Reading the book of Exodus chapters 7-10 this morning, I get physically ill and emotionally exhausted reading about the various plagues that God placed upon Pharaoh and Egypt. My first reaction is “Pharaoh. Get a grip! Wake up. Just let the people go. What’s it gonna take?” That last question I cry in my heart is so familiar. How many times I cried the same. “Lord, what’s it gonna take for James to surrender?” For Pharaoh the story seems to read like this: the plague of blood – God hardens his heart, the plague of frogs – God hardens his heart, the plague of gnats – God hardens his heart, the plague of flies – God hardens his heart, the plague of livestock – God hardens his heart, boils, hail, locust, darkness, the firstborn children – God hardens his heart. I’m exhausted. LET THE PEOPLE GO ALREADY! But God had a bigger purpose. In Exodus 11: 9-10 it reads, The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart,and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.
Probably for me, this is one of the most frustrating sections of scripture in the entire Bible. You see, I am what they refer to as a “doer”. I do, then expect the result. One plus one equals two. If I do this, then this results. Right? Don’t laugh at me, you can relate. Well, this is often not the case in God’s economy. Watching James’ life for those seven years of turmoil, it reminds me of Pharaoh. Only problem is, I wasn’t Moses. I watched James leave his family, get into an adulterous relationship, make poor financial situations, wreck his motorcycle numerous times, break his leg and collar bone which kept him out of work for six months, hurt his back, get “her” pregnant, plague after plague after plague and still, “God hardened his heart?” Did I, like Egypt, need to see God’s many wonders? I am not sure how Moses felt through all of this, watching Egypt suffer as they did but I can tell you how I felt. Angry, frustrated, sorrowful. I didn’t want it to be this way. At times, I was judgmental. My heart was wicked in thinking how stupid he was. Like an immature little boy, digging his heels in saying “I want it my way and you can’t do anything about it.” Conviction. Rebellious? That is exactly how I lived the thirty plus years before surrendering my life to the Lord. Who was I to judge? Thankfully, God accomplishes His work despite our attitude and is faithful to His people.
Even after Pharaoh let the people of God go, he came after them and they found themselves trapped at the edge of the water. Again, God wanted to show His power to all. Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14
Similar to the story of the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. He seemed to be doing it all “right” but finds he is not. The disciples bothered by this asks Jesus “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:25-26
It took me awhile and I still struggle with this truth. One plus one doesn’t always equal two when it comes to the matter of the heart. God is the only one that can change a heart. I thought that I could change James’ heart and failed time after time. With man this is impossible. Often times, at least with James I think I figured out God’s secret weapon…LOVE. The Bible says that “Love covers a multitude of sins” and “Love never fails”. That’s God’s love, not mine. I can recall one conversation I had with James after he surrendered his life to the Lord and we were able to reconcile in marriage. I asked him “James, what was it? What finally brought you home to Jesus and us?” His reply may shock you. He said “I couldn’t resist how much you loved me.” I knew exactly what he meant. It wasn’t me that loved him. I was incapable. My judgmental, inpatient heart wouldn’t allow it. But God did love him, though me. It was God’s unconditional perfect love that drew James back. Not just to his family but to the Lord.
Who has God called you to love unconditionally? If you ask, He will give you the power to do it. After all, that power, the power of Christ, the power to part the sea, the power to free His people lives inside of every believer. Be a “doer” and expect God to do it His way, in His time, using His power and then like me you can rejoice! James you are finally home!!