i’ve been reading through exodus during my quiet time recently, and it has been enlightening. i feel like the old testament is never what i expect, no matter how many times i’ve heard the stories. for example, i’ve just finished the section where the plagues happen and the israelites leave egypt. there were two really interesting things that stuck out to me while i was reading:
- God hardens pharaoh’s heart
- The israelites want to go back to egypt after they finally leave
first. repeatedly, through the section about the plagues, moses writes that “God hardened pharaoh’s heart”. wait, what? how does this fit with the character of the God i know and trust and love? why would God harden someone’s heart?
i struggled with this for several days as it kept coming up again and again. the best way that i can understand the character of God is that God is perfect love. i know i can’t understand perfect love, but i can understand a little piece of love, and this doesn’t seem to fit.
but God knew what he was doing (it’s amazing how he’s never surprised or makes mistakes). God knew that if pharaoh just let the israelites go, few people would really attribute that to his power. but after twelve plagues and parting the red sea, everyone knew that nothing the israelites could have done would have freed them without God’s intervention. pharaoh even refers to God as “Lord” when he finally tells the israelites to leave.
this still happens today. bad things happen- we live in a broken world, which God allows because he wants us to be able to make our own choices. sometimes God allows bad things to happen so that his glory can be revealed and so more people can come to know his love. God’s timing is perfect, and he has a perfect plan for our imperfect world. that’s more than i can wrap my mind around.
second. the people of israel clearly did not understand this. once they finally left egypt, the egyptian army started chasing them, and the israelites forgot that they belonged to God. they thought that they were about to die, and they told moses they wished that they had stayed in egypt as slaves and died there. seriously israelites?
except that we do the same thing. or at least i do. i guess i should just speak for myself. i know in my life, i become comfortable in my situation, even if i know it’s not the best possible situation for me. but to struggle, or to allow God to change my current situation, is more than i am often willing to sacrifice. it’s like in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, when eustace is transformed into a dragon, and realizes that he will be unable to leave the island as a dragon, but cannot scratch off his scales himself. he then talks to aslan, and aslan offers to scratch off his scales. eustace describes it:
I was so afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it. The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt…he peeled the beastly stuff right off – just as I thought I’d done myself the other three times, only they hadn’t hurt – and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft…then he caught hold of me…and threw me into the water…I’d turned into a boy again…After a bit the lion took me out and dressed me…with his paws…in these new clothes I’m wearing. (The Emotionally Healthy Church, pg 73-74)
eustace, like the israelites, had almost decided it was worth staying a dragon, rather than face the pain of transforming back into a little boy.
what scales in your life do you need to allow God to remove?