Do not harden yourself against the Lord, He is God almighty. Instead submit your life and purposes to Him and Him alone.

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.” (Exodus 7:5)

The Exodus event is a rich biblical motif of God’s power over all. Through the plagues God shows both Egypt and the world He is Lord of all. There are no other gods greater, stronger, and mightier. The God of Israel, YAHWEH, is the one true God who rules the world. 

To be sure there are a host of counterfeit gods. God’s that are not real but seem to be so for they operate under the control and power of dark forces. They are a part of the Satan’s deception. They lure man in through copy cat practices but are no match for the Lord. In several instances through the plague narrative, Pharaoh’s magicians are able to work the same miracles as Moses and Aaron, but in the end their power is shown to be no match for the Lord as they are not able to continue to go toe to toe with Moses and Aaron. 

In their first encounter with Pharaoh, Aaron throws down his staff and it becomes a serpent (Exodus 7:10). The wise men and sorcerers of Pharaoh’s kingdom where able to do the same (Exodus 7:11-12). However, God shows Himself dominate when Aaron’s staff swallows up the other staffs (Exodus 7:12b). Throughout the narrative, similar instances occur. The wise men’s and sorcerers are able to produce the same miracles. Eventually, however, their power runs dry. Man can only compete with God’s power for so long until He triumphs over them. Our power is no match for the Lord. He is the all-sovereign Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of the universe.

Pharaoh is not able to see God’s position. Pharaoh’s servants do. They see they are no match for the Lord. But Pharaoh doesn’t. He allows his pride to get the best of him. Even at the counsel of his people, pharaoh does not give in and let the Israelites go (Exodus 10:7). He continues in steadfast opposition to the Lord, even though those around him are telling him otherwise (see also Exodus 8:19).

You would think Pharaoh would eventually relent. He would recognize his place in God’s creation and turn from his sinful rebellion to obey the Lord, but Pharaoh doesn’t. He doesn’t because Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. While there is dispute as to who hardened whom’s heart first — did Pharaoh harden his own heart and then God seeing Pharaoh would not relent harden it so he could not relent, or had God hardened Pharaoh’s heart from the first. I believe the narrative makes it clear the latter is true. Whichever way you lean, it is evident the Lord is using Pharaoh to prove a point — He is the all-sovereign Lord of the universe. No man is more powerful than He. It is our duty to submit our lives to the Lord, allowing Him to call the shots. Shot caller, like Pharaoh, do not win in the end. Instead they pay a hefty price. Pharaoh not only lost his nation but, as we will see next time, he also lost his life. 

Do not harden yourself against the Lord, He is God almighty. Instead submit your life and purposes to Him and Him alone. 

We serve an amazing God who will bring His purposes about!

And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.

(Rev 17:16-17)

There is a vivid and scary scene near the end of the book of Revelation. In chapter 17, John sees a vision of a prostitute arrayed in purple and scarlet with gold and jewels and pearls. She has a golden cup in her hand and she is drunk on the blood of martyred Jesus followers. She is Babylon’s the great. She is riding on a scarlet beast with seven heads and 10 horns who has come from the bottomless pit (Rev 17:1-13). The beast with seven heads and horns represents nations and kings who have power. Who wage ware against Jesus and His followers (Rev 17:14).

The interesting part of John’s vision is not so much the vivid imagery but what happens to the prostitute. She is destroyed by the beast and the kings who are represented by the ten horns (Rev 17:16). But why? Why do they war against one another? Verse 17 reveals the answer:

for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.”

(Rev 17:17)

Her destruction occurs due God’s providence. God works His will even in the hearts of evil men who completely and utterly oppose Him. God is that great! He is absolutely sovereign, turning even the hearts of wicked men to accomplish His purposes. As one commentator puts it:

“You cannot overcome such a God! They are his enemies, and he puts it into their hearts to carry out his purposes by doing their wicked deeds. God is holy, righteous, and good. He is not evil. He is not tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone to it. He never does evil. But no evil is outside God’s control.”

(James Hamilton, Revelation, 331)

We serve an amazing God who will bring His purposes about!

Knowing God Can Do the Impossible Should Affect the Way We Live

In Genesis 18 God confronts Abraham by the Oak’s of Mamre, telling him that he will have a son within the year even though Sarah is beyond childbearing age. When Sarah doubts, God reminds them that nothing is too hard for Him (see my last post for more on this). If He wants to give Sarah a baby in her old age, He will. Nothing will stop the Creator, Sustainer, Healer, and Savior of the universe from doing what He claims. His promise to Abraham will be fulfilled. Indeed, as you work through the text, you see God’s promise realized (Gen. 21). Within the year Sarah gives Abraham his promised son.

Knowing God Can Do the Impossible Should Affect the Way We Live

Knowing God can do the impossible, that nothing is too hard for Him, should affect the way we live. I can’t talk about all the ways it should affect our lives, so let me give you three areas it should affect.

(1) Our prayer life

Probably most of you know someone or have read a story of someone who was diagnosed with a disease or cancer. Upon finding out the news their church began to pray for them. Then some time later, when they went to the doctor for a checkup, the tumor or disease was gone. The doctors couldn’t explain it. It just disappeared.

If we are honest with ourselves, if I am honest with myself, our first thought, when we hear something like that is that the initial tests had to be wrong. They really didn’t have that disease, or cancer, to begin with.

But why do we think that? Why do we think that has to be the case? Why can’t we believe and celebrate the fact that God answered prayer and healed that person? I believe it is because we put limits on God. We think God has to operate in the same way we operate; that He is governed and limited by this world, just like we are.

When we place limits on God, our prayer life suffers. We either don’t pray for big things, like someone to be healed or if we pray for them, we doubt it is going to happen.

But knowing who our God is should give us the confidence to ask without doubting (Jas. 1:5-8). If He wants to heal someone from cancer or a debilitating disease, nothing can stop Him, so we shouldn’t be afraid to pray for things we might consider out of the ordinary, big things. Nothing is too hard for the Lord and knowing that should affect our prayer life.

(2) Our evangelism

At the Together for the Gospel conference I attended back in 2014, one of the speakers preached a sermon entitled: Can your Gospel Save a Terrorist? His answer was yes. God can and does save terrorists. Think about Paul, he was one of the greatest persecutors of the church, but on the road to Damascus God broke into his life, revealed the truth about Jesus, and changed his heart, so that he believed.

Knowing that God can save even those we deem too far gone, should affect our evangelism. It should give us confidence and boldness. It should keep us from judging a person’s likelihood to become a Christian based on their background or their current practices. If God can save Paul, a terrorist, He can save drug dealers, rapists, serial killers, gangsters, hoodlums and the like. He can save us because we are no different. We are all sinners who need Jesus. Our God is a powerful God. Nothing is too hard for Him.

(3) Our giving

Recently, I came across an article with a shocking and revealing statistic. Church members on average only give 2.5% of their income [1]. I don’t quote that statistic to guilt you into giving more to the church. I bring it up because it reveals something about our heart. Either we are lured and enticed by the possessions of this world so that we spend our money on them. Or we squirrel everything back believing that money provides security.

Certainly, there is wisdom in saving, and there is nothing wrong with having things, but we can’t allow the possessions of this world or our fear of the future to get in the way of our giving. We must believe God truly satisfies and that He has the ability to provide. When we believe those things, we will be freed to give radically; to invest in the kingdom in a way that we haven’t been able to do before.

Question for Reflection

  1. How else should God’s power affect the way we live?

Resources

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Posted adapted from my sermon: Is There Anything that is Too Hard for God?which you can listen to here.

[1] http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/what-would-happen-if-church-tithed

Is Anything Too Hard For God?

In Genesis 18 God meets with Abraham and tells him that he will have a son within a year, even though Sarah is beyond childbearing age. Hearing God’s promise Sarah laughs in doubt. But God doesn’t think this is a laughing matter. He is serious about finally providing them with their promised child. In a remarkable exchange with Abraham regarding Sarah’s unbelief, God asks Abraham.

Is anything too hard for the Lord? ”” (Ge 18:14a)

The answer to God’s question is important not only for Abraham but us as well. God’s ability to fulfill His promise to Abraham either confirms or denies His power and abilities. Power and abilities we place our hope in today. For if God can’t provide a child to a childless woman beyond childbearing age, how could He ever raise us from the grave, provide us with a glorified body, and return the world to an Edenic state?

How do we know nothing is too hard for God?

Think about who our God is for a moment.

He is our Creator

Genesis 1 tells us that God created everything that you see, including you and me. The way God creates is much different than how we create. God doesn’t need raw materials or tools. He doesn’t have to set up a factory or an assembly line. Instead, God is able to create something from nothing just by speaking.

Imagine being able to say I want a new car, and there is one in the garage. Or I would like my dream home, and there it is. Or I want the next, next iPhone, and it is right there in your pocket. Imagine being able to create something from nothing, just by speaking, like God does.

In case you are wondering, we know this is how God creates because we have Genesis chapter 1. As you work through that chapter, you see the constant refrain, “And God said,”; “And God said”. Over and over again, we read those words before we read of something else He created. As we do, we are reminded of just how powerful our God is.

He is our Sustainer

Jesus, who is God, does the impossible task of holding everything together. Paul in Colossians 1:17 confirms this when he says,

And he is before all things [speaking of Jesus], and in him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17)

You see, the reason the universe functions as it does. The reason everything doesn’t spin out of control. The reason we don’t cease to exist is because God is sustaining it all. Every atom, every particle is sustained by God.

He is our Healer

Lepers, blind men, those who are lame and deaf, those who are dying or dead, Jesus healed them all. Doing what is impossible just by a touch or word.

He is our Savior 

The way that God saves is contrary to how we might imagine someone saving us. God doesn’t use political or military might. He doesn’t use money or technology. Instead, He uses a dying Messiah. Something that, if we are honest with ourselves, doesn’t make much sense.

But with God, that which seems foolish is actually wise. Consider what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 about God’s wisdom in using a crucified Messiah,

“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Co 1:22–25)

So our God not only creates, sustains, and heals, but He also saves. He does so in a way that reveals His wisdom and might.

Nothing is Impossible with God

When you consider all these things, I think it is safe to say that nothing is impossible for God. If God wants Sarah to have a baby, even if it is physiologically impossible for her to have one, then she is going to have one. Likewise, if God wants to heal us of a disease, extend our life a few more years, provide us with a job, spouse, or child, then it’s going to happen.

We shouldn’t doubt His abilities. Instead, we should trust God to do the impossible in our lives, in our families, in our community, and in our nation. Nothing is too hard for God!

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you believe God can do the impossible?
  2. How should our knowledge that God can do the impossible affect the way we live?

Resources

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Posted adapted from my sermon: Is There Anything that is Too Hard for God? which you can listen to here.

On the Power of God

If one wished to contend with him (God),
one could not answer him once in a thousand times.
He is wise in heart and mighty in strength
—who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?—
he who removes mountains, and they know it not,
when he overturns them in his anger,
who shakes the earth out of its place,
and its pillars tremble;
who commands the sun, and it does not rise;
who seals up the stars;
who alone stretched out the heavens
and trampled the waves of the sea;
who made the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the chambers of the south;
10  who does great things beyond searching out,
and marvelous things beyond number.
11  Behold, he passes by me, and I see him not;
he moves on, but I do not perceive him.
12  Behold, he snatches away; who can turn him back?
Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?’

Question for Reflection

  1. Have you tried contending with God? If so, what did you discover?

Resources

Job 9:3-12

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