Do we make void the law through faith?

“Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law?” (Romans 3:31, KJV)

In our theological training we were encouraged to come with our own translation/reading. For me that would be: The law, then, is nullified through the faith? No way! Instead, the law is confirmed.

As usual in Paul’s writing, he uses a lot the dialogue, either with an imaginary interlocutor or with his readers. In this case, he just goes ahead of himself, trying to meet his reader’s first idea.

We all come with prejudices when reading the Bible text, and what we know, what we were taught comes to our mind more rapidly than a disposition to get a brand new reading for an insight or a fresh idea. For us, “making void the law” would mean to take away the law and live without a law by which our deeds would be sanctioned. The Christians would call it live by grace, not by law.

As for some Christians this is the Gospel – the Good News -, for the Jews the idea was all the way despicable and even frightful since doing away with God’s law was the opening way to law’s curse – the Bad News. For some SDAs (me included), the faith Paul spoke here as the reinforcement of the (same) law as it was understood by Jews was the unfortunate way we got it and preached to others. May I regretfully say that the Jews were bad without Jesus. While we, as Christians and Adventists, having Jesus, are worse when we emphasize the law without Christ…

For Paul, instead, it is a remembrance of his own history – and we can read it in between the lines. We know how he persecuted the Christians due to his perceiving that they were blaspheming the truth of God, law being included. Later he became one of them, unfortunately not rightly understood by his fellow Jews – read for example the cry against him „Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against the people and the law…” (Acts 21:28).

The immediate thought following Paul’s reasoning of v. 21-30, introduced by „then” (as a conclusion) is that faith nullifies the law. So, being one step ahead, Paul already has thought about it. He dares to ask it before someone else does. Thus he not only shows he is not taken by surprise, but, again, courageously addresses what would be his opponents’ most impressive and logical argument.

The answer he gives in the first place is not the explanation, but just meeting the question. As he answers „no way” is obvious that, if anyone understood it as a positive assertion, it’s all the way wrong. His first answer ranges (may be translated) from „not at all” or „far from it”, to „no way” and „impossible”, to „God forbid” (or even „sorry, but you didn’t get it”).

The sequence of question and answer seems logical, although we are disturbed by the negative answer. And then comes the real question: how is that possible? How is it possible to be considered righteous without the law? How can we establish, confirm, stand by the law when we go by faith? Are they not fighting with each other, are they not something like “either or”?

The answer comes by the next paragraphs, when, quoting not the law, but instead the history of his people and the psalms, Paul finds and extracts the same meaning. Checking with their most appreciated ancestor’s experience, Abraham, Paul demonstrates he was considered righteous without (that is before) having a law. As for the Psalmist, he praises as blessed the one forgiven by God without the law, without having some kind of deeds to boast about.

The whole dilemma resides in the meaning of the law. The law was given to show you God’s character, to teach you how to live according to His will, to show you how you are. In other words the law was given to show you who God is and who you are, fortunately both in the same time. So, the law was given to bring you to your knees and admit your shortcomings, no matter the request.

Accordingly, a real confirming of the law would be done by two avenues: you either keep the law, all of it (and only Jesus did that), or you come to God with your faults, saying that you cannot do it, and thus you give God credit for His Jesus solution, for His plan of salvation . As Paul demonstrated that we are all sinners, coming short of God’s glory, and thus being under the law’s curse, then Jesus is the only solution, and faith is the only avenue to get righteous.

Understood as presented, Paul’s assumption that we confirm the law (no doubt, at this point the Jews would either cry for blasphemy or check for stones) is indeed more insightful than ever. A faith manifested as desired by God would mean to ask God for his forgiveness, as man admits he is not able to meet His standards. And that is the right moment when God can say „yes, you do keep the law”, or „yes, you understand my character” and so, „yes, you are declared righteous”.

The faith we are asked to express is the way God wants us to come to Him, without the law, to fulfill the law. This is both mind boggling and eye-opener. How is it possible to be considered righteous without the law? How can we establish, confirm, stand by the law when we go by faith? By coming to God as we really are, we discover God as He really is.

Anunțuri

Cele Zece Porunci înainte de Sinai

Cititorii Bibliei știu că Cele Zece Porunci au fost date la Sinai, după ieșirea poporului Israel din Egipt. În primă fază, aceste porunci au fost aduse la cunoștința poporului în formă orală, fiind rostite de Însuși Dumnezeu (Exodul 20:1; vezi și v. 19) de pe înălțimea muntelui. Mai apoi, ele au fost aduse înaintea poporului în formă scrisă, de asemenea fiind inscripționate în piatră de Însuși Dumnezeu (Exodul 24:12; 34:1).

Aceste porunci au fost însă cunoscute de patriarhi, și înainte și după Potop, după cum vor arăta textele de mai jos.

Merită observat că, înainte de darea legii la Sinai, Dumnezeu i-a pus la probă pe evrei. Astfel, atunci când le-a dat mana din cer, în șase zile căzând mană și în a șaptea nu, Dumnezeu a spus lui Moise că face acest lucru poporului: „ca să-l pun la încercare și să văd dacă va umbla sau nu după Legea Mea” (Exodul 16:4). Era o lege ce urma să le fie dată sau una pe care o știau, dar o uitaseră, iar acum urma să le fie reamintită? Un răspuns clar găsim în același capitol, când Dumnezeu Se exprimă aproape exasperat: „Până când aveți de gând să nu păziți poruncile și legile Mele?” (Exodul 16:28).

Fără îndoială că legile lui Dumnezeu erau cunoscute din vremea patriarhilor – vezi aprecierea pe care i-o face Dumnezeu lui Avraam:

„Avraam a ascultat de porunca Mea și a păzit ce i-am cerut, a păzit poruncile Mele, orânduirile Mele și legile Mele.” (Geneza 26:5)

Lot a știut că homosexualitatea este o fărădelege (Geneza 19:7). Beția lui Noe a fost un păcat pentru care au plătit mai departe (Geneza 9:21,25). Noe a știut despre animale curate și necurate cu mult înainte de legea ceremonială din vremea lui Moise (Geneza 7:2; Leviticul 11). Poligamia lui Lameh, urmaș al lui Cain, a fost de asemenea un păcat (Geneza 4:23). Mergând mai înapoi în istorie, fără îndoială că poruncile au fost știute și în cer, pentru că Domnul Isus spune despre Satana: „El de la început a fost ucigaș […] este mincinos și tatăl minciunii” (Ioan 8:44). De asemenea, în Apocalipsa găsim pe Satana prezentat drept „acela care înșală întreaga lume”, începând cu Eva și Adam (Apocalipsa 12:9; Geneza 3:13).

Să urmărim deci, prin câteva versete, modul în care poruncile lui Dumnezeu au fost știute, ascultate sau încălcate, înainte de momentul când au fost făcute cunoscute înaintea evreilor adunați la Muntele Sinai.

 

Porunca întâi

Exodul 20:2 – „Eu Sunt Domnul, Dumnezeul tău, care te-a scos din ţara Egiptului, din casa robiei. Să nu ai alţi dumnezei în afară de Mine.”

  • Geneza 5:24 – „Enoh a umblat cu Dumnezeu”
  • Exodul 3:6 – „Eu sunt Dumnezeul tatălui tău, Dumnezeul lui Avraam, Dumnezeul lui Isaac și Dumnezeul lui Iacov”
  • Exodul 12:12 – „voi face judecată împotriva tuturor zeilor Egiptului”

Porunca a doua

Exodul 20:4-6 – „Să nu-ţi faci chip cioplit, nici vreo înfăţişare a lucrurilor care sunt sus în ceruri sau jos pe pământ sau în apele mai de jos decât pământul. Să nu te închini înaintea lor şi să nu le slujeşti; căci Eu, Domnul, Dumnezeul tău, sunt un Dumnezeu gelos, care pedepsesc nelegiuirea părinţilor în copii până la al treilea şi la al patrulea neam al celor ce Mă urăsc, şi Mă îndur până la al miilea neam de cei ce Mă iubesc şi păzesc poruncile Mele.”

  • Geneza 31:19 – „Rahela a furat idolii tatălui ei”
  • Geneza 31:30-35 – „de ce mi-ai furat dumnezeii mei?”
  • Geneza 35:2-4 – „scoateți dumnezeii străini care sunt în mijlocul vostru”
  • Exodul 3:6 – „Moise și-a ascuns fața, căci se temea să-L privească pe Dumnezeu”
  • Exodul 12:12 – „voi face judecată împotriva tuturor zeilor Egiptului”

Porunca a treia

Exodul 20:7 – „Să nu iei în deşert Numele Domnului, Dumnezeului tău; căci Domnul nu va lăsa nepedepsit pe cel ce va lua în deşert Numele Lui.”

  • Geneza 4:26 – „atunci au început oamenii să cheme numele Domnului”
  • Geneza 24:3 – „te voi pune să juri pe Domnul, Dumnezeul cerului și Dumnezeu pământului”
  • Exodul 5:2 – „Cine este Domnul ca să ascult de glasul Lui?…”

Porunca a patra

Exodul 20:8-11 – „Adu-ţi aminte de ziua de odihnă, ca s-o sfinţeşti. Să lucrezi şase zile şi să-ţi faci lucrul tău. Dar ziua a şaptea este ziua de odihnă închinată Domnului, Dumnezeului tău: să nu faci nici o lucrare în ea, nici tu, nici fiul tău, nici fiica ta, nici robul tău, nici roaba ta, nici vita ta, nici străinul care este în casa ta. Căci în şase zile a făcut Domnul cerurile, pământul şi marea, şi tot ce este în ele, iar în ziua a şaptea S-a odihnit; de aceea a binecuvântat Domnul ziua de odihnă şi a sfinţit-o.”

  • Geneza 2:2-3 – „Dumnezeu a binecuvântat ziua a șaptea și a sfințit-o”
  • Exodul 16:23 – „Domnul a poruncit așa. Mâine este ziua de odihnă, Sabatul închinat Domnului”
  • Exodul 16:28 – „Vedeți că Domnul v-a dat Sabatul”

Porunca a cincea

Exodul 20:12 – „Cinsteşte pe tatăl tău şi pe mama ta, ca să ţi se lungească zilele în ţara pe care ţi-o dă Domnul, Dumnezeul tău.”

  • Geneza 9:22 – „Ham, tatăl lui Canaan, a văzut goliciunea tatălui său și a spus…”
  • Geneza 19:32 – „Vino să punem pe tatăl nostru să bea vin și să ne culcăm cu el”
  • Geneza 26:34-35 – „[nevestele lui Esau] au fost o pricină de mare amărăciune pentru Isaac și Rebeca”
  • Geneza 35:22 – „Ruben s-a dus și s-a culcat cu Bilha, țiitoarea tatălui său. Și Israel a aflat”
  • Geneza 49:4 – „[Ruben] tu nu vei mai avea întâietatea. Căci te-ai suit în patul tatălui tău. Mi-ai spurcat patul suindu-te în el”

Porunca a șasea

Exodul 6:13 – „Să nu ucizi”

  • Geneza 4:8 – „Cain s-a ridicat împotriva fratelui său Abel și l-a omorât”
  • Geneza 4:15 – „Domnul a hotărât un semn pentru Cain, ca oricine îl va găsi să nu-l omoare”
  • Geneza 27:41 – „Apoi am să ucid pe fratele meu, Iacov”
  • Geneza 37:26 – „Ce vom câștiga să ucidem pe fratele nostru?”

Porunca a șaptea

Exodul 20:14 – „Să nu preacurvești”

  • „Geneza 19:5 – „scoate-i afară la noi, ca să ne împreunăm cu ei”
  • Geneza 19:32 – „Vino să punem pe tatăl nostru să bea vin și să ne culcăm cu el”
  • Geneza 35:22 – „Ruben s-a dus și s-a culcat cu Bilha, țiitoarea tatălui său. Și Israel a aflat”
  • Geneza 34:2 – „[Sihem] a pus mâna pe ea, s-a culcat cu ea și a necinstit-o”
  • Geneza 38:24 – „Tamar, noră-ta, a curvit”
  • Geneza 39:7 – „[Iosif] n-a voit să se culce și să se împreuneze cu ea”
  • Geneza 49:4 – „[Ruben] tu nu vei mai avea întâietatea. Căci te-ai suit în patul tatălui tău. Mi-ai spurcat patul suindu-te în el”

Porunca a opta

Exodul 20:15 – „Să nu furi”

  • Geneza 31:7 – „Tatăl vostru m-a înșelat – de zece ori mi-a schimbat simbria”
  • Geneza 31:19 – „Rahela a furat idolii tatălui ei”
  • Geneza 31:30-35 – „de ce mi-ai furat dumnezeii mei?”
  • Geneza 44:5 – „De ce ați furat paharul din care bea domnul meu?”
  • Geneza 44:8 – „Cum am fi putut să furăm argint sau aur din casa domnului tău?”

Porunca a noua

Exodul 20:16 – „Să nu mărturisești strâmb împotriva aproapelui tău”

  • Geneza 12:18-19 – „Pentru ce nu mi-ai spus că este nevastă-ta? De ce ai zis: Este sora mea?”
  • Geneza 18:15 – „Sara a tăgăduit și a zis: N-am râs. Căci i-a fost frică. Dar El a zis: Ba da, ai râs.”
  • Geneza 20:2 – „[Avraam] s-a temut să spună că [Sara] este nevastă-sa”
  • Geneza 26:7 – „[Lui Isaac] îi era frică să spună că este nevastă-sa, ca să nu-l omoare”
  • Geneza 27:12 – „Voi trece drept mincinos înaintea lui”

Porunca a zecea

Exodul 20:17 – „Să nu pofteşti casa aproapelui tău; să nu pofteşti nevasta aproapelui tău, nici robul lui, nici roaba lui, nici boul lui, nici măgarul lui, nici vreun alt lucru care este al aproapelui tău.”

  • Geneza 3:6 – „Femeia a văzut că pomul era bun de mâncat și plăcut de privit […] de dorit”
  • Geneza 20:6 – „Știu și Eu că ai lucrat cu inimă curată, de aceea te-am și ferit să păcătuiești împotriva Mea. Iată de ce nu am îngăduit să te atingi de ea”
  • Geneza 27:36 – „M-a înșelat de două ori. Mi-a luat dreptul de întâi-născut și […] mi-a luat și binecuvântarea”

Să nu uităm că legea începe cu harul! „Eu sunt Domnul Dumnezeul tău care te-a scos din țara Egiptului, din casa robiei”. Așadar, Dumnezeu întâi a făcut pentru popor ceva, le-a dat viață și libertate, și apoi i-a cerut să-L asculte. Ascultarea poporului de legea lui Dumnezeu nu este altceva decât confirmarea faptului că L-au primit pe Dumnezeu.

Iar după ce Dumnezeu te scoate din casa robiei tale (pușcărie, droguri, vicii, relații nesănătoase etc.), apoi îți arată calea, adevărul și viața. Poruncile nu sunt interdicții „să nu cumva să…”, ci sunt mai degrabă direcții pentru o nouă viață în care: „tu nu vei ucide”, „tu nu vei fura”, „tu nu vei avea alți dumnezei”…

Închinare în duh și în adevăr

Întrebare: „Ce este aceea închinare în duh și în adevăr?”

 

Textul biblic

„Doamne” I-a zis femeia „văd că eşti proroc. Părinţii noştri s-au închinat pe muntele acesta; şi voi ziceţi că în Ierusalim este locul unde trebuie să se închine oamenii.”

„Femeie” i-a zis Isus „crede-Mă că vine ceasul când nu vă veţi închina Tatălui, nici pe muntele acesta, nici în Ierusalim. Voi vă închinaţi la ce nu cunoaşteţi; noi ne închinăm la ce cunoaştem, căci mântuirea vine de la Iudei. Dar vine ceasul, şi acum a şi venit, când închinătorii adevăraţi se vor închina Tatălui în duh şi în adevăr; fiindcă astfel de închinători doreşte şi Tatăl. Dumnezeu este Duh; şi cine se închină Lui, trebuie să I se închine în duh şi în adevăr.” (Ioan 4:19-24)

  • Ioan 4:19-24 (dialogul între Isus și o femeie samariteană)
  • Cu alte cuvinte, întrebarea femeii este: unde să ne închinăm, la noi sau la voi?
  • Isus răspunde: închinarea nu ține de loc, ci de atitudine și de adevăr.

 

Contextul biblic

 Care era relația dintre samariteni și evrei?

  • Luca 17:16-18 (cei zece leproși, dintre care doar samariteanul mulțumește)
  • Luca 10:37 (pilda samariteanului milos)
  • Ioan 8:48 (Isus este văzut ca samaritean și demonizat)
  • Ioan 4:49 (iudeii n-au legături cu samaritenii)
  • Ioan 4:40-41 (Isus stă în casă la samariteni, mănâncă cu ei).

 

Ce știm din Biblie despre Samaria?

  • 1 Împărați 11:33 (pe vremea împăraților, după domnia lui Solomon, țara s-a rupt în două. Motivul principal a fost apostazia)
  • 1 Împărați 11:26-40 (Roboam a rămas cu două seminții, iar Ieroboam a preluat zece seminții.
  • 1 Împărați 11:31 (împăratul Ieroboam conduce cele 10 seminții din nord, Israelul, în timp ce în sud rămâne Iuda)
  • 1 Împărați 12:25-33 (Ieroboam duce poporul în rătăcire: idoli/viței, preoți ai lui, sărbători inventate)
  • 1 Împărați 16:23-24 (Samaria devine cetatea-capitală a Israelului)

 

Căderea Samariei sub asirieni

  • 2 Împărați 17. (ultimul împărat al lui Israel, Osea, a fost luat prizonier de Salmanasar, împăratul Asiriei)
  • 2 Împărați 17 (tot capitolul trebuie citit pentru a vedea păcatele care au dus la căderea Samariei, majoritatea având de-a face cu închinarea)
  • Spre exemplu: au urmat alte obiceiuri, păgânești (v. 8), au adoptat alți dumnezei (v. 7 și 16), au căzut în idolatrie (v. 10), s-au lepădat de credință (v. 15)… Punctul culminant este acela că și-au ars copiii în foc (v. 17). Autorul biblic scrie că „au făcut pe ascuns împotriva Domnului, Dumnezeului lor, lucruri care nu sunt bune” (2 Împărați 17:9). Cum adică, „pe ascuns”? Oare nu vede Domnul?…
  • 2 Împărați 18:27 (aveau o viziune limitată despre Dumnezeu)
  • 2 Împărați 17:20-23 și 18:11-12 (finalul trist al istoriei lor – plecarea în robia asiriană)
  • 2 Împărați 17:18 (nu mai rămâne decât seminția din sud, a lui Iuda – iudeii)

 

Noii samariteni (neamuri și religii amestecate)

  • 2 Împărați 17:24 (asirienii repopulează țara cu alte neamuri, păgâne)
  • 2 Împărați 17:29-31 (noua religie a samaritenilor este una amestecată)
  • 2 Împărați 17:32, 33-34, 41 (textele vorbesc despre amestec între religia adevărată și cea falsă)

 

La venirea din robie (după robia babiloniană a lui Iuda, de 70 de ani)

  • Neemia 4:1-2 (când să zidească cetatea, unii erau „ostașii Samariei”, alții erau „iudeii neputincioși”)
  • Neemia 4:4-5 (reacția lui Neemia față de samariteni)
  • Ezra 4:1 (Ezra îi numește pe samariteni „vrăjmași”)
  • Ezra 4:3 (samaritenii nu sunt lăsați să zidească alături de evrei cetatea Ierusalimului)

 

Revenind la vremea lui Isus

  • Femeia întreabă unde e locul adevărat de închinare, ori-ori – Muntele Garizim (Samaria) sau Muntele Sionului (Ierusalim).
  • Isus răspunde: nici-nici. Știa că Ierusalimul va fi dărâmat, Luca 21:6, după ce templul avea să nu mai fie locul de închinare (Luca 13:35; Luca 23:45).
  • „Voi vă închinați la ce nu cunoașteți”. Faptele apostolilor 17 (tot capitolul vorbește despre închinare la „un dumnezeu necunoscut”). De asemenea, în capitol, Pavel punctează repetat că Dumnezeu nu are formă (ca idolii), nu este slujit de mâini omenești (preoți), nu locuiește în temple (ca zeii).
  • „Mântuirea vine de la iudei”. Religia adevărată (vezi Romani 3:1-2; 9:4-5, Evrei 1:1-2). Ei aveau Biblia, din ei avea să iasă Mesia.
  • „Închinătorii adevăraţi” (deci e clar că sunt și… neadevărați). Vezi unii neadevărați în Matei 7:21-23 (făcători de minuni). Vezi alții în Matei 15:8. Ca formă, păreau că se închină corect. În realitate… nu! Alții bolboroseau cuvinte repetate, păgânii (Matei 6:7), alții se rugau tare, să-i vadă lumea (Matei 6:5).
  • Dumnezeu „dorește” închinători adevărați, nu ca Iuda (Matei 26:49). De preferat un Toma (Ioan 20:28)
  • „Dumnezeu este Duh” – El este oriunde. Vede în ascuns, când te rogi în odăița ta (Matei 6:6).

 

La vremea sfârșitului

  • 2 Tesaloniceni 2:4 (antihristul va pretinde închinare)
  • Apocalipsa 13:4 (oamenii se vor închina balaurului – Satana)
  • Apocalipsa 13:4 (oamenii se vor închina fiarei politico-religioase care va conduce lumea)
  • Apocalipsa 13:8 (cei aleși, cei scriși în cartea vieții Mielului nu i se vor închina)
  • Apocalipsa 13:12 (fiara a doua, o putere creștină cu coarne de miel dar cu glas de balaur, va face ca toată lumea să se închine primei fiare)
  • Apocalipsa 13:15 (toți cei ce nu se vor închina fiarei vor fi condamnați la moarte)

 

Apelul final din partea lui Dumnezeu pentru închinarea adevărată

  • Apocalipsa 14:6-7 (închinați-vă Creatorului)
  • Apocalipsa 14:9 (cine se închină fiarei primește mânia lui Dumnezeu)

 

Împlinirea profeției

  • Apocalipsa 16:2 (plăgile vor cădea peste cei ce se închină fiarei)
  • Apocalipsa 20:4 (cei ce nu se închină fiarei vor primi mântuirea)

 

Concluzii

  • În cele 10 Porunci (Exodul 20) avem două porunci care vorbesc despre închinare. Porunca a doua ne spune cui să NU ne închinăm. Iar porunca a patra ne spune CÂND să ne închinăm lui Dumnezeu. Se pare că timpul închinării e mai important pentru Dumnezeu decât locul închinării.
  • Isus nu a vorbit decât de 2 ori despre închinare. Aici, cu femeia samariteană, și în pustia ispitirii, când Satana a cerut ca Isus să-i aducă închinare. Așadar, dacă urmăm sfatul lui Isus, El spune că (1) numai lui Dumnezeu să i te închini (Luca 4:8), iar (2) lui Dumnezeu să te închini „în duh” (nu în trup/formă) și „în adevăr” (nu în minciună) (Ioan 4:22-24).
  • În duh = fii conștient că Dumnezeu este oriunde, nu este legat de un loc (templu, munte), de un ritual (ce cuvinte să spui), de niște oameni (preoți), de niște forme (cu fața către)…
  • În adevăr = Fii conștient că trebuie să te închini Lui „în adevăr”, nu în minciună. Isus este calea, adevărul și viața (Ioan 14:6). În adevăr înseamnă în El, în Isus Hristos, în minciună înseamnă în Satana (Ioan 8:44). Să ne închinăm după cum spune Scriptura, căci Isus S-a rugat Tatălui pentru noi când a zis: „Sfințește-i prin adevărul Tău, Cuvântul Tău este adevărul” (Ioan 17:17).

„You are gods!”

“Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’?”
(John 10:34)

 

Questions: Who are these “gods”? Are there more “gods”? How do you explain this Bible text?

 

The context of Jesus’ words – John 10

Reading the whole passage of John 10:22-39, we discover that Jesus was being pressed to give a clear-cut answer to the question – “Are you the Messiah?” (v. 24). So, we have to keep in mind that such a context was a highly explosive one as the Messiah was the fulfillment of the Jewish aspirations and expectations (Matthew 11:3), the One sent by God as His representative. Accordingly, one either was the Messiah, or was just claiming such a title, by blasphemy.

Evidently, Jesus was fully aware He is the Messiah, as He confirmed that to others – for example to the Samaritan woman (John 4:25-26); to the group of the twelve apostles (Matthew 16:16-17); later on, to the council of the high priests and elders (and this claim led Him directly to death, Mark 14:61-64). In the same time, Jesus knew that such a claim from Him, without the proper context, will have a side effect – unbelief and continuous hardening of the heart (see also the high tensions in Luke 22:66-71). This was already obvious many times before (John 10:25-26). They did not believe him because of the prejudices they had against Him, that is against His way of showing how Messiah would really look and act like (the same can be seen in Peter’s reaction when Jesus spoke about a suffering Messiah, Matthew 16:20-23).

Jesus then pushes the discussion by saying “I and the Father are one” (v. 30). In His mind, that meant that His plans and the plans of His Father are one, that He is following the directions of His Father (see also John 5:19). However, taking it as an assertion, the Jews were ready to stone Him (John 10:31). Questioned by Jesus about their intentions, they justified their anger by indicating a blasphemy in Jesus’ sayings (v. 33). The main accusation was clear – “You, being a man, make yourself God”.

Here Jesus confronts them on their field of expertise – the Scriptures. Quoting a verse in Psalms, He points out that the Scriptures spoke like He did, calling some humans “gods”. Let’s get there and see the passage for ourselves – Psalm 82 (please take your Bible and read it).

 

The context of Jesus’ quote – Psalm 82

Psalm 82 presents a heavenly setting, a “divine council” where God sits in the midst of some “gods” (v. 1).

However, these so-called “gods” are being judged by God (v. 1-2) and even accused for showing partiality to the wicked (v. 2). Furthermore, they are being urged to do justice, to rescue, to deliver the ones oppressed (vs. 3-4). The conclusion is that such judges have no knowledge and are walking in the darkness (v. 5).

Then, God speaks to them as in a review: He commends them for being “gods”, for being “sons of the Most High” (v. 6). Yet, due to their faulty judgment, He says, they are going to die like “men” and fall like any human “prince” (v. 7).

In the end, the psalmist speaks again, as he puts all his trust in God, who is going to rightly judge the whole earth (v. 8).

As this was the psalm Jesus quoted, let us see what’s about this expression “you are gods”.

 

What does it mean – “you are gods”?

In Jesus’ own words, He explains that “He” (God) named these persons as “gods”, as they were the ones to whom “the word of God came” (John 10:34). It is evident that God sees His representatives on earth as “gods”, as “sons of the Most High”, as they are to judge and make justice according to His will.

The word for “gods” is “elohim”, which is used also in Exodus 7:1, where God makes Moses “a god” for Pharaoh. In other words, by receiving his message from the God of heavens, and now presenting it to the ruler of the nation, Moses acts to Pharaoh like a god speaking to a human. Moses is a man, no doubt about it. But he acts like a god to the ruler of the nation.

The same perspective as in Psalm 82 is to be found in Psalm 58, where in verse 1 the psalmist calls the judges/rulers also “gods”. As the psalm continues it is evidently that these “gods” are not ruling the way God wants – see the solution in verse 11, where in the end God is the one who judges on earth.

Again, the same setting is to be seen in Isaiah 3:13-15, where these corrupt judges are confirmed to be “elders and princes of the people”.

It becomes clear that these “gods” are not true to their calling. In the same time, some true “gods” would be the ones that follow their heaven commissioned task, that is fulfilling the will of the Father, the Most High, the Lord God of hosts.

 

Jesus as a Son of God

There is no question that Jesus really fulfilled such a task from His Father, as it is evident in texts like Luke 4:18-21, when preaching in Nazareth, or the one in Matthew 11:2-6, with a message to John the Baptist. While the rulers of this earth, be they kings, judges, priests, are not ruling according to God’s will, Jesus was one that did, as He was the one “consecrated” by the Father and thus “sent into the world” (John 10:36). He plainly told them: “I have shown you many good works from the Father” (John 10:32).

He admits having said that “I am the Son of God” (v. 36). There is absolutely no question about it. He did it. He believed it. He was indeed!

In the same time, He urges them to review what they perceived as an assertion and even blasphemy, to judge it objectively and see if He was doing or not “the works of My Father”. Evidently, He was a “god”, was a “son of the Most High”, because He was consecrated, sent into the world and here He fulfilled His Father’s will up to the end (see John 17:4 and Luke 22:42).

The passage moves toward an abrupt ending with Jesus affirming again His special and close relation to the Father, by using a language that in their uncircumcised ears was like another blasphemy: “the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:38). The story ends with Jews ready again to arrest Him…

 

Conclusions

We can step on sure grounds saying that Jesus acted like a real Son of God, He was right in presenting Himself as a Son of God. The accusers could not understand because they were not His sheep (John 10:26) – not listening, not discerning His voice, not knowing Him nor His Father.

The passage does not speak about humans becoming divine, about men becoming gods. However, in representing and reflecting God’s character on earth, humans are seen and appointed by God the Most High as “gods” (Exodus 7:1). Remember Matthew 5:9? (please open your Bible and read it).

If God’s word is spoken to you, then you become a “god” to our fellow men, with such a heavenly task of showing the character of the Father, doing His will, making justice the way He would. On the contrary, be you a “god”, if you are corrupt and departing from the plans of the One that called you, then you are surely to end like any mortal, falling to the ground (Psalms 82:6-7).


„We should be called the children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that is did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him.” (1 John 3:1-2)

Hardening of the heart

As I was asked in the church by a teenager regarding the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, I challenged him and myself to read all the chapters in Exodus over this issue (Exodus 3-12). The task was to see for ourselves who hardens the heart of people: is it God or the people themselves – in our case Pharaoh (and his officials)? Or maybe the heart goes hard by itself…

The story in a nutshell

Let us first see the context – Israel in the Egyptian bondage. The Lord God is interested to get His people out of Egypt.

“The Lord said: I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey […].” (Exodus 3:7-8)

Accordingly, God sends His messenger, Moses to the king of Egypt, with the solemn request to let the people go into the wilderness for several days to bring sacrifices to God: “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10)

Yet God knows ahead of time what would be Pharaoh’s reaction to their plea and the whole process (Exodus 3:19-21):

“But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go. And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people.”

In one sentence, “Pharaoh will not let Israel go unless…”

The intrigue

Towards this end of the chapter we get the first trigger of our discussion, when God warns Moses: “But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go” (Exodus 3:21).

Aha, one might say, do you see? God is the one that does it! He hardens the hearts of people. Solved issue, yet disappointing…

But wait a little bit, we might also reply, as God continues: “Then say to Pharaoh: This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, and 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.” (Exodus 3:22-23)

We cannot skip this important part “you refused to let him go”. If we read indeed only the verse 21, where it says it so clear “I will harden his heart” it looks like all is settled. God hardens the heart of the man. Quick conclusions: the man should not be held accountable, God is guilty for all, He is putting up a game just to show his power. In short – all is a theatrical play. But is it so?

By the way (we might say): brother Moses, if you knew this was all a play, why did you refrain from rebuking God for hardening the heart of Pharaoh? (You know, Moses himself is the one who wrote Exodus. Thus, it would be absurd to just think that all is a play and that he fooled himself in front of the king).

Let us have before our eyes this couple: (1) what God does, and (2) what man does. This couple will come time and again into the story. God says he hardens the heart, yet the story presents the human person as a stubborn being, in a continual refusal even amidst all the proofs to give up.

First appeal to Pharaoh

Let’s read the first dialogue between Moses and Pharaoh.

“Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said: This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’  Pharaoh said: ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.’” (Exodus 5:1-2)

As we can see it, Pharaoh is already setting up himself on opposite side by unmistaken words “I do not know the Lord”. This is the platform we are building on – a man in power who does not acknowledge a greater power that tries to convince him of anything.

God Promises Deliverance

After this first encounter, God tells Moses again the full plan:

  1. there will be miracles performed,
  2. there will be a stubborn opposition manifested (that is why miracles follow one after another,
  3. in the end a wonderful deliverance, after the last miracle who is a knock-out punch.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” (Exodus 6:1). ”But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my 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.” (Exodus 7:3-5)

The first miracle and the first 5 plagues

Indeed, after the first snake-staff miracle “yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them…” (Exodus 7:13)

  1. The Plague of Blood:

“Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go” (Exodus 7:14); “Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart.” (Exodus 7:22-23)

  1. The Plague of Frogs:

“But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen…” (Exodus 8:15)

  1. The Plague of Gnats:

“the magicians said to Pharaoh: This is the finger of God. But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen (Exodus 8:19).

  1. The Plague of Flies:

“But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.” (Exodus 8:32).

  1. The Plague on Livestock:

“Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.” (Exodus 9:7)

Although there are some minor signs of repentance from Pharaoh, the moment he feels relieved from the plague he comes back to his stubbornness. By now in more than half of the wonders (1 miracle and 5 plagues) we are clearly told about Pharaoh himself that “he hardened his heart” – unyielding, becoming hard, not listening etc.

The last 5 plagues

Only in plague #6 we do come back to the intriguing idea:

  1. The Plague of Boils:

“But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen.” (Exodus 9:12)

Although there is no explanation, again, for this way of putting it (“God hardens the heart of man”), we are told about God’s efforts and power to save right away. God does not need to go this painful way…

God warns Pharaoh: “For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:15-16). Verse 17 tells it all over again: “You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go” .

Following the 7th plague we see some greater signs of repentance (there were before some). “Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. ‘This time I have sinned,’ he said to them. ‘The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to the Lord, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.’” (Exodus 9:27-28). However, Moses is not to allow himself to be fooled, and that is why he boldly tells Pharaoh: ”But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.” (Exodus 9:30) (see #8)

  1. The Plague of Hail:

“When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses.” (Exodus 9:34-35)

Again, his “heart was hard”. As we are approaching more dangerous plagues for the Egyptians, the warning are also given in much louder terms:

“Then the Lord said to Moses: Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials” (Exodus 10:1); “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? (Exodus 10:3)

We see again the double image: it looks like God hardens the heart and yet it is obvious a continual refusal from the recipients of the warning.

After the plague, as before, “Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the Lord your God to take this deadly plague away from me.’” (Exodus 10:16-17).

  1. The Plague of Locusts:

“But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.” (Exodus 10:20)

  1. The Plague of Darkness:

“But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go.” (Exodus 10:27)

  1. The Plague on the death of the Firstborn:

“I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. (Exodus 11:1). See also verse 3: ”The Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.”

In the 11th chapter we have again a review of all the story, of all the steps involved: “The Lord had said to Moses: ‘Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.’  Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.” (Exodus 11:9-10). As one can see, it is the same couple: a refusal to listen, a hardening that takes place.

The Exodus

Finally, the order is given: “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 Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians” (Exodus 12:31-32, 36).

In the next chapter there is a strong emphasis on the idea that “The Lord brought them with his mighty hand” – it is found 4 times (verses 3, 9, 14 and 16), but not without pointing out that ”Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go” (verse 15).

The last step – crossing the Sea

Even after all the destruction brought over Egypt, Pharaoh and his officials did not repent. God said: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them” (all the way into the wilderness). (Exodus 14:4). And again in verse 5: “When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them…” While in verse 8: “The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly.” It is the same pattern, although it might be in a different order of words or people involved: hardening, changing his mind, hardening…

Finally, when the Israelites were crossing the sea, the same image comes all over. The hardening of the Egyptians makes them go all the way into the sea, towards their own death. “Then the Lord said to Moses: ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” (Exodus 14:15-18)

 

Summary

When we pray “Our Father” we do say “and lead us not into temptation” (see Matthew 6) we are quite sure that God would not look to get us into temptation, as it is plainly said: “When tempted, no one should say ’God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” (James 1:13-14).

But, as said in many other places, when God allows something to happen, the Bible sometimes said that God did it. As in the case of Job: Satan hurted the man of God, and yet in the discussion it seems that God is the one responsible.

So, who hardens the heart of man? We answer: man does. Let us be clear, God does not do anything wrong.

God would like to give us hearts of flesh, not hearts of stone. “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19). And again: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26).