A lazy day, sprawled out on the beach, inhaling the sweet scent of summer and the excited chatter of children. High in the cloudless sky the sun shone brightly and my body was satisfied with delicious warmth and seemed near to the point of ultimate peace.
Hours passed by as I drifted in and out of sleep and slowly the warmth crept away. It was with a shudder that the realisation of utter coldness dawned and made me screw up my eyes in frustration. I gnashed my teeth and wailed like the wind of a storm. No more peace or harmony to soothe the body, just a reckless anger looking for someone to strike.
What does it mean when the Bible tells me God hardened the heart of Pharaoh so that he wouldn’t let Moses and the Israelites leave the land of Egypt? Did God use Pharaoh as a mere tool for evil so that he could display mighty signs and wonders for all to see and believe that there is indeed a God in Heaven? If so, then I must question the value placed on his life.
I thought all human life was of equal value and that God didn’t want anyone to perish. Did Pharaoh have a choice; did Judas Iscariot, the man foretold in the Old Testament as the betrayer of Jesus have the opportunity to take a different path?
God is good; in fact all goodness comes from him. If he didn’t breathe goodness out into creation there would be no good. Goodness itself is merely a description of God’s character. God is love; in fact if there were no God there would be no love. Love is also another amazing facet of who God is.
We exist because God spoke us into life. Made in his image we have the capacity to resemble him. Like a child bears aspects of his parents, we too are equipped to be good and to love. We exist because of love. The simple explanation is that God wants a family, a people to love and be loved by.
The sun shone and warmed my body as I lay upon the beach. I absorbed the warmth and experienced a deep satisfaction, but when the sun departed, a great change occurred and I was different, so utterly unlike the person of a few hours ago.
How do you harden a man’s heart? Does God pump a syringe full of venom into the veins or does he simply withdraw himself? I believe that Pharaoh, Judas and all of us choose the paths we walk and that there are some paths that are very wide on which the sun will not shine. The further we walk on these paths, the less that goodness and love will accompany us because God will not walk them.
They are evil paths. They attract the people who want to live independently, who do not want their lives lived in reference to God. But these people fail to realise these paths only exist because God allows them to. Love does not demand a response, it implores and grasps you by the shoulder but it does not insist.
Choosing to live outside of God means choosing to live outside of love and all that is good. As you continue in that choice, your heart grows harder and harder until suddenly the sun is no longer shining at all. It is dark and cold and all memories of warmth seem unreal and distant – as if they had never existed. And now you are angry, gnashing your teeth and weeping with anger. You are consumed with the cold of bitterness and rage.
For a brief while you search your soul for something good and warm but find nothing. You have become the very evil you once despised in the light of the sun. In rage you accept this and finally lose the inclination to even look for something good. There is no good, there is no love, there is only the darkness, there is only Hell.