44. Redeeming the Firstborn

Meditations in Exodus: 44. Redeeming the Firstborn

Ex 13:1,2   The LORD said to Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal.”

We come to yet another passage that may seem strange to us but which contains great significance. We will be considering verses 1 to 16 which is divided as follows:

v.1,2  Consecration instructions for the firstborn

v.3-10 Reiterating the instructions to celebrate the feast

v.11-13 Instructions to redeem the firstborn

v.14-16 Explanation for future generations

So the first and third parts: the Lord’s first instruction is to, Consecrate to me every firstborn male.” (v.2) To consecrate means to set aside as holy. We immediately remember that we are talking about a group of people (and animals) here who were spared when the destroying angel passed over the land. It was only the firstborn males in every Egyptian home who died and these eldest sons in the Hebrew families are to be considered as special, the ‘spared ones’.

To emphasise their special-ness and act as a reminder in the future, they are to ‘redeem’ or buy back from God these first-born sons of every future generation: “After the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as he promised on oath to you and your forefathers, you are to give over to the LORD the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the LORD. Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons.” (v.11-13)

The instruction is specific about place and time – when they are in Canaan in the future. The extent of the redemption is stated – to include flocks as well as sons. Failure to redeem the beast means its destruction. This law is repeated in Ex 34:20 and in Numbers the amount of the redemption money is set: When they are a month old, you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.” (Num 18:16)

Perhaps we would do well to turn to the last part next, the explanation for this law. In days to come, when your son asks you, `What does this mean?’ say to him, `With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.” (v.14-16) The redemption act was to be part of the overall feast – Passover and Unleavened Bread, and naturally children would ask why their father was doing it and he would tell them what had happened and how God had destroyed every first-born Egyptian but spared every first-born Hebrew who were then considered to be His. To figuratively get them back from God, the father then paid each year this redemption fee as a constant reminder of what God had done and who they now were.

All of this was to be integral in the details of the Feast, hence the instructions of verses 3 to 10 coming between the instructions to consecrate and the instruction to redeem. It comes as instruction from Moses to his people to commemorate this day every year as a reminder of this deliverance (v.3,4) and they are to do it every year once they are in the Promised Land (v.5).  It is to be a seven-day feast where there is to be no yeast in their bread (v.6,7) and they are to tell their children it is a reminder of what the Lord did for them (v.8). Although the Jews took this instruction literally the word ‘like’ indicates the sense or purpose of what they were doing – a constant reminder ever year (v.9,10)

The strong injunctions to remember each and every year at this same time what had happened is an acknowledgment by the Lord that human beings have a tendency to forget. The picture language in all that we have been considering declares the truth to future generations in ways that are easily explained. The focus was put on the firstborn son – to be consecrated, given over to God, and acknowledged that he belonged to God, and then redeemed so he could be bought back by the family to be an ongoing part of their family life – and focused the mind on the reality that he only lived by the mercy of God who spared him in the destruction of that night in Egypt. The fact that future generations had to do it was a declaration or reminder that they too only lived by the mercy of God, they only existed as a unique people because God had redeemed them from Egypt (Ex 6:6). That was how significant the Passover was.

Now we have already applied all this into the New Testament and the death of God’s lamb, Jesus Christ. When we ‘come to Christ’ we so often say we surrender our lives to God for Him to be our Lord as well as our Saviour (He cannot save us unless we let Him be Lord) but what we are doing there is consecrating ourselves, or giving ourselves over to God so that we belong to Him. However, there is no ‘buying us back’ from Him as the Israelites did, we are His full stop. Indeed, we are adopted into His family and because His Holy Spirit indwells us, we are one with Him, and this applies not merely to first-born sons but every person who becomes a child of God, men, women and children. For us, our reminder is not once a year but every time we celebrate ‘the Lord’s Supper’ or ‘Communion’, being reminded of the wonder that is the Son of God dying for us as God’s lamb who took away our sin. Hallelujah!

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41. Tenth Plague – Firstborn

Meditations in Exodus: 41. Tenth Plague – Firstborn

Ex 12:29.30   At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

Imagine the street where you live (assuming you know the people who live there). Imagine the families; some have young children, some have teenagers, and others have those who can no longer be called ‘children’ for they have been to Uni, come home again, maybe even got a job and were in the process of setting up a home of their own. One morning you hear the sound of an ambulance, and then another and another. All up and down the street there has been a terrible inexplicable ‘plague’ and every single eldest boy in the family is dead. There is absolute mayhem.

Now I put this plague into a modern setting like this because if we have read Exodus before we may become blasé about the nature of what was happening. Perhaps we have almost become conditioned by the previous plagues – it’s just another plague. No, it isn’t ‘just’ another’ plague, it is something that hits every single family that has male children. If a family only had daughters they might be thankful they had no sons for their neighbours were in absolute crisis. Only yesterday, given in the notices in church, the death of a child – we believe by suicide probably – of a family no longer with us but who we know. The announcement was given in sombre tones and a silence fell on the room as we felt for the parents. Multiply that a thousand fold or tens of thousands perhaps, and you have what is happening in Egypt at this moment.

Now, as we started out looking at the actual plagues, I reminded us of God’s words through Ezekiel: Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezek 18:23) and then, “I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezek 18:32) and then there is also, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die?” (Ex 33:11)  Three times Ezekiel heard that same message which is born out elsewhere in the Bible.

Now I am in the process of writing a book (not yet complete) called, “The Judgments of a Loving God”, in which I investigate every judgment of God in the whole Bible. The vast majority of judgments I call ‘disciplinary judgments’ because they do not end in death and are designed to bring about change of behaviour. The other judgments that end in death I call ‘terminal judgments’ but as I explored this subject more and more, I came to see that perhaps a better description of such judgments as this one  is a ‘judgment of the last resort’, i.e. God only take life if there is no other action that will remedy or correct a situation to save the earth, save a people from other destruction; God steps in to surgically limit the damage to the world.

Now this particular judgment is unusual in that it discriminates between people. The only ones whose lives are taken are eldest sons. No one else is touched, the vast majority of the nation are spared – but shattered! In writing the book I have also sought to consider what would have happened had this judgment NOT occurred. It is difficult to know because our knowledge of their times is limited, but let me suggest the following possibilities, and that is all they are:

  1. The superstitious religion of the day founded on fear would have continued to grow in power and even more ‘gods’ would have been dreamt up and even more terrible rituals promoted. As it was so often, it meant the sacrifice of a child.
  2. This same religion was occult based and the occult would have grown and grown in power accompanied by all the characteristics that go with the occult – denial of God, rejection of God for self-serving purposes, including the worship of Satan, fear and oppression

Now those would almost certainly be ongoing outworkings and somewhere along the line there would come almost certainly THE greatest negative of all that was going on in Egypt when Moses arrived:

3. Pharaoh would eventually turn on Moses and Israel and destroy them in large numbers if not completely. The Bible shows us that Satan is out to destroy God’s people and this would almost certainly have come about if left.

So, I would suggest, as terrible as this judgment is, it is restrained in as far as the majority of the population are untouched, and yet it is sufficiently horrific to have the desired effect, of bringing down the power of false religion and eventually the power of Pharaoh while bringing release for Israel.

The effect of this plague is instant: “During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the LORD as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me.” The Egyptians urged the people to hurry and leave the country. “For otherwise,” they said, “we will all die!” (v.31-33)  Pharaoh acts straight away and even the Egyptian people understand and urge them on their way. The haste of the Israelites is seen by what was later institutionalized in the feast: “So the people took their dough before the yeast was added, and carried it on their shoulders in kneading troughs wrapped in clothing.” (v.34) Moreover, “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.” (v.35,36)

And so it comes to an end – but not quite, there is a further act yet to be played out as we’ll see in the next meditations. Remember the ‘theology’ behind this plague and never let people say foolish or unwise things born out of ignorance about God: i) God does not like taking life. ii) Where He does take life (fairly rare in reality in the Bible in comparison to what could be) it is always an act of last resort to save His people or save the world from something worse. Our questions arise from the fact that we never have the full facts of the situation. God does, so trust His love and mercy – and seek to learn the full picture of what the Bible teaches.

30. First-born over all Creation

Meditations in Colossians: 30. First-born over all Creation

Col 1:15   He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born over all creation.

If we avoid thinking about fairly basic words or phrases, we surely do when we come to a more difficult one as we have above. Whatever does it mean when it says that Jesus is “the firstborn over all creation”?   Well the idea of the firstborn being special comes up throughout the Old Testament. The use of first born in respect of Jesus is fairly limited. We have, And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Heb 1:6) and a few verses on from our present one, Paul says of Jesus, “he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead,” (v.18) In the book of Revelation we find a similar reference: “Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead.” (Rev 1:5) However these latter two references are clearly in respect of Jesus’ resurrection but our present reference has nothing to do with that. At first sight we might say it is nearer the Heb 1:6 reference.

As we did once before, I find it is sometimes helpful to see what the paraphrase versions or other translations say about a verse. Here is a selection: he existed before creation began.” (JBP). “He existed before God made anything at all.” (Living). “We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created.”  (Message reflecting more the following context). “Christ lived before anything was made.”  (NKJV). What these various versions say is that the translators struggle to comprehend Paul’s words at this point.

So what can we say. He is the “firstborn”. Very well, before anything else there was just ‘God’ and then He expressed Himself in another form, that of ‘a son’ The early church struggled with this idea. Did God ‘make’ Jesus so he was a lesser being?  Did Jesus come out of the ‘Father’ so he was an expression of Him?  Remember, we’ve seen that John especially clearly identifies Jesus ‘as God’ in his Gospel, as do others. It is interesting to look at the early creeds.

The Apostles Creed (Orig. AD140) starts, “I believe in God almighty, And in Christ Jesus, his only Son, our Lord, Who was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary.” That didn’t really touch the question. It wasn’t yet being challenged.

The Nicene Creed (AD325) says of Jesus, “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.”  Here they were struggling to go deeper. Begotten simply means ‘born of’ or ‘comes out of’.

Much later the Athanasian Creed went into it in great depth. Here are some snippets: “Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. ….. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. …. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.”

We suppose therefore, that “first-born over all creation” means first born in that he was the first expression of the Father before anything else, before the Creation itself, in which the Son played a part, which we shall see in future studies. The Trinity is a mystery. We describe it as three persons in one but how that works in detail is still a mystery. In that the Son ‘came out of’ the Father, the Bible shows him in submission to the Father. Paul wrote on this: For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:25-28)

In as much as there are different roles within different expressions of the Godhead, The Father, being supreme, has given all things to Jesus to rule over until a time comes to wind up everything, when the Son hands it back to the Father so that God is supreme over all things.  The Message version nicely puts the end of the above quote, When everything and everyone is finally under God’s rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God’s rule is absolutely comprehensive.”

Again the Living version of the above verses is also good: “For Christ will be King until he has defeated all his enemies, including the last enemy—death. This too must be defeated and ended. For the rule and authority over all things has been given to Christ by his Father; except, of course, Christ does not rule over the Father himself, who gave him this power to rule.  When Christ has finally won the battle against all his enemies, then he, the Son of God, will put himself also under his Father’s orders, so that God who has given him the victory over everything else will be utterly supreme.”

The ‘first-born of creation’ raises Jesus Christ, the Son of God higher than anyone or anything in all of existence. No wonder in heaven there is equal worship for Father and Son: To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Rev 5:13)  Hallelujah!

19. Ownership?

Lessons from Israel: No.19 : Ownership?

Ex 13:1,2 The LORD said to Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal.”

When we come to this next chapter, there appears this particular claim by God on the lives of certain children. Let’s examine it and see why and what are the implications. This, of course, follows the last of the ten plagues whereby every firstborn male in every family across Egypt died in God’s judgment on this land. “So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. (Ex 11:4,5) This death toll had thus been entirely inclusive – no family escaped – except those who followed the Lord’s instructions and who killed a lamb and put its blood on the doorposts of their homes. That night of the Passover saw a dead body in every home; either a first born son or a lamb.

Now why the first born son? We aren’t told specifically so we must speculate. First the question, why not every single Egyptian? There were other times in Israel’s history when the command was going to come to slaughter every person and as one theologian has commented, the big question is not why God judges but why He doesn’t wipe us all off this planet. If we were master beings and were growing creatures in a laboratory and we saw that they started turning on each other and killing each other, we would cull them and quite happily destroy the aberrant ones, but God doesn’t seem to do that much of the time; He seems to give second chance after second chance as we’ve noted in a previous meditation. It is a sign of His mercy and His desire to bring Egypt to their senses that He only takes the first born.

But why the first born? Well, as we said, we can only speculate, but is it because all the hopes and dreams and pride of a family are wrapped up in the first born? Why males only and not firstborn girls? Perhaps it is because in that period men were clearly dominant and were seen as the name bearers of the next generation. Even today the woman usually takes the man’s surname at marriage. So in taking the first born from every family, the Lord was taking their hopes, their dreams and their pride. For the rest of their years the survivors would remember that they had been a humbled generation.

Now when we come to the Israelites they still have their first born, but it is only by the grace and mercy of God and so the Lord lays claim to their lives. Does He really want them? Probably no more than He wants the hearts of all His people, but He wants them to remember this, that they still have their hopes and dreams for the future and their pride and family name, purely by the mercy of God. The killing of a lamb was not magical and had no power in itself, but it was an act of faith by the Israelites. That was all they contributed to the salvation of their children. Their children were alive because God, in His mercy, had given them a way to avoid premature death.

Verses 3 to 10 that immediately follow refer back to the Feast of Unleavened Bread which in turn refers back to the exodus after the Passover. The consecrating of the first born comes immediately before that and immediately after it in verses 11 to 13. It is to be seen as all linked together, and then the following verses again were instructions on how to tell the future generations about it when they asked what this meant. The ‘consecrating’ or setting aside as holy to God of the first born son was a reminder or acknowledgement that their lives had been spared by the mercy of God and they owed their hopes, dreams and family name to Him. They were what they were; they were still families, because God in His mercy had made it so.

Do we, I wonder, view ourselves similarly? Do we who are Christians see that our lives belong to God because it is only the grace and mercy of God that allows us a future? All our hopes and dreams are wrapped in our salvation that has come because The Lamb of God was slain in our place. There is a very practical outworking of all this, as the apostle Paul was to see: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.” (Rom 6:13) We too, he was saying, have been saved from eternal death and given eternal life and so we belong to God. Later in the same book he reiterated it even more clearly: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Rom 12:1). Did you see that? “In view of God’s mercy.” That is the key!  God’s mercy means that now we have been saved we belong to Him. Is that how we see our bodies?

16. Picture Teaching

Lessons from Israel: No.16 : God of Picture Teaching

Ex 12:1-3 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2″This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. 3Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.

We are about to see something take place which becomes very common in following chapters and books – the Lord painting pictures to convey great truths for future generations. First of all in this chapter we are going to see historical events but these events involve very graphic teaching. This chapter is all about the Passover which involved the last of the ten plagues. Pharaoh has refused to listen to Moses and indeed after the previous one, the ninth plague, we find, Pharaoh said to Moses, “Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.” (Ex 10:27,28). In other words he shut the door on Moses and would hear nothing more from him. He himself stopped the Lord giving him any more chances.

So before Moses finally leaves Pharaoh’s presence he brings one last word to him: “So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.” (Ex 11:4,5) That is the final judgment on this people. That has been spoken and it will come to pass, but the way it comes to pass conveys a great truth through a very graphic means.

The picture starts with a lamb as our verses today show us: “on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household.” (v.3) which is then described, i.e. its quality is laid down: “The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.” (v.5) i.e. young and in good condition; no getting rid of your old or scrawny ones! Next comes the instructions of what they are to do with these lambs or kids: “Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight. Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.” (v.6,7)

That part is very significant in the light of what follows:  “On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn–both men and animals–and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (v.12,13) In other words the blood would only be there as the result of an act of faith on the part of the Israelites, but from God’s side it would be a recognizable sign for the Lord’s angel that these homes were indeed part of the faith community and should be left untouched.

Observe the picture: a lamb is slain as a means of averting the judgment of God. The killing of the lamb is an act of faith by those who want to be part of the people of God, who want God to deliver them out of a bad place into a good place. And then we come to the New Testament and find, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn 1:29). Note the description of Jesus – the Lamb of God. Then at the Last Supper: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:28). Finally observe the description of Jesus before the throne in heaven in the book of Revelation:Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.” (Rev 5:6) and the song that was sung to him: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” (Rev 5:9). This is the work of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the One provided by God to act as the redeeming sacrifice so that the judgment of God would be averted.

How do we become those who escape the judgment of God that comes on all sin? We put to death the Lamb, God’s prescribed means of us being forgiven and cleansed of our sin. We declare, Jesus died for me; I believe in him as my redeemer, my lamb, who takes away my sin and averts the judgment of God for me. That is the power of the picture here in Exodus – the Passover – it saved them from the angel of judgment and so now today THE Lamb saves me from the angel of judgment!  In many places in Scripture we come across many such pictures which we sometimes refer to as ‘types’. The Passover was a type, or picture, of the salvation that comes through Jesus. We will no doubt see many more of these ‘types’ before we finish these studies in the lesson learnt from observing Israel with God.

11. God of Judgment

Lessons from Israel: No.11 : God of Judgment

Ex 4:21-23 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. 22Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’

Possibly in no other area of understanding of Christian doctrine is there such misunderstanding as in respect of the subject of God’s judgment. Let’s see what the verses above say, and then look more broadly at judgment. We have here a summary of the Lord’s instructions: Moses is to go to Pharaoh and do what God leads and empowers him to do, but Pharaoh will reject his pleas and as a result God will take the life of Pharaoh’s first son. We need to look briefly at the individual elements of this summary.

First there are the ‘wonders’ that Moses will do. We have seen briefly the miracle of the changing staff but there was also the miracle of the leprous hand and water into blood (Ex 4:6-9) which we didn’t examine. But of course when we see the whole story we see that these ‘wonders’ are the ten ‘plagues’ that the Lord was going to bring on Egypt, but at the moment He hasn’t mentioned these specifically to Moses. Simply note that the will of God is often only revealed as we walk it out.

But then the Lord says He will harden Pharaoh’s heart. What does that mean and why does He say He will do it? Well, if you read through the following chapters you will see a number of references to Pharaoh’s hardening of heart. To simply summarise what you will read, the truth was that Pharaoh, as a proud man, already had a hard heart that was resistant to the Lord and all that would happen is that every time he was confronted by Moses it would simply harden his heart even more. Every time he was challenged by Moses, his resolve against the Israelites would be strengthened even more.

So why did the Lord bring these ‘judgments’ on Pharaoh and on Egypt? Well if you observe the ten ‘plagues’ you will see that they increase in intensity or severity each time and they are clearly opportunities for Pharaoh and Egypt to repent and come to their senses. God could have judged them in one almighty go from the outset but instead He chose to bring gradual judgments to Egypt so that Egypt could learn and turn. At any point in this monumental tussle, Pharaoh could have given in and that would have been the end of it – no more plagues, but he didn’t and so the plagues carried on getting gradually worse and worse. Now let’s reiterate what we said just now: the Lord could have brought one single, totally destructive judgment in one go but instead He wanted to give chance after chance to Egypt. How many times do you give chances to your disobedient children before you bring discipline?

If you think God is a ‘hard man’ (see Mt 25:24), think again. John, in his first letter, declares, “God is love (1 Jn 4:8,16). Ezekiel spoke for God, Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezek 18:23) and if we didn’t take it in the first time, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezek 18:32).

In the New Testament, we find a similar thing: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9). What is the Gospel if it is not all about God saving people from judgment: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:16,17).

So why does judgment come? Why is it warned about? It is because it is the alternative that follows rebellion and disobedience but it only comes after many warnings and it comes, ultimately, at the choice of the recipients of it. When God has warned again and again and again, it is down to those being warned to take responsibility for what comes. We are quite happy with this when we see this in practical everyday life. When doctors warn again and again that smoking causes cancer, we are not at all surprised when a smoker gets cancer. When doctors warn about STDs we are not at all surprised when some one living a sexually promiscuous life contracts a sexually transmitted disease and suffers the consequences of that. The same could be said about alcohol or drug abuse. We understand when Paul wrote, “A man reaps what he sows,” (Gal 6:7), because we know that that is how it works. What the old nature doesn’t like is when something is attributed specifically to God. We fail to remember it is NOT what God wants, but that sometimes it is all He is left with if He is to restrain sin and save the rest of the human race.

Please see it clearly. God is essentially going to say to Pharaoh, “Don’t do this or you’re going to get hurt. Please don’t do this. Please don’t do this, please…..” and Pharaoh in his stupidity is going to reject Him. Please don’t steal or you’ll go to prison. Please don’t shoot at the police otherwise you will be killed. So, come on, why do we have these silly ideas about God’s judgment? Perhaps because it is because we have been listening to a liar? Check it out!