In the book of Exodus the Pharaoh is described as one who hardened his heart; or God hardened his heart. While at times this is open to a lot of theological discussion whether or not the Pharaoh had a chance to repent, I suggest, the point was that he was simply too proud to seek forgiveness. Eventually, God did punish Pharaoh as a result of his hardness.
Moses and Aaron had the job to tell the proud, or bull-headed, Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Pharaoh refused. Several times after plagues were brought upon Egypt Pharaoh seemed to relent and ask for forgiveness. Yet, each time, he only wanted to give God a small portion of what God demanded. As a result, Moses was charged to tell the Pharaoh these plagues were going to increase in intensity. After these plagues were increased Pharaoh came closer to giving to God what was desired of him. Yet, Pharaoh would not completely yield.
Interestingly, in Exodus 10:16-17, Pharaoh seemed to repent more than other times. As we read this story, we cannot help but think, finally the Pharaoh is going to do the right thing. We are almost relieved with this repentant king because he finally accepted that God is God. Then we notice something about his repentance, Pharaoh asked that “this deadly plague” be taken away from him. In other words, Pharaoh is saying “I don’t like what is happening to me.” This is kind of like, let’s make a, so that Pharaoh could continue to be the same Pharaoh that he was before Moses came along. He just wanted to be away from the bad circumstance he was in. Therefore, he really did not repent and God really delivered judgment for his hardness.
How often do we Christians and pastors accept this type of repentance for salvation? Most of the time people experience rough circumstances and come the pastor and ask for forgiveness. We, hopefully, point them to Christ for this. We tell them that they must be sorry for their sins so that Christ will forgive them. We celebrate that new life in Christ with the church and tell the person who was sorry that he or she is now saved by the grace of God.
After a period of time, that person who was sorry, eventually drifts away from church and God. They were able to get through some tough circumstances and go on with his or her life. Why does this happen? Is it possible that they repented like the Pharaoh did? If so, that salvation we claimed maybe should not have been claimed. They were looking for relief instead of life change that leads to true forgiveness.
If a person does not yield everything to God through Christ, then salvation may not have come to that person. After all, God wants are whole heart, not just some. Our churches need to do a better job of explaining true salvation to new believers. It seems that we pastors and Christians are giving a stamp of approval to many who did not really seek it from Christ. Instead they sought comfort from us and not God. We can know when there has not been a change of heart in the person who is seeking forgiveness.
True repentance occurs when someone is sorry enough to turn away from the life that he or she was leading before they met God. I fear that the Christian Church is littered with many who were told that their half-hearted repentance, similar to Pharaoh’s, was salvation. If I am wrong, good. If I am right, then this is very bad. Nevertheless, I suspect I could be right. Otherwise Christians would clearly walk away from the sins that condemned them and put Christ first.
So the question is, how long will some of us maintain that half-hearted repentance is good enough? For those who are hard-hearted, beware. If you have pride, then you will find it hard to have salvation. If you have family and friends whose experience is much like Pharaoh’s, then you need to disciple them. Their salvation may depend on it.