I believe that one of the most difficult hurdles in the plan of salvation is in overcoming the belief that God is out to get me. Sure, we understand that in theory; it makes sense when we are in line with His will. But what about when I fall - doesn't He have to punish me?
No, you say. That is what Jesus died for.
Fine. My penalty is paid. But what about blessings: surely, I am undeserving of those.
Hardened by Mercy
Notice firstly that this is the Lord speaking. It did always puzzle me why God would harden Pharaoh's heart on purpose seeing that He really wanted Israel free. After all, it was just as much torture for them as it was for the king of Egypt.And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt.
But I have discovered an answer - one that hurts. It hurts because... I do that.
My family and I have been listening to a series of articles written in the 1890's by E.J. Waggoner. Published in the Present Truth periodical, the series shows that the everlasting gospel of Revelation 14:7 is the very same one that was preached to and accepted by Abraham of old. The Everlasting Covenant goes through the Hebrews' history to compare it to the new covenant that Christianity holds so dear and reveals that, in fact, they are one and the same; that God has never changed His plan or purpose, except as was necessary to weave around human doubts and failings.
In discussing Israel's deliverance from Egypt, this pioneer points out that Pharaoh's heart was hardened against God's mercy. Thus God hardened Pharaoh's heart, because it was His bestowal of mercy that resulted in the king's resistence.
Did you catch that?
God's mercy is what kept Pharaoh away. God's mercy is what caused Pharaoh to reject God.
It is obviously humanly possible; but how does that play out in our own lives? An example would best be shown from my own life.
Being VulnerableA personal struggle that I face when I fail God is that of returning to Him. (No, that is not extraordinary.) The reason starts out as, I am such a sinner, I am so vile, etc. But it swiftly moves to I don't understand why God would want to take me back. I know better. I know that no matter how far I have fallen, God is willing to accept me back into His fold. I know that He would run miles just to find me. I know that He loves me so abundantly that He would - excuse me, He did - die for me.
Yet the very thought of those absolute truths is what trips me up. Why do You love me, Lord? Why would You take back a sinner? Would You do it the next time?
God and I have a deal that I am not to ask those sort of questions. No more questioning His love, no more doubting His grace. At least not verbally - but it helps me make the first step in returning to Him.
The amazing thing that I see on the cross is not only the forgiving of sins and the re-acceptance of a sinner. I also see a loading with benefits. You see, the thing about justification is that is is immediate, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. It is a work of faith only; there is nothing that I can do to be justified. I can only look at the cross, accept its atonement, and believe in God's love. I have faith that He will be merciful to me, "for He is faithful that promised."
I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put Me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.
All I have to do is ask - declare thou - and He will forgive for His sake, not for my merits.
Not by Works
Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.
The second half of the struggle is am I deserving of blessings? The answer: absolutely not. But it was never about you.
The verse above says that the just will received blessings. But I am not just - nothing close to it. But remember how one is made just? For God's sake. "Put Me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified."
So now, God can put blessings upon your head, because in His sight, you are just. Isn't God wonderful?
Hard or Soft?At some point, Pharaoh knew that he had sinned against God and he pleaded for God's mercy.
Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron in haste; and he said, I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat the LORD your God, that he may take away from me this death only.
And he went out from Pharaoh, and intreated the LORD. And the LORD turned a mighty strong west wind, which took away the locusts, and cast them into the Red sea; there remained not one locust in all the coasts of Egypt.
He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us; He will subdue our iniquities; and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
What will you choose? Will you accept His mercy, or will you harden your heart against, believing the lies that He does not want to forgive or bless you?