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Posts Tagged ‘sovereignty’

lovetree

The greatest gift of all is love.  God is love.  So, assuredly, Our God is the greatest God.

The greatest God.

We so often serve so many in His place.

But He is the greatest God of all gods.  He is the only true God; the only good God; the only Father God; the only God who is Himself great love.

He is patient with me, always.  He is kind to me, always.  He is not envious, proud, or rude, ever.  God will not dishonor, terrify, or abandon me, ever.  He is not selfish, easily angered, and He keeps no record of my wrongs at all.  God never fails.  He has never failed.  He is never-failing.  He will never fail.  God has never failed me.  God will never fail me.  He is the greatest God of all.

He is the greatest God of all gods.  He is the only true God; the only good God; the only Father God; the only God who is Himself great love.

And I am finally starting to get that.  No more do I say He is good and think otherwise.  No more do I say He is good and wonder whether He is bad.  I cannot miss His true character because I know Him better than that.  I cannot miss His goodness because He is all around me all the time.  I do not doubt His goodness because He is with me wherever I go.

I had a dream of Him the other night.  I suppose it was a bit of nightmare at first. All was wrong. All the church people were mad at me as usual.  They were yelling at me.  And my husband was yelling at me.  And I was SO afraid.  And I was running away.  There was mud everywhere.  I was lost.  I was covered from head to toe with mud.  But somehow I came into the church and a man was sitting inside.  All the chaos was going on around us.   I sat down on the floor making a terribly muddy mess.  I was watching the man while hoping all the hate didn’t hurt me.  And He just sat there as though none of it was even happening.  He never even looked up from His paper.

He sat calm with the chaos.  He had pen in hand; legs crossed; cool as a cucumber.  And I sat shamedly in my muddy mess.  They yelled me.  They yelled at Him.  He never moved.  He sat with me in strength. He sat with me shining Shalom; sharing Shalom; serving in Shalom.  He sat with me. 

And that was God.  He is sitting with me.  He is sitting on His throne.  He is in complete control, always.  No matter who hates or hurts us…no matter how shamefully dirty we are, He isn’t moved.  He sits with strength.  He sits with strength enough to calm it all if we’ll just sit down long enough to look at him.

God is great.  God is good.  Let us thank him for our food.  Amen.

That was the prayer my brother and I prayed before means when we were little.  I pray it today.  My food is His love.  My food is His patience, His kindness, His forgiveness, and His grace.  And I just want to thank Him.  And thank Him.  And thank Him.

The Lord has completely overwhelmed me with His love.  He has completely overwhelmed me with gratitude for what He has given us in giving us the love of His church.  I cannot explain the thankfulness I have.  I cannot explain the amazement I have at God’s goodness and His love.  It is other worldly if I have ever known anything supernatural.

God is so beautifully good.  He is so amazingly great.  He is the God of great peace.

These aren’t just words on a page meant to pacify my pain.  God is great.  He is the greatest God of all gods.  He is the only true God; the only good God; the only Father God; the only God who is Himself great love.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.” ~1 Corinthians 13:13

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potter.jpg
In Jeremiah chapter 18, God calls the prophet to go somewhere specific so that he can get a message from the Lord.

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: ‘Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.’ ” ~Jeremiah 18:1

Jeremiah is called by God to go to the potter’s house.  The purpose for his calling is to hear God’s words and learn God’s mind.  Get this.  It is not just prophets that God speaks to.  God speaks.  From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, God speaks and summons the earth, says Psalm 50:1.  God speaks to the earth and all the people in it.  And many times, God calls us to GO somewhere specific so that we can hear from him.

God is everywhere, so we can hear him in our living room just the same as in the cathedral, but there is something to be said for obedience when God places a specific person or a specific place before us and asks us to go, hear, and learn of him there.  It may be a church, a friend, a mission, or just a quiet reserve where we can unplug and listen closely. There is no doubt that God calls us at certain times to go somewhere specific in order to hear from him, and that he longs to speak to us.  God wants us to know him, understand him, and listen to his words.  He wouldn’t have told us to come to him when we are weary if he didn’t have comfort and wisdom that will bring us rest.  When we are faithful to follow where he leads, God will indeed speak.

So Jeremiah goes where God tells him to go – to the potter’s house – and finds the potter working at his wheel.  The clay he was shaping was ruined and the potter then reshaped and reformed it into something completely different.  God spoke to Jeremiah and told him that the clay represented his people saying, “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord.  Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.” (Jeremiah 18:6)

Can God not do whatsoever he pleases with the very people he has created?  Surely he can!  God is incontestably sovereign.  He can reshape and reform us in to any kind of person he wants to, and, dare I say that that is extraordinary news!

When I initially read this passage, I could not stop thinking about how Paul talks in Romans 9 about God having the right and volition to make out of the clay some for noble purposes and some for common use.  I always, always understood it to mean that some were chosen for glory and some for destruction like a good reformed thinker would.  But in light of Jeremiah 18, I have reconsidered my position.  I have no doubt that Paul was considering Jeremiah’s experience at the potter’s house like the good Pharisee that he was when he spoke Romans 9 to the people.  And he wasn’t saying some are chosen for good and some for evil out of the gate.  He was saying what God was saying to Jeremiah here, in chapter 18 of the prophet’s book.

God gives Jeremiah this object lesson, calling him to go see the potter in action so that he better understands what it looks like to have a God who is altogether sovereign ruling over a people who are altogether responsible.  The text goes on to talk about how if the people would repent, God would most assuredly relent of the evil and catastrophe he was about to bring upon them for their sin, BUT if the people persisted in their sin, God would relent of the good he was bringing for their prosperity.  Eureka!

The God we serve is sovereign!  He can do whatsoever he pleases with us – the clay.  But we, the clay, have a choice to do good or to do evil, and our choice determines how God the Potter will rework us – whether noble or common; for glory or destruction.  The theme of Jeremiah 18 makes it abundantly clear that, though God’s people in this instance did not repent, that they did most definitely have a choice.  The people’s choices determined HOW God would use his sovereign rule in their lives.  Therefore, he holds the power to do what he wills while we have the power to change what he wills with our choices.  And he tells us so right here in Jeremiah 18.  Paul wasn’t saying God predetermines which vessel we will be, rather, that God has the right to REFORM us AT ANY TIME, depending on our own actions!  And that’s EXCELLENT NEWS!  We don’t have to be destined for destruction because of our sin!  We can be reworked for glory IF WE WILL JUST REPENT!  And all the good church people should know that we are not necessarily destined for glory because of our past obedience…if we fall into sin and stay there God has every right to rework us into a common pot which he will cast away.  It is imperative to stay faithful because our rewards are contingent upon our perseverance.

Therefore, it is clear from this passage that God has incontestable sovereignty AND man has ultimate responsibility.  It is both.  It is not one or the other.  God would not have told them (or us!) to repent if they COULD not have.  So that means they absolutely could have.  They didn’t, but they could have.  And that possibility makes all the difference in the world to a recovering fatalist such as myself.

As we continue on in Jeremiah 18, we find that God’s people simply did not listen.  They did not repent.  They thought it vain to listen to God and continued in their own ways and their own paths to their own detriment.  So unnatural was their idolatry, the prophet compares it to stagnant water where it should be flowing; side roads instead of the highway; horror in a wasteland in place of paradise.  God turns his back on them due to their own sinful persistence.

Even the prophet, who so lovingly, faithfully, and obediently spoke God’s words of warning to them was now turned against them.  Jeremiah complains of the slanderous, hateful speech they had brought against him as well as their complete disregard for his true and necessary warnings.  Jeremiah goes so far as to pray to God that his own people would be delivered up to famine, the sword, pestilence, and looting.  He literally says, “Forgive not their iniquity, nor blot out their sin from your sight.  Let them be overthrown before you; deal with them in the time of your anger.” ~Jeremiah 18:23

Why?  Why would a faithful prophet who so obviously loved God’s people say this to God?  It doesn’t seem very loving and forgiving does it?

Jeremiah had been continually, repeatedly, personally hurt and offended by these ones he actually loved the most on earth.  He had been ignored, despised, slandered, and plotted against even to the point of death by those he had been so faithfully serving day after day.  Jeremiah is not vindictive.  He is simply agreeing with God about justice for those who refuse to heed the truth of God’s warnings.

I don’t know about you, but for me, Jeremiah chapter 18 is one of the most enlightening, practical, helpful passages I have studied in a long time. In fact, I do believe the Lord reshaped my whole perspective into something completely new during the past week of meditating on these words. Consider these things and allow the Potter to reshape you in any way necessary.  Amen.

 

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plot

Esther chapter 9 gives us a great satisfaction with the kind of justice God will eventually bring to all of his own people.  Sometimes, he even allows us to experience the victory of justice here on earth.

The very day that had been marked out by the murderous Haman’s decree for the Jews to be annihilated became here the very day when God’s people were victorious against all their enemies.  Likewise, the day of our death is Satan’s final attempt to defeat and destroy us, but God has changed it into the day of our greatest blessing and victory – eternal life with Christ.

When the war broke out on this fateful day, fear fell on all the non-Jewish people.  God had sent a holy fear upon them when the second decree written by Esther and Mordecai was published.  Therefore, many would not oppose the Jews as the first decree had encouraged.  In fact, just the opposite happened.  These people actually joined and converted to Judaism!

Moreover, all the officials and rulers of all the provinces sided with the Jews, too.  They had fear of Mordecai over them.  They had doubtless heard of the man who would not bow to a man second only to the king out of his fear of God and was elevated to the position second only to the king!  That’s not a man you mess with when the king is your boss.

So the Jews fought (and won!) a fierce war against all those who sought their destruction despite the first decree.  In some sense, vengeance by humans seems antithetical to God’s order.  Matthew Henry testifies about it saying, “That which justifies them in the execution of so many is that they did it in their own just and necessary defense.  They stood for their lives, authorized to do so by the law of self-preservation, as well as the king’s decree.”

Mordecai and Esther, in honoring God at the peril of all worldly gain and even their very lives, saved themselves and the entire Jewish nation.  They are a prime example of how those who are willing to lose their lives for the sake of God’s glory, will save them.  Haman, on the other hand, is a prime example of how those who spend their entire lives trying to save themselves, end up losing their lives/hearts/souls/minds in the end.

I mean, what’s worse than dying on the gallows you built for the one who ordered your execution?  What’s worse than all your worldly possessions and even your position being given to the one you hate and were plotting to kill out of pride and jealousy?  I know!  It’s your children having to experience the very same fate you did.  Haman’s ten sons were hanged in public view for all to see their shame.  Haman lost his life, his dignity, and his whole family in his dubious efforts to save and worship himself.

Notice the nature of the Jews in how they refuse to loot and plunder those they overcame – those who sought to kill, steal, and destroy them.  They do not take any spoils of the war.  They kill only armed men while allowing their women and children to remain alive.  The Jews displayed God’s mercy and their own mission as being solely self-protective rather than the vicious, malicious, or idolatrous ways their enemies were toward them and their destruction.

In other words, the Jews killed in self-defense alone.  Those attacking them attacked murderously and for personal gain.  We ought to recognize the difference between self-defense and the mere attacking of another for personal gain in all conflicts between humans.  God always considers such things.

Lastly, when the last man fell and the war was over, Mordecai called a feast.  It was called “Pur” meaning “lots.”  By casting lots, Haman had decided what day the Jews would die.  But God had other plans.  By calling their festival “Pur” they were recognizing God’s absolute sovereignty over all human events.  The 13th day was a day of fasting, lamenting, and remembering the day they were to be destroyed.  The 14th and 15th day were to be days of feasting, praising God, and remembering his mercy for them.  Notice they did not celebrate the day of the victory over their enemies, but fasted and prayed on that day.

God can change destruction into victory…when we honor him.  God can call off enemies and instill holy fear in those who would attack and destroy his people…when we honor him. God can give us the favor of authorities…when we honor him.  God can give us victory over all who would come against us…when we honor him.  God can shame those who seek to shame us…when we honor him. God can create a plot twist any time he wants to in any situation…when we honor him. 

Never, never give up.  Honor him.  Keep honoring him.  Even in the face of great injustice, pain, and death, honor him.  The Lord exalts those who honor him.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”  ~Luke 14:11

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turns

The book of Ezra opens with a heathen king fulfilling prophesy spoken by God’s prophet 150 years prior.  Cyrus had just been appointed king over Persia.  The Jews were living in exile as captives in Babylon which was under Persian rule.  They had been there for almost 70 years because of their disobedience to God.  Jeremiah had prophesied that their captivity would only last 70 years and Isaiah had prophesied that a man named Cyrus would be responsible for the rebuilding of his temple.

“In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing.” ~Ezra 1:1

The ultimate reason this king released the Jews and sent them home is found in verse number one: “…that the word of the Lord might be fulfilled…”  God, in order to accomplish his own purposes for his special people, “…stirred up the spirit…” of a king who didn’t even know or worship him as God.  God directed this man’s heart and he did exactly what God ordained.  Proverbs 21:1 says, “The hearts of kings are in the hand of the Lord, and, like the rivulets of water, he turneth them which way soever he will.”  Matthew Henry says, “It is said of Cyrus that he knew not God, nor how to serve him; but God knew him, and how to serve himself by him.  God governs the world by his influences on the spirits of men, and, whatever good is done at anytime, it is God that stirs up the spirit to do it, puts thoughts into the mind, gives to he understanding to form a right judgement, and directs the will which way he pleases.  Whatever good offices therefore are, at any time, done for the church of God, he must have the glory of them.”  

King Cyrus wasted no time freeing the Jews.  In his very first year as king, he made this proclamation throughout his entire kingdom:

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” ~Ezra 1:2-4

There is something to be said of a man who does right, right away.  When we are put into a position of authority or influence, righting wrongs and doing justice ought always to be first on our list.  One cannot make new plans or start new endeavors in any new context lest he first tie up the loose ends that the last guy left hanging.  Cyrus shows good leadership by attending to these exiles as his first priority when he is appointed king.

King Cyrus not only sends God’s people home, he tells them to rebuild the temple and commands everyone in his kingdom to give those going back to Jerusalem the materials to do it!  He commands everyone in his kingdom to give the Jews their silver, gold, goods, beasts, and offerings!

Imagine this now.  You’re living in a foreign land with no rights.  You are a prisoner of war.  Your people have been there held captive for nearly 70 years.  A new leader comes to power and he not only sends you home, he makes his own citizens give you all their valuables so you can rebuild your place of worship when you get there.  This kind of thing just doesn’t happen.  God is the only one who can orchestrate a deliverance like that.

Do you think some of the people returning went only to get the goods?  Do some today build and plant churches only to build their own kingdoms on the heels of others’ giving?  You bet.

Nevertheless, some leaders rose up from among the Jews to direct the people returning to Jerusalem.  The text says “…everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem…” went.

Who went?

Everyone whose spirit God had stirred up to go. 

The origin of a man’s action or inaction is always found in God’s purpose and direction for him, without which we would never choose right.  Proverbs 20:24 says, “A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?”  

King Cyrus also returned valuable items that the previous king (Nebuchadnezzar) had taken from the Jews when he conquered them.  He had them count the goods returned and he sent them home.

God used a godless man to restore his people; to show mercy to his people.  Despite their rebellion and sin against him, God forgave.  They had endured 70 years of consequences for their disobedience, but God was faithful to completely forgive and restore them after he disciplined them.

We serve a God who overflows with mercy and abounds in love toward us.  He is able to turn the hearts of kings and stir the spirits of men to do that which he calls.  We serve a God who is altogether sovereign.  Take comfort.  He is in complete control of every last circumstance.

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Print

Life is so long and so short at the very same time.  We close our eyes exhausted from chasing toddlers wondering if the day will ever end and when we open them we are looking back wondering how they could possibly look so much like adults.

Every single day is so very important.  Every day.  Our time here on earth is short.  We have but a few minutes before we are gone.  It seems it is only the good things that pass by so fast.

The seasons of discouragement and doubt seem to last and last.  If we are not careful, bad days can turn into bad years, and bad years can turn into joyless lives.

Every single day is so very important.  Every day.  Our time here on earth is long.  We have years upon years to make a difference and influence those around us for the good.  We cannot allow personal setbacks or problems distract us from our purpose and the greater good.  If we do, we will end up looking back on a life poorly spent and largely unaccomplished.

I have taken somewhat of a hiatus from writing my personal thoughts over the past couple months.  I have not felt particularly inspired.  Truth be told, I have felt unloved, discouraged, and even unnecessary.  I have experienced heartache, hardship, and hurt over the past year.  If I am being honest, it has been a hard year. Still, a good year. I have gotten to know my Father so much better. What could be better than that?

And, I have been healing.  I have been sitting at the feet of my Lord and allowing him to be all that I need.  Healing is not a process one can easily explain and share while undergoing it.  But by God’s grace, I can see light.  His provision is evidenced in so many blessings that I can’t help be be thankful.  I have finally come to the place where I can honestly say to the Lord, “Whatever your plan is, that is exactly what I want today.  Suffering?  Give me that.  Miscarriage?  You’re sovereign; I surrender.  Shunning?  OK.  It’s your world, Lord, and I am just your kid. It’s your plan.  It’s your will.  It’s your authority to which I bow and none else.  USE ME.  Whatever that means in my life, do that.  Just use me.  Somehow, someway, get glory from my meager little life.  That is all I want and it is all that truly matters to me anyway.

I open my hands.  I unfold them and I wait.

When I was a young Christian, I used to pray every single day that God would allow me to die a martyr for him.  What I have found over the past twenty years is that it is likely easier to die for Christ than it is to truly live for him.  We die once.  As each day begins, we must live over and over and over again.  So I changed my prayer:

Lord, whether I may or may not die a martyr, please allow me to live a martyr.  Allow me to live dying daily for you that you might use me.  Give me peace with your perfect, sovereign plan.  Let me not miss the opportunities you give.  I do not need to understand, I just want to be used.  Please use me in this long, short life.  Amen. 

Every single day is so important.  Don’t waste it.

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sweet

No sooner do God’s people sing their great song of prayer, victory, and celebration to Him than they are led into the wilderness.  These people are on quite a journey – a grand adventure wherein they must learn how to follow the commands of a righteous, heavenly master as opposed to the unjust earthly master they had just been delivered from.  Let’s just call it an adjustment period.

They arrive in the desert and they are, not surprisingly, thirsty.  They only water they do find is bitter and undrinkable…so…because they just saw all these miracles, watched God destroy their fierce enemies, and sang for joy, they decide to pray for good water and they live happily ever after…

Fail.  Unfortunately that is not what God’s people did.  Even after all they had just seen God do for them, they allow their physical thirst to shift their focus from joy and praise to unbelief and complaining.  Even after all they had seen God do, these followers went right back to complaining.

 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” ~Exodus 15:24

I call them “followers” because that is what they were.  Some people are leaders.  Others are followers.  One is not better than the other.  The problem was not that they were followers, it was who they were following.  When they should have been following God and his prophet, they chose to follow each other and their physical and emotional desires  dwelling upon all they could find unfortunate about their situation.  It proved a real lack of character and maturity on their part.

Fortunately, God’s people had a prophet.  Oh, wait, that was the guy they were complaining about.  Drat.  The very man whom God gave to help, to deliver, to lead, and to prophesy to them, they exasperate and burden by their abusive speech against him.  Here, they have a man who was trusting God as he led them.  Yet, they grumble against him.

Moses prayed.  Moses cried out to God on behalf of his very fearful, unbelieving, abusive followers formerly known as the joyful praisers of the Lord who sang the great victory song right along with him just three days before.

God answers Moses’ prayer miraculously.  The text says: “And he cried to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a log, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet.” (Exodus 15:25)

Wait.  God “showed” the prophet a log?  A log.  What?  How does that work?  Does God just point out random objects to people and enlighten them about what he wants done with them?

I am here to tell you…Yes.  He.  Does.  God speaks to people who pray in earnest to him for the sake of others.  God is in no way limited in the means or the methods he may choose to use for the sake of his people.  God can and does use whatever he will when we are willing to listen and obey.

God can use a log.  He can use a murderer like Moses.  He can use a donkey, a tax collector, a doctor, a colt, a hate-filled Pharisee like Saul (Paul), or even, *gasp*, a GIRL if he wants to.  May he, complaining unbeliever?  May he, grumbling follower?  Just wondering.

Here, God gave his prophet practical insight and wisdom on what to do and how to do it.  The prophet obeyed and God provided.  Therefore, what was bitter and unusable became life-giving to all God’s people.  So God used an obedient, praying murderer turned prophet coupled with an inanimate object in order to work a miracle and set an extremely important precedent for his people.

It seems that change is always difficult for people.  It is one thing to follow an earthly master who threatens punishment and sure death in the instance of disobedience.  It is another to be given freedom and liberty to choose right or wrong for the sake of a life-giving, heavenly Master who has just shown you great love, grace, mercy, and favor.  Here, God clears up any misconceptions these chosen ones may have had about their responsibility to him as well as the consequences of their obedience and disobedience, respectively.  God made himself quite clear.  His message was this:

Hey, kids.  I have control over all things.  I have been extremely gracious to you.  I destroyed your enemies because of their sin.  I know it is hard to believe, but I am not going to just overlook your sin.   Listen and obey me and you will be healed and protected.  Ignore and disobey me and you will be destroyed just like your enemies.  You are no better, no different, and in no way above them.  All men are the same to me.  This is life or death.  You choose.

Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Let not the Israelites think, because God had thus highly honored them in the great things he had done for them, and had proclaimed the to all the world his favorites, that therefore he would connive at their sins and let them do as they would.  No, God is no respecter of persons; a rebellious Israelites shall fare no better than a rebellious Egyptian; and so they found, to their cost, before they got to Canaan.”  

Like I said, change is always difficult for people – especially those who have lived in harsh bondage their entire lives; especially those who have lived in positions of preference, position, and pride over their own personal heritage their entire lives. When transitioning from a slave-driving, hard task-master like Pharaoh and sin, as well as from a self-serving attitude of self-importance wherein our task-master is our own sin, to a life-giving, love-bestowing, righteous Father-master like God, we are, like they were, bound to have some misconceptions and make some mistakes.  God knew.  That is why he made himself so clear upon their entry to this wilderness.

The prophet has spoken.  The miracle has proven his prayers as effective as his words were true.  Now, God’s great mercy gives even more grace.

 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they encamped there by the water. ~Exodus 15:27

God gave a place of rest and refreshment.  He will do the same for us if we would but trust him.

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god's will

Moving into Exodus chapter 7, God retells his plan once again to Moses.  This is the third time God reiterates for a hesitant human like us.  What grace Our Father has for our immature rebellion, fear, and faithlessness at his commands!

Moses’ objections to obey God’s directives finally cease.  He stops contending with God and begins contending with Pharaoh.  I suppose that is the way it generally works for God’s people.  We cannot fight a good fight against this world when we are busy fighting against personal obedience to God’s clear Word.

God reminds Moses that Pharaoh will not listen despite all the signs and miracles he is about to perform.  Then he says something that I find quite curious.  God says, “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” (Exodus 7:5)

God causes the ungodly to know he is Lord by “great acts of judgement.” (Exodus 7:4)  Conversely, he causes his people to know he is Lord by great acts of gracious, merciful deliverance.  In his wrath and his mercy – both solely dependent upon his own sovereign choice – God is glorified.

As the story goes, Moses and Aaron obey, Pharaoh asks for a sign, and their staff becomes a serpent.  The sign is quickly dismissed as the Egyptian magicians are able to do the same.  Still, Aaron’s staff swallows up the others.  While that proof of authority should have been enough, instead Pharaoh’s hard heart deemed it enough reason to disbelieve.  Matthew Henry says, “…the very appearance of an opposition to truth, and the least head made against it, serve those for a justification of their infidelity who are prejudiced against the light and love of it.”

I guess the most obvious question here is, “Why would God allow and enable the false magicians to imitate the true sign so similarly?”  Apparently, it serves as part of his sovereign will to harden the hearts of some and deliver the hearts of others.  Again I defer to Henry’s words:  “God suffers the lying spirit to do strange things, that the faith of some may be tried and manifested, that the infidelity of others may be confirmed, and that he who is filthy may be filthy still.”

The bottom line in this strange interaction between a sovereign God who sent a humble man to speak to a proud man on his behalf only to exalt the one and bring down the other, is to prove his authority and prerogative to do just that.  And why would an all-powerful God have need to do anything like that?  He doesn’t need help, approval, or acceptance from mere men.  Therefore, the reason he does so is solely for their sake; for our sake – that we might know who he is and what he does; that we might know his grace and mercy; his greatness and his wrath.  God gives us the whole of the Biblical text that we might know just what kind of God he is.

And what kind of God is that?

He is a God who humbles men and hardens men.  He exalts men and delivers men.  He chooses whom he will for whatsoever he pleases.  This is a God who made men for his own purposes, and for his own purposes alone men live and breathe.  This is a God of greatest power, authority, knowledge, and wisdom over all things, all nations, and all people everywhere.

Such may seem a great mystery.  So be it.  It is a mystery woven throughout all of scripture for us to investigate and inquire of him about -and that is what he wants from us.  We serve a God that is altogether sovereign.

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