Let's be reasonable with one another, shall we?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Don't Sass God

(More from Romans 9:)17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?
I think I would like to look at the passage where the Scripture speaks to Pharoah. I see the context is in the middle of all the plagues, after the diseased livestock (plague #5) and the boils (plague #6).
But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses. 13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of the Hebrews: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me, 14 for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. 15 Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth. 17 As yet you exalt yourself against My people in that you will not let them go. 18 Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to rain down, such as has not been in Egypt since its founding until now. (Exodus 9)

The setting of this is a struggle between two nations. Pharoah of Egypt wants the Israelites to remain his slaves, but Moses has been given the vision to free these people and lead them out of this existence. The Bible says that God "hardened" Pharoah's heart in this matter. God helped him to be set in the course he was going and to stick with his intentions and not waver.
Q.: Why?
A.:Because God was showing His power to the world.
If Pharoah had let the people go and this struggle between these two leaders (and peoples, respectively) had been short-lived, would it have gotten much press? Certainly not. However, who hasn't heard of this great event? Cecil B. Demille even made a movie about it! The Jews became well known partly because of these events. So what is Paul saying by quoting this? Is he saying that God chose to harden Pharoah's heart so He could send him to everlasting torment for the glory of God? Certainly that is not the point Paul is making. (We don't even know that Pharoah did not repent. He may have. If I remember correctly, we don't know that he died in this struggle, so he could have had a chance for a change of mind and a turn in faith to this God that he had gotten so much exposure to during this struggle.) I think Paul is saying that God has moved in the hearts of men to direct the affairs of this nation of Israel - and other nations - for His glory. He just got done telling us in Romans 9:14-16 about God showing mercy to the people of Israel after these events with Pharoah, whom He hardened (remember - it was Exodus 33 Paul was quoting before he quoted this passage of Exodus 9).

It occurs to me that this is all a very Jewish discussion going on here. I am having to look up many old testament passages and they all seeem to be having to do with the formation and the trevails of this people, Israel. Paul is still talking about that which he brought up in the opening verses of this chapter - the people of Israel and the question of what is God doing with them? - God chose them, but they, as a nation have not received their Messiah. He is answering that. God wants the gospel message to go out to the Gentiles and has a purpose for the Jews being set aside for the time being. God moves in the hearts and affairs of men to accomplish what He wants in this world. He wanted His name to be known, so He hardened Pharoah's heart and He brought this people out with great signs and wonders.

Next we have an objector asking, "Well, why does God still find fault if He hardens and has mercy based on His will to shape history?" Paul answers the objector by telling him not to accuse God of anything unjust. There is no unrighteousness with Him. God is the potter. He is shaping the world and he has different purposes for different peoples. He moves in the leaders' hearts. If some coutries are blessed (like the USA) and others seem to be cursed (like Somalia or Sudan), God has a purpose and a right to make some for honor and others for dishonor and this is done for His sovereign purposes, ruling in the affairs of men. The Pharoahs, Sadaam Husseins, Fidel Castros and the Kim Jong Ils of the world are all going to play into His perfect plan for this planet. If the nation of Israel has had relatively few converts to Christianity, it will all make sense as to why. God knows. We usually don't know the purpose while it is happening, but some day it will all be clear. At the end of the day, God will never, ever appear to be unjust, unloving or unrighteous.

22 Comments:

  • This is a really well thought out post.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at 9/18/2007 10:57 AM  

  • Thank you, Matthew. ;~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 9/18/2007 11:03 AM  

  • This is a good post. It fits very nicely in a discussion held on my blog last week.

    I have always found it interesting that before God hardened the heart of Pharaoh, Pharaoh hardened it himself several times.

    By Anonymous Gordon Cloud, at 9/18/2007 1:35 PM  

  • Sis I always appreciate the depth of study in your articles. I’ve noticed that many use this account to try and limit God by inferring that A) He not only hardened Pharaoh’s heart but that He also determined its intent and B) that because He did so in this instance He ALWAYS does so.

    With respect to Romans it seems that many consider Paul to be establishing a foundation for determinism when in fact he is arguing for God’s own free will and righteousness in His determination to bless all who would believe in Christ.

    By Blogger Kc, at 9/18/2007 9:24 PM  

  • I agree with the others, this really is a well thought out post. I do appreciate the depth you go into your studies.

    If I my inject my thoughts on this hardening of Pharoh:

    Exodus 1:8 says that a new king arose in Egypt that did not know Joseph so he started the "taskmasters" to start enslaving the 12 tribes.

    Now in Exodus 3:19 God states to Moses that "I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go except under compulsion."

    God knows past present and future and knew this Pharoh would not let them go. But God was going to deliver His people regardless or despite of the current Pharoh.

    So did God harden Pharoh's heart so that he would not let them go or was it because the Pharoh did not let them go his heart was hardened when he refused to listen to God through Moses? I think it was the latter and God takes responsibility having hardened Pharoh's heart in the process of delivering the tribes.

    By Blogger Kris, at 9/19/2007 12:35 AM  

  • Hey Rose--

    But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth

    I think your hesitations about this verse being used to speak to God's eternal damning of Pharaoh is well-founded. After all, the context seems to suggest that the purpose of God raising up Pharaoh was precisely for the opportunity of doing great things through Pharaoh IN THE NAME OF YAHWEH. Yet despite this gracious overture, Pharaoh chose to persist in hardness of heart, refusing to right the sins of his fathers.

    By Blogger Exist~Dissolve, at 9/19/2007 12:39 AM  

  • Rose~ good a.m. "At the end of the day, God will never, ever appear to be unjust, unloving or unrighteous." so powerful and so true. selahV

    By Anonymous selahV, at 9/20/2007 2:24 AM  

  • Gordon,
    I willl have to check that out when I get a little time. Yes, I remember ... Pharoah did plenty of his own hardening. Thanks for the visit.

    KC,
    Thanks for coming over! It is so nice to see KC in my inbox again. Praying for your family. Very good observation re:Romans.

    Kris,
    Thank you so much. You have some really great thoughts there. It seems that the word "foreknowledge" has lost its distinction form "predestination" in the minds of many. They definitely are different, though. Thanks a bunch for speaking up!

    By Blogger Rose~, at 9/20/2007 9:26 AM  

  • Exist~Dissolve,
    What an interesting notation on the "gracious overture." Yes, it is, isn't it? I don't think any of the people mentioned here were created for the sole purpose of being human waste. God was gracious, even to Pharoah. However, Pharoah was full of pride and wanted His own way. God let him persist in this attitude for HIS purposes.

    Selah,
    I am glad it hit a bell with you. God bless.

    By Blogger Rose~, at 9/20/2007 9:30 AM  

  • I am noting that none of my Calvinist friends are commenting on any of these posts! I must be getting it right or surely they would correct me!!!

    I wonder why they aren't telling me "good job" if they think I am getting it right, though. What to do with these conflicting messages?

    hmmmmm........

    By Blogger Rose~, at 9/20/2007 9:32 AM  

  • Rose, maybe the Calvinists are afraid that commenting on a non-Calvinistic blog will turn them into atheists.

    By Anonymous Gordon Cloud, at 9/20/2007 12:03 PM  

  • I am noting that none of my Calvinist friends are commenting on any of these posts! I must be getting it right or surely they would correct me!!! etc.,

    I think, Rose, that every Christian is really a Calvinist at heart, so I have concentrated my thoughts elsewhere on this one. :-)

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 9/20/2007 12:21 PM  

  • Great thoughts again!

    God bless,
    Jim

    By Blogger Jim, at 9/20/2007 12:21 PM  

  • Rose I have to confess my thinking was somewhat in line with Colin's in that I considered that most Calvinist are really Christians at heart. :D

    By Blogger Kc, at 9/20/2007 1:01 PM  

  • There you are, Rose. kc agrees with me too.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 9/20/2007 1:10 PM  

  • hahahahahaha Gordon! You are funny. But, ya know, they usually comment here. In times past.

    There's one! Hello Goodnight. Don't cop-out. :~) (Do you British use that phrase?) What do you think of this post? Am I all washed up in my understanding of the OT passage and the point Paul is making? Or do I have it right? I must.

    Thank you, Jim. It is good to see you around again.

    KC,
    You're funny too! I just love you southerners. I am not sure GNSH read your comment carefully enough. ;~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at 9/20/2007 2:24 PM  

  • Another great post Rose!

    Even though I do not have atheistic leanings (or fatalistic leanings) I found myself agreeing with GNSH and K.C. How wonderful for brothers to be in harmony!

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 9/21/2007 5:12 AM  

  • Hi Rose,

    Of course, it was a cop out (Yes…we have that phrase over here) - the easy option - 10 mischievous minutes before dinner. And yes, I did read kc's words properly…but kept going, anyway. I supposed I should've put a smiley face on it.

    I hesitate to reduce Romans 9 to God merely dealing with nations (although nations are made up of individuals) and that in a non salvic way. If we reduce the "rougher portions" to God's intervening in history and giving less privileges, then we must (by the same token) reduce the "nicer portions" also to the same idea. Thus "the riches of His glory" (v23) and even"the children of the living God" (v25) will take on less than salvic meanings.

    Let God be God. All of us are sinners and deserve nothing less than hell. If He chooses to leave a portion of a justly condemned people in their sins, then we cannot find fault with Him. God is not under obligation to save any, and therefore He is not under obligation to save all. I am happy to say that the vessels of wrath fitted themselves to destruction because damnation is all of sin, while salvation is all of grace.

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 9/21/2007 5:35 AM  

  • Okay I admit that in spite of his obvious theological flaws (grin) I have developed an affection for Colin and his attitude through his writing. I suspect he is a great blessing to many. ;-)

    By Blogger Kc, at 9/21/2007 6:32 AM  

  • TO ALL!

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at 9/21/2007 6:37 AM  

  • Did ye ever see an Ulsterman blush?

    I enjoy all the posts here.

    Since we are all in jolly mood let me share a story with you about three Pastors who were out for a walk together: A Calvinist, an Arminian (Ahem!) and a good Old Timey Pentecostal.

    They were all walking along debating about whether Rose was right yet again on her blog when, lo and behold, the whole three of them fell into a trench in the road.

    The Calvinist climbed out first, dusted himself down, and in his moment of self application said: "Praise the Lord, I've got that over with!"

    The Arminian climbed out next, dusted himself down, and in his moment of self application said: Praise the Lord, I'd had better watch where I put my feet the next time."

    Last out was the Old Timey Pentecostal preacher. He too dusted himself down, and in his moment of self application said, Praise the Lord for the experience!

    Enjoy!

    By Blogger GOODNIGHTSAFEHOME, at 9/21/2007 8:09 AM  

  • Colin Maxwell,
    OK, looking at your 5:35am comment - I think what you're saying is that yes, I am on the right track - you can't see a problem with my explanation of these verses in this post, but... you still hold to double predestination anyways, with the sinners culpable for their fate. Is that right? ;~)

    Second comment: You are funny! I am glad that you were made to blush - how lovely. I do appreciate your intereactions, and especially your little limericks. Whilst you are off a bit with your theology (chuckles), you are an alright guy. ;~)

    PS
    Why not take a stab at the current post- "made me like [what]?"

    By Blogger Rose~, at 9/21/2007 8:48 AM  

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