January 23, 2010

Exo 14-16: The Hard Hearted

Posted in Choice, Foundations, Moses tagged , , , , , , at 7:45 pm by Steve

When God intercedes in the affairs of men, He does so with a unique perspective of time and outcomes. When Exodus states that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart” the form of verb suggests a future orientation such that God is viewing a process that is occurring not necessarily a consequence God is causing to happen by divine force. There appears to be an interesting progression in the use of the verbs from one in which Pharaoh’s heart is strengthened and therefore becomes unyielding because of growing pride, to one of burdensome and weariness that reflects the problems associated with positions of power and authority.

The struggle between God’s foreknowledge and Pharaoh’s free will is ultimately at stake in understanding these passages. According to Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, God is long-suffering toward Pharaoh until he showed himself to be intransigent. While others in Egypt responded to the plagues as signs and wonders, Pharaoh remained obstinate and became more of what he already was.

In a larger sense the relationship between God and Pharaoh is best reflected in light of Romans 1:24-25 “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

The hardness of Pharaoh’s heart was the consequence of his choices and his stubborn attitude toward any authority other than his own given the life into which he was born. The problem with Pharaoh’s position of absolute power is that it doesn’t allow for a lot of wiggle room when things don’t work out the way they should. Pharaoh is boxed in and his hardness of heart becomes a burden rather than a strength. In the face of God’s authority and sovereignty, Pharaoh goes down the wrong path and each step make his life and heart harder and harder. It’s all about choices.

The verbs that are most commonly used in Exodus to describe the state and or action of Pharaoh’s inner being as growing sense of strength, pride and arrogance that builds in Pharaoh over time bringing about certain events. The debate over whether God interferes with Pharaoh’s ability to freely choose is somewhat alleviated by looking at the form of the verbs, the process of development, and the context in which they are found.

tae: the mark of the accusative, prefixed as a rule only to nouns that are definite.

ble n.m. inner man, mind, will, heart

qzx  [to strengthen, strong, to grow firm]

Exodus 4:21 – action God takes on Pharaoh’s inner being [verb piel imperfect 1st person] future oriented. It suggests what is foreshadowed based on Pharaoh’s past history.

7:13  – describing the state of Pharaoh’s heart

7:22 – remained in its current state

8:19 – Pharaoh’s hardness of heart was resolute and established

9:12 – Action God takes toward Pharaoh [piel waw consec imperfect 3rd person]

9:35 – the state of Pharaoh’s heart such that he took action and would not let the people go.

10:20 — verb piel waw consec imperfect 3rd, seems to be concerned less with the causation of the event than the final state of being

11:10 — verb piel waw consec imperfect 3rd person, “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” Consequential action, the logical outcome of the preceeding events

14:4 — piel waw consec perfect 1st person, Consequential, because of the nature of God and the nature of Pharaoh, hardness and stubbornness is the logical result.

14:8 — piel waw consec imperfect, consequential action, because the Israelites were out of Pharaoh’s hand, his heart became stubborn and he pursued them.

 To be hard, severe, fierce, make hard, stiff, stubborn, fig. of obstinacy.

 Exodus 7:23 – action God takes toward Pharaoh’s heart

 To refuse, refusing to obey commands;

Exodus 7:14 – describing the state of Pharaoh’s heart (perfect tense, is unyielding, or stubborn)

dbeK’ vb. be heavy, weighty, burdensome, honored,

Exodus 8:11 – Pharaoh’s heart became burdened and weighted down

8:32 – the action of Pharaoh toward his own situation

9:7 – in response to the death of the animals, pharaoh remains unyielding

9:34 – because of Pharaoh’s sin, his heart is burdened even more and therefore unyielding

10:1 — verb hiphil perfect 1st person, the subject brings about a state of being, in this case heaviness of heart brought about by God.

John Goldingay in Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel provides a helpful discussion of this:

To soften or harden something impersonal such as butter or jelly, we use physical manipulation, heating or cooling it, but to soften or harden a person, we present them with facts or images or stories so that they can do their work in generating a response on the part of the person. Similarly, Yhwh’s softening or hardening need not involve some equivalent to physical manipulation, as if God reaches into the brain and directly changes the way it works. To judge from other aspects of God’s working with human beings, more likely God softens and hardens in the same personal way that human beings adopt in personal relations. God makes things happen by influencing people. To soften people, God presents them with facts or images or stories of divine love or power, or of human possibilities of action or achievement. These do not force them to a positive response, but give them, for example, extra stimulus and opportunity to trust or love or worship. To toughen people, God presents them with other facts or images or stories – for instance, perhaps, reminding the Pharaoh of the loss he will incur through letting the Israelites go. That, too, does not force or manipulate Pharaoh to decide to hold on to Israel. What happens depends on how Pharaoh responds to the facts or images or stories—on whether he himself toughens his resolve. (353).”

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January 21, 2010

Exo 4-6: What if?

Posted in Fear, Historical, Moses tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:47 pm by Steve

Moses is scared and who could blame him? Whenever God asks us to follow Him, it will always cause what Henry Blackaby calls “a crisis of belief.”  Faith in God is not worth much if we already have all the answers, all the strength, and all the confidence to complete the task on our own. Faith comes when we are stretched beyond our limits to the point where only God can accomplish what lies before us.

What crisis are you facing today? None?

How’s your faith today? Is it growing or is it stagnant? You already know the answer!

Paul says, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” 1 Corinthians 1:27-31 (NIV)

How does God help Moses grow and give him confidence? Through a simple staff, but it was a physical representation of God’s presence and Grace. Do you ever wish you had a staff to touch the Nile River and turn into blood? [Remember the Nile was Egypt’s source of power, prosperity, and confidence of divine blessing. To touch the river was to touch their source of confidence? If you could touch the oppressive forces in your life, where would you touch?]

What physical representation of God’s power and grace have we been given?

Holy Communion – the body and blood of Christ

Baptism – washed into the community of faith through water in the Spirit of Christ

The Cross – a constant reminder that “God so love the world that He gave His only Son…” [John 3:16]

Worship – the community of faith that represents the Body of Christ to the world.

>> Can you think of others?

Aaron – Moses doesn’t go alone. God partners Moses with Aaron to speak to Pharaoh. Moses is the visionary, but Aaron has credibility with the people. This is a strategic move by God based on Moses’ fear and anxiety.

Burning Bush – I have often wanted a burning bush in my life to know FOR SURE what God’s will was that I may walk in it. When things don’t work out as I thought they should, I’m big at second guessing myself. The downside of a burning bush is that it belittles the relationship. God command – we do. God grace comes in Christ that we might know His heart. Now the question is simply “What Would Jesus Do?”

New Testament Parallel

LORD had said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead.”  4:19

“Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.” Matthew 2:20

Prayer

Father I pray that as we read your word together we will grow in grace, gratitude and faith. Continue to guide us and when we feel we cannot accomplish what lies before us, remind us that You are with us always in Christ Jesus. Amen

January 19, 2010

Exo 1-3: Freedom? For what?

Posted in Fear, Revelation tagged , , , , , , , , , at 8:47 pm by Steve

The Tribes of Israel that go into Egypt

  1. Reuben
  2. Simeon
  3. Levi
  4. Judah
  5. Issachar
  6. Zebulun
  7. Benjamin
  8. Dan
  9. Naphtali

10. Gad

  1. Asher

12.  Joseph  —  Ephraim and Manasseh

“The Egyptians used them ruthlessly” [1:14]

“Pharaoh-type” individuals come in many disguises in our culture. They can appear as the boss of your company, finances that oppress and slaves to credit card debt, health concerns and pursuit of youth, and relationship that force us to act in ways that are contrary to our basic natures. There are pressures to work longer, harder and with less family time. There are more and more demands to run the kids to every event to achieve more, to be more, and have more. This life is ruthless to our wellbeing. We are slaves of our own choosing with no way out, until we cry out to God for help, guidance and deliverance.

What is the Pharaoh in your life?  There are simply some things you cannot do without God’s help!

What we remember most from Exodus narrative is the Charlton Heston version when Moses says to Pharaoh “Let my people go!” We assume that Moses comes to free the slaves, but free them to do what? It is extremely important to read the text carefully. God tells Moses that He wants to liberate the slaves to go and worship Him. The focus of the Exodus is not freedom, if we define freedom as the ability to do whatever you want, but freedom to serve God. Exodus is not about freedom to do anything, but freedom to worship and serve God alone and not Pharaoh. That’s why God tell Moses to go to Pharaoh and say ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’” [3:18] God wants the freedom to worship God alone.

I will let other tackle God’s self-revelation of Himself “I AM THAT I AM”

Let me know your thoughts.

January 18, 2010

Gen 46-47: The World is Not My Home

Posted in Historical, Israel tagged , , , , , , , , , at 7:33 pm by Steve

Jacob, the father of the Promise, meets Pharaoh the lord of the Empire. Through the work of Joseph, Pharaoh has become very rich indeed owning all the cattle, people and land in Egypt. The genealogy of the sons of Jacob is recorded so that the reader may know the size of the tribe entering Egypt. This genealogy will become important later when we see how many leave Egypt.

Pharaoh is gracious to Jacob because of Joseph and gives them the best land of Goshen to live in. But even now, at the end of his life and living in the best land in Egypt, Jacob makes Joseph swear to take his bones from Egypt and rest in land of the promise.

I think we all live in the land of Egypt from time to time, but this world is not my home. I have a tie my kids gave me years ago for Easter, appropriate timing, that has a sort of ancient map on it and the words “this world is not my home.” We are the children of the promise and we know that when that time comes our bones too will be taken to the Promised Land where they will be restored.

Thank you God for the legacy of Jacob, a man of passion and one in whom the covenant was lived out in a very human way. Through him we have all been blessed to know that Your love and compassion knows no bounds. We thank you for Joseph and pray that we can be a type of Joseph for those we love and in our own way, save lives through our integrity, honesty, and unfailing faith.

Amen

Miscellaneous Comment

I feel that when God calls out “Jacob, Jacob” He is calling out to the patriarch of the family and settling the covenant that God made with one family, Abraham. “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. [46:3]

This draws this family covenant into a wider national covenant through the blessings of the sons, the twelve tribes of Israel (Jacob). You can see the change in identity happening through the language which does a lot of flip-flops. “Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob…” [46:5]

“We will be in bondage to Pharaoh.” 47:25

I often hear people complain that giving God a tithe or 10% is unreasonable and even impractical. Pharaoh does not save his people, but buys them and owns everything. Pharaoh is not a “living god” but a shrewd business man who cornered the market on grain in a famine. He owns his own people and demands 20% payment for the rest of their lives in order to live. Contrast that with God who generously gives us everything and asks that we return 10% to be used to feed the poor and those facing tragedy, like the recent earthquake in Haiti or the poverty in Honduras.  Are you surprised we take God’s grace and generosity for granted and often begrudgingly give as little as 1%.

Pharaoh owns people and demands a 20% tribute.

God give people life and commands we return 10% to help others. Which we then ignore.

Looking back on it, I wonder who is really in bondage here!

January 15, 2010

Gen 41-42:Integrity Speaks Volumes

Posted in God's Character, Integrity tagged , , , , , , , , , at 4:56 pm by Steve

Integrity – doing what is right even when no one but God is watching

 

Joseph had integrity even in prison. Betrayed by his brothers and thrown in prison because of Potiphar’s wife, Joseph still uses his spiritual gifts to help those that needed his help. In time, Joseph’s integrity will be remembered because of an act of kindness two year earlier.

We cannot always know the ramification so our actions and we certainly won’t always be applauded for doing good. Sometimes just the opposite. But we know that as followers of Jesus we must true to our nature, but salt and light in a dark and weary world.

One of my favorite quotes is by William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania!

“Right is right even if everyone is against it. Wrong is wrong even if everyone is for it.”

So how can we know what is right and good? Trying Reading Micah 6:8

Pharaoh dreams the same dream twice to provide this an important message and not as Scrooge would say, “a bit of undigested beef.” In a moment of crisis they remember Joseph. Isn’t this typical. We don’t remember God until we’re in crisis mode. The story of Israel is one of abundance leading to idolatry leading to crisis. Will we ever break this cycle?

Joseph stand before Pharaoh, the monarch of all Egypt and might easily have taken the credit, the reward, and the fame for his wonderful ability to interpret dreams.  BUT HE DOESN’T. Even though he is in prison and has no prospects yet of release, he praises God for the gifts he has. When was the last time you praised God for the work of your hands, mind, or heart.

Believe me when I say, I can’t preach! But God can through me! Mother Teresa once said she was nothing but a little pencil in God’s hand writing a love letter to the world. I like that!

Joseph tests his brother by asking them to bring Benjamin, the youngest who Joseph had never seen. I found it interesting that Joseph imprisoned the brothers for three day. And on the third day brought them out to offer them a solution.

Redemption comes after three days.

 

What do you think?