in reproducing the same results. With the third plague, the magicians failed to produce gnats and concluded that it is “the finger of God.” In the fourth case, there is no mention of the magicians even attempting to compete with God’s power. Despite the increasing intensity of the plagues, Pharaoh kept hardening his heart.
The disciples on the mountain with Jesus also saw wondrous things. Jesus was transfigured. His face and garments shone with intense light. Moses and Elijah appeared. Starring at this sight, Peter starts babbling about making tents for each of them. Then he and the other disciples hear the voice of God. The starring and babbling ends and they fall in terror before God.
How do you account for these contrasting responses to displays of God’s power and presence? God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, but does a gracious work in the hearts of the disciples. Believers in biblical history always fall before God’s revelation of Himself. Unbelievers, like Pharaoh, merely shrug off the evidence of God’s presence and power as if it were a mere coincidence. To Pharaoh, the plagues were an inconvenience, not a sign indicating that the eternal, omnipotent God was near.
Think about it
How do you respond to God’s revelation of Himself? If you believe, you will have a proper fear of Him, not horror that makes you run from Him but awe that causes you to fall before Him in worship and reverence.
Fear God for His majesty and power in creation and providence. Fear God for, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q. 4) says, He is “a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.” Praise God if He has given you, not a hardened heart, but a tender, believing heart that fears Him.