Exodus 7, Job 24, Psalm 55

Today’s readings are Exodus 7, Jobs 24, and Psalm 55.

This devotional is about Exodus 7.

In verse 3, God said, “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.”

In verses 13 and 22 the Bible says, “Pharaoh’s heart became hard.”

Only spiritual stubbornness would allow a man to see God’s miraculous works over and over again without believing his messengers and letting his people go. In verse 5 God said that “the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” It is amazing, isn’t it, that they didn’t know that he is the Lord long before that. The staff-to-snake miracle (vv. 8-12) and the Nile-to-blood miracle (vv. 14-22) seem to me like very convincing proofs. Yet Pharaoh would not let God’s people go. Why? Because God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (v. 3) and because his heart became hard(er) (vv. 13, 23).

When God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart, he did not “create fresh evil” (as one of my seminar professors used to say) in Pharaoh’s heart. Instead, he allowed Pharaoh to deny the implications of what he had seen and refuse to believe that God’s hand was behind these miracles. We see that in verse 14: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go.’” The word “unyielding” helps us understand what was happening in Pharaoh’s heart in this chapter. God was showing him many convincing proofs but he would not yield to those proofs by admitting that the Hebrews God was real and more powerful than he was. So when God “hardened” Pharaoh’s heart, he allowed Pharaoh to choose unbelief. Instead of sending the convicting power of the Spirit to soften Pharaoh’s heart, God allowed Pharaoh to respond to these miracles however Pharaoh wanted to respond to them. And, the way that sinners want to respond to God’s work is with unbelief.

This is why unbelievers can reject Jesus Christ even though they see God answer prayer or admit that they believe in life after death or realize that they have no explanation for the existence of sin. Without the convicting power of the Spirit, nobody would ever believe God and submit to his Lordship.

This is why we have no right to be proud about our faith. Your faith in Jesus is not the result of some clever insight you had to believe the gospel; it is the result of God’s gracious work in your heart by his spirit, softening your heart to respond in faith to the gospel.

It is also why you and I must pray for God to work in the hearts of unbelievers when we sow the seeds of the gospel. Unless God softens the heart, the ears that hear his word will reject it.

Are you thankful for God’s grace that softened your heart to trust in Jesus? Are you praying for his work in the hearts of others around you so that they, too, will recieve the gospel message?

John 16

Today’s reading is John 16.

Jesus is trying to prepare the disciples for life without him. He spoke the words of this chapter just shortly before he was betrayed. He made disturbing prophecies about what they would face in the days ahead (vv. 2-3, 20-21, 32). Yet he also promised that they would not be alone; instead “the Advocate” (the Holy Spirit) would come and empower their work (vv. 7-11).

One aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work would be to guide the disciples as they wrote the Scriptures. That’s what the promise at the end of verse 13 meant when Jesus said, “he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” The disciples would not lead the church from their own mistake-prone thinking and human judgment. Instead, the Holy Spirit would guide them.

This is one reason why we value the Bible and believe it to be without error and fully reliable. It is not the collected opinions of a few good men. It is the written word of God recorded by godly man as they were guided by the Holy Spirit of God.

I’m glad you’ve been reading these devotionals and hope they have been truly helpful to your life. But my words are only correct and helpful as they correctly describe and apply THE WORD, the spirit-inspired scripture. It is what we need to become who Jesus called us to be, so value the Word and learn it for your own growth in godliness.

Ephesians 1

Today, read Ephesians 1.

When we left Paul yesterday in Acts 28, he was living in his own rented home and waiting for two years for his trial in Rome. During this house arrest, Paul wrote his “prison epistles”--Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon so this seems like an appropriate point for us to read them.

As we were reading the book of Acts, we saw that Paul spent two years in Ephesus (Acts 19:10) on his third missionary journey. At the end of that journey as Paul traveled to Jerusalem, Paul called for the elders from the Ephesian church to meet with him when he stopped in nearby in Miletus (Acts 20:17-38). I’m bringing all this up to remind you that Paul had a very personal interest and relationship with this particular church. This is why he wrote one of his prison letters to them while in Rome awaiting trial.

The mood of this chapter, Ephesians 1, is ebullient; it overflows with praise for God’s love and blessings (vv. 3-14) and thanks for the faith of the Ephesians (vv. 15-23). Although there are many truths in this chapter on which we could meditate, let’s focus on verse 13b-14, “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

God has promised us so much in Christ but how do we know that those promises apply to us? According to verse 13b, it is because the Holy Spirit seals us. This is a way of describing God's ownership. The Spirit tells us that we belong to Christ. As we see the fruit of the Spirit growing and developing in our lives, it reassures us that we belong to Christ.

The Holy Spirit is more than our seal, though, according to this verse. He is also, "a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance...." This means that the joy he brings us in Christ, the love that we have for other believers and that they have for us, and all the other benefits the Spirit gives us are reminders, tastes of what eternity will be like. Think of the greatest worship service you've ever experienced, the kind where each song drew your heart closer to God and the message filled you with awe and love for God. I'm talking about the kind of service that made you feel sad when it ended but also made you feel excited to read the word and serve God while singing his praises. This is what eternity with Jesus will be like and the Spirit's blessing in this way is a deposit, reassuring you that you will be there to experience that eternity and giving you a preview of what it will be like.

If the Spirit is the deposit, the down payment of these good things, then when do we get the whole package of good things? According to verse 14 it will be at "the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory." "The redemption of those who are God's possession" is the return of Christ. At that time, Christ will select everyone who has the Spirit--the seal of his ownership--and he will finish his work of redemption by glorifying our bodies and sanctifying our hearts and minds fully. Then he will welcome us into the eternal worship service that never ends.

This is why you have the Holy Spirit--to remind you of all that is coming for us in Christ in eternity. So be encouraged no matter what happens today and walk in the Spirit obediently as a child of God.

1 Corinthians 2

Today we’re reading 1 Corinthians 2.

The gospel sounds like total nonsense to those who don’t know Jesus but that doesn’t mean it actually is nonsense. Instead, it is a message of great wisdom to those who are mature (v. 6) but not because we reasoned and thought our way to that wisdom. No, it is wisdom that was hidden from most people but now revealed to us by the grace of God (vv. 7-8). Though this revelation given to us in the gospel, we learned about all that God has done for us in Christ (vv. 9-10) but only after the Holy Spirit went to work on our minds and hearts (vv. 10-12). The focus of this chapter is the Holy Spirit and what he did to us in order to make us receptive to the gospel (vv. 10-16).

In churches like ours which are non-charismatic, we sometimes are skittish about the Holy Spirit. We acknowledge that he is God but get concerned when believers pray to him or talk about him. Don’t be concerned. Your spiritual life is a gift from the Holy Spirit of God and you don’t need to do any miracles to see him working in your life. The discernment you have about good and evil, wisdom and foolishness, what is spiritual and what is sinful is because of the Holy Spirit. So, thank him for his work in your life and ask him to keep working on you, in you, and through you to draw you closer to Christ.