Pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, has offered his interpretation of a debated biblical story in Exodus in which he assured believers that despite what some might claim, there are no contradictions in the Bible.
Laurie took to Facebook on Tuesday to explore the story of Pharaoh in the book of Exodus in the Bible, particularly passages that suggest it was God, but also Pharaoh himself, who hardened his heart in the face of the plagues on Egypt that punished Pharaoh and his people for their treatment of the Israelites.
"What's the deal, a person asks, about God hardening Pharaoh's heart in the book of Exodus? But then it says that Pharaoh hardened his heart. Is that a contradiction? No. It's two sides of the same coin," Laurie argued.
"It starts this way: Pharaoh was exposed to the miracles of God, but he rejected it, he hardened his heart. We read over and over again, 'Pharaoh hardened his heart.' Then all of a sudden the narrative shifts and says, 'God hardened Pharaoh's heart.' What does it mean?" he asked.
The pastor suggested that a better translation of the word "hardened," when speaking of God, would be that God 'strengthened' Pharaoh's heart.
"In other words, God strengthened Pharaoh in the decision he had already made. Listen, you decide if your heart will be hard or soft. Keep it open to God," Laurie advised.
"But if you go in the wrong course, in effect, God will strengthen you, but if you go in the right one, he will strengthen you in that as well."
The Harvest Christian Fellowship pastor has used Pharaoh's story in other messages, such as a sermon in September 2015 to warn against temptation.
Combining it with the story of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus Christ for 30 pieces of silver, he said at the time: "In spite of all the exposure Judas had to Jesus' teachings, His compassion, His loving actions, and His friendship, Judas chose unbelief."
Laurie added: "And just as Pharaoh hardened his heart against the Lord, and the Lord strengthened that resolve, God allowed Judas to harden his heart as well."
There have been different interpretations offered for the story of God hardening Pharaoh's heart in Exodus, with pastors such as Daryl E. Witmer, director and founder of the nonprofit Areopagus II America, writing for ChristianAnswers.net that God was looking to promote His own glory.
"Am I then saying that God Himself actually arranged for Pharaoh to sin?" Witmer offered.
"Yes, in much the same sense that He arranged for Joseph's brothers to sell Joseph into slavery (Genesis 50:20), Satan to attack Job (Job 1:12), Jews and Romans to crucify Jesus (Acts 2:23), and sin to exist in the first place," he added.