Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It's about God first, and Pharaoh second

In the story of the exodus of God's chosen people from the land of Egypt, one of the many startling aspects presented to us is the hardening of Pharaoh's heart and the use God makes of this for his own glory. Consider this passage from the book of Exodus:
    And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” And they did so. (Exodus 14:4 ESV)
Dr. Jim Hamilton comments on this in his book God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment:
But is what Yahweh does to Pharaoh just? From the perspective of the biblical authors, all human creatures owe their Creator thanks and praise (e.g., Rom. 1:21). No human creatures successfully give God the glory and thanks due him (3:23). Therefore all human creatures stand under God's condemnation. The severity of the judgment meted out matches the unspeakable evil of refusing to honor God as God and render him thanks. He does not owe mercy. The only thing he owes is justice, and the gravity of the heinousness of disregarding the infinite worth and beneficence of God calls for punishment that fits the crime. If God does not visit a just punishment, it shows that he has as little regard for himself as the creatures who have refused to honor him as God and give thanks to him. God shows his own great worth by visiting due justice against Egypt, and he shows his love by mercying Israel." (95)
What I found helpful in this excerpt was not only the reminder that God's justice is both warranted and necessary, but that this really isn't about Pharaoh. First and foremost, it is about God and only secondarily about Pharaoh. When our eyes and mind prioritize the wrong things in Scripture, we can be left with a skewed view of God and reality.

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