Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New Year: Ex 10-12 for Jan 19

The redemption of the nation "with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment" (Ex 6:6, RSV) is highlighted by their leaving Egypt as if timed: "at the end of four hundred and thirty years, on that very day" (12:41).

Looking at the subject of the hardening of Pharaoh's heart should wait until Ex 14. Here in 10:1-2, it is put in the strongest possible terms so that no one can miss it. Far from having their God be someone who is dependent upon Pharaoh's heart, their God acts upon Pharaoh's heart, just as He acts in these acts of judgment, and for purposes that are beyond dealing with Pharaoh. Purpose #1: "that I may show these signs of mine among them," (10:1). Purpose #2: "and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your son's son how I have made sport of the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them" (10:2). Purpose #3: "that you may know that I am the LORD" (10:2).

Think of these judgments from the point of view of the Israelites. Don't they already know that God is the LORD? Well, yes, and no. Back in 4:31, they responded well to Moses' and Aaron's signs; they "heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel." But when Pharaoh did nothing about it but make their lives worse, the people blamed Moses (5:21), and Moses had no one to "ask" but God, telling Him that He has not redeemed His people "at all" (5:23)! So the Israelites, and Moses, and the Egyptians, are still seeing that God is God, which is what God Himself says is happening in 6:1 and 10:1. Because of "their broken spirit, and their cruel bondage," the Israelites would not listen to Moses telling them what God was saying (6:6ff; 6:9). God is showing them, so that they will know it truly enough and well enough for 10:2.

God has hardened Pharaoh's heart for those purposes. Is Pharaoh depicted as someone as darkly evil as he can be, then? No. Moses calls it quits with Pharaoh prematurely (10:29; cf. 12:31-32), and certainly both he and we ourselves are unprepared to hear Pharaoh say "and bless me also!" (12:32) when he finally lets the people go! What is going on there? He had said the same kind of thing, regarding himself personally, in 8:28, and in 10:16-17. For the Israelites to know that He is the LORD is also to know that He redeems nations with an outstretched arm, yes, but He deals with individuals as He wills, with no unfairness or injustice. God had hardened Pharaoh's heart, yes, but Pharaoh wasn't the only one showing inability to listen (6:9), and the Israelites were not the only ones who also learned from these events (9:20; 10:7; 12:33-36). Consider that it is very possible, for God to deal with individuals fairly, nations fairly, and accomplish His will, at any and all times.

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