Exodus 10:16-17 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.”
Pharaoh is a very clear bad example, and we need to learn from him, not to imitate him. Pharaoh’s words were perfect here, which shows how deceitful the human heart can be. It also shows why John the Baptist and Jesus, not to mention numbers of prophets, all emphasized action to back up our words. Words can be vitally important, but if the heart is not in them they are empty indeed. That’s why there are so many “Christian” pagans running around: they said the prescribed words, but their heart was not really in it. Just this week, the pastor who spoke briefly at an interdenominational prayer meeting talked about how he was baptized as a boy but without real faith, leaving him a baptized pagan. It wasn’t until he attended a retreat in college that he surrendered himself to Christ and was born again. The Bible is filled with examples of one sort and another, both good and bad. Civilization advances, but the human heart remains the same, which is why all those examples are valid today. We need to learn to say the right words, yes, but follow through and do as we say, so that we won’t deceive ourselves. (James 1:22)
If someone came to me saying what Pharaoh did, I would in all probability take it as genuine repentance and would see no obstacle to baptizing them. However, I have baptized some people who were no more sincere than he was! Actually, at that moment even he probably thought he was sincere! We are not to place unnecessary obstacles in people’s way, but we are to leave the matter of salvation in God’s hands. I would rather baptize some who were not sincere than fail to baptize anyone who was, and so cause them to give up. This can be a real problem. I don’t want to make people think they are right with God when they are not, but I certainly don’t want to turn people away who are genuinely seeking Him. This may be what Jesus was talking about right after His resurrection, when He said, “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:23) That has always been a somewhat controversial passage, and actually a rather scary one. I want to err, if I am going to err, on the side of forgiveness, because I have at least some grasp of how much I need to be forgiven.
Father, help me see people with Your eyes, hear them with Your ears, and love them with Your love. May I not be deceived by words, my own or anyone else’s, but let Your Spirit guide me and them into Your truth, destroying the works of the devil and bringing Your kingdom, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!