Battlefield of the Heart
Shepherd God, where would I be without Your presence and promises? I praise You and look for a word from You today.
Read Exodus 6:28-7:24
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Faith is a free surrender and a joyous wager on the unseen, unknown, untested goodness of God” (Martin Luther).
“The Bible is a dispute about the identity and character of the true God,” declares Walter Brueggemann. The book of Exodus offers us demanding material about the nature of God. Pharaoh’s question, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him…?” (5:2) may become our question over the next few days (though in a different tone of voice). The atheist Richard Dawkins has written of “the sheer strangeness of the Bible,” the “weird volume that religious zealots hold up to us as the inerrant source of our morals and rules for living.” To answer him, we must explore the difficulties of these texts with honesty.
The main difficulty is God’s declaration in 7:3, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.” We have already heard this declaration in 4:21 and will hear it eight more times through the exodus story (9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17). There are also ten occasions when it is said or implied that Pharaoh himself is responsible for his obduracy (7:13,14,22; 8:15,19, 32; 9:7,34,35; 13:15). At least in relationship to the first five disasters that fall on his people, it seems that Pharaoh’s own willfulness precedes any intervention by God. The battlefield of Pharaoh’s heart is actually the central stage of the drama.
This will not satisfy all our unease, however. At the heart of the story is the mystery of God’s activity, the God who delights when “the wicked turn from their ways and live” (Ezek. 33:11) and whose longing to draw all his creation back into relationship with him is the storyline of Scripture. The plagues are not punishments on Pharaoh for his hard heart; they are repeated opportunities (especially in each aftermath; as in v. 23) for a change of heart. What we cannot identify is the moment of Pharaoh’s final opportunity for repentance. (See Rom. 9:14-21.)
In the light of Romans 9:18, pray for situations where a change of heart is urgently needed among those in power.
Mighty God, Your grace is my sustenance, Your will my direction, and Your love my hope. I bless Your name.
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