Destiny and Free Will
The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh. Exodus 9:12
I have never liked the thought of destiny. Preferring to believe that I am the master of my own fate, I chafe at the idea that I am not in control. Never mind that I’ve made some pretty disastrous decisions, or, that I felt completely out of control in my addiction, Those were my decisions! I chose for me!
To read then, that God chose for Pharaoh, has always bothered me. I actually sympathize with him a little, as I have sometimes felt that my destructive choices were beyond my control. It was God after all, who sent Moses to Pharaoh, demanding he free the Israelites, but then several times, hardened his heart (Exodus 7:13, 9:12, 10:1). Then, when Pharaoh did not release the Israelites, God sent the plagues.
How could Pharaoh be held accountable for something God chose? Oddly, several times, the narrative also states that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15, 8:32, 9:34). Did God choose or did Pharaoh choose?
I once saw their choices as two distinct events and I saw God’s choosing for Pharaoh as an isolated, unusual incident. I see now though, that God choosing and Pharaoh choosing are the same event. This is not the exception. This is how God made the world.
Somehow, both statements about the same event are true. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh was responsible for making his own choice. What this means for us, is that we are responsible for our own decisions, while God is still in control. God’s sovereignty does not mean I do not choose. My free will does not mean God is out of control.
We may not understand how both can be true, but we are not responsible for such mysteries. Attempting to understand may make us theologians but will not make us disciples. As disciples, it is our job to daily choose to turn from ourselves to follow God. God’s role in our decision may be a mystery, but we are not responsible for God, only ourselves.