Tuesday, February 15, 2011

God is a Meanie III (Judgment of Pharaoh and the Egyptians)

Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh

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But Pharaoh responded, "Who is Yahweh that I should obey Him by letting Israel go? I do not know anything about Yahweh, and besides, I will not let Israel go."
Exodus 5:2 (HCSB)

This is not an insignificant verse. There people that will reject God as a matter of course in this life. I must admit that I can understand the deception of sin the blinds a person to the love of God. It is often pointed out "Why would God punish Egypt for the sin that was Pharaoh?" and why would God punish Pharaoh when He "Hardened his heart." When we consider these comments we have to understand that they are observed and spoken through a filter of disowning God. There are many rationalizations that people can give to hate God. And they will just to assuage their consciences. Yet in there passion to find a reason to hate God they reveal within themselves the work of the Holy Spirit. The intensity of the reaction is out of sync with what they say that they believe. Namely that the Bible is a book of myths.

Let's take a look the two complaints and see if they are legitimate. As I have said before most people are not interested in what the Bible says. They form an opinion and will tell you what the Bible says often after reading or hearing about it somewhere else. In case there are those that are interested this verse quoted above is very important.

This was the very first recorded interaction with Pharaoh. Now as near as I can tell Pharaoh is rejecting God of his own accord. The hardening of his heart has not yet occurred. Not only did he reject God, but he also made things worse for the Hebrews.

But he said, "You are slackers. Slackers! That is why you are saying, 'Let us go sacrifice to the Lord.' Now get to work. No straw will be given to you, but you must produce the same quantity of bricks."
Exodus 5:17-18 (HCSB)

Hardness of Heart was a condition that preceded the plagues.

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Pharaoh's heart is hard: he refuses to let the people go. "
Exodus 7:14 (HCSB)

Which continued after the first sign.

Also the sacred scribes of Egypt did so with their occultisms; hence the heart of Pharaoh was steadfast, and he did not hearken to them, just as Yahweh had spoken.
Exodus 7:22 (CLT)

(Side Note: I am using Concordant Literal Version for this part because the translation intends to bring a literal word for word understanding to the text)

Notice the statement the heart of the Pharaoh was steadfast. Still at this point we do not see God hardening Pharaoh's heart.

When Pharaoh saw that there came to be an interval, he caused his heart to glory, and he hearkened not to them, just as Yahweh had spoken.
Exodus 8:15

Pharaoh "Caused his heart to glory." That is he became proud!

The sacred scribes said to Pharaoh: This is the finger of Elohim! Yet the heart of Pharaoh was steadfast, and he did not hearken to them just as Yahweh had spoken
Exodus 8:19

Here it starts to get more interesting. The religious leaders in Pharaoh's court have a change of heart. They recognized they were not dealing with a magic trick, but in fact where going toe to toe with God Himself. Yet when they pointed it out to Pharaoh his response was to remain steadfast. Notice God has yet to harden Pharaoh's heart.

Yet Pharaoh gloried in his heart, even at this time, and he did not dismiss the people.
Exodus 8:31

Again Pharaoh became prideful. No hardening by God Yet!

Then Pharaoh sent, and behold, not even one had died from the cattle of Israel. Yet the heart of Pharaoh gloried, and he did not dismiss the people.
Exodus 9:7

After five of the plagues Pharaoh was still holding pride within his heart. Yet no hardening as of yet by God. But that was about to change.

Yet Yahweh made the heart of Pharaoh steadfast, so that he did not hearken to them just as Yahweh had spoken to Moses.
Exodus 9:12

Here after many attempts to change the heart of Pharaoh do we see that God is now hardening his heart. You see if a person does not want God, God eventually gives them over to the hardness of his heart. There comes a point at which the person's rebellion serves only to deepen the judgment they have against themselves. There is only one cure, humbling themselves before God and turning their heart toward Him. Otherwise you continue on in the hardness of heart and God hardens your heart. My point is this you harden your heart to God long before He hardens your heart to long for sinful rebellion. It is when the conscience becomes seared that this type of hardness sets in. As long as there is a vestige of moral sense left there is a hope for repentance. In this case Pharaoh had crossed over. From this point forward his doom was certain.

Then Yahweh said to Moses: Rise early in the morning, station yourself before Pharaoh, and say to him, Thus says Yahweh, Elohim of the Hebrews: Dismiss My people that they may serve Me. For at this time I am sending all My strokes onto your heart and your servants and your people in order that you shall know that there is no one such as Me in the entire earth.
Exodus 9:13-14

Notice in this warning God specifically identifies that He is going to strike the Pharaoh�s heart. In one way I believe that God is giving Pharaoh one last chance to repent. Sadly he did not turn. However, some of the Egyptians began to repent.

The one fearful of the word of Yahweh among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee to the houses.
Exodus 9:20

Yet those that did not take the warning to heart did not repent.

Yet he who was not setting his heart on the word of Yahweh, forsook his servants and his cattle in the field.
Exodus 9:21

Here we see God showing grace to the Egyptians that heeded His word. Now that some how gets left out when those making a case against God. God is gracious to the humble and upholds the repentant.

Now Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail and the thundering sounds had halted, yet he continued to sin and made his heart glory, he and his servants.
Exodus 9:34
Yahweh said to Moses: Enter to Pharaoh, for I have made his heart glory and the hearts of his servants that I may set these My signs among them,
Exodus 10:1

Who continued to sin? Pharaoh did. Who continued with a prideful heart? Pharaoh did. See God's hardening was something that Pharaoh already had in his heart. At this point it was clear that the Pharaoh's intent was hardness against God. It is at this point that God begins to harden the heart of Pharaoh to show the his signs against them. From this point on God hardened Pharaoh's heart (See Exodus 10:20, 27, 11:10).

This applies to us. God makes it clear to us either in our consciences, basic decency toward other human beings, His word (the Bible) what His expectations are for our lives. We also experience the consequences of choosing to go against God's ways. We may not have the same dramatic experience that Pharaoh had, but we have our own conviction that things are not right. Then we have a choice. Will we turn from missing the mark in our lives or will we with great pride in our hearts and stubbornness in our soul continue on our sinful way. The story is not over yet though.

I had mentioned that some of the Egyptians had repented and heeded the word of God (Exodus 9:20). What is even more interesting is that there was an ethnically diverse people that left Egypt.

An ethnically diverse crowd also went up with them, along with a huge number of livestock, both flocks and herds. The people baked the dough they had brought out of Egypt into unleavened loaves, since it had no yeast; for when they had been driven out of Egypt they could not delay and had not prepared any provisions for themselves.
Exodus 12:38-39 (HCSB)

Wait just a minute! Why did I not learn this in Sunday School? I am not sure why, but there it is. It would not have been possible for the family of Jacob (Israel) to be ethnically diverse. So what are we to make of the peculiar statement. I believe that being a Jew was an act of faith. You see the Passover required that people spread blood of a lamb over the door posts (Exodus 12:22-23). It was this act of faith that resulted in deliverance. Being covered by the Lamb's Blood (an act of faith) demonstrated that you were part of "Spiritual Israel." If you were a Jew, but did not put blood on your door post death visited your home. By reasoning then it is possible that if you were Egyptian (or other race) and you put blood on your doorpost then you were saved from death visiting your home. That seems radical, but it was the very thing that God said he would do. He did not say death would Passover decedents of Jacob. He said that death would Passover those that faithfully put the lamb's blood on the door post. That is why I believe there was an "ethnically diverse" people who left Egypt. It was the faithful followers of God that left. It was "Spiritual Israel." No doubt that the majority was ethnic Israel, but it would seem to me at least some were not ethnically Israel as well (Galatians 3:7 and others).

It seems then in response to those that say God is being unjust by punishing Pharaoh or the people of Egypt we have a very different picture than they would assume. What is really going on when we look at the passages dealing with Pharaoh's heart, is that Pharaoh started out hard. It was his pride and stubbornness that got him into trouble. Only after it was clear that Pharaoh was not going to repent did God harden his heart. God did this to judge the hardness that was already there. Interestingly those that have taken this position that God is unjust are in the same boat as Pharaoh. Without humility and brokenness they stand judged. Without a change they risk become hardened (calcified) against the things of God. Also it seems that Egyptians were judged not for Pharaoh's sin, but rather for following after Pharaoh (Who is divine according to Egyptian religion) and Egypt's gods. Those that repented and heeded the word of God were saved.

The same choice that existed then is before us today. Will we follow other gods and religions, or will we make God, Yahweh, the Savior and Lord of our lives. It is accomplished through the sacrifice. Since we live after the advent of the Cross it is Jesus who is our Passover Lamb. And it is faith in Jesus Christ that saves.

God Bless You

~BJ

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