Egypt, by Melissa Gibbs

Egypt, Exodus 4:18 - 7:13

Right off the bat, a bizarre encounter with God wanting to kill Moses because of his disobedience. The covenant of circumcision was a symbol of faith in God, much like our baptism. According to Genesis chapter 17, an uncircumcised male could be cut off from his people for breaking the covenant. It was a big deal. Maybe Moses' wife was opposed to it, which would be a reasonable emotion, or maybe Moses was simply lax. Either way, God would not have wanted to use a man who was not fully committed, and this oversight may have been seen as just that. In this incredibly abrupt passage, we learn only that God confronts Moses and was about to kill him. We don't know if this was an encounter similar to what Jacob experienced at Bethel (when he wrestled the angel of the Lord), or if it means something less tangible, like that God afflicted Moses with an illness so severe that he nearly died. Moses and Zipporah must have been having recent discussions about circumcision and God's requirement, because she instantly knew what the trouble was and rectified the situation.

When Moses and Aaron arrive in Egypt, they are welcomed as heroes. But when they didn't immediately "deliver" (pun intended), the people become too discouraged to even hear what the Lord was saying to them. There is definitely a lesson in there for us. God was speaking, but because He wasn't acting the way they thought best, the Israelites closed their ears to Him. Though he no longer has the support of his people, Moses continues to move forward as God leads. When God tells him to appear before Pharoah, he tells him not to worry because "I will make Pharoah's heart stubborn so that I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt". Two things to to notice here. The first is that God can use ungodly people and actions to accomplish godly purposes. The Israelites had already been so discouraged that they no longer listened to Moses and Aaron, or God for that matter. If they were going to be inspired to make a break for the Promised Land and escape the bondage of their captors, they would need to have absolute confidence in Moses and in their God. He needed to work some miracles in order to authenticate Himself and His servants Moses and Aaron. Pharoah had to continue to refuse Moses' requests so that God could send the plagues and solidify the loyalty of His people.

Now secondly, and more tricky, is the fact that God says He will harden Pharoah's heart. Twenty times in these first few chapters of Exodus, Pharoah's heart is said to be hardened. Throughout the first 5 plagues, he hardens his own heart and in the following plagues, God hardens his heart. And there are a few more occasions where the verbiage is vague about who does the hardening of Pharoah's heart. The difficulty with these references, is that we reject the thought that God would force anyone to to turn away from Him, and furthermore to make a decision that would bring on such suffering and evil.

After doing some online research, I found out that the Hebrew language has idioms and colloquialisms just as we do. When we say that someone has a "chip on their shoulder" or that someone "bit their head off", we understand the meaning. But these types of phrases will be very difficult to translate 2000 years from now, I guarantee. The Hebrews had a figure of speech that allowed actions to be attributed to a person who merely set up the occasion for that action. A good example is that David is said to have "killed Uriah with the sword". In fact, Uriah was killed in battle, but it was David who ensured that he was put in harm's way and is therefore credited with the action itself. There are many other examples to be found of the same type of expression, but it is after 1:00 AM and I'm sure you catch my drift (another idiom, difficult to translate in 2000 years)! I am going to copy and paste what I read from a Christian apologetics website, as they explained how this figure of speech applies to the hardening of Pharoah's heart.

In the case of Pharaoh, “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” in the sense that God provided the circumstances and the occasion for Pharaoh to be forced to make a decision. God sent Moses to place His demands before Pharaoh. Moses merely announced God’s instructions. God even accompanied His Word with miracles—to confirm the divine origin of the message (cf. Mark 16:20). Pharaoh made up his own mind to resist God’s demands. Of his own accord, he stubbornly refused to comply. Of course, God provided the occasion for Pharaoh to demonstrate his unyielding attitude. If God had not sent Moses, Pharaoh would not have been faced with the dilemma of whether to release the Israelites. So God was certainly the instigator and initiator. But He was not the author of Pharaoh’s defiance.

Notice that in a very real sense, all four of the following statements are true: (1) God hardened Pharaoh’s heart; (2) Moses hardened Pharaoh’s heart; (3) the words that Moses spoke hardened Pharaoh’s heart; (4) Pharaoh hardened his own heart. All four of these observations are accurate, depicting the same truth from different perspectives. In this sense, God is responsible for everything in the Universe, i.e., He has provided the occasion, the circumstances, and the environment in which all things (including people) operate. But He is not guilty of wrong in so doing. From a quick look at a simple Hebrew idiom, it is clear that God did not unjustly or directly harden Pharaoh’s heart. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), He does not act unjustly (Psalms 33:5), and He has always allowed humans to exercise their free moral agency (Deuteronomy 30:19). God, however, does use the wrong, stubborn decisions committed by rebellious sinners to further His causes (Isaiah 10:5-11). In the case of Pharaoh’s hardened heart, God can be charged with no injustice, and the Bible can be charged with no contradiction. Humans were created with free moral agency and are culpable for their own actions.

About Melissa Gibbs:

 Melissa is the mother of four boys and the wife of her junior high sweetheart, JD.  He is the President of Joe Gibbs Racing and the son of NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs.  JD and Melissa have been married 16 years and are actively involved with Young Life, Motor Racing Outreach, their church, and other ministries.  Their youngest son Taylor is nearing completion of a 3 year treatment protocol for leukemia, which has been a powerful faith walk for their family.  Since his diagnosis, Melissa has been called upon to share their family's testimony with many local churches.

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