Do Not Harden Your Heart

Shabbat, February 4, 2017

D’rash on Shemot (Exodus) 10:1-3

When God speaks with His voice to your heart—whether with great signs and wonders or with a still, small voice,  whether through a messenger or through stories that have been handed down to us —do not harden your heart. V’eemru? (And let us say!)

In the portion I chanted today, Shemot (Exodus) 10:1-3, there are several interesting Hebrew words.

First, in Exodus 10:1, “for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants.”  The word for harden comes from a Hebrew root, kaved, kavod, meaning to be heavy, weighty, burdensome.

In this context, it means to become insensible, dull—when a heart becomes so insensible and dull,
it becomes hard to Ruach Elohim, the Spirit of God.

Though Moses proclaimed the message of HaShem with striking clarity, Pharaoh’s spiritual hearing became increasingly heavy and dull.

In Ex. 8:14-15, though his magicians couldn’t reproduce the sign of gnats, even admitting to Paro, “This is the finger of God,” the proud Pharaoh “hardened his heart” (kaved et leebo).

Then in Ex. 9:7, Pharaoh investigated the cattle plague, and found that none of Israel’s livestock of Israel was dead. Yet “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened (kaved), and he did not let the people go.”

How does a human heart become so heavy and hard to the Spirit of God? It’s an important question!  We’ll discuss this question shortly… You wouldn’t want it to happen to your heart, would you?  If you do, it becomes increasingly hard to sense let alone perceive or respond to what God is saying.  If you do, it may even become impossible to respond to what God is saying to you.

By the time Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh in Exodus 10, HaShem has decreed, “I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants.” After rejecting the message of HaShem, servants and every supernatural sign accompanying them—seven plagues—their hearts and their fates are sealed.

There comes a point of no return—which only God knows—and then a time of judgment.

When Exodus 10:20 says, “But Adonai hardened Pharaoh’s heart,” the word hardened is a different Hebrew word, chazak, meaning to be strong or firm.  That is, by now, HaShem has confirmed the hardness of Pharaoh’s recalcitrant heart.  So, did HaShem condemn Pharaoh or did Pharaoh condemn himself? (Yes, both!)

Both of these Hebrew words, kaved and chazak, are a double-edged sword.

The word kavod can mean glory and honor—as we sing, “Let the weight of your glory cover us.”

Yet here kaved comes to mean dullness, dishonor and shame.

The word chazak can mean be strong, as God said to Joshua, “Chazak! Be strong and courageous!” Or as we say when we reach the end of a book of Torah, “Chazak, chazak, v’nit’chazek!  Be strong, be strong and let us be strengthened!”

Yet here chazak comes to mean confirmed in hardness. Oy.

It all depends on how one responds to Ruach Elohim, the Spirit of God. V’eemru?  For as Yeshua says in John 3:17-18, “God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. The one who believes in Him is not condemned; but whoever does not believe has been condemned already, because he has not put his trust in the name of the one and only Ben-Elohim.”

God did not send Moses & Aaron to Pharaoh & his servants to condemn them, but to save His people.  They had seven opportunities to humble themselves, soften their hearts, hear the message, trust and obey. Ultimately, they are responsible for their unbelief and stubborn hearts. V’eemru?
Whoever does not believe has been condemned already, because he does not trust.

Does Yeshua condemn anyone or does one condemn oneself?  It all depends on how you respond to Ruach Elohim, the Spirit of God. V’eemru?

When God speaks to your heart with signs and wonders, how do you respond?  In Exodus 10:1 & 2, HaShem speaks repeatedly about the “signs that I set among them”—for both the Egyptians and also the children of Israel to behold.  Yet it all depends on how you respond…

For those refusing to believe, the locusts, the darkness and the death
of the firstborn was judgment.  For those who opened their hearts to trust and obedience, these were the signs of coming deliverance.

When the Ruach speaks to your heart with a still, small voice, as subtle and soft as a shift in the wind, or a nudge in your inner being, a whisper in your mind that echoes a word spoken truly in Scripture, or a fleeting image in a dream, how do you respond? Do you dismiss it or heed it?

It all depends on how you respond to the Ruach. He speaks to those who listen, who trust, who obey.

Why should the Ruach keep speaking to those who ignore Him?  Seven times He sent Moses and Aaron with His message. Seven times the Ruach nudged the heart of Pharaoh and his servants. But they refused to humble their hearts and trust. Then came three final  and terrible plagues—locusts covering the whole face of the earth, darkness so heavy it could be felt, and the death of the firstborn sons in every household of Egypt.

When the Spirit of God sends you with His message, don’t worry about whether the other receives it —many a prophet, evangelist, apostle have been down that way already, as well as many angels, shofars, donkeys, and locusts.  Whether a person hears, or hardens his heart is his responsibility.

Your responsibility—like Moses and Aaron—is to come to Pharaoh, or the children of Israel, and proclaim the message you have heard! V’eemru?

Exodus 10:1 begins, “Adonai said to Moses, “Bo el Paro!” Bo (which is the name of today’s portion) is usually translated, “Go!” But the more literal meaning of bo is come. So a more literal rendering of HaShem’s directive might be, “Come to Pharaoh”  i.e., come into Pharaoh’s presence, before his face, whether he wants you or not. When Moses comes to Pharaoh, he doesn’t exactly appreciate it, does he? Pharaoh didn’t want to hear God’s message.

When God prompts you to share a message—even the Good News that Messiah has come—can you necessarily expect the other person will hear and receive the message with pleasure?  Nevertheless, God commands Moses and Aaron, “Come to Pharaoh!” Draw near to him and say it.

What if the Spirit of God should say to you, “Come to your neighbor or your co-worker and say it.” Would you dare to do it, as Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, saying “Let my people go”?

That’s another interesting Hebrew word. In Ex. 10:3. The verb usually rendered, “let my people go” is actually shalach.  Shalach usually means send.So more literally, God is telling Pharaoh (through Moses & Aaron): “Send my people!”

HaShem wanted more than for Pharaoh to release them from slavery. Rather, HaShem wanted Pharaoh to send them to Him. “Send my people, so they may serve Me.”  That is, no longer to serve Pharaoh, but to serve (and worship) the God of Israel.

HaShem doesn’t want His people wandering anywhere they wanted.  That’s a shallow idea of freedom that too many people have—alas, especially Americans.  Our freedom to choose God isn’t like choosing a hamburger or chicken nuggets; it’s our freedom to serve God, to worship Him.

HaShem sets us free—Yeshua sets us free—not to continue in sin, but to love Him, as He loves us, with all our heart, and all our soul and all our might, mind and resources. V’eemru?

We hear these Hebrew words, with all their spiritual meanings, in Isaiah 6:8-10. The prophet hears HaShem’s voice saying, “Whom should I send?” “The Hebrew for “shall I send” is esh’lach.  Whom shall I send? Who will go with His message to the people?

Why does HaShem want to send a messenger? Because the hearts of His people are heavy and hard.  In Isaiah 6:10, he says, “Make the heart of this people dull, their ears heavy, and blind their eyes.”  For “their ears heavy,” the Hebrew is kaved—and it doesn’t mean their earlobes were drooping with heavy earrings, does it? Nor does it have anything to do with the pitch of sound in their eardrums.

Rather it means their spiritual hearing becomes dull, so they don’t understand God’s message.  If the people would humble themselves and hear, “they would hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return, and be healed.”  But if they won’t, and since then judgment will come: “Until cities are laid waste….”  It all depends on how they respond to the Ruach and His message.

Nevertheless, they need to hear the message. V’eemru?   Does anyone hear the voice of the Lord?Who will bring His message to them? Whom shall Yeshua send? Let’s discuss….

Questions for Breakout Discussion

What does the kaved or kavod mean in Exodus 10:1?

How does a human heart become heavy and hard to the Spirit of God?

Has that ever happened to you? How so?

Exodus 10:20 says, “Adonai hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” What is the Hebrew for the word hardened? What was HaShem doing with Pharaoh’s heart?

Did HaShem condemn Pharaoh or did Pharaoh condemn himself?

Kavod can mean glory or it can mean hardness. What does it depend on? How many of you have experience the glory? How many of you have experienced the hardness? What does it depend on?

Chazak can either mean “be strong and courageous” or “confirmed in hardness.” Have you ever experienced a moment when you to decide which?

Does Yeshua condemn anyone or does one condemn oneself? Why is that hard for some to accept?

When God speaks to your heart with signs and wonders, how do people respond?
How do you respond?

What does the still, small voice of God sound like? What are some ways He speaks to us this way? When the Ruach speaks to your heart with a still, small voice, how do people respond?
How about you?

When the Spirit of God sends you with His message, how should we expect people to respond? Why? How should we guard our heart?

Why is humility crucial to hearing and responding to the voice of God?

“Let My people go”—what does the Hebrew mean, more literally?
Why does HaShem want to set His people free? How do you use your freedom?

HaShem sent Moses and Aaron with a message: “Send My people.” Yeshua sent His disciples with a message. Have you heard the voice of the Lord sending you? How are you doing?  Do you need more training? If you knew when and where you could get more training, would you go?

 

This sermon and questions may not to be reprinted in whole or in part without the express written consent of Messianic Rabbi Glenn D. Blank of Beit Simcha. Your generous support for our ministry and building project is appreciated!

Scripture references are mostly from The Tree of Life Version (TLV) though occasionally other versions. Verse citations provide Jewish numbering, with Christian numbering in parentheses.

 

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