The Faithful and the Hardened


Sermon Text: Exodus 6:28-7:13
Sermon Series: “Exodus” (#11)

Main Points:
I. The faithful and the hardened
II. God breaks the hard heart of His elect
III. God speaks through His faithful ones
IV. God’s faithful are to faithfully deliver God’s message

What we have in this section of Exodus is the last standing of Moses and Aaron before Pharaoh to request Israel’s freedom – I mean, standing and requesting in words. After this, they’ll come not with words only but with God’s mighty hands. As expected, however, the Egyptian king refuses their request once more. In the process of this, we read the story of Aaron’s staff turning into a serpent and swallowing up the staffs of Pharaoh’s magicians. Not much of this story is new or fancy to us because we already know what happened earlier in ch. 5 when Moses and Aaron requested the same first time to Pharaoh and, even before that, at Mt Sinai, God had already told Moses to perform this sign of turning his staff into a snake. So, you might not give much attention to this section and quickly move on to read the dramatic story of ten plagues.

But, hold for a moment and take a good look at this section because an important message of God is given here in this rather plain story. The message is about the way of God’s calling His elect from among the hard hearted rebels. In other words, how God breaks the hard heart of some people and brings them to Himself. Through this story of Moses and Aaron speaking to Pharaoh and, then, showing a miraculous sign of Aaron’s staff, God reveals to us what His divine heart aims and purposes. In a word, He wants all people to know Him as the only true God, then, bow to Him in worship.

In fact, you need to grasp this message before reading and meditating on the accounts of the ten plagues. Otherwise, you might miss the purpose of God in sending ten plagues upon Egypt and bringing Israel out of that land. Letting all people know God and come to Him in repentance and faith is the overarching purpose of Exodus as much as of Jesus’ atoning death and glorious resurrection. So, let us follow the Holy Spirit as He makes this message clear to us in this story.

It begins with the people groups in this world. I mean that there are two groups of people in the world – one is the faithful and the other is the hardened. Moses and Aaron are of the former group and Pharaoh and his people are of the latter. In fact, there have always been two groups since the beginning of time. Cain and Abel were the very first ones of each of these groups. It will always be like this until the time of Jesus’ return and His final judgment.

This doesn’t mean, however, we are two different kinds or species of people. Believers and nonbelievers are of one and the same race of Adam. The only difference that divides one from the other is faith. Only those with faith are of God. And there’s no third group because faith that saves is not temporary or provisional but lasting. Therefore, no one is temporarily saved or conditionally condemned. Instead, everyone is either of the faithful or of the hardened.

Yet, all the faithful are from the other side because everyone is born with a hardened heart. No one is born with faith, except only two, that is, Adam and Jesus Christ. Adam together with Eve were created sinless but rebelled in sin. Jesus was born sinless and, unlike Adam, He lived a sinless life, yet, died a sinner’s death in order to atone for the sins of many. Other than Adam and Jesus, everyone is born as sinner, having neither faith in Jesus nor fear of God.

This means that the faithful are called after birth, at a certain point in each one’s life. God calls some people from among the unbelievers and makes them His own. Consider the case of Moses. He was a murderer and renegade when God met him and called him for a task. His forefather, Abraham, for another example, used to be an idol maker. David, Peter and Paul began in sin, without faith. But God called and made them His dear and faithful ones. The same is for you and me – we’re called from among the hardened to be God’s faithful ones.

How does God make sinners His faithful ones? By breaking their hard heart, by cracking the calcification of sin over their hearts. God lays His hand on a sinful heart and breaks that hardened heart. This is, in fact, what we hear from God in v. 4 that His plan is to lay His hand on Egypt and bring His people out of the land.

Hearing this, some of you might wonder and say to yourself, ‘Isn’t this action of laying God’s hand on Egypt an act of punishment? If then, how could that be an act of saving people?’ Well, my friends, you should know that God’s hand that will be laid upon Egypt is to mean, first of all, salvation rather than judgment or punishment. God’s plan is not to condemn every Egyptian but to bring His elect out from even among the hard hearted Egyptians so as for them to be counted as Israel’s own. Ex. 12:38 tells us the outcome of God’s laying of His hand on Egypt as His saving act. That verse tells us that, on the day of leaving Egypt, ‘a mixed multitude’ went up together with the Israelites, meaning that some Egyptians as well as other peoples like Ethiopians joined Israel and left Egypt as a part of that great group of Exodus. You can read in Lev. 24:10 that an Egyptian man was among the Israelites in the wilderness. Num. 12:1 also proves the existence of other ethnic groups in Israel as we read there in Num. 12:1 that Moses married to a Cushite woman after the death of his wife, Zipporah. A ‘Cushite’ means, in the OT, an Ethiopian. In a word, therefore, God’s laying His hand on Egypt is primarily for saving His elect.

So, God lays His hand on the hard and unbelieving heart and breaks it to have faith in Him. Eph. 2:8 explains this faith as God’s ‘gift.’ God visits sinners and breaks their hard and rebellious heart, then, calls them to listen to His voice and believe in His Son Jesus Christ.

How, then, does He visit sinners and speak to them? Does He appear to people and speak directly from heaven? No, that’s not the way God chose. He used to speak directly to some people in the OT – like Moses and prophets. But even that was not the normal way of God. Only once in the OT, God spoke directly to His people and that was at Mt Sinai. I believe many of you know what happened with that direct speech of God to Israel. Having heard God’s direct speech, all of Israel came hurriedly to Moses and asked him to listen to God and deliver His words to them. Why did they ask that? Because, as recorded in Dt. 5:25, if they heard God’s voice any more, they would die. They trembled and feared when they heard God speaking to them directly! Truth is that not only seeing God with our bear eyes but also hearing His voice directly with our ears would make us terrified, if not dead instantly, because He is the righteous God and we’re sinful although we’re saved and washed of our sins! While we’re in this sinful flesh, our eyes and ears will never be able to bear His righteousness.

So, God speaks to sinners not directly but through His messengers. When God’s messengers speak on God’s behalf and in His name, God visits those who listen. Moreover, through the words His messengers deliver, God visits people and touch their rebellious hearts. And through His words, God breaks their hardened hearts.

That is exactly what we hear from God in today’s text passage. Listen to God saying this to Moses in 7:2, “You shall speak all that I command you.” Then, in v. 5, He states His purpose of sending Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh in these words: “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.” What God means here is that ‘even Egyptians’ – alongside Israelites – shall know because God is going to visit them through His words Moses and Aaron will deliver to their ears, and break the hardened hearts of some of them, and save them.

So, God speaks through His prophet in Isa. 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” The Apostle Paul of the NT in amazement explains in Rom. 10:15 what follows this delivering and preaching the good news of God and Jesus Christ. That is, hearing this news, people will believe. By believing, people call on the name of the Lord and be saved!

So, my friends, my brothers and sisters in Jesus, do not consider God’s laying His hand on Egypt is mainly as His punishment for the sins of Pharaoh and Egyptians. Instead, consider it as God’s visit to His elect in Egypt – from various ethnic groups like Israelites and Egyptians and Ethiopians and more. Not only as His visit but also His mighty and gracious act of breaking their rebellious hearts, breaking the calcification of sin over their hearts, and saving them from their slavery to sin.

This saving work begins from hearing God’s word, and hearing His word is through His messenger.

The last point for us today is that we who are God’s faithful ones are called to be His messengers. Ministers and elders are not the only ones called for this task; every Christian is called for bringing the good news of Jesus to the world.

If any of you feel uncomfortable with this call, you don’t need to feel uncomfortable. If any of you shake your head and say in your mind that you cannot do this because you’re not an eloquent speaker or you hate to make a public speech or you don’t know much about what to say and how to persuade people or any other similar reasons, you shouldn’t consider it that way because being God’s messenger is not difficult at all because it is not a hard task at all.

Let me remind you of Moses’ concern as found in 6:30; he says to God, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?” What he means is that he has already failed to convince his own people, his fellow Israelites, in addition to his failure with Pharaoh. He says, ‘I am of uncircumcised lips,’ meaning that he cannot change anybody, let alone Pharaoh.

But listen to God’s reply to doubting Moses: “See I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you. … But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart … Then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring … My people …. The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD.” What He says is that He will do all things, and ‘you, Moses, simply speak to Pharaoh all that I command you.’ Do you see the point God makes here? He wants Moses to simply speak and deliver God’s message, and the rest will be taken care of by God Himself!

This is the point you and I must understand and remember always. You and I are called by God to be His faithful ones – that is, in another word, His messengers – and our task is to simply yet faithfully deliver God’s good news of salvation through His Son Jesus. As the message we heard and were saved is that everyone who believes in Him will be saved, we simply repeat this message and deliver it to the ears of the unbelievers. The rest is God’s work. We’re not called to change anyone’s heart – that’s God’s job. You’re not called to persuade your spouse or child or sibling, let alone your friend or neighbour – that’s the work of the Holy Spirit – and you simply yet faithfully deliver God’s message and tell everyone that Jesus is the Saviour and Lord of all and all who believe in Him will be saved.

Truth is that Moses’ previous failures were to teach him this truth. In other words, Moses failed earlier and could not bring Pharaoh’s consent to Israel’s freedom, and the purpose of that failure was to teach Moses this truth, that is, God would deliver His people, not Moses. An extra burden of collecting straw strained Israelites further, and they blamed Moses and Aaron for that trouble, thus, refused to listen to them. That was, in fact, to teach Israel that neither Moses nor Aaron but God alone would save them.

Now, see what happens in 7:10. Hearing God’s words, Moses has realised this, and no longer do we hear him doubting or hesitating. Instead, v. 10 tells us that Moses and Aaron went straight to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD had commanded. From this chapter, Moses is a different person. His words are filled with confidence and his actions show no hesitation. He now realises that he is a messenger of God who is called to simply yet faithfully deliver God’s message. The rest will be taken care of by the mighty hand of God!

Let me tell you the result of God’s mighty work of salvation, the result of His visiting and breaking the hard and rebellious hearts of sinners. Ex. 12:37 tells us that the people of Israel who left Egypt were about 600,000 men on foot, besides women and children. Added to this number is a mixed multitude of various ethnic backgrounds!

God’s messengers, Moses and Aaron faithfully delivered God’s message, and God brought this many out, freeing them from their bondage to slavery! This is what He still does. He visits His elect through His words His messengers deliver, and breaks their hardened hearts and saves them through His word in the name of Jesus Christ! You and I are called to deliver this message of salvation to people around us. And this we do simply and faithfully, expecting God to accomplish His salvation and bring a great multitude out from their sins. ***

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