Shelter in Place with Joni: A 7-Day Devotional Reading Plan, Part 3

Day 1 of 7 • This day’s reading

Devotional

Hard Hearts

For many of us, the account of the showdown between Moses and Pharaoh brings back memories of a Sunday school song: “Pharaoh, Pharaoh, Oh baby, let my people go! Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah!” For others, the Exodus is simply an epic Hollywood film. But for the Israelites, it was a distressing time full of hard, painful lessons.

After 400 years of affliction and divine silence, Moses showed up as God’s ambassador to the Egyptian king to plead for his people’s freedom and warn of the dire consequences of ignoring God’s demand. Yet Pharaoh was immovable. Scripture tells us in Exodus 10:20 that “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (emphasis added).

But wait—who did the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart? James 1:13 assures us that God does not inject the idea of evil into anyone’s heart. Through the common work of grace in our world, God is constantly staving off evil, restraining the fury of Satan so harm and calamity do not overwhelm us. Ultimately, the devil can only do what God allows. Every once in a while—as in the case of Pharaoh—God lifts his hand of restraining grace to allow evil people to carry out their wicked plans, but only as it serves his higher purposes. It is as though God were saying to Pharaoh, “So you want to sin? Well, go ahead, but I’ll make sure that when you do, your evil intentions suit my higher purposes and plan.”

Even though humans have an intellect and a will of their own, God ultimately governs all we do—including evil intentions. And he does it all without impugning his righteous and holy character.

Has someone caused you harm? hurt or maligned you? You can trust that God is in control of even that painful situation. Nothing ever happens that God does not deliberately allow. We may not understand his reasons, but we can rest in his goodness.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, search my heart and know me. If there is any hardness of heart in me at all, I give you permission to uproot it out of my heart, remove the stony places, and give me a heart of flesh for your name’s sake. Amen.