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The Longsuffering of God (for Holy Week)
How solemn is the week the Holy Week upon which we have entered. The Church brings before our minds today some wonderful teaching concerning our own spiritual life. The record of God's dealings with Pharaoh will afford us sufficient material for our meditation.
I. The Longsuffering of God towards Sinners. Pharaoh had been insolent and blasphemous, cruel and vindictive, pitiless and false. Yet God had spared him. So longsuffering was He, that He even now addressed to him fresh warnings and gave him fresh signs of His power, thus by His goodness leading men to repentance.
II. The Power of God to Break the Will of the most Determined Sinner. First He sends slight afflictions, then more serious ones; finally, if the stubborn will still refuses to bend, He visits the offender with 'all His plagues'.
III. The Fact that all Resistance of God's Will by Sinners Tends to Increase, and is Designed to Increase, His Glory. 'The fierceness of man turns to God's praise.' Men see God's hand in the overthrow of His enemies, and His glory is thereby increased. The message sent by God to Pharaoh adds that the result was designed.
References. IX. 13-19. Heber, 'God's Dealings with Pharaoh,' Sermons Preached in England, p. 146. Simeon, Works, i. p. 352. Arthur Roberts, Sermons on the Histories of Scripture, p. 257. Isaac Williams, 'Pharaoh,' Characters of Old Testament. Kingsley, 'The Plagues of Egypt,' Gospel of the Pentateuch, Sermon x. Kingsley, 'The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New,' Gospel of the Pentateuch, Sermon xi. Stanley's Jewish Church, i. p. 100, etc. Geikie, Hours with the Bible, ii. p. 147. Kitto, Daily Bible Illustrations, ii. p. 56, Biblical Things, etc., par. 745; and see Parker, People's Bible, ii.; p. 312. Maurice, Patriarchs and Law-Givers, Sermon ix. Jacox, Secular Annotations, etc., i. p. 125. IX. 17. C. Kingsley, Sermons on National Subjects, p. 325. IX. 27. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii. No. 113.
God hath no sooner done thundering, than he hath done fearing. All this while you never find him careful to prevent any one evil, but desirous still to shift it off, when he feels it; never holds constant to any good motion; never prays for himself, but carelessly wills Moses and Aaron to pray for him; never yields God, his whole demand but higgleth and dodgeth like some hard chapmen that would get a release with the cheapest.
I. The Lord Hardened Pharaoh's Heart. This has been taken by some to mean that Pharaoh was not a free agent; so that the rejection of God's demands was not really the act of Pharaoh's free will, but was caused by God's compulsion. But if this were the case, how could God punish Pharaoh for doing what he could not help doing?
1. Our moral sense of justice is implanted in us by God Himself. It is, therefore, impossible to conceive of God's violating that sense.
2. In examining carefully the narrative we find that God is not said to have hardened Pharaoh's heart until after the sixth plague, when Pharaoh's heart had become hardened by his own free action. In other words, the first six plagues were disciplinary, and only the last four were penal.
Disciplinary suffering is that which has for its end the good of the sufferer.
Penal suffering is that which has for its chief end the good of others.
II. In what Way did God Harden Pharaoh's Heart? Plainly, by the judgments and punishments which He inflicted on him. And in this there is no evidence that God treated Pharaoh otherwise than He treats all men who sin against Him.
If a man hardens his heart against God's calls to repentance, whether sent by preaching or by trial and punishment into his own life, the result is that his heart becomes hardened; and since God sent those trials, He may be said to have hardened the man's heart by sending them, although His purpose was to lead the sinner to penitence. And after such an one has become finally impenitent, God may still send judgments which will be entirely penal, and for the purpose of vindicating God's justice when the man's penitence is no longer possible.
A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part ii. p. 311.
References. IX. 35. 'Plain Sermons' by contributors to the Tracts for the Times, vol. vi. p. 49. X. 1-20. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xliii. No. 2503. X. 3. Ibid., vol. xliii. No. 2503.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Exodus 9". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany