I have wanted to write about Exodus for a long time – but tonight, I experienced a moment of anger, frustration, brokenheartedness, and hopelessness. When I finally had the chance to write is when I felt the least like writing that I could possibly feel…and that’s when God stepped in and told me, “Uh-uh, you’re writing this. This is exactly when you need to write this, and this is exactly why you need to write this.”
In Exodus, we hear the story of Pharaoh enslaving the Israelites and ordering that all male babies be killed in order to control the population. Moses is spared when his mother places him in a basket in the Nile, and he is rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses is raised as an Egyptian prince, but he kills an Egyptian overseer when he sees him beating an Israelite. In the wilderness, Moses has an encounter with God, who calls him and his brother Aaron to go to Pharaoh and command him to let God’s people go. Each time they ask, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, and he refuses to listen. Plague after plague is sent upon Egypt, but Pharaoh still refuses to budge. Even when Pharaoh finally relents and agrees to let the people go, God again hardens his heart, and he changes his mind and chases after them. However, God provides an escape for the Israelites by parting the Red Sea, only to close it again just as Pharaoh and the Egyptian army enter.
Upon first glance, it seems curious that God would call Moses and Aaron to lead the Israelites out of Egypt – and then turn around and harden Pharaoh’s heart to prevent it from happening – not once, but over and over again. In verse 3-5 of Chapter 7, the Lord says, “But I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. Even then Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you. So I will bring down my fist on Egypt. Then I will rescue my forces – my people, the Israelites – from the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” Our God hardened Pharaoh’s heart for no reason other than to bring glory to His name. To see Moses go to Pharaoh over and over and over again – and to see Pharaoh continuing to refuse to listen – it almost seems as if God’s people will never be rescued. Again, when Pharaoh and his army chase after the Israelites – it seems as if all may be lost. How much more glory is brought to God’s name because He hardened Pharaoh’s heart? If Moses and Aaron had gone to Pharaoh and commanded that he let the Israelites go, and he just simply said “Okay” and set them free…would God’s glory have shown as brightly? Would as many people have seen what a great and powerful God we serve? The answer is no. And it’s the same with Jahar.
As those who are believing in God for Jahar’s salvation – it can be frustrating and even hope-stealing to watch certain events unfold. Sometimes we’re feeling so much hope for him – and then we’re faced with a blatant reminder of just how isolated they have him…of just how difficult it may be for him to hear the gospel or to realize just how deeply loved he is. Sometimes we’re feeling as if Jesus is already working on his heart – and then we see a clear sign that he is still clinging to Islam, and we feel defeated. Sometimes we’re hoping for decisions to be made that are fair and just, and instead it just seems like things are getting worse and worse. But maybe what God is in fact doing here is figuratively “hardening Pharaoh’s heart.” If circumstances were different and Jahar wasn’t so motivated by his faith in a false god that he allegedly killed innocent people for him…if he was allowed contact with anyone who wished to contact him…if everything during his trial went in his favor…if he was allowed to interact with the prison chaplain…and he came to faith in Christ…that would be beautiful and amazing – but how much more glory will be brought to our God’s name when Jahar comes to faith in him despite his adherence to Islam…despite being kept in solitary confinement…despite the Special Administrative Measures that prevent him from receiving any mail…despite having no access to the prison chaplain or group prayer…despite the legal decisions that seem disheartening? When Jahar is made into a beautiful new creation in Christ despite every obstacle that stood in the way – the cross will be lifted so high, and the glory that is brought to God will be completely overwhelming. Just as the Lord said, “When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” Who won’t know that He is the Lord, when He raises His powerful hand and rescues His lost child against all hope?