“A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4)
There are people who know God is real. They know God is powerful. And they know God changes lives. But their hearts are so hard that they won’t believe in Him.
That was Pharaoh. We read again and again in Exodus that Pharaoh hardened his heart. Exodus 8:15 tells us, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the LORD had said.” Later we read, “Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants, that I may show these signs of Mine before him’ ” (Exodus 10:1). That isn’t a contradiction; it’s just two sides of the same coin. It’s true that Pharaoh hardened his heart. But it is also true that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.
Does that mean that Pharaoh had no choice in the matter? No. You see, God gives each one of us freewill. He will not violate that freewill, but once we have made our choice, God may, in effect, strengthen us in that choice.
The word hardened could be better translated “strengthen” or “stiffen,” and that is what was happening in Pharaoh’s case. He decided that he did not want to believe, and his heart got harder and harder and harder. Pharaoh had more than enough evidence to be convinced of the truth. Think about it: Pharaoh saw miracles—big miracles. Pharaoh heard the word of God. And that knowledge brought responsibility. To turn from the truth is to become entrenched in darkness more thoroughly than ever.
Sometimes we think, If I could just perform miracles, I know that all of my friends would believe in Jesus. They wouldn’t. Miracles won’t cause them to believe, but the message of the gospel will.