The question was posed to our small group, what about the hardening of the heart?
The question is not the problem, and neither is the answer if you think about it; the problem is the heart of the man asking the question because the underlying theme is the lack of understanding about the nature and character of God.
In general, the religious concept of God is that He is merely looking for ways to reduce the population count in heaven by sending people to hell. I say that because I sit with them twice every week, and virtually every time we meet they spin God’s word to convey some anger in their hearts, which allows them to send multitudes to hell.
How can I prove that God’s desire is for us and that he does not want to send any to hell? Let’s start with Matthew 18. Here is the parable in which the shepherd seeks out that one lost sheep. The idea is that they are all valuable and none, it seems, are worthy of ignoring or throwing away. However, the parable goes far beyond that, and we see this in verse 14.
Matthew 18:14 ERV in the same way your Father in heaven does not want any of these little children to be lost.
First – Though readable, the ERV seems to be lacking concern in its translation when you compare it with the NASB.
“So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish. (Matthew 18:14 NASB)
The NASB seems rather straightforward in saying, “it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven..”. However, there are greater implications. When I look up the words little ones, I find a meaning that takes on a larger scope.
mikros; small, little: – least (4), less (1), little (13), little ones (6), little while (10), short (1), small (8), smaller (2), smallest (1).
It also applies to those who are not on the forefront; insignificant; perhaps those with downs syndrome, or those who just not as aggressive in business and lacking in competitive skills. The Word Study Dictionary implies those not: “Of magnitude (Mat_13:32; Mar_4:31; Jas_3:5); of stature (Luk_19:3; Sept.: Eze_17:6); of age meaning small, young, not grown up (Act_8:10; Act_26:22; Heb_8:11; Rev_11:18; Rev_13:16; Rev_19:5, Rev_19:18; Rev_20:12).”
The same definition applies to the word perish that we see in the NASB, as it does to the word lost in the Easy Read Version.
apollumi and it means to destroy, destroy utterly:
Of the thirty Bibles, I have immediate access to, the word choices are about half/half between lost or perish. To be lost frequently holds out the hope that you will eventually be found, but to perish conveys a permanent condition. Since we should understand that the one aspect of our lives that lives forever is our soul/spirit, then our next logical assumption is that this idea of perishing has little to do with the cessation of breath. To rewrite the sentence using the words of Wilbur Pickering; Wilbur N. Pickering, ThM Ph.D., the one stand out from the crowd, I might say,
“..it is not a desire, in the view of your Father in heaven, that one of these little ones should be wasted.”
What is to be wasted?
It is to be thrown aside while someone or something still had use? We now see ordinances being enforced which prohibit markets from throwing out food products that could still find some useful benefit, like feeding the homeless. We often see no value in some people and are more than willing to cast them aside.
Again I rewrite the sentence:
So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should be destroyed utterly.
What are we talking about when we say to destroy utterly? Isn’t it to be separated eternally, from God and His presence. In Revelation 20 we are told those whose names are not found in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire. Being tossed into a lake of fire should demonstrate an utter destruction/separation from God.
Revelation 20:15 NASB And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
And, 1 Corinthians 6 explains in more detail than I wish to give right now, that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:9 NASB Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?
So far I have pointed out God’s heart, in that I believe He does not wish to lose anyone. If I can give you one more piece of evidence, it would be the old standard, John 3:16, 17.
John 3:16-17 NASB “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (17) “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
You have to be blind to not be able to see that God desires eternal life for all, and that he, in contrast to what I hear every week, did not send His Son into the world to judge it, but save it through Him. There are no limitations and restrictions in that statement.
As Bob Dylan use to sing, you might serve the devil, or you may serve the Lord, but you are going to have to serve somebody! Those who by choice serve the devil will follow their master to his appointed, eternal destruction, while those who choose to serve the Lord will follow Him into an eternity of peace and joy.
Now, that being said, what do we do with statements and situations like this?
Exodus 4:19-21 NASB Now the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” (20) So Moses took his wife and his sons and mounted them on a donkey, and returned to the land of Egypt. Moses also took the staff of God in his hand. (21) The LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.
Moses murdered an Egyptian; however, we do not see God’s judgment upon Moses or any implication that God wipes Moses’ name out of the book of life because of his “sin.” (I can explain and validate this, later on, should I choose.) God does, however, tell Moses that those who sought his life for the murder are dead. So, even though Moses is not our focus, he too has the potential to harden his heart. After all, didn’t he just spend 40 years in the desert, something that would turn many against God?
“When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power, but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.”
God, it would seem, is going out of His way to get Pharaoh’s attention, not merely kill him. We assume, and probably historically so that Pharaoh had a first born son who was killed on the night of Passover, the last draw. And yet, in spite of all this, Pharaoh’s heart did not turn to God but was hardened by Pharaoh himself.
Look at the word hardened.
Hardened, is the Hebrew word chāzaq. The Word Study Dictionary tells us that it is a verb meaning to be strong, to strengthen, to be courageous, to overpower. The verb chāzaq is widely used to express the strength of various phenomena, such as: the severity of famine (2Kings 25:3; Jeremiah 52:6); the strength of humans to overpower each other: the condition of Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 7:13); David and Goliath (1Samuel 17:50); Amnon and Tamar (2Samuel 13:14); a battle situation (2Chronicles 8:3).
Pharaoh certainly played the game of dominance with Moses.
Another commentary that says something comparable to the idea that it is man that hardens his heart is the NNIBC.
“In the following passage, Pharaoh, most likely Amenhotep II (c. 1447-1421 B.C.), is not simply the king of Egypt, but a symbol for all who resist God, for all of God’s enemies. I will harden his heart: Some interpret these words as meaning that God would confirm what Pharaoh had stubbornly determined to do. In the first five plagues, the hardening is attributed to Pharaoh (Exo_7:13, Exo_7:22; Exo_8:15, Exo_8:19, Exo_8:32; Exo_9:7). Then for the sixth plague, God hardened a heart that Pharaoh had already hardened (Exo_9:12).” Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary
Do we forget that God also said he would punish Israel for their sins,
Exodus 32:34 NASB “But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless, in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.”
and then went about bringing nations and people against them.
Isaiah 13:4-5 NASB A sound of tumult on the mountains, Like that of many people! A sound of the uproar of kingdoms, Of nations gathered together! The LORD of hosts is mustering the army for battle. (5) They are coming from a far country, From the farthest horizons, The LORD and His instruments of indignation, To destroy the whole land.
Who then is doing the punishing, God or man? The answer is both. Now, is it God that does the hardening of the heart or does He merely allows the man to do his thing, while God, at some point, slams the door shut.
You see, the problem is that God’s word and these themes we find are not always so clear cut, are they?