God’s Sovereign Mercy
What a neat week it was to look at both the most difficult theological topic in the Bible, as well as the most controversial chapter in the Bible for Christians!
As we’ve been continuing through the Exodus narrative, a blaring question has been evident: What does it mean that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart? We dealt with precisely that question this last Sunday, looking at the Exodus narrative, and then also looking at Romans 9:14-24, in which Paul brings up this exact subject.
If you’re reading this and are not part of Raintree Church, you can listen to or read that message by clicking HERE. I would heavily encourage you to do so, because it will make much more sense of the questions below. There are also the bulletin notes available on the same page.
We do a texting Q & A most weeks at the end of the message, and these were a few of the questions we received. Because we were observing the Lord’s Supper, I opted to answer these questions via this blog, as opposed to live. And, let’s be honest, I didn’t know what kind of questions I would get!
Excellent questions, and not as many as I expected to get.
- If we asked Pharaoh, wouldn’t he believe he always hardened his own heart even when God actively hardened it? So although God hardened it, I’m sure Pharaoh would accept responsibility. And if unbelievers are enemies of God and believers are surrendered slaves of God, then doesn’t have every right to control all people whether we’re His enemies or His slaves?
To the first question, it seems that would be the case. It doesn’t seem possible that Pharaoh knew God was hardening his heart the six times it clearly notes that he did so. Not to mention that he DID accept responsibility. Exodus 9:12 makes clear that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart after the plague of boils, so he refused to let the people go. Then, God sent another plague (hail), which made Pharaoh realize he had sinned in not letting the people go (Exodus 9:27).
As to the second question, the short answer is absolutely. It’s a very difficult thing to accept at times, because we humans often value our absolute autonomy above anything else, but he has every right, as you said, to do as he pleases. For anyone who wonders if this is biblical, I refer back to Romans 9:21-24.
- Isn’t the challenge people have with this issue because it’s our Edenic desire to be like God? Instead, shouldn’t His sovereignty humble us and cause us to recognize how big God is and how we are not God but desperately need Him?
The short answer, again, is yes. As I mentioned Sunday, just the possibility of God having sway over our hearts causes us to ball up in defense. Naturally, we don’t respond well to the sovereignty of God we see in Exodus and in Romans 9 (and the rest of the Bible). Yes, I think that at least part of this, for many of us, is our fleshly desire to be our own kings and bosses and “gods.”
As you said, instead of immediately going on the defensive, we should sit in awe of how great our God is. Modern Christian churches would do well to stop presenting this small god they may not even know they’re presenting. The real, biblical God is BIG, and teaching the Bible (letting it speak for itself) will give us an accurate picture of his bigness, and also our desperate need for Him.
- Since God gave us such a great gift (free will) and since God knows absolutely everything, even before things happen. Then why did he create the human race even though he knew we would sin and become as evil as some of the human race is?
The short answer is because it pleased him to do so (Psalm 135:6). The bit more complicated answer would be because his ultimate goal was to bring himself glory, and even God expressing his wrath brings him glory (Romans 9:22-24). For those of you reading this and maybe surprised to hear that God’s ultimate goal in everything he does is to reveal his own glory, you can click HERE for a message I gave at Raintree about this exact question just two weeks ago, also from the Exodus narrative.
- Does God call out to all? Referencing John 6:44.
It is clear in the Bible that God desires all to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4, Ezek. 33:11). There is a general calling to all to come to God to be saved (John 3:16). But it is also clear, that, according to Matt. 22:14, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” God effectually calls only those who are chosen, or saved.
The question for John 6:44 is whether or not it’s referring to this general calling, or God’s specific, effectual calling. I think the context gives us the answer: The full verse- “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” Those who will be raised up are only those who repent and believe in Christ. So, this “drawing” is only for those God is saving.
There is an absolutely sincere invitation from God to all of the world to come to him for salvation. But there is also a sovereign choosing of God “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4-5). For those just reading, you may ask, “How can these two go together?” You’ll have to listen to the message linked above, from this past Sunday J.
- This chart shows how God was bigger than the gods the Egyptians serve. He put them all to shame and proved Himself to be greater than any other god. Biblecharts.org/oldtestament/thetenplagues.pdf
Yes! Excellent. Thank you for sharing. For anyone reading, this is an excellent, simple chart worth keeping or bookmarking.
- What is the verse you mentioned last week about secret things?
Deuteronomy 29:29- “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
For those of you reading this having not been at Raintree this last week, these questions and answers may not be as complete. I invite you to listen to the full message (HERE)!
This stuff matters. I know many who will say that talking about this kind of stuff is distracting and can be divisive. Well, yes, no doubt it can. But the reason it is divisive is not because we’re talking openly about what the Bible says and trying to wrestle with God’s revelation to man, but instead because our flesh is at war within us.
When we are genuinely seeking to understand what the Bible teaches us about who God is, our lives will be consistently transformed. We more we see of who God is, the more will be in awe. The more we are in awe, the less we will be distracted by the smallness of what the world has to offer.
So learn! Grow! Ask questions, and most importantly, read the Word for yourself.