When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!”
So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. (Ex 14:5-6, NIV)
The commonly told story of Pharoah and the Israelites in the book of Exodus (see, for example The Ten Commandments with Charlton Heston), often paints the leader of the Egyptians as a slightly unflattering megalomaniac. As with most god-kings, there’s probably some truth to that, but to a lesser extent, what we see in Pharoah is a reflection of what seems to happen to a lesser extent in our own hearts.
People often assume that we are somehow objective viewers of the world around us, that we do not interpret the many points of data entering into or consciousness (or even into our subconscious) every moment of every day. The simple fact is that, no, we interpret everything into a means that our minds can comprehend, and this comprehension is shaped by (among other things) our own interests.
Pharoah is a perfect example. While he has clear and repeated proof that something was going on around him, he believed it was anything else, rather than believe that the God of the Israelites was actually more powerful than him and his gods, and that this powerful God wanted his people back.
The reasons were pretty simple.
The Israelites were economically beneficial to Egypt (so they would lose wealth by letting them go), and the Egyptians had been persecuting them (meaning that the existance and power of this God of the oppressed might take those centuries of persecution out of Egyptian hide). In the case of both eventualities, it is better to believe that there is no such problem, than to admit that there is such a God.
In the past, I have found myself doing the same thing. When I am engaged in something I know to be against the will of God, I prefer to believe that God is okay with it (contrary to what God has said about it in the Bible), or even that maybe there is no God, so it is unnecessary to give up the sin that I enjoy for the sake of God. In both cases, I am engaged in a willfull ignorance. I am reacting with a hardened heart, rather like Pharoah.
I can value other things as greater than God, and then interpret the universe based on that valuing. That interpretation is capable of dealing with contrary opinions, and even with evidence clearly contradicting my blindness. I make other things my god, and in so doing literally become blind to the real God, mainly because I don’t want to see Him, it would cost too much to see Him. I’m rather like Pharoah in those times.
It is for that reason that I need a new heart. The sins that flow from that are based in a desire not to see God for fear of losing a cherished sin.
Luckily, that’s what Jesus promises to (and actually does, in my experience) provide.