Wrath and Redemption for Renown (Exodus 9:13–35)

If the Exodus is simply about redemption, then God is terribly inefficient. The point isn’t simply redemption, but renown. God could’ve taken Pharaoh out with one punch, but He reserves His strength for ten blows, so that He might more fully display his power.

For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth (Exodus 9:15–16).

In a boxing match if some no-name opponent is knocked out with one blow, the crowd might think it was owing more to the weakness of the loser than the strength of the winner. But if some unknown boxer waits patiently for the “greatest” to climb to the pinnacle of his career, and then, having challenged him, slowly defeats him, one punch each round, while never suffering a blow himself, then his supremacy is fully demonstrated.

God raised Pharaoh up for this purpose. This is why Pharaoh exists. You can’t soften the meaning.

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.’ So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory (Romans 9:17–23).

God’s redemption is for renown. God’s wrath is for renown. God purposes to be glorified in all: vessels of mercy and vessels of wrath. But, the supreme way God intends for His glory to be communicated is in redemption. Wrath falls  “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy.”

It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all; for then the effulgence would not answer the reality. For the same reason it is not proper that one should be manifested exceedingly, and another but very little. It is highly proper that the effulgent glory of God should answer his real excellency; that the splendour should be answerable to the real and essential glory, for the same reason that it is proper and excellent for God to glorify himself at all.

Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all. If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from.

How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired, and the sense of it not so great, as we have elsewhere shown. We little consider how much the sense of good is heightened by the sense of evil, both moral and natural. And as it is necessary that there should be evil, because the display of the glory of God could not but be imperfect and incomplete without it, so evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect; and the happiness of the creature would be imperfect upon another account also; for, as we have said, the sense of good is comparatively dull and flat, without the knowledge of evil. —Jonathan Edwards

Man Can’t Frankenstein Spiritual Life (Exodus 9:1–12)

Pharaoh’s wealth (livestock) and health were stripped from him. Job’s wealth and health were stripped from him. Only one of them worshipped. What made the difference? God. God hardened Pharaoh (Exodus 9:12). Implicitly, He softened, regenerated, and saved Job.

You can’t make a spiritual man by beating his flesh to death. God may, and often does, use means. He may strip a man of wealth and health in bringing him to life, but unless the Spirit works within, it matters not what happens without. If this was just a matter of getting the right physical leverage, then we could make the difference. But as Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all (John 6:63).”

We cannot beat spiritual sense into one worldly wise.

We cannot create faith in God by evidencing the hopelessness of idols.

We can’t bring a dead man alive by beating him.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one (1 Corinthians 2:12-15).

The determinative factor is unseen.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:6–8).

Man can’t Frankenstein spiritual life. The Spirit must blow on a valley of dry bones and make them live. Unless God works within, it matters not what happens without.

Unless YHWH Is YHWH (Exodus 4:18–31)

God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

Pharaoh hardened his heart.

Pharaoh’s heart was hard.

Which one is it? Yes. Perhaps you’d like to pretend that these things were happening at different times and that it all started with Pharaoh hardening his own heart; that God only steps in to further harden that which is already irreparably hard. Make God’s hardening pointless—that’ll solve our problems? Nope. Can’t do that. These are synonymous. These are all happening at the same time; and over them all, God is sovereign. God declares that this is His intention from the beginning (Exodus 3:19, 20; 4:21) , and He tells Pharaoh why, “For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth (Exodus 9:15–16).” YHWH could have made quick work of Pharaoh, but that won’t do. God want’s wonder upon wonder to fall on Pharaoh so that His renown might echo through the earth.

How’s that for a truth to make palatable? More sugar please? This makes no sense, unless YHWH is YHWH. Own that, and you’ll bow. Jonathan Edwards got this (by got, I mean received; and by received, I mean by grace).

He hath mercy on some, and hardeneth others. When God is here spoken of as hardening some of the children of men, it is not to be understood that God by any positive efficiency hardens any man’s heart. There is no positive act in God, as though he put forth any power to harden the heart. To suppose any such thing would be to make God the immediate author of sin. God is said to harden men in two ways: by withholding the powerful influences of his Spirit, without which their hearts will remain hardened, and grow harder and harder; in this sense he hardens them, as he leaves them to hardness. And again, by ordering those things in his providence which, through the abuse of their corruption, become the occasion of their hardening. Thus God sends his word and ordinances to men which, by their abuse, prove an occasion of their hardening.

There it is. YHWH is YHWH. God is God. Because of the curse, for soil to grow hard and wild, nothing need be done but let it alone. So it is with man’s heart. So it is because of man’s heart. Dirt is a parable (Matthew 13:1–7). Soil isn’t self-softening. The Farmer doesn’t just spread the good seed, He preps the soil. We’re rocks. God restrains. If He did not, we would plunge into darkness. Down. Down. Down. This is our sinful trajectory. We are totally depraved. Sure, we’re not as wicked as we could be, but we are totally, altogether wicked. None does good. Any “civil virtue” we may exhibit is really “pretty idolatry.” In unbeliever’s every “good” act, something is being worshipped, and it ain’t Jesus, or they wouldn’t be unbelievers. Wickedness is in every crevice of our being: will, affections, desires, thoughts, inclinations, et cetera. We’re not a sin blackout, but every part is shaded in. We’re not naturally good. We’re subdued, limited, restrained, and most importantly, graced. Should God let the rocks fall, it would be nothing but an act of justice; a holy, righteous judgment on every son of Adam.

YHWH is YHWH. This is His prerogative. “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy (Exodus 33:19).” “The LORD,” meaning YWHW, and YWHW, in part meaning, “I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” Some receive mercy. Some receive justice. No one receives injustice. Behind all of this: YWHW. “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory (Romans 9:19–23).” Justice justly falls on some to magnify the graciousness of grace. “But we all deserve grace!” Isn’t that a contradiction? Further, if we’re not in hell, we’re all experiencing some degree of grace (common, non-salvific grace, but grace nonetheless) and spurning it, thus proving, we don’t at all, all deserve grace.

Moses is a sinner. Praise God, Moses, by the Spirit, paints Moses as Moses was. In chapters two through six Moses beats everyone else to the punch and roasts himself. God is the hero. Pharaoh sins again and again and finds justice. Moses, along with Israel, sins again and again, and finds grace. The only thing that makes the difference, is YHWH, the covenant God of unfailing love for His elect people. YHWH is YHWH. Realize this, and you don’t choke on the thought of sovereign justice; you get choked up thinking about sovereign grace.

Handling Toxic Waste Bare Handed Without Effect

Our God is so sovereign and so good, He can use evil in a holy way:

Sin is an evil, yet the futurition [future existence] of sin, or that sin should be future, is not an evil thing. Evil is an evil thing, and yet it may be a good thing that evil should be in the world. There is certainly a difference between the thing itself existing, and its being an evil thing that ever it came into existence. As for instance, it might be an evil thing to crucify Christ, but yet it was a good thing that the crucifying of Christ came to pass. As men’s act, it was evil, but as God ordered it, it was good. Who will deny but that it may be so, that evil’s coming to pass may be an occasion of greater good than it is an evil, and so of there being more good in the whole, than if that evil had not come to pass? And if so, then it is a good thing that that evil comes to pass. When we say the thing is an evil thing in itself, then we mean that it is evil, considering it only within its own bounds. But when we say that it is a good thing that ever it came to pass, then we consider the thing as a thing among events, or as one thing belonging to the series of events, and as related to the rest of the series. —Jonathan Edwards, Remarks on Important Theological Controversies

Son Blindness (Matthew 20:29-34)

If someone is blind to the Sun, they cannot see anything. It is only by seeing the Sun, in a sense, that one can see anything else. We don’t see illuminated objects except by the reflection of light. If you cannot behold anything by the greatest light, lesser lights will prove insufficient.

The crowd doesn’t see the Son, and Son blindness is total blindness. A physically blind man who sees the Son, sees more than a spiritually blind man who can see the Sun. Spiritual sight is superior to physical sight. A child of God who knows that Yaweh created the heavens sees them more clearly than the most brilliant astronomer. Certainly, by God’s grace, an astronomer can learn things that we do not, things that could further fuel our worship, but the believer has an epistemological trump card he can always play, “Yes, but I know the one who made that star and why He ultimately made it.” The unregenerate astronomer may be able to tell us all kinds of whats, and hows, but only a child of God knows the ultimate why. Certain archeologists could stun you with their knowledge of Stonehenge and how it relates to light, solstices and such, but dig up some chap that was alive and participated in whatever it was that went on there, resurrect him, and he has that trump card. His knowledge may be far less sophisticated and exact, but he knows why.

When you make an idol of creation, when you make it god, you end up enjoying it less, not more. If someone tries to enjoy a hammer as a screwdriver, they will enjoy it less. When you try to make creation god, you don’t see creation as it is. It isn’t illuminated by the Son. They don’t see that all things are from, through, and to the Son. The light comes from Him, and is reflected back to His glory. If you are blind to the Luminous, you cannot behold the illuminated. Thus the superiority of spiritual sight.

Satan most deeply labors to blind us not from the blazing Sun at the center of our solar system, but the all glorious Son at the center of the universe. Before these blind men see, they appear to have already received the greater sight.

[T]he god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. —2 Corinthians 4:4-6 (ESV)

If you see the Son, even if you remain blind until the kingdom fully comes, you see everything more clearly.

The emanation or communication of the divine fullness, consisting in the knowledge of God, love to him, and joy in him, has relation indeed both to God and the creature: but it has relation to God as its fountain, as the thing communicated is something of its internal fullness. The water in the stream is something of the fountain; and the beams of the sun are something of the sun. And again, they have relation to God as their object: for the knowledge communicated is the knowledge of God; and the love communicated, is the love of God; and the happiness communicated, is joy in God. In the creature’s knowing, esteeming, loving, rejoicing in, and praising God, the glory of God is both exhibited and acknowledged, his fullness is received and returned. Here is both an emanation and remanation. The refulgence shines upon and into the creature, and is reflected back to the luminary. The beams of glory come from God, are something of God, and are refunded back again to their original. So that the whole is of God, and in God, and to God; and he is the beginning, and the middle, and the end. —Jonathan Edwards