How One’s Heart Becomes Hardened

Hebrews 3:12-13

The Hebrew writer warned about brethren developing an unbelieving heart hardened by sin. This comes in the middle of two warnings against following the poor example of the Israelites (Hebrews 3:7-8,15). The example of the Israelites hardening their hearts is a warning for us. However, the Israelites also had an example that they should have learned from – Pharaoh. In this lesson, we will focus on the example of Pharaoh and how his heart became hardened. In considering this, we will hopefully recognize what we can do to prevent our hearts from hardening.

Pharaoh Did Not Acknowledge God as the Lord

  • When Moses first came to Pharaoh, he asked, “Who is the Lord?” (Exodus 5:1-2) – since he didn’t recognize God as the Lord, he felt no need to obey Him
  • Those who do not acknowledge God will have their heart darkened (Romans 1:21) – this leads to sin (Romans 1:24-25); some may even call Jesus “Lord,” but the title is meaningless (Luke 6:46)

Pharaoh Embraced Counterfeits

  • When Moses began performing signs, the magicians copied them (Exodus 7:10-13, 22; 8:7) – not the same, but close enough to convince Pharaoh to ignore the words of Moses
  • Many today embrace different/inferior churches (Matthew 16:18), plans of salvation (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38), and gospels (Galatians 1:6-7)

Pharaoh Focused on What Obedience to God Would Cost Him

  • Letting the people go would mean losing a great workforce (Exodus 5:4-5) – even though the plagues devastated the land (Exodus 10:7), Pharaoh focused only on what he would lose
  • We must be willing to give up things to follow Christ (Philippians 3:7-8) – it is worth it (2 Corinthians 4:17-18), but difficult to see when we focus only on the physical/temporal (Matthew 19:21-22)

Pharaoh Developed a Habit of Sin

  • Pharaoh had several opportunities to let the people go, but he would only do so under compulsion (Exodus 6:1) – he developed a pattern of wrong behavior, refusing to listen to God and let the people go
  • Just one sin is bad (James 2:10), but habitual sin is especially dangerous because we lose a sense of shame (Jeremiah 6:15; cf. 1 Timothy 4:2) – the solution is to be careful how we walk (Ephesians 5:15)

Pharaoh Misinterpreted God’s Goodness

  • There were times when Pharaoh said the people could go, but changed his mind when the plague stopped (Exodus 8:15; 9:34) – he saw God’s mercy as an excuse to disobey God
  • Sadly, many do the same thing today (Romans 2:4-6) – they see divine blessings as an excuse to ignore their responsibilities to obey God (Luke 12:16-19)

Pharaoh Thought God’s Will Could Be Changed

  • God’s will was clear (Exodus 5:1) – Pharaoh tried to change God’s instructions (Exodus 8:25; 10:10-11, 24)
  • God’s word is fixed/settled (Psalm 119:89; cf. Jude 3) – but many become hardened to it, thinking that it is flexible; but it is not changed by time (1 Peter 1:25), culture (Romans 1:16; 1 Corinthians 4:17), or circumstances (Romans 3:8)

Pharaoh Only Sought God in Bad Times

  • At times, Pharaoh asked Moses to appeal to God on his behalf (Exodus 8:8, 28; 9:27-28; 10:16-17) – but it was only during bad times (plagues)
  • We must remember God at all times (Ecclesiastes 11:9; 12:1; 7:14) – forgetting Him in good times is dangerous (Deuteronomy 6:10-15); we are to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), not just when we are facing difficult circumstances


  • When our hearts become hardened, we fall away (Hebrews 3:12-13) – this is a gradual process (Hebrews 2:1)
  • Result of being deceived – so be on guard, our hearts can become hardened without us realizing it

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