The Content Intensifies
Lord God, I pray today that the Love of the Father, the tenderness of the Son, and the presence of the Spirit will gladden my heart.
Read Exodus 9:13-35
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“It is meaningless to talk of forcing a man to do freely what a man has freely made impossible for himself” (C.S. Lewis, 1868-1963). We must not harden our hearts towards the Lord.
Today’s story is the seventh and longest sign; the beginning of the third cycle of three signs (50 verses, compared with 29 and 23 verses for the first and second cycles). I read this story slowly several times, noticing some details: verse 16 notes that this contest is so that the Lord’s name might be proclaimed in all the earth (c.f. 29)–and so it has been! Some of Pharaoh’s officials pay attention to the threat–but some do not. The hailstorm is exceptional (24), and for the third time (c.f. 8:22,23; 9:4) Goshen is excepted.
The contest is intensifying and the most striking phrase in today’s reading is “at this time I am sending all my blows against your heart” (14, literal translation). In Hebrew anthropology, psychological functions are distributed to bodily parts–bowels, liver, kidneys and so on. The heart is the coordinating center of one’s inner life, essential person and character (Jer. 4:19; Lam. 2:11; Psa. 16:7). Blow by blow Pharaoh’s character is being revealed in his contradictory actions. He has become the prisoner of his own irrationality. I ponder the shocking risk that God has taken in making us free agents, knowing that to make us free entails the risk that we will use our freedom wrongly. And the more we use our freedom wrongly, the harder it becomes to turn back. It is written that to his last moment Adolf Hitler refused to admit any wrongdoing, ranting right up to the end about plots and Jews and disloyalty. “There is a line by us unseen / across the trifler’s path, / the hidden boundary between / God’s mercy and his wrath” (writer unknown). But cannot God obstruct the trifler’s wrong choice? He has done so–the biggest stumbling block is the cross of Jesus. But what if the trifler persists? Alas, he will find his persistence solidifies at the last.
How has God shown to you his mighty hand of judgment and his merciful hand of deliverance? What were his plague-like attention getting devices? What lessons did you learn?
Father, by Your Spirit, soften my heart. I don’t want to be like Pharaoh, resisting You at every turn. May my trust in You lead to obedience to Your voice.
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