OT: Ex. 7:25-9:35
My brain kicked it into high gear while reading today's passage, and I hope I can convey all my swirling thoughts in a way that is fairly coherent.
First of all, I was really drawn to the idea of a "hard heart." When reading this story, I have often noted how many times Pharoah hardened his own heart. In today's reading alone, he does it in 8:15, 8:32, and 9:34. Two other references to Pharoah's heart say that is was hard, but they don't say who hardened it (8:19 and 9:7). Only one verse specifically says that God hardened Pharoah's heart (9:12). The weirdest part to me is the order in which the descriptions of Pharoah's heart occur. Here are his reactions to the plagues today: he hardened his heart (8:15), his heart was hard (8:19), he hardened his heart (8:32), his heart was unyielding (9:7), God hardened his heart (9:12), he hardened his heart (9:34). I have always pictured it as, Pharoah hardened his heart for awhile on his own, and then God stepped in and took it to the next level in order to glorify His name. But in today's reading, even after God hardens his heart (during the plague of boils, in case you were wondering), Pharoah apparently has the reins back during the very next plague (hail). I have always found God's hardening of Pharoah's heart to be an interesting, somewhat disturbing concept b/c it messes with the idea of free will. But reading the story, I find that I don't really have a problem with it. God's hardening of Pharoah's heart seems a fitting punishment for all the times he hardened his own heart. I firmly believe that even today, there comes a point when people harden their hearts until they are truly impenetrable. God seeks us and draws us to him, yes, but there is no guarantee on how many chances we are going to have to turn Him down. Sometimes death cuts people off from the chance to repent, and sometimes our own hearts do.
Case in point: I am amazed, amazed, that there are officials of Pharoah by this point who ignore the warning about the hail (9:21). They choose to leave their slaves and livestock in the field. I mean, really?!?!?! How is it even possible to witness so many miraculous atrocities and NOT heed a direct warning? This kind of goes back to the hard hearts thing to me. See, I fully believe that as humans, we have the capacity to hold onto a belief (or lack of belief) to the point where our hearts are totally hardened to any other point of view. I think we do this a lot, actually; I think it is a pretty common phenomenon. For example, take a person's political views or their position on something like evolution or Creation. I believe that people often get to a point with those kind of beliefs that it does not matter what else they hear or see. It does not matter what else might happen, what new evidence might come to light. They believe what they believe what they believe, and NOTHING is going to change that. I guess in a way that can be good, if you are talking about faith in God. But there is another, perhaps even more common way, that that type of mental and emotional hardening leads to ignorance, pride, hatred, etc, even in matters of Christian religion.
Okay, I think I am rambling off the topic. The point is, I am intrigued by this matter of "hardening one's heart." Pharoah and his officials sound like crazy people to me, but I think that their way of thinking is actually more common than I originally assumed. And I am open to the possibility that my own heart is hardened to certain truths. Hmmm....
Well, believe it or not, I have further ruminations from this passage about the suffering of innocents, but we're running long, and the NT is a doozy, too....
NT: Matt. 19:13-30
Over the years, the story of the "rich young ruler" has perplexed me like none other. I get that God wants us to give Him everything, and I get that giving Him everything is a daunting, terrifying proposition...but what I don't get is, "What does that look like for me?" What does God want from me? What does giving Him everything look like in my life? There have been times that I have known beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am giving God all I have, and that I am right where He wants me to be. And then there are times when I'm not as certain. In those times, I ask myself, Does God want more of me? Am I giving everything to Him?
I have noted elsewhere that God calls people to different things. He tells the rich, young man to sell everything and follow Him. I don't, however, think He made the disciples sell everything. And he tells the disciples to follow Him, but he gives Legion a different assignment, even though Legion wants to follow Him (I probably should say, "The man formerly known as Legion." I don't want to define a man by his past:)). The point is, I have a tendency to see what God is asking of other people, to see where He is drawing them, and to think, "Oh, maybe that's what He wants from me, too." Like, I see this story and think, "Does God want me to sell everything I have and give it to the poor and follow Him?" Honestly, I don't think He does. But...I also have this nagging feeling right now that I'm missing something that He wants from me. And I kind of think I know what it is.
I think He wants me to write. (Yes, I know I'm writing now:). I think He wants me to write, like, books and stuff.) I have some ideas about what I should write, but I have even more ideas about why my ideas are dumb and why I am totally unqualified to write about anything. Even typing about writing books makes me cringe. And yet, I keep feeling this call very strongly. Which can only mean one thing:
God is out of His mind.
OR that I'm supposed to trust and obey, even though I don't know anything about anything and can't imagine that my writing would be a fruitful thing for the Kingdom.
(Sidenote: This is not at all where this discussion was supposed to head. I was planning on linking Jesus' interchange with the rich man to the idea of perfection in the sermon on the mount and then to God's testing of Abraham. I was also going to speculate for awhile about the idea that Jesus had not died yet--obviously--and whether or not his teachings are to be viewed any differently in light of his death for our sins.
It was going to be great--sorry you missed it:). Today was apparently a "feelings" day.)
Psalm 24: 1-10
"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it" (24:1). Haiti is the Lord's and everything in it, Afghanistan, and all who live in it. Iraq is the Lord's and everything in it, North Korea, and all who live in it. America is the Lord's and everything in it, South Carolina, and all who live in it.
It is such a good reminder to know that this place of pain and suffering and fear and death belongs to the Lord...which is why it also has beauty and joy and life and miracles.
I also like v. 3-4: "Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false." This verse is a little mind-bending to me, b/c I know that Jesus is going to stand before God for me, having taken my place. At the same time, though, it's because of Jesus that I long for clean hands and a pure heart. And I shudder at the idea that I might be lifting my soul up to an idol, whether that idol is money or comfort or the illusions of control or domestic tranquility. My soul should belong to God and God alone.
Proverbs 6: 1-5
In humility, there is freedom. That is the principle I took from this practical example from Proverbs.