Scripture is very clear that people CHOOSE to harden their hearts against God and His Word. It is equally true that God MAY CHOOSE to harden one’s heart as well. We will look at scriptures to show this and I trust we will see the difference between the two, though in reality they are related to each other.

In Hebrews 3:7-11 the Jewish people who had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ are given a warning against hardening their heart. “Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you will hear His voice, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore, I was angry with that generation, and said, they always GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, and they have not known My ways. So, I swore in My wrath, they shall not enter My rest.” The Israelites were guilty of HARDENING THEIR HEARTS against God and His Word in the wilderness and manifested their hard hearts by constant murmuring, complaining and lusting after evil things (see 1st Corinthians 10:1-11). The root cause of their “hardened hearts” was UNBELIEF as we see in verse 12, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an EVIL HEART OF UNBELIEF in departing from the living God.” Their unbelief led God to judge them in the wilderness and prevent them from entering into the rest He had planned for them in the promised land. “For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who did not obey? So, we see that they could not enter in because of UNBELIEF” (verses 16-19).

Again, this was a warning to all who had heard the good news of Jesus Christ (how He had died on the cross for their sins and that they could have eternal life through faith in Him and would someday enter into ETERNAL REST IN HEAVEN). Some had actually professed to believe but there was no fruit/evidence in their lives to prove they had really believed. Because of this the apostle Paul goes on to say, “Therefore, since a promise remains of entering into rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard DID NOT PROFIT THEM, NOT BEING MIXED WITH FAITH in those who heard it” (Hebrews 4:1-2). If one hears the gospel but does not truly believe it, they will NOT be saved and enter into God’s eternal rest. And the more they hear the gospel and reject it, the harder their heart becomes. We may call this “GOSPEL-HARDENED,” for the gospel message becomes so foolish to them (see 1st Corinthians 1:18) that they are “content to die as they have lived…without Christ!” If you are reading this and have heard the gospel (perhaps many times), let these words sink down deep into your heart, “Today, if you will hear His voice, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS!”

Will God make the hardened heart of the one who rejects His Word harder? He can and sometimes does. There is a well-known example of this in the book of Exodus where God told Moses, “I will HARDEN PHARAOH’S HEART, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharoah will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments” (Exodus 7:3-4). Pharaoh had continually REFUSED to listen to God’s voice through Moses and he REBELLED against the Lord (Exodus 5:1-2), so God “hardened his heart.” Why did God do this? To make an example out of Pharaoh as we see in Romans 9:17-18, “For the Scripture (see Exodus 9:16) says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’ Therefore, He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He will HE HARDENS.” God is sovereign and He has the right to harden one’s heart in order to make an example out of them. But as we have seen Pharaoh had already “hardened his own heart” against God and His Word, so this doesn’t mean that God prevented Pharaoh from turning to the Lord in repentance and believing in Him. This begs the question, “How exactly did God harden his heart? And how does God harden the heart of sinners today?” In a word, it means that unless God shows MERCY to someone, their HEARTS REMAIN HARDENED? Unless He works in their heart to humble them and convict them of sin, they will go on their sinful way rebelling against Him and His Word. In other words, He “allows them to reject Him” without any restraint and their hearts become harder and harder as they hear God’s Word and continue to reject it. I would encourage you to read Romans 1:18-28 where we have this same truth brought out, for those mentioned had “hardened their hearts against God’s truth” (verses 18-23) and then God “hardened their hearts” by allowing them to continue to reject Him and sink further and further into sin and degradation (verses 24-28).  (DO)  (489.5)