Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 2 March 2022:
Exodus 9:7 – “But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.”
Exodus 9:13-17 – “Thus says the Lord…. For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. You are still exalting yourself….
Exodus 9:20-21 – “Then whoever feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the Lord left his slaves and his livestock in the field.”
Exodus 9:27-28, 34-35 – “Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Plead with the Lord, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer….’ But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses.”
Exodus 10:2, 3 – “…that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson… that you may know that I am the Lord…. How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?”
Exodus 10:16-18, 20 – “Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, ‘I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the Lord your God only to remove this death from me….’ But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.”
Exodus 10:28, 29 – “Then Pharaoh said to him, ‘Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.’ Moses said, ‘As you say! I will not see your face again.’”
The saga that began when Adam and Eve defied God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil continues, the challenge to God’s sovereignty, the battle between the kingdom of man (led by Satan) and the Kingdom of God. Today, God uses Pharaoh’s pride and stubbornness to glorify Himself and to demonstrate His ultimate power and authority. God demonstrates His justice but also His patience and mercy – “…by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth.” Those who feared God and listened to His word, even the Egyptians who heeded God’s word and ran into their homes, were spared terrible pain and suffering (an example of common grace), but those who didn’t obey God’s word received the consequences of their prideful insolence.
Today, Pharaoh demonstrates the difference between being “sorry” and being truly repentant (having a changed heart). There is a big difference between regretting consequences or punishment and having heartfelt regret for sinning against God, a genuine sorrow which produces life change. For example, you might regret speeding right after you get a ticket, but if you don’t regret being a speeder and have a changed ‘spirit’ towards speeding, you will speed again, perhaps just a bit more cautiously for a while. The more you continue to speed, the more that habit becomes your character (a speeder), the less you will desire to change, and the more likely the consequences of speeding will become catastrophic.
When Pharaoh was punished by God, he was quick to say, “I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I [am]… wrong.” However, because his heart had not really changed, he continued in his ways and his consequences only grew worse – God was glorified nonetheless. Likewise, everyone will glorify God, either in a positive way or a negative way. God desires that He be glorified in a positive way as people abide in Jesus and naturally bear the fruit of love – “…that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:23) However, in Pharaoh’s case, as has been the case for so many others, he simply refused to repent and finally refused to even hear God’s word anymore – “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again….” The consequences of Pharaoh’s behavior further revealed the truth of God’s sovereignty, glorifying God in a negative way. Even dedicated Christians can learn something from Pharaoh’s bad example –
- Romans 15:4 — For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction….
- 1 Corinthians 10:11 — Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
How many empty promises have people made to the Lord in shallow sorrow – “Lord, if you get me through this, I promise, I will never do it again….” Perhaps you or someone you know seems to say things like this repeatedly. Do you find yourself regretting the same decisions and mistakes repeatedly? The problem is not what you are doing, the problem is why you are doing it – your desires are not God’s desires, your heart is not aligned with His heart. As the old pastors says, “The heart of man’s problems is the problem with man’s heart.” You may be sorry for the consequences of your behavior, but your heart toward the matter has not yet really changed, your sorrow has not turned to repentance. Is there a place in your life where your sorrow needs to turn finally to genuine repentance and real change?
- 2 Corinthians 7:10 — For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
- 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Godly grief and repentance bring life, while worldly grief (perpetual sorrow over unrepentant sins) only leads to shame, depression, frustration, bitterness, destruction, and death. Repentance draws you to God, while worldly grief draws you farther away. Both Peter and Judas denied Jesus, albeit in different ways. Peter had a repentant spirit that led Him to spend his life glorifying God. Judas’ worldly grief led him to commit suicide. Pray that God will give you a repentant heart, godly grief rather than worldly grief. In your continual failures, draw closer to God, not further away. He knows the truth of your condition better than you do and loves you more than even you do.
- Ezekiel 18:31; 36:26 — Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit…. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
- Psalm 51:17 — The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
- Hebrews 7:25; 10:22 — Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them…. let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
- James 4:8 — Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
Acts 15:1, 8-11 — But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” … Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
The message of the Gospel is, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) Yet there were some in the early church who, though they believed in Jesus, still thought that salvation depended on something more than just faith, that it required faith plus performance (religious acts and obedience to laws). The question of whether salvation came from faith alone or by faith plus works was so contentious that it caused great “dissension and debate” among the leaders of the church in Acts (vs 2 and 7), and the debate is alive and well today within the church and within the hearts of many Christians. Many Christians who believe in Jesus and His work on the Cross still think they must do something else to earn their salvation. Even though they confess Ephesians 2:8-9 with their mouths, they still feel like they need to earn the gift God has given to them freely, paid for by Jesus Christ on the Cross. This false Gospel of faith which is insufficient causes many to live in needless perpetual guilt and shame (robbing them of the joy God intends for them in Christ) and others to live in perpetual, destructive pride (robbing them of the love God intends for them), viewing themselves as better than others because of their performance and less dependent on God’s grace. Both groups carry the unnecessary burden of performance on their shoulders, one dragging a load they know they can’t carry and the other dragging a load they think they can carry while demanding others do the same. Peter says, “Why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Stop trying to earn your salvation, and stop demanding others do the same! Rejoice in the salvation you have been freely given by Jesus Christ who paid the ultimate price to give it to you – G.R.A.C.E. – God’s Righteousness at Christ’s Expense. Let your obedience come forth naturally and easily because of the love you have for Jesus, not unnaturally and painfully because you are working for something you cannot earn. What did Jesus say, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 2 Mar 22: Pray that God will continue, where needed, to replace your worldly grief with genuine repentance, and then pray that God will help you trust in His grace completely and walk in His great confidently, joyfully, and obediently, obeying because you genuinely desire too and not because you feel you must. Pray that God will make obedience a true joy to you rather than a burden — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)