Forcing Faith

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You shouldn’t expect regenerate behaviour from unregenerate people.

You can’t mandate righteousness.

You can’t force people to believe as you do.

This is a truth that many forget.

Moses might have liked to have Pharaoh fall into line with God’s plans to rescue the Hebrews from slavery and establish their own nation. But Pharaoh did not believe in the God of the Hebrews so why would he obey Him? There were times when pagan rulers DID acknowledge the God of the Jews and order things to happen that went against their own best interests and that of their people even though they themselves did not believe. But in those circumstances, it was a God-driven initiative that came from within, not a force from without yielding a stick big enough to demand obedience.

In Pharaoh’s case, God had some business to complete with Egypt that required their resistance to Moses’ request. In Exodus 7 the Lord says to Moses: “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it” (vss. 3-5).

So Moses presents himself before Pharaoh to demand that the King of Egypt release God’s people knowing that Pharaoh will not do it. He will not do it, not because God is not powerful enough to change his mind and inspire him to give in to Moses’ request, but rather because God must judge the evil that the Egyptians have perpetrated against His people over the course of four hundred years.

But it is important to note that Pharaoh will reach a point where it is no longer him who chooses to defy God, but God who makes sure that he will make no other choice but to defy Him. By the time we get to Exodus 9, it is no longer Pharaoh who “…hardened his heart” but God who hardened it for him (7:3; 9:12).

There is a point of no return, a point where judgment is inevitable.

In our context it is often the world that seeks to impose its standards on those who believe. Many of us protest. Some makes demands, insisting that those in authority do things our way, according to what we believe. Sometimes the shoe gets transferred to the other political foot and the powers-that-be seek to impose more Biblical standards on those who hold opposing views.

But the power that leads to real change cannot be imposed. True change doesn't come at the point of a fist. It must come from within. It must come from the Spirit of God at work in the hearts of men. It must be rooted in repentance and faith. This is why the faithful explaining of the Gospel, the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, believers living as Jesus did, and consistent, persistent prayer are of greater importance that anything else we can do.

Following Moses’ example, we do need to present the truth to those in authority over us. But we do so with the understanding that even if we can force compliance to our demands, we can’t force faith. True faith must be planted and fed by Someone much more persuasive than we are. And we must understand that God may want the cup of evil to be filled to the brim in order that He bring judgment down on those who refuse to listen, not to our pleas, but to His.

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