God did not harden Pharaoh’s heart. Those that teach Predestination claim that God arbitrarily predestines some to be saved and others to be lost. These claim that Pharaoh simply had no choice but to be lost and God used him to reveal His mighty deeds. This line of thinking implies that the Lord chooses for some people to sin. This is unbiblical doctrine because it distorts the loving character of a God who gave up heaven and its glories to save all of mankind (John 3:16).
So what does the Bible mean when it says, “The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh”? (Exodus 9:12). Note that there are several statements to the effect that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Examples of this are found in Exodus 7:22; 8:19; 9:34, 35. God knew already Pharaoh’s heart (Psalms 44:21) and that His message to free Israel would harden Pharaoh’s heart as it went against his selfish desire to enslave them.
God takes no pleasure in the suffering and death of the wicked, but rather desires that all men repent and be saved (Ezekiel 33:11; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). God causes His sun to shine upon the evil and the good (Matt. 5:45). But the sun affects different elements in different ways according to their own nature, it melts wax and hardens clay. In like manner, the Spirit of God produces different effects on the hearts of people. The mercy of God leads some to life and others to death, each according to their own choice.
By repeated warnings of divine power, God sent light to help Pharaoh mend his ways and to lead him to cooperate with His will. But each successive manifestation of power left him more determined to do as he wanted. As he rejected the light, he became insensitive to it, and the light was finally withdrawn. Thus, his own rejection of the light hardened his heart. Even his own magicians acknowledged to him that the plagues are “the finger of God” (Exodus 8:19). Yet, Pharaoh would not listen.
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In His service,