Know Your Bible

VOL. 12                                                                                                                          May 26, 2013                                                                                                                            NO. 17



Of all the characters in the Bible, few have caused as much speculation as the Pharaoh who ruled Egypt during the time of Moses. God spoke to Moses about Pharaoh and said, "I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go" (Exodus 4:21). This promise of God was repeated on several other occasions (Exodus 7:3; 9:12; 10:20,27).

Many fanciful theories have been devised to explain how God hardened Pharaoh's heart. Calvinists often point to this case and claim that God miraculously hardened his heart by the Holy Spirit. But, as is always the case, their argument fails in the light of other passages.

Three times in the narrative we read that Pharaoh "hardened his own heart" (Exodus 8:15,32; 9:34). Four other times the Bible simply says his heart "grew" or "became" hard (Exodus 7:14,22; 8:19; 9:7). The record also indicates the magicians had a hand in the hardening of Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 7:22, 8:19).

When we put all the pieces together, what do we find? Pharaoh was an insolent, arrogant and cruel man. He had two reasons for not wanting to release the Israelites: pride and covetousness. It would look bad for a monarch to allow nearly two million slaves to go free. It would also hurt the national economy if he lost his labor force.

It went against the grain for one to make demands in the name of Jehovah. Every time Moses spoke Pharaoh's heart grew harder. The magicians also played a part in the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. By the use of enchantments, they tried to minimize the miracles of Moses. Jamieson commented, "The art of those ancient magicians, who were not common jugglers, but educated men, was enlisted in support of idolatry of Egypt ... it is not difficult to imagine what immense power those professors of occult science must have wielded over the minds of men in an age of darkness, when the superstition of Egypt was in all its glory."

God hardens the hearts of men today the same way He did 3,500 years ago. Some will never listen to a simple gospel preacher. The "pride of life" (1 John 2:16) will cause them to close their ears. Pride kept many of the rulers from confessing Christ, "Lest they be put out of the synagogue; for they love the praise or men more than the praise of God" (John 12:42,43).

When a man repeatedly hears the gospel message, yet refuses to obey it, his conscience becomes "seared" (1 Tim4:2). To some men, gospel preachers are the "aroma of life," but to those who have had their conscience seared, they are the "aroma of death" (2 Cor. 2:16).

False teachers also help to harden the hearts of some. Pentecostal preachers, by their use of "signs and lying wonders" (2 Thess. 2:9), have deceived people into putting their trust in things other than God's word, Denominational creed-books and traditions have also blinded men to the truth (Matt 15:8, 9).

Pharaoh had the opportunity to heed the message of God. I am sure he would give 1,000 worlds like this one for another chance. You have the same choice Pharaoh had. The difference is that he cannot change his decision, but you can.

---David Padfield

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What is the definition of a strong Christian?  We might each have a different idea about that.  But I think we could all agree that a strong Christian is one who stands fast in the faith through thick and thin.  He loves the Lord.  He loves the truth and lives it with conviction.  He continues doing the Lord's Will regardless of changes in circumstances.

       From where do strong Christians come?  Do they have some sort of special advantage or secret that others don't have? Is it a genetic predisposition?  Well, no.  Strong Christians come from the same place from where all Christians come.  Initially, all Christians come right out of the world.  They were once "dead in trespasses and sin" and "children of wrath," but they were made alive by Christ (Eph. 2:1-3).  They may have been reared in a godly environment like Timothy (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15), or they may have been surrounded by the most heinous forms of worldliness like the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:9-11).  In either case, they became Christians by being born again (Jno. 3:5), coming up out of the water of baptism to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3,4), and thus becoming a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17).

       In the beginning, Christians are like newborn babes, begotten by one Father (1 Pet. 1:3).  Their spiritual genes are the same. So why does one become strong and another stays weak?  Why do some thrive on the Word of God and become very strong and others fail to do so in their new life in Christ?  It has to do with nutrition and exercise.

       If we want to become strong Christians we must start by feeding on God's Word.  "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word that you may grow thereby" (1 Pet. 2:2).  We will have no energy to grow and become strong if we fail to feed on God's Word regularly.  Strong Christians all have this in common; the Word of God dwells in them? In 1 Jn. 2:14, the apostle John says, "I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, the Word of God abides in you."

       The second thing we must do to become strong Christians is exercise.  We can't build muscle by sitting on the couch eating and we can't become strong Christians by just sitting in a pew feeding on God's Word while never putting it into practice. Strong, mature Christians are those who "by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:14). They "exercise themselves...toward godliness" (1 Tim. 1:7). When they learn something from Scripture, they immediately attempt to put it into practice in daily life.

       No one becomes a strong Christian by accident.  It is a result of choosing to dwell on God's Word and apply it in life.  This is a choice you can make.  Even the weak and hapless Corinthian Christians could choose to be strong.  Paul encourages them to, "Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong" (1 Cor. 16:13).  If they could do it, in their worldly environment, so can we.

---Steve Klein

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