19 November 2005

God's Plan Cannot Fail

The story of the Ten Plagues is an amazing one in Biblical history. Among many other important theological points, Moses seems to emphasize Yahweh's sovereignty over the heart of Pharoah. Yahweh announces his plan to Moses in Exodus 4:21-23. He will harden Pharoah's heart so that he will refuse to release the Israelites from slavery. Although there is some debate on the grammar, it seems that God is further elaborating on this same plan in Exodus 9:16, when he says, "But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." That Yahweh works out his plan through Pharaoh's stupid, stubborn, and culpable autonomy is seen in the "just as the LORD had said" clauses sprinkled throughout these chapters (Exod 7:13, 7:22, 8:15, 8:19, 9:12, 9:35, and 11:9). That his plan was finally accomplished is seen in the Canaanites' fear of the Israelites in Joshua 2:9-11 (Cf. Exod 15:15-16).

This is only one example in the Scriptures of how God uses even the rebellion of men to accomplish his purposes. The epitome is Christ's crucifixion. It was the nadir of human wickedness to put to death the Lord of Life; the zenith of God's plan to bring life from his death (Acts 2:23, Acts 4:28).

If everything, even those who oppose God, serves to accomplish his plan, then his plan cannot fail (Eph 1:11).


Unknown said...

It is interesting to me how 3:19 plays into the hardening account. God says something like: "I know Pharoah will let you go only if I force him." I can foresee (ha!) our Arminian/Socinian friends running away with this phrase.
What think ye?

Jeremy Pittsley said...

The Hebrew of 3:19 reads "I know that the king of Egypt will not let him go, not even by a mighty hand" (see NET Bible). The other English versions take their cue from the LXX which has "except" (see NIV, ESV, NLT). So (if the Masoretic text is correct) Yahweh is making an overstatement, "I know Pharaoh; Pharaoh is too thick-skulled to let them go even under supernatural compulsion."

As far as the Arminian is concerned, I would appeal to them as Christian theists by showing them the following context. Most of them would be unwilling to say that God's plan changes. If they are being reasonable it would seem obvious that God didn't first perceive Pharaoh's stubbornness then try to figure out how he could turn it to his glory. Pharaoh's stubbornness was part of God's (at least omniscient if not sovereign) plan to begin with.

Now Socinians (I am assuming you mean those who believe that God does not know future contingencies) would be harder nuts to crack. For them God is constantly revising his plans in response to man's reactions. Perhaps I would ask them if it would be honest for Yahweh to make statements about what Pharaoh would do in the future if, in fact, he didn't know for sure what Pharaoh's reaction to Moses' request would be.