W.I.S.H. – Weekly Insights for Spiritual Health 4-21-2021
Read: Exodus 12:21-42, 14:1-9
It took the death of Egypt’s firstborns for Pharaoh to finally let the Hebrew slaves go free. He was a stubborn, proud man, who had hardened his heart; or did he? The Bible is not consistent here. It says 15 times that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened: 6 times it says Pharaoh hardened his heart (i.e. Ex. 8:32), 6 times it says God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (i.e. Ex. 10:20) (3 are unattributed). Why the difference? One reason may be “duel speech pattern” in which the same Biblical event is given two separate causes in scripture, a human one and a Divine one. Why? Probably to teach the theological principle of the “sovereignty of God”.
Sovereignty asserts that God rules the universe and God’s will SHALL be done. Calvinists took it so far as to deny human free will, that everything is predestined. From a Wesleyan (free will) perspective, that’s taking the sovereignty of God too far. We believe that God gave human beings free will, allowing for things to happen (sin) that were contrary to God’s will. We affirm that God has chosen not to dictate or determine all that happens, even if God still knows all that will happen in the future.
By asserting God’s sovereignty, the author of Exodus is emphasizing the LORD’s power, even to the point of attributing the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart to God. Why would God harden Pharaoh’s heart? To prove conclusively that God alone is in control. Pharaoh is subject to the LORD’s authority; he is like a pawn. In a way similar to God discrediting the deities of Egypt, now God has humbled out their ruler.
The drama builds up quickly. The Hebrew slaves were freed and safe to leave Egypt, but then Pharaoh changes his mind (because God hardens his heart) and Egypt’s mighty army pursues God’s people, prepared to destroy them.
We are reasoning beings; we like to explain things. Sometimes we explain things by shifting the blame to others. Comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “The devil made me do it!” In this case, did God “make” Pharaoh do it? Maybe, but I prefer those verses saying that Pharaoh hardened his own heart; that makes more sense to me. We have choices in life. We are free to make decisions, but we will also live with the consequences. Those are important big life lessons, and timeless spiritual truths.
Pastor Rob Nystrom