Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Not By Chance, Chapter 6: The Mystery of Providence

[I apologize for the interruption in posting this series of lessons from the excellent book, Not By Chance, by Layton Talbert. See the end of the post for links to earlier chapters.]

The key question addressed in this chapter is, How does God providentially govern human deeds and decisions without violating human will? Two significant doctrinal points appear to be at odds:

  • God rules and reigns over everything, according to His good pleasure (Eph. 1:11)
  • Man—saved or unsaved—is fully responsible and accountable for his choices and actions
The focus in this chapter is on the Exodus, and specifically on Pharaoh, he of the "hard heart." There are eighteen explicit references in Exodus 4-14 to the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. How was Pharaoh's heart hardened? Here is a brief outline:
  • God warns (4:21, 7:3) that He will harden Pharaoh's heart.
  • Pharaoh hardens his own heart (7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7).
  • God hardens Pharaoh's heart (9:12)
  • Pharaoh hardens his heart further (9:34, 35)
  • God further hardens Pharaoh's heart (10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8)
Note that it is Pharaoh who, in rebellion to God, first hardens his heart.

Ultimately, we must remember that wicked people will want to do wickedly. God, at His perfect discretion, can thwart, or can allow, their wickedness as it pertains to His will being done.

A variety of other examples were provided. Jacob valued the birthright of his father, while Esau did not; God used this. God used Samson's improper lustful decisions in order to see His will done. In II Samuel 17:14, God thwarted the "good counsel" of Ahithophel because it suited His purpose.

On the positive side, we see in Ezra 6:22 & 7:27 that God used Darius and Artaxerxes, heathen men, to accomplish what He wanted done.

Most of the examples cited were kings, and all were leaders. Do we really believe today that God can and will direct the hearts of leaders—whether in politics, in the workplace, or in the home?

For Previous Chapters:
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

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