Sunday, September 17, 2017

I Will

This morning in Sunday school we were looking at the beginning of the episodes in Exodus that precede the Passover. Here was a critical juncture I saw that reveals God's plan for the Pharaoh and for His people:
But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. (Exodus 7:3-4)
I will harden Pharaoh's heart so he will not let the people go in spite of the incredible deeds I will perform. Then in spite of this I will nevertheless bring My people out of the land of Egypt. This entire event is not some sort of contest between Moses and Pharaoh with God acting to tilt the balance for Moses as we seem to think it is based on movies and cartoons. It is all about God.

God is very clear about his intent. He says exactly what is going on and why right after these verses:
The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” (Exodus 7:5)
Later Paul recounts the reason God raised up Pharaoh in the first place:
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (Romans 9:17)
Pharaoh existed in that time and place and had the power that he did for the sole reason that God raised him up so He could harden his heart and dash him down to show his own glory. The world was created so that God can demonstrate His glory to His creatures and the Scriptures exist to record this. The only proper response of man is to worship God and glorify His name, as the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism famously says:

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Everything God does in the Scriptures, culminating in His crowning moment of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of His Son, is done for the sole purpose of glorifying Himself, not in a self-serving or narcissistic way but as a means of rightly demonstrating His infinite and perfect glory.

Over 300 times in the Pentateuch alone God uses the phrase "I will" and it appears almost innumerable times in Scripture as a whole, the exact phrase appearing over 2000 times in the ESV. One of my favorite is in God's prophecy against the shepherds of Israel. After scourging them for their selfishness He steps in and gives the prefiguring vision of His Son coming to be the Good Shepherd of His sheep....
“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice. (Ezekiel 34:11-16)
I will, I will, I will.....the only worthwhile promises in this world are those made by the Covenant-Making Lord.

And of course the most powerful use of "I will" in the Scriptures is in the New Covenant promise, emphasis mine....
For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:8-12)
I will remember their sins no more. That is the promise of the Gospel that is inextricably linked with the New Covenant. This is what God is working toward through every "I will" in Scripture, bringing to pass redemption for His elect people by His own Hand through the cross-work of His Son and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.

It is so vital that we read things like the plagues leading up to the Passover with an eye on Jesus. Too often we treat the Bible as if it were a series of unrelated religious stories, an Aesop's Fables but with a cross, instead of an interconnected series of revelations of God intervening in His Creation to bring to fruition His ultimate will. The Bible is God enforcing His will on His creation as is His utter right to do so.

We can know that what God said He would do in Scripture really happened and what He has promised will yet come will likewise come to fruition because it is His will. When God says "I will" he cannot do anything but make this come to pass. This is the story of redemption that is the spine of the Bible, God saying "I will" and then doing it. I am comforted that our God is a God of "I will" instead of a God of "I might" or "Gee I wish I could". The distinction makes all of the difference for eternity.

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