But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. ‘This time I have sinned,’ he said to them. ‘The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to the Lord, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.’
When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: he and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses.
Exodus 9:16, 27-28, 34-35 (NIV)
Pharaoh was given many opportunities to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, yet at each point he refused to do so. Moses told Pharaoh that God had chosen him to demonstrate his power and authority, not just to him, but also throughout the world. Despite this Pharaoh persisted in ignoring what God wanted.
In Exodus 9:27-28 (quoted above) we are told that due to the severity of the hail and thunder Pharaoh had a change of mind. He acknowledged that he had sinned and agreed to let the Israelites go. However, as soon as the hail and thunder had stopped we are told that he didn’t keep his word, but again refused to let the Israelites go. Pharaoh may have had a change of mind, but he did not have a change of heart!
Looking at this situation we can see that when times were hard Pharaoh was ready to do what God wanted. However, when things returned to normal the true nature of the man came to the fore. Pharaoh had seen God’s power at work in a number of situations and despite this he still refused to acknowledge God’s authority over him.
In my previous post ‘Who is the Lord?’ (20th August) I quoted Pharaoh’s words from Exodus 5:2
‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.’
God took Pharaoh at his word and showed him who he was and how powerful he was. Pharaoh had seen the evidence and yet resolutely decided to ignore it.
We should not be surprised when those with whom we share knowledge of the gospel choose to ignore it, nor should we be surprised that they may seem to get harder in their negativity towards Christianity. When people are faced with the truth they have a choice to make – to embrace it, or ignore it. It is also important to recognise that some people may seem receptive to the gospel when they are going through a difficult situation, only to reject it when normality returns.
As God persisted with Pharaoh, so we should persist with sharing the gospel with those who oppose it. God was patient with Pharaoh, giving him every opportunity to repent and change his mind. Reading further in Exodus we learn that Pharaoh left it too late and suffered the consequences. Unfortunately there will be those with whom the gospel is shared who will run out of time. Pray actively against the hardheartedness you will encounter as a reaction to the gospel, asking God to demonstrate his power and authority to those around you. Most of all pray for a change of heart in those who hear the gospel.
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