Tonight I read Exodus 10-12, covering the final plagues on Egypt: Locusts (#8), darkness (#9), death of firstborns (#10). I
Like many of us, Pharaoh sees the consequences of his actions (here, the plagues) and wants to do just enough to get out of them -- without going all the way. For example, in Exodus 10, in response to the locusts, he "[q]uickly" calls in Moses and Aaron and confesses his sin. He asks for mercy ("pray bear my sin just this one time! And plead with YHWH your God, that he may only remove this death from me!"). But then when the plague is removed (via a strong sea wind), Pharaoh does not set the Hebrews free. He wants mercy or forgiveness without true repentance. He wants the benefit of the bargain God is offering… without quite upholding his side of the bargain. This is perhaps the essence of his hard-heartedness. How often do we try to bargain with God (if you will only grant me X, I will do Y), when Y is something we perhaps should already be doing … or will not have the will to continue to do once we get our heart's true desire, X. It's so hard to set one's heart on doing God's will, rather than our own. Part of the problem is discernment; of course we can pray for that as well.