Reflections: Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Daily Lectionary: Exodus 4:19-31; Mark 15:16-32

And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.” (Exodus 4:21)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Wait, what? The Lord is the one who hardened Pharaoh’s heart, who brought about the lack of faith, who brought the ten plagues against Egypt. That doesn’t sound like good news at all. How can a good, gracious, and loving God harden Pharaoh’s (or anyone’s) heart? 

It is the will of God that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, as 1 Timothy 2:4 says. Yet not only does God allow people to disbelieve His promises and truth, He Himself even hardened Pharaoh’s heart. So where do you stand? Has God hardened your heart? What about others who don’t believe in God’s Name? Is that God’s fault, or their fault? 

Luther’s Small Catechism gives a good answer to this regarding the Third Article of the Apostles Creed:  “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” The Holy Spirit has called YOU to faith, enlightened YOU with His gifts, sanctified and kept YOU in the faith. What the Holy Spirit does for you He also does for the whole Church. There’s nothing here about Pharaoh or those who don’t believe, because that’s not your business. That’s God’s business to deal with in His righteousness and justice. You are called simply to believe in His Name, to confess your sins before Jesus Christ who intercedes for you before the Father, and to confess that faith in the Triune God in love to your neighbors. 

Is your heart hard? Even though you are fully and completely a sinner (just like Moses who didn’t circumcise his children in accordance with God’s commands), your heart has been softened by the Holy Spirit who has called you as God’s own. You are also completely one of God’s saints. Jesus Christ was crucified for you to see to your holiness and perfection. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. 

O Holy Spirit, you have called, gathered, and enlightened me with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sanctify and keep me in that Gospel always, until Jesus’ return in glory and the everlasting Kingdom, through the same Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.

-Rev. Peter Ill is pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Millstadt, IL.

Audio Reflections Speaker: Rev. Duane Bamsch

Learn more about your favorite hymns and find the deeper meaning behind the text with Eternal Anthems: The Story Behind Your Favorite Hymns. The book includes devotional commentary and historical facts from forty different contributing authors on fifty different hymns. Now available from Concordia Publishing House.