So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me.
But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go. (Exodus 10:3, 20 ESV)
The last verse in this passage can be misunderstood. At first, I thought God was manipulating Pharaoh’s heart to make him a bad person. But that was not the case. It was later explained to me that the Lord never took away Pharaoh’s choices. In fact, he was given an opportunity to cooperate with God. Sadly, he did not change his mind and kept Israel captive. He would rather suffer through 14 plagues at the expense of all his people than give in to God.
My suspicion is that Pharaoh did not want to admit that he was wrong. Have you ever met anyone like that? The more he was exposed to God’s truth, the more stubborn he became. His heart hardened. Every person can learn from their mistakes and be transformed in their thinking if they willingly become students of his word. But if they choose to not obey godly instruction, then whatever discipline the Lord chooses for them will increase in severity until they devolve into a complete surrender.
Accepting the fact that we can never compete with the power of God will save us from unnecessary discipline. How hard does the hand of God have to hit you before he gets your full attention? I prefer a light tap on the shoulder or a gentle nudge. Struggling to obtain a blessing is better than suffering through a curse.