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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Who done it?

God is always the first cause.

Exodus 8:15 (NKJV)

But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not heed them, as the LORD had said.

This verse troubles people. Earlier, the LORD said that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart, but here it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Exodus 7:22 says that the ability of the Egyptian magicians to reproduce one of the miracles is what hardened Pharaoh’s heart. So which is it?

It’s all of them. This can seem confusing, but this manner of speaking is normal in conversation.

For example, suppose I describe driving in a nail with a hammer. I may speak of my driving the nail in or I may speak of the hammer driving the nail in. If my description is long, I may even mention both. No one should try to glean some hidden meaning from my switching between the two.

When focusing on the details of the momentum involved in moving the nail, I’ll talk about the hammer. Same for why the nail bent over instead of going in straight.

But when describing how or why the boards were nailed together, I’ll talk about my driving in the nail. There’s nothing mystical about this. Multiple causes for the same things are called “first causes” and “second causes.”

This is what the Westminster Confession of Faith is referring to when it says (at the end of Chapter III, section 1) “nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

So here, the LORD is the first cause of Pharaoh’s heart hardening; the magicians’ tricks and Pharaoh’s emotional state are second and third causes.

This aspect of Reformed Doctrine is one of the easier ones to explain. We’ll hit the others as they come up.

It’s easy to love people who are struggling with things that are not their fault. We regularly pray for unbelieving loved ones, people struggling with illness, and many other things. That’s great, and please don’t stop.

But what about the ones who, like Pharaoh, could have avoided a lot of grief if they weren’t so mean? What about the folks who are hard to love?

They’re the ones who show us up for what we are – still in need of growth. Time to work on that log in our own eye.

Ask the LORD to teach us to love difficult people.

Thank God He loves them. Otherwise, where would we be?

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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