A letter from Brother Jerry.
Hi Brother John,
Sheila and I have been reading your new translation of the Gospel of John this morning, and there are two things in particular that have really stood out to me.
In chapter 8, Jesus plainly explained to the Jews that they could not hear Him because He told the truth and the truth was not in them. He told them that they seek to kill Him because he told the truth and that “Abraham did not do this”.
Then we continued reading into chapter 9, about the blind man who stood before the Jews after Jesus opened his eyes. They did not want to accept that Jesus, by the power of God, had made this blind man to see. In 9:27, it says he (the healed blind man) answered them, “I told you already, and you didn’t listen. Why do you want to hear it again?” I told Sheila, “Wow, we just read this in chapter 8. Jesus had already told them, “You can’t hear me because I tell the truth”, and now they can’t hear this man telling the truth, so they asked him to tell it again, looking for something else. I thought that it was incredible that Jesus had just told them their condition in chapter 8.
Then it says in verses 30-34: “The man answered and said to them, ‘Well, here is an amazing thing. You don’t know where he is from, and yet he opened my eyes. We know that God doesn’t hear sinners, but if anyone be God-fearing and do His will, He hears him. From the beginning of time, it hasn’t been heard that someone opened the eyes of a man born blind. If this man weren’t from God, he couldn’t do anything.’ They answered and said to him, ‘You were altogether born in sin, and do you teach us?’ And they cast him out.” Wow.
The other thing that thrills my soul is this. In 12:37 it says, “Although so many miracles had been done by him in [the multitude’s] presence, they did not believe in him.” Then, in verse 39 it says, “This is why they could not believe, because Isaiah said again, [God] has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and understand with their heart, and be converted, and [God] should heal them.”
Those verses about God blinding and hardening the hearts of the people made me think of this. I just read in Exodus about Pharaoh’s heart being hardened over and over again by God, to fight against God. Pharaoh had no choice but to resist God because God chose to use him that way. I have read in the scriptures that “By the hands of wicked men, Jesus was delivered up.” And God said through Isaiah that the people could not hear or understand “lest they be converted, and I heal them.” God made choice among all of those people, to not allow them to obtain to His righteousness. Pharaoh was not allowed to please God and do the will of God by letting the people leave Egypt. The crowd in John was not allowed to understand and be converted and be healed and, ultimately, saved. And the will of God (to have Jesus crucified) was put into the hearts of men, by God, to be carried out. And afterward, God would judge them for it.
I thought this. If a man wanted to have a bank robbery carried out, by someone other than himself, he would not go to a righteous man’s home to find a robber; he would go to a den of thieves. He would go to a man that already had thievery in his heart and then just give him a new idea about what he already wanted to do.
Yes, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. But all that means is that means that Pharaoh was not a righteous man. He was a man who was going to defy God anyway. And his heart was hardened so that the glory of God could be seen amongst God’s people. God did not choose a righteous man to harden, to carry out the evil deed; he chose a man who only needed a new idea of how to be himself.
In John’s gospel, God chose everyone in that crowd that day, who would believe or not believe Jesus. It says that God made them blind and hardened their hearts so that they would not be converted and be healed. I bet, with all confidence, that God did not leave one person in the dark who had a right heart.
And when it was time for the awful deed of crucifying Jesus, only wicked men could do such a thing. I have heard you say that “They could not have gotten Peter to do it.” God just gave a new idea to men who already had a heart to kill an innocent man.
There are vessels of honor and vessels of dishonor. Doesn’t it read “God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and harden whom He will harden”? I am so thankful that I sincerely believe that God would pass me by if he was looking for a wicked man to sin against Him. What a privilege to be a vessel of honor!
God uses darkness to contrast the light, and dark-hearted people to work in that darkness. Thank God for being called to the light! I was in darkness before that call. It was only God’s choice that got me out and got me to Him. I was worse than many around me. It was just by His mercy that He chose me.
What a good day.
Over the years, both as a student and a teacher, I have noticed some significant differences in people’s attitudes toward the Bible. I have had professors and students who, when considering difficult passages in the Bible, just shrugged them off as evidences that humans were the authors of the Bible, and so, errors and contradictions were only to be expected. On the other hand, I have seen people humble themselves when they come upon Scriptures that seemed contradictory or difficult to explain, and confessed their need of God’s help to comprehend His book. Let us choose the latter course.
The Bible’s assertion that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart has given many people theological problems, for that act of God conflicts with the nature of the sweetie-pie god that is often proclaimed to this generation. God will harden hearts. The Bible says so; therefore, let us humble ourselves to fear before Him!
You have chosen the path that leads to a real knowledge of the true God. You have chosen to confess that what the Bible tells us about God is true. When we do that, our understanding is enlightened, for we receive what God has given to us for our good. I would that all people everywhere would simply confess that the Bible is true. If they did that, they would grow in the knowledge of God.
Your explanation of what kind of man Pharaoh must have been in order for God to harden his heart is a prime example of what I am talking about. Rather than argue with the facts that the Bible gives, you have chosen to believe the Bible, and the result is that you have increased in the knowledge and fear of God.
May God grant all of us, always, that same humility when we face things that we cannot make sense of. God is always right. Praise His holy name!