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Hard heartedness
Actual text: Exodus 7.1- 25
Given 3 January 2004 at Beth Messiah, Sydney
By Bob Mendelsohn
Jews For Jesus Australia
Also see Bob Mendelsohn's Sermons on Joseph

Knowledge is a funny thing. When we were kids and sat the HSC or studied in school, we at times hated the requirements of knowledge especially teachers, the acknowledged brokers of knowledge. Eddie McGuire has made lots of money and given away heaps on "Who wants to be a millionaire?" testing people's knowledge of the most trivial bits of data. Newspapers are filled with knowledge and the internet almost sells itself in speed to get information to you. You should know and you should know it now. And right now there are people buying the astrological charts for the year so they can know what their year 2004 will be like. Knowledge is good money.

Your response to life determines the next stage of your life. Do you believe this? What you did on New Year's Eve and what you are doing this morning and what you will do this next week...they all play into a greater scheme of things, called your life. And your life is integrally linked with others and with the Almighty, even if you are not sure there is even a God who notices, much more demands from or cares about you. Let me ask you, do you have a soft or a hard heart towards God? Do you know that He, more than Santa, knows if you are sleeping or if you've been good or not-so-good this year? The condition of your heart, soft or hard, will determine what happens to you in the months and years to come, and bring you satisfaction or redemption or trouble or plagues.

And the bottom line of all God's dealings with us as people is, may I quote, "then they shall know that I am Yahweh."

This phrase is found here in Torah in both relating to the Jewish people and the Gentile nation who had enslaved us. It's found in Ezekiel 28 about the returning Israel and its future blessing, and it's found in Ezekiel's narrative 57 other times. More than any other prophet he wanted everyone to know that what happens and what would happen would be designed for one major purpose: for people to know that Yahweh is God. And no other. And this was downright evangelistic, in his day and in ours.

Knowing doesn't mean you know, you know?
Burghardt DuBois, the great black educator, sociologist, and historian, upon completion of studies at Fisk and Harvard Universities and the University of Berlin, was convinced that change in the condition of the American black could be effected by careful scientific investigations into the truth about the black in America. So he proceeded. His research was flawless and his graphs and charts impeccable. After waiting several years and hearing not the slightest stir of reform, Dr. DuBois had to accept the truth about Truth: Its being available does not mean it will be appropriated.

Information is often confused with knowledge. And knowledge confused with wisdom. And there's no way to keep up, is there?

Knowledge is exploding at such a rate--more than 2000 pages a minute--that even Einstein couldn't keep up. In fact, if you read 24 hours a day, from age 21 to 70, and retained all you read, you would be one and a half million years behind when you finished.

Arthur Clarke said, "For every man, education should be a process which continues all his life. We have to abandon, as swiftly as possible, the idea that schooling is something restricted to youth. How can it be, in a world where half the things a man knows at 20 are no longer true at 40--and half the things he knows at 40 hadn't been discovered when he was 20? " - Clarke in "The View From Serendip".

Even while I was working on this sermon on New Years Morning, I played a quiz on the Sydney Morning Herald website, about the year in review. Quizzes and knowledge and information, that's something on which many of us right brainers will thrive.

But is it enough? Let's look at the text. In today's story, we see the central characters Moses and Aaron on the Hebrew side; Pharaoh on the Egyptian side. I sometimes feel that I'm watching ESPN or Fox Sports when I read this section. The sports commentators interview the parents of the stars on both sides. They tell us of their family background and what would make them good players.

[As an aside how many interviews with family of Steve Waugh have you seen already this week? I saw his dad and yesterday his brother in very lengthy ones. I'm sure I missed many.]

Verse one tells us that the ministry of a prophet in God's perspective is one of mediation. "You will be as God... Aaron shall be your prophet" This means that Aaron will be more than a sidekick in a buddy movie; he will speak for the deity. He will mediate between Moses and Pharaoh. This was God's answer to Moses' excuse in chapter 4 of Moses' seeming inability to speak well.

We've spoken about the ordinariness of Moses before. He was not so great. Let me compare the celebrations I watched with Patty and Anne the other night. We went to the midnight show of the fireworks in North Sydney. Great views from McMahons Point. And for a moment the bridge was ablaze and the sky lit up. In fact for 20 minutes or so. And then the smoke drifted past and the ships again moved in the harbour. The crowds of 750,000 of my closest friends and I tried to catch the bus and the train back to our homes. It took about 90 minutes for me to make the usual 20 minute trip.

What made the fireworks so spectacular included the making of an ordinary thing into an extraordinary thing. The bridge is ... well, a bridge, and as bridges go, it's pretty ordinary. A great feat, when it was built over 70 years ago, to be sure, but hey, it's a bridge of steel and concrete. Nothing to get 3/4 of a million people to come watch each night. [for those online, you will see the bridge as the background to the fireworks, a simple ghost of an outline, nothing to write home about, but it does give a historical marker]

Fireworks on New Years in Sydney

Maybe that's a subplot of this whole Exodus story. The unlikely hero Moses, the ordinary leader of the pack, takes the 3 million ordinary people out for a spin in the wilderness. Or at least, he is trying to convince Pharaoh that this should take place. Just a simple house party, that's all he wants. The whole point was not for the Jewish people to escape; the whole point for God was that all the world would know He was God. This is a huge point and one that we to this day, still miss. God is not content to get people off from prison or out of sickness or into good feelings, if that's their preference. He wants all people in all places to "Know that He is God" and that there is no other. Knowledge matters, not just to your school teacher or to Eddie McGuire. It's for you and me...and the object of our instruction is the Living God.

The point is our heart
Remember I asked you about your heart earlier? Is it soft or hard? This is more than a momentary condition. This is a way to determine your future, better than a tarot card or palm reader. Is your heart soft towards God or is it hard? Pharaoh hardened his heart and as a result God hardened it yet further. "Vaani ak'sheh et lev pahro"

Remember, what God wants though is not to show His own bossness. He doesn't want to make life easy for us Jews. He has one thing to communicate and to get through to us: this is

to get Egypt to the place of admitting Yahweh is God.
Ex. 7.5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh.

Actually the Hebrew is not "the people of Egypt" only, but "the land of Egypt". Mitzraim shall know that Yahweh is God and that there is no other. The river Nile is considered as a god to the Egyptians. The Almighty is saying, "don't look to Sydney Water" or to either the Warragamba Dam and the Prospect Reservoir. This is crucial in our lives as well as the history of the Egyptians 3500 years ago. To whom do we look when things are messy? To what do we run to find peace and meaning? It's 2004, where will I find new life?

Pharaoh hardened (literally "strengthened") his heart (verse 13) and as a result would not listen. The word speak (dabar is used 5 times in this text, Shema is used 4 times; tsiva (command) is used 4 as well) is not just a conversational devise by the author; it's a reminder of how this works. If you listen, you do. If you don't listen, you won't do. How simple is that? When Pharaoh hardened his heart, the result was 'he did not listen" (verse 13, verse 22) Consider the major testing of the Jewish people later on in the wilderness. Psalm 95 records this.

Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness;
When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me,
though they had seen My work. (verses 8-9)
How did they harden their hearts but by not listening to the voice of the Lord and demanding what they wanted. The people of Israel did not listen to God and chose to listen to popular reason and personal demands.

God help us in our days to avoid the popular and the reasonable demands of the media and the society. May we follow the Lord in all our hearts and with all our beings. Don't harden your hearts. Listen to God and do what He says.

Y'shua was speaking with Moses and Elijah one day. The Bible records what happened.

' While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!" (Matthew 17.5).
This was God speaking. Don't miss it, friends in Sydney! From God's beckoning to us, we learn that what matters is not our creativity of ministry or our activities in His name, but listening to Him and doing what He wants, and what he principally wants is for us to Follow Y'shua. Malachi the final Older Testament prophet said this
"If you do not listen, and if you do not take it to heart to give honor to My name," says the LORD of hosts, "then I will send the curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; and indeed, I have cursed them already, because you are not taking it to heart." (2.2)
OK, now the condition of your heart. It's not a permanent condition. What you have done in the past is changeable. You can harden it as Pharaoh did, or you can soften it. How, you ask? By admitting to the Lord you have hardened it, and asking Him to forgive you and to make your heart new in Him. The Bible uses another term for this.
'Thus says the Lord GOD, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD," declares the Lord GOD, "when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 36.22-26)
The text uses the term "heart of flesh". This depicts what Moses in Exodus 7 and I'm trying to communicate. God wants you moldable and fleshy, not rocky and stone like. He wants you to yield to His purposes and to know Him personally. That's the message today. Next week we will speak about preparation from chapter 8, and maybe that will be one of your new year's resolutions. But let me hold back about that until next Shabbat.

What should you learn/hear today as a result of reading this text? Or what lessons do we learn from today's teaching?

  • 1. Hardening your heart against God has consequences
  • 2 Plagues are not God's original idea for the people of Egypt
  • 3. Mediation is a principle for a prophet and his main job
  • 4. The Egyptians should have been smart and copied the good things of Moses and Aaron and not the plagues!
  • 5. Jesus is God's ultimate answer and the one to whom we should be listening, with all our fleshy hearts.

    So... let me ask you. Will you become a follower of Y'shua today? Will you choose to line up with God's choices and give your life to the delivered from Galilee? Will you believe...will you trust God, and not yourself, or will you make another excuse about why you cannot? I want to offer you the choice to join us, to identify with and confess Y'shua as your Saviour. If you would like to be delivered from your bondage, this time to sin, then pray this prayer and receive His love and grace.

    Father, forgive me in the name of Y'shua for all my sins. He was the Saviour and the fulfillment of all prophecies about Messiah. He is the one and the only one who can save me from my selfishness, from my sin. I acknowledge Y'shua as that one who wants to free me, and who alone can free me. I repent of my sin and accept Y'shua as my deliverer. By faith I am now born again by the Holy Spirit. Amen. If you prayed that prayer, please talk to me after the service is over,[or email me if you are reading this online] so we can talk about growing in this knowledge and this relationship with God.