In the story of the Exodus, Pharaoh doesn’t look so good.
He’s cold and aloof at the best of times, but at the prospect of the Israelites wanting freedom from their slavery, he turns cruel. He orders beatings and harsher working conditions so that the workers won’t have time or energy to consider flight.
God sends plague after plague on the Egyptians; violent, disruptive, life-threatening, economy-busting plagues. With the threat of each new calamity, Pharaoh appears to relent. “OK. You can go.” Then, in the last moment he flip-flops.
The Bible is not entirely clear what was going on. In some places it indicates that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Ex 7:3; 9:12; 10:27). Other times, it seems that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Ex 8:15; 8:32; 9:34). Either way, the hard heart symbolizes a firm resistance to God.
I wonder if our own hearts are hard or soft towards Christ?
It’s true that spiritually dry seasons come upon us all. Our spiritual sensitivity grows dull. The passion of our faith may become a mere flicker of what it was at one time. Our zest for Christ grows sedate. And the spiritual clarity we once felt may seem lost in a fog. This waxes and wanes over a lifetime.
But a dry heart and a hard heart are different experiences. It’s one thing to lose an intimate connection with Christ for a season. It’s another to resist such a connection.
There’s good news. The grace of God can break hard hearts and refresh dry ones. The invitation from Christ stands for each of us today: “If anyone is thirsty, let them come to Me and drink. And the one who trusts Me, as the Scripture says: ‘From their innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'” (John 7:38-39)