Christianity 201

October 19, 2022

Pharaoh’s Heart, and Yours (and Mine)

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

This is our second visit with Jason Smith who lives in Oregon, and writes at Lamp and Light. After looking at three most recent articles — they’re all good! — this one was chosen to share with you today. Click the title which follows to read this where it first appeared.

The Hardening of Pharaoh’s Heart

God clearly cares about our hearts. Throughout the Bible, we read about the significance of the heart. The heart is the seat of all human thought, emotion, and activity (Proverbs 4:23). God knows us so well, because His gaze pierces all the way through to our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7). The heart is often portrayed as the secret inner storehouse or the deep well of a person’s soul (Proverbs 20:5; Matthew 12:35; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Hebrews 4:12).

The words on our lips are usually good indicators of what’s brewing within. Jesus wisely said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).

King Solomon urges us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, ESV).

A heart that is right with God is a heart that gladly leans on Him as a child leans on her father’s chest. It is not too proud to trust in His grace.

Pharaoh’s Hard Heart

The Bible records God telling Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go” (Exodus 4:22, ESV).

This is the first time Pharaoh’s hard heart is mentioned. The Hebrew word chazaq literally means “to strengthen,” as in God strengthened Pharaoh’s heart in his rebellion. In 11 cases, chazaq is used to speak of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart (4:21; 9:2; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8) or more generally that Pharaoh’s heart “was hardened” (7:13, 22; 8:19; 9:35).

However, another word is also used to speak of Pharaoh’s hard heart – the Hebrew word kabad’, which literally means “to make heavy.” Three times, this word is used to speak of Pharaoh hardening his own heart (8:15, 32; 9:34), once with the general phrase “was hardened” (9:7), and twice to speak of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart (10:1; 14:4). It is a similar word to chazaq, but it has a special nuance worth noting.

Ancient Egyptians believed that in the afterlife a special ceremony took place called The Weighing of the Heart (pictured above). In this ceremony, overseen by the god Anubis, the heart of the deceased was placed on one side of a great scale and was weighed against the feather of truth. If someone had committed many sins, their heart would be weighed down, and they would be condemned to eternal restlessness. However, if they’d lived a virtuous life, one’s heart would be lighter than the feather. In this case, they would be granted safe passage to the Egyptian paradise, the fields of Aaru.

Because of this belief about one’s heart determining one’s eternal destiny, Egyptians would remove all the organs except the heart when burying their dead. Moses may be alluding to this ancient belief when he writes that Pharaoh’s heart was “made heavy” (Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:7, 34; 10:1; 14:4).

This is a reminder that in nearly every age and culture, people have been religious. God has given humanity a universal sense of right and wrong, and because of this, we all know we are supposed to be good. And we all sense the scales of justice by which our lives will be weighed.

Our Hard Hearts

It is interesting how often Scripture connects salvation to the state of one’s heart. The Bible says that we need to be saved from sin, and Jesus said that all sin ultimately springs from a defiled heart (Matthew 15:18-20). When He saw the prideful religiosity of the Pharisees, Jesus asked them, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” (9:4). Mark tells us He was “grieved at their hardness of heart” (Mark 5:3). Sometimes, even His disciples didn’t understand because “their hearts were hardened” (6:52).

But Jesus also said the greatest commandment was, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

It’s popular today for people to say, “Just follow your heart.” It’s cliché and catchy. But in the Bible, that sounds like generally bad advice, like something the devil would urge you to do. Instead, we are warned about the inherent dangers of following one’s heart, which is so prone to self-deception. A heart that is not directed toward God is foolish and darkened (Genesis 3:1-6; Ephesians 4:22; Romans 1:21). The prophet Jeremiah quoted God on the matter:

“The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?
I the Lord search the heart
    and examine the mind,
to reward each person according to their conduct,
    according to what their deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10, NIV)

It’s good to know that God is just and will reward people according to what they deserve, but what hope of reward do we have? The Bible also says, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God” (Romans 3:10-11, NIV). This sounds pretty bleak. Thankfully, this isn’t Scripture’s last word on the matter.

The New Heart We All Need

The prophet Ezekiel records a divine promise about those who would receive a new heart:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness.” (Ezekiel 36:26-29, NIV)

This means there is hope for those who have hard hearts like Pharaoh. But it’s not a matter of having a new commitment to live a good life; it’s a matter of becoming a new creation in Christ. This can only happen through faith in His finished work on the cross and subsequent resurrection. Speaking of that time when Jesus was on the cross, the prophet Isaiah says, “he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV).

Jesus took all that defiles our hearts onto Himself so that we could be redeemed from the sin that had enslaved us. Salvation is about God cleansing our hearts by grace through faith (see Acts 15:9; Hebrews 10:22; 13:9). A new heart is a forgiven heart, a liberated heart.

Through faith in Christ, the burden of guilt is lifted, and our hearts become lighter than a feather. Jesus comforted His disciples when He was about to die for them, saying, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me” (John 14:1). A heart cleansed by the shed blood of Jesus is a heart reconciled to God. “For with the heart one believes and is justified” (Romans 10:10, ESV).

A new heart is soft and fleshy (Ezekiel 36:26). It wants more of God, not less. It desires His name to be famous, not our own. It craves to be filled with His love and His Spirit, not the fleeting pleasures of sin. It seeks His leading and direction, rather than wanting its own way. Though the battle of opposing desires still rages today (Romans 7:15-25), only the fruit produced in the new heart will last into eternity (1 Corinthians 3:12-15).

And finally, Paul’s prayers for the church were continually about the state of their hearts, showing that the heart is a subject we should not neglect.

“May the Lord direct your hearts to God’s love and Christ’s endurance.” (2 Thessalonians 3:5, HCSB)

That is my prayer for you as well.

Father of mercies, my heart is so prone to wander after worthless pursuits that seem so urgent or attractive today. Give me fresh desires from Your heart of love, that I might live the life You’ve called me to. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


May 24, 2022

Your life is Precious; of Great Value

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

It is always encouraging to return to sources we’ve used before and find people are faithfully continuing to write online. Today we return to Melody at In Pleasant Places and this is a really beautifully composed reminder of our worth before God. Do you need to read this today? Is there someone you can send this to? Click the header which follows which is a link to the original article.

The Value of All of Us – Psalm 139:11-16

“If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me,
and the light around me will be night’—
even the darkness is not dark to you.
The night shines like the day;
darkness and light are alike to you.
For it was you who created my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I will praise you
because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.
Your works are wondrous,
and I know this very well.
My bones were not hidden from you
when I was made in secret,
when I was formed in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me when I was formless;
all my days were written in your book and planned
before a single one of them began.”

Psalm 139:11-16 (CSB)

I want to better comprehend the value of a human life – the value of all of us.

Those God created and declared “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Those God breathed His life into and put eternity in our hearts (Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Those He pursues for relationship even though we loved the darkness more than His light.

Those He died to rescue from that darkness and sin so He could bring us into true, abundant life and freedom.

I’m struggling to put what’s in my heart into words, but gaining a sense of the value of each one of us feels so important in so many ways. Stretching beyond the current upheaval considering abortion, although that has brought it to the forefront of my thoughts.

Because the baby who is still in the womb, being actively and intricately knit together as God brings it through stages of development – the baby has this great value.

And so does the mother, so let us honor her and protect her and help her on this journey in practical, relational ways.

The father has great value as well, and the power to use his voice to protect his family and influence it for good.

Those with developmental and physical challenges have this same value, same intentionality, same love of the Creator who wants to bring them into His family.

Each one with emotional and mental struggles is equally precious, put together with the same care, and God desires wholeness for them as well – wholeness personally offered through His Son, Jesus, who came to make a way for us.

I have this great value. Remarkably and wondrously made. Knit together by the hands that fashioned the stars. Regardless of my poor choices made or the effects of others’ harmful choices on me, that value still holds fast and I am loved by my Creator, who has also become my Father, loving and wise and mine, through Christ.

And you, reading this. You have this great value.

Your life is precious and valuable. It has been from the moment you came into being and started being formed, and it will be through the moment you take your last breath in this life and shift into eternity. You have been put together with love and purpose, and you are loved and seen right where you are. God knit you together with intentionality, to fill the role only you can fill.

Remarkably and wondrously made. And greatly, greatly loved by the God who wants light and hope and freedom from darkness for you. The God who will walk with you and provide for you every step of the way, whatever your journey holds, when you choose to walk with Him. He came to offer all of that. He came to offer Himself, to take your place in the just payment for rebellion against Him, and to draw you into relationship with Him forever.

You are immensely valuable. He sees you. He knows your pain and your joys. He cares. He understands. And He is drawing you to Himself through Jesus, who died to make that possible, and rose again to show that it was all true.

Let us sense the hope and wholeness in this truth.

And let us stand firm on the value each one of us holds. From our beginning as babies in the womb to our becoming more elderly and our bodies more frail. Beautiful, precious value, not to be taken or treated lightly.

Let this honoring and valuing of all people be a defining marker for our lives. Lived out in every conversation, every action, as we conform our speech and behavior to mindful intentionality in building each other up, actively coming alongside to help and encourage, loving without boundaries, and going above and beyond to show honor even as we recognize the importance of accountability and responsibility (Ephesians 4:29; Romans 12:9-10).

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light consists of all goodness, righteousness, and truth—testing what is pleasing to the Lord.”
Ephesians 5:8-10, CSB

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”
Isaiah 46:3-4, ESV

July 24, 2019

The Soul: Good News and Bad News

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

NLT.Lev.19.31 Do not defile yourselves by turning to mediums or to those who consult the spirits of the dead. I am the Lord your God.

This is an example of an article that begins to answer a somewhat straightforward question, but then expands into broader areas of interest. It shows how an inquiry on a specific topic might even have another “question behind the question” or how a specific doctrinal belief might impinge on another doctrine.

Should a Christian see a fortune teller? Tarot card reader? Should a Christ-follower even read their horoscope?

This is taken from the website Truth or Tradition, sponsored by Spirit and Truth Fellowship International. Opinions on this subject may differ among various Christian groups.

What does the Bible say about “Soul?”

The word “soul” has a broad meaning and usage in the Bible. Some of its many uses are:

  • The life force that animates the body (Matt. 2:20, Gen 2:7). Animals also have this life force, “soul” (Gen. 1:24 Rotherham)
  • Man’s emotions, attitudes, thoughts, and feelings (John 12:27)
  • A person or individual (Acts 2:43)

When the Greek empire, led by Alexander the Great, conquered the area we know as the Holy Lands in the 4thcentury BC, much of the Greek culture, ideas, and language migrated into the Jewish culture. Even the Old Testament scriptures were translated into Greek, in what we now call the Septuagint. The Greeks believed the soul was immortal, and that teaching made its way into Judaism, and Christianity as well. That the “soul” is immortal and lives on after a person’s body dies is not stated in Scripture. About the soul, the Bible says:

  • It can die (Ezek. 18:20)
  • It can be destroyed (Matt. 10:28)
  • Jesus laid down his life (soul) for his sheep (John 10:11)

That the soul is immortal has spun off other erroneous doctrines. If the soul lives on after death, then there must be a place for them to live. This gave rise to the doctrine that evil souls are tortured in hell, and good souls go to heaven. Both of those beliefs are not supported by the Bible. Those false doctrines have led some to visit spiritualists who claim they speak to the dead, an activity that God condemns (Lev. 19:31).

King Saul is the classic example of visiting a medium to speak to the dead. 1 Chronicles 10:13 says,So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the Lord, because of the word of the Lord which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it.” God forbade this kind of practice because it was the work of demons, which the Bible refers to as “familiar spirits” in 1 Samuel 28:7 (KJV). These familiar spirits were demons who were familiar with the dead person and would imitate them through contact with a medium.

Because of the misunderstanding of what “soul” is and the many subsequent erroneous beliefs, further study will be necessary. You will find the links below helpful in that study.

BeliefNet on reading horoscopes:

God’s people are to heed Him only and any other source of guidance, information or revelation should be rejected. The Bible tells us to only focus on Jesus Christ and to trust in God alone. He knows our direct paths in life and will guide us accordingly. Faith in anything other than God is considered misplaced. We cannot determine God’s Will for our lives through horoscopes. As Christians, we are to read the Bible and pray to God in order to gain wisdom and guidance. Consulting a horoscope is a violation of God’s means of communicating with His children.
[click the link above to read the longer article]

Additional scriptures (NASB) from Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry:

  • Deuteronomy 4:19, And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.
  • Isaiah 47:13–14, You are wearied with your many counsels; Let now the astrologers, those who prophesy by the stars, those who predict by the new moons, stand up and save you from what will come upon you. Behold, they have become like stubble, fire burns them; They cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame; There will be no coal to warm by nor a fire to sit before!