Hardening Pharaoh’s Heart

H – Highlight

Exodus 11:10 – Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.

E – Explain

As we see thee encounters between Moses and Pharaoh, we repeatedly see that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. We have to conclude from this that Moses, who wrote this text under the inspiration of the Lord, intended that we understand that the entire situation is under the sovereign will of God. The Lord acted to put Pharaoh in the place he ended up.

Because I have also worked on this text before, I believe that we can say both that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart even as Pharaoh hardened his own heart. As I have taught this text, God acted in his sovereignty to have Pharaoh behave in concert with exactly who Pharaoh was. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart did not make Pharaoh evil where he otherwise would have been good. Instead, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart made Pharaoh the most like his natural sinful self that Pharaoh could be.

A – Apply

The point for me to apply today is to remember the sovereign hand of God. Nobody acts to thwart the sovereign will of God. Even evil dictators are within the bounds of the Lord’s ultimate will. And, yes, sometimes those evil men will do evil things in accord with their evil nature. And when they do this evil, the Lord will use his mighty power to bring glory to his name even through the evil men living in accord with their hardened hearts.

R – Respond

Lord, I pray that you will help me to remember that you are sovereignly working your will in all of humanity. We are not able to thwart you. We never threaten your rule. I pray that you will help me remember that you work your will, even when you are setting up evil men for a fall as you allow them to live as they most desire. I pray that you preserve us from evil leaders. I pray that you will show your glory through moving evil men toward faith in Christ. But I also pray that you help me rest in you when your will is other than what would make my steps most peaceful.

God’s Timing and God’s Glory

H – Highlight

Genesis 41:15-16 – 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

E – Explain

The context is familiar. Pharaoh has had a dream, and finally the cup-bearer remembers to tell his master about joseph. Now Pharaoh asks joseph to interpret his dream. And Joseph, for his part, is quick to give the credit for any good that happens here to God.

A – Apply

Two things have crossed my mind in this passage. One is that it took two full years after Joseph met the cup-bearer for this man to remember Joseph. This had to be a very hard time. Two years in prison, even when Joseph was the highest ranking prisoner, had to be disturbing. We must recall that God works good things at God’s own timing. God’s timing is perfect, even if we might think the slow pace of change maddening.

But the real point that grabbed my attention today was the humility of Joseph. This man was careful not to try to make himself look good by claiming an ability that was not innately his. Joseph did not brag about his particular gift. Instead, Joseph pointed all the glory to God. This is a thing we want to remember and model.

R – Respond

Lord, I praise you for your perfection. Your timing is perfect. Even when things do not happen at the pace I desire, help me to remember that you are still working your will. You did so in the life of Joseph, and you are doing so in mine.

I also ask you to help me always point to you. I acknowledge here and now that there is no good thing in me that is not a gift from you. I did not earn my salvation—even my faith is a gift. I did not grant myself any abilities. Only you can make any good come from me, and thus all the glory is yours.

God Prepares His People

H – Highlight

Genesis 40:8 – They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

E – explain

The context here is with Joseph in Egypt because his brothers sold him. He is in prison because of a lie. And now he meets men connected to the Pharaoh. Both men had dreams, and Joseph, by the grace of God, will be able to tell them what these prophetic dreams mean.

A – Apply

Early on, Joseph found himself offending his dad and his brothers because of the dreams that he told them. Now, years later, Joseph is in a place to hear and interpret dreams by a gift that God has given him. This tells me that, though Joseph’s life is hard, God has used Joseph’s experiences to prepare him for the moment he faces.

There are many joys and pains that we will face as followers of the Lord. And there is no way that we can know, when we face these things, how God will use those things in the future. We may presently be able to see how God has prepared us. Or, we may never understand this side of heaven. But we should see from Joseph’s experiences that God is in control and that he uses all sorts of things in our lives to shape us into what he wants us to be for his glory and for the growth of his kingdom.

R – Respond

Lord, I see in Joseph’s experience that you truly use all things in our lives, things we love and things we regret, to accomplish your ultimate will. I pray that you will help me to remember this as I look back on things in my life I regret. I pray that you will help me remember this when I recall things that have happened to me that I do not like. Please, Lord, in this text, help me be comforted as I trust you and your perfect will, a will that I cannot fully understand this side of heaven.

A Quick Thought on God Knowing You

One common interpretive tool to attempt to make sense of the predestining grace of God is a heavy reliance on the concept of foreknowledge. Those who would argue that God responds to the future choices of his free creatures in order to determine his decree of predestination have to argue that God, with divine foreknowledge, looks down the corridor of time and sees who will and who will not choose him.

A reformed response to this kind of thinking is to point out that God’s word regularly uses the idea of God knowing someone with a different semantic meaning than simple information. When the Lord knows a person or a nation, the Lord is expressing that he has a particular favor on them. After all, the Lord knows, intellectually, all that there is to know. But for God to know you is for him to have a particularly loving relationship with you.

Consider the words of God at the beginning of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 1:4-5

4 Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

What is God declaring to Jeremiah? Why is it such a significant turn of phrase? God says that he knew Jeremiah even before Jeremiah was formed in the womb. If this is merely God saying that he had knowledge of Jeremiah’s existence or even Jeremiah’s future choices, that is both amazing and ordinary. It is amazing, as we know our God knows all things. But it is ordinary in that this phrase would mean nothing more to Jeremiah than the expression of the fact that God has intellectual awareness of Jeremiah in just the same way that God has intellectual awareness of all human beings.

But look at the parallel. To know Jeremiah was for God to consecrate him. For God to consecrate Jeremiah was to set him apart as a prophet. The knowledge is put in a parallel position to the consecration in the poetic lines. This is not God saying that he understood what kind of guy Jeremiah would be and so he chose to use him. No, it is God saying that, before Jeremiah was ever formed, God had already set upon Jeremiah his consecration, his sacred calling. God knew Jeremiah in a special way, not in the same, ordinary way that God has knowledge of all humanity. God chose Jeremiah before he was born so that Jeremiah would be set apart and fulfill a glorious divine purpose.

Why a Funeral is Better than a Party

In Ecclesiastes 7, Solomon offers us a really weird bit of wisdom. He lets his readers know that going to a funeral is more helpful to a person than attending a great celebration. Why?

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

2 It is better to go to the house of mourning

than to go to the house of feasting,

for this is the end of all mankind,

and the living will lay it to heart.

3 Sorrow is better than laughter,

for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.

4 The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,

but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Why is a funeral better than a party? At a funeral, those who attend are forced to consider the truth of our own mortality. Every person in the room at a funeral faces the fact that he or she will also someday pass from this life. Every person at a funeral is forced to take stock of things that they may or may not want to pay attention to in their normal lives.

On the contrary, a party is often a place where we ignore reality. Even the poorest of us pretend we have much at a party. We will whip up the best food. We will take time away from chores. We will forget about health issues and struggles for just a bit. At a party we relax and live in that moment alone.

There is nothing wrong with a party. We love a good celebration. But it is better for our souls to make sure that we do not forget to consider reality. It is better for our souls to remember that death stands before us all. It is better for our souls to consider how we can know for sure that there is something good awaiting us at the end of our 80 years or so.

The point is that a funeral makes us think about God. If it is done right, a funeral helps everybody in the room pay attention to what matters. A good funeral will offer comfort to a grieving family as it points people to the hope we have in Christ to live beyond our few years on this earth.