A friend asked me once whether it was really worth praying. She’s a christian, and had been praying for a softening of heart towards someone but not fully understanding what it meant to ask God to soften a heart. She made her case of doubt, questioning because if God knows what we’ll do and the path we will take and there’s not really free will and all that theological crap that we can’t quite understand, what’s the point in praying for God do change a heart? Is it even possible?
During the conversation I brought up the story of Moses and how God had hardened the heart of pharoh, and she seemed to get a good revelation from that recap. But now, weeks later, I find myself still looking in the bible for the times when God changes people’s hearts drastically. Since I’ve been having a weird week or two, feeling a bit lonesome and bored and generally just sorry for myself, I’ve been trying to read through the old testament. Really remind myself that life could be worse. And while I might just still feel that I have a point to prove, I’ve also found something that I think is much more interesting in the process.
My first example is from the story of Moses, of course:
But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. – Exodus 7:3-4
God, in his awesome way, changed Pharaoh’s heart so that he could prove his power to the nation of Egypt, thus delivering his people.
Second, I found a story where God changed someone’s heart during the Israelite’s little jaunt through the desert for 40 years. On their way back to the promised land they had to pass through many regions, like Heshbon, and they would ask to be let through and pay their own way. But randomly God decided that it was time to start letting everyone know that his kids were legit:
But Sihon king of Heshbon refused to let us pass through. For the LORD your God had made his spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands, as he has now done. – Deuteronomy 2:30
And again, God changed the heart of a king to prove that he could do anything. But not every story was about God proving his power in that way. Later, Ezra got a letter from his king giving him permission to go on a mission to rebuild the temple.
Praise be to the LORD, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the LORD in Jerusalem in this way and who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials. Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me. – Ezra 7:27-28
This didn’t involve a battle, it’s more like God gave Ezra a boost of confidence in his ability to go on this Holy Crusade by having him find favor with the king. As it says, because he felt the favor and presense of God Ezra found a courage and strength he didn’t know he had.
So that’s nice, isn’t it? God can change hearts! I can hear you all rolling your eyes, begging me to tell you something you don’t know, but I don’t know if I know anything you don’t so just hold your horses and enjoy what I write. I know that it’s all been said before, but I enjoy sharing my revelations via this thing.
Here’s where I stumbled upon something good: I was considering looking for God changing hearts of people in the new testament, but I realized that it would have been Jesus doing it and not God… and then I couldn’t think of a way that Jesus had done the same sort of thing, overpowering and changing people’s hearts like God did. So Christ must have been showing us a different side of the everlasting and awesome personality of God. Then I remembered something I’d read back in the old testament:
And God said to Moses, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty [El-Shaddai], but by My name the Lord [Yahweh–the redemptive name of God] I did not make Myself known to them [in acts and great miracles].” – Exodus 6:2-3 (Amplified Bible)
God’s way is above ours, obviously, but from what I can tell by the pattern he’s got a good thing going. First he comes in as God Almighty, the powerful, the jealous, the creator and ruler of man. He shows everyone who is really in charge by giving them hard lessons to learn. The first testament has a lot of that sort of thing, God proving himself through acts and deeds and heart changes that lead to further proof that he is the most powerful God ever, above and beyond our ideas and thoughts and way better than any stupid idols we make for ourselves.
Then, when his people have fallen down and can’t pick themselves up again, he reveals himself to be the Lord, as our redeemer, our savior and champion, the father who won’t forget about his children or let them fall by the wayside. He illuminates the lives of his children with his kind, unfailing love, and using his power again shows that what we knew he was capable of isn’t even close to the incredible things he will do for us. He loved his children so much that he changed the heart of Pharaoh, used signs and wonders and miracles to get his children released, and walked them on bare land through a sea. Later, he showed his children that yet again by revealing that he had a game plan, that we wouldn’t get sucked in by sin and darkness, that he could make the biggest deal in the history of religious corporate sabotage. He broke his own heart and killed his own son, just so that we would be freed from the slavery we entered into from the first bite of that apple.
He chooses to reveal himself according to what will get his will done on earth, according to what will propel us in the direction of the plans he’s set before us. We cannot comprehend everything that God is (A Divine Trinity Of Awesome is my favorite way to put it) but that’s not something to worry about. He will always show us who he is, whether it’s the powerful God or redeeming King, according to what we need to see at the time.