Saturday, October 03, 2009

Hardening - A Picture of God's Mercy

Being of the pigheaded variety of human being, I had a bit of a "mirror event" as I read the first half of Exodus for an assignment this week. We were tasked with considering how God's character meshed with God's judgment of Pharaoh, and how God's grace and humanity's freewill

At first reading, the issue of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart seems to be an extremely unfair action by God towards the Egyptian leader. However, after looking carefully at the words, it actually is a picture of God’s attempts to reconcile and redeem all of creation, even those who stand against God’s justice and God’s people.

The Hebrew words have meanings that emphasize the heavy, hard and severely unyielding reaction of Pharaoh's heart. (I won't bore you with a word study...) Each word has slightly different connotations, but the general meaning is one of a gradual, strengthening refusal to hear and obey the word of the Lord. They clearly show that God allowed and even precipitated the circumstances which led to Pharaoh’s decision to refuse to listen to the commands of Yahweh. And God used the opportunity to show the power and authority... that God's will would be done.

When one reads the Exodus narrative, it is notable that God’s foreknowledge and providence were evident. God knew that Pharaoh would be unwilling to yield; Pharaoh’s pride and desire for power would not allow him to worship Yahweh. And God used the circumstances to proclaim His power and magnificence to the “all the earth” (see Exodus 9:13-17). Even in what seemed to be a “defeat” at the edge of the Red Sea, God used the pride of the Egyptian army to show the power of Yahweh (Ex. 14:17-18).

Just as a piece of clay gradually hardens to a durable, hard object, so is the human’s heart response to God. At any point until the final hardening process, God’s mercy allows for change and renewal.

When I pray for God to re-make me... I'm asking God to keep me pliable and mold-able. So as a result, I'm put through changes, challenges and some personal remodeling.

Good stuff. Hard stuff. But necessary...


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