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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pharaoh's Heart Condition

In the OT there are some places where it would seem that God is not being very fair. One such example would be when it says in Exodus that God "hardened Pharaoh’s heart." It SEEMS as though it is saying that God is forcing Pharaoh to do Evil, but that is of course not the case.

Tthere are several resources that bring to light the meaning of these verses. One is Tim Gray's study on Exodus, and the other is Jeff Cavin's Great Adventure series.

What do these Bible studies reveal?

They really show that at every opportunity, God is giving his grace to Pharaoh to make the right decision. But each of us has experienced what Pharaoh was going through, not necessarily with 1 Million souls on the line, but with smaller choices. Before each of us is two choices, the right thing to do and the wrong, and sometimes with great effort choose the wrong. But by the very fact that we saw the choice and there was a struggle inside of us proves that God was giving us his grace to make the right decision. God continues to give us now the grace to repent, and hopefully we do, but we can still reject his grace once again and do what we want, for whatever reason.
So sometimes we accept God’s grace and sometimes we reject God’s grace.

The point can be wrapped up in a phrase. “The Sun’s light melts wax and hardens clay”

The Sun’s light is always the same, but it depends on the recipient.
Pharaoh’s heart was like clay.

So getting into the phrase “to harden his heart” what does that mean exactly”

Well the Hebrew literally means that his heart was made heavy, that it was weighed down.

Now this doesn’t mean much to us today, but it meant a lot to the Egyptians, yes Egyptians.
The Egyptians believed that the heart was where the emotions ruled from and that it represented the purity of a person. They also believed that when the person died, Anubis (one of their gods) would take the persons heart and weight it. On one side of the scale would be the persons heart and on the other side would be a feather. If the persons heart weighed more than a feather it meant that the person was a sinner and the person would experience a terrible death in the afterlife. If it weighed less than a feather, it meant that the person gained eternal life.

So when the Bible talks about Pharaoh’s heart getting hardened, it is really saying that it is being made heavy and that he is being judged as a sinner, unworthy of eternal life.

Something else is that when you read the text carefully, sometimes it says that The LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but other times it says that Pharaoh hardens his own heart.
NAS Exodus 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

Besides God gave Pharaoh 9 chances to turn away from those false gods and turn toward the true God. I would say that God was being very merciful to the Egyptians and Pharaoh.

What are some other ways to answer the objection that God is cruel because he hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

There are two more ways from a linguistic point of view.

From what I understand about the Hebrew language, there are idioms where the Subject isn’t the cause of the action, but gives permission for the action to take place. Here are some examples:
Jeremiah 4:10, “ ‘Lord God, surely thou hast greatly deceived this people’
– Now God hadn’t deceived the people, but had permitted false prophets to spread lies.

Ezekiel 14:9: “ ‘If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet’
– Now the Lord isn’t deceiving anyone or he wouldn’t be God, reason tells us that. What was happening was that God was permitting them to be deceived.

The same is true for Pharaoh. God wasn’t hardening Pharaoh’s heart, but was permitting it be to hardened.

Finally another great answer to these charges is Metonymy is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept.[1] (From Wikipedia)

An example in English would be - The White House supported a certain Bill. It isn’t the White House, it is the president who is supporting the Bill, but because there is a close association between the two. To say one is to imply the other.

So now to the Bible: The Book of Kings says many times that a certain Kings “walked in the way of Jeroboam…who had made Israel sin” Now Jeroboam didn’t force anyone to sin, but rather his poor example was one that people choose to follow into sin.

Another example is where it says in Acts chapter 1 that Judas bought a field with the money he received from betraying Jesus.

But it actually wasn’t he that bought the field remember Matthew 27 says that he returned the money and that those leaders bought that field. But they bought it with his money, that is why Acts 1 says that HE bought it.

So Back to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart.
God gave Pharaoh a Message, and the hearing of that message was instrument through which Pharaoh chose to harden his heart.

But if God had not given the message, his heart would not have been hardened.

So can we say that Pharaoh hardened his own heart, yes the Bible says that.
Can we say that the Message hardened Pharaoh heart, yes, because of the reaction of Pharaoh to the message.

And we can say that Moses and God hardened Pharaoh’s heart because they are the channel and the Source of that message.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Jesus of Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses have a particularly unique view about Jesus. They teach that Jesus is Michael the archangel.

They really have four arguments that they base this teaching on:

The first is that in the Bible only one angel is called an archangel, which is Michael. The word "arch" means ruler, and because the Bible only names one archangel (Michael). He must be Jesus.

Next they say point out that Michael is called "the great prince" in Daniel 12:1. Who better to be a prince over God's people than Jesus.

Then they show how it is Michael in Revelation 12 that defeats Satan and throws Him out of heaven. They say - who else but God's Son Jesus could be able to do such a thing.

Finally they point to 1Thess 4:16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. They say - see he will have the voice of an archangel, and because there is only one archangel, Jesus must be Michael.

I have thought of some arguments against these 4 arguments:

#1 The Bible never says that Jesus is Michael (Now it never says that he is a part of the Trinity either, but that is a starting point)

#2 The Bible says that Jesus is not an angel.
Hebrews 1:5-6 For to which of the angels did He ever say, "Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee"? And again, "I will be a Father to Him And He shall be a Son to Me"? 6 And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, "And let all the angels of God worship Him."
See God never said to an angel - "you are my son", and later he has all the angels worship the Son.

#3 In the Book of Daniel chapter 10: 13 Michael, one of the chief princes.

#4 Lets take a closer look at 1 Thessalonians 4:16
1Thess 4:16
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God;
They reason incorrectly, they say that Jesus descends with the voice of the archangel, therefore he is an archangel. But it also says that he descends with the trumpet of God. Does that mean that he is the trumpet of God? no way.
If I said to you "the night came with a terrible storm, and with utter hopelessness"
This doesn't mean that night IS a terrible storm and hopelessness.

Something else to point out is that it literally says that it was the voice of AN archangel and A trumpet of God. They say that there is only one archangel and that it is Jesus, but there is no definite article in the text.

#5 The watchtower own interpretation in the past was that Jesus was not Michael.
For years, the Watchtower taught that Michael is not the Son of God, since the angels had to worship him (WT, Nov. 1879, p. 4; Reprints, p. 48). At one time "Michael" was identified with the Pope of Rome! (The Finished Mystery, 1926 edition, p. 188) (Protestant Site)

#6 1 Samuel 2:25 "If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the LORD, who can intercede for him?"
Could an angel have died for us? no. To fulfill justice, and appease the eternal God, you would need an eternal sacrifice, which is what Jesus (God the Son) has done for us.

How should we treat Jehovah's Witnesses when they come to the door?
What everyone needs to know is while it can be annoying for people to come to your door who actually want to talk about religion. These people are forced to go door to door. Now I imagine that some must like it, but for any of them to stop going is social suicide. Really these people are slaves to fear and you have an opportunity to help set them free. #1 by your example, treat them with great respect. Love them as Christ loves you. #2 If you are not prepared to speak with them, kindly let them know, and either get prepared and invite them back or let them know you are praying for them, but not to come again. But we must be Christ to them.

If you have questions about how to answer the Jehovah's Witnesses on certain topics, or would like to invite me to your parish to speak about how to best answer the Jehovah's Witnesses: Contact me via email

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

When God Sleeps

The Bible is so rich and because many of us don’t know the Old Testament as well as we should, we can often overlook something very significant. I am certainly guilty as well of not knowing the Old Testament like I should. I am getting this from the works of Tim Gray and Scott Hahn.

So here is what Matthew 8:24-27 says:
And behold, there arose a great storm in the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves; but He Himself was asleep.
25 And they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!"
26 And He said to them, "Why are you timid, you men of little faith?" Then He arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and it became perfectly calm.
27 And the men marveled, saying, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

Now if we knew the Old Testament like we should, this story of Jesus should remind us of the story of Jonah.
There are 6 parallels in this story and they are as follows:

  1. Both Jesus and Jonah set sail on a boat.
  2. Both are caught in a storm on the sea.
  3. Both fall asleep
  4. In the story of Jesus and Jonah, the sailors are terrified.
  5. Both groups of sailors cry out to God for help.
  6. Both Jonah and Jesus somehow bring out the calming of the sea.
  7. Both groups of sailors marvel at the calming of the sea.

The significance of the Story is this: After both this story in Mathew and the one in Jonah, both Jesus and Jonah go and help out some Gentiles. Jonah goes and preaches to the Assyrians who capital is Nineveh, while Jesus goes and cast out demons from the Garadene demoniac.

This sort shows us something else about Jesus. It not only shows us that Jesus is like a new Jonah, but it also reveals his divinity.
Lets look at Psalm 107:28-30 In the context, some sailors are being to and fro by a terrible storm on the sea. It reads:
28 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress; 29 he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. 30 Then they were glad because they had quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.

This is exactly what happens in Matthew 8. Showing the divinity of Christ that he is The LORD.
You know when you read the Old Testament and it says LORD in all caps. That is talking about the very name of God himself. Yahweh that he gave to Moses.

So Jesus is showing us here that he is THE LORD who can rebuke the seas and they listen to him.

Here are some spiritual interpretations that the saints saw in these passages.
Moral interpretation:(St. John Chrysostom, Horn, in Matt. 28),the wave-tossed boat signifies the struggles of the Christian life. Endangered by the wind and fierce waves, God’s people are awakened by spiritual assaults and become aware of their helplessness. They call upon the Lord for salvation and inner peace. The near presence of Christ assures their deliverance, and his swiftness strengthens their wavering faith.

Moral interpretation: (St. Augustine, Sermo 51), the episode at sea signifies the drama of the Christian life. All of God’s children embark with Christ on a life that is full of dangerous storms, especially attacks from evil spirits and temptations of the flesh. We must learn to trust in Christ daily, since he alone can restrain these forces and bring us to the safe harbor of salvation. See note on Mt 8:23-27.

There are three sources fro this information and I highly recommend them all.
Scott Hahn's Ignatius Commentary -

Scott Hahn's audio commentary found here -

listen FREE to Tim Gray Here -

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Daily Sacrifice and a Promise Fulfilled

Linked above is the Rerun of my segment of "Bible Tidbits" on sacred Heart Radio.

But this week I thought I should give you more for being a faithful listener to the show or reader of the blog.

I said in a previous post that I would list all the Markan sandwiches (Where Mark begins with one topic, goes to another topic, and then returns to the first topic.) They are pretty cool when you look them up.

Again these are all in the Gospel of Mark.

#1 A. 3:20, 21
B.3:22 - 30

#2 A.4:1-20


#4 A. 5:21-24

#5A. 6:7-13
B. 6:14-29
A. 6:30, 31

#6 A. 11:12-14
B. 11:15-29
A. 11:20-25

#7A. 15:40, 41
A. 16:1-8

#8A. 16:14, 15
B. 16: 16-18
A. 16 :19-20