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What Does It Mean To Be Chosen?
Video 5 of 8
If you were God, and you wanted to reveal to humanity that you were not just one of a whole bunch of polytheistic gods, but you were the One True Creator; how would you do that? Anything that happens, people could just chalk it up to one of the whole bunch of a polytheistic gods. Because remember, the Egyptians were not Atheists; it’s just that they didn’t believe in God , they believed in gods. So how would you disabuse them of this notion somehow through the Exodus? So this is the question of how? But, why would you want to do that? Why is it so important to sort of demonstrate that you are the Creator God? Are you just sort of being egotistical? Aright. So people will worship you like one of many gods. Why is it crucial that they would need to see you as the Creator God?
So what I want to do with you is just kind of compare monotheism - the notion that there is a Creator God behind it all; and polytheism - the reigning system of worship at the time. In polythestim, there is a pantheon of gods, there is a whole is a whole bunch of different gods. Now, these gods don’t particularly get along with each other; they are not necessarily friend with each others. How do you decide who to worship in such a bewildering array of forces? Well, you decide through self-interest.
So, for example, if you occupied the fertile plain near the sea. So if you were the Philistines there ,you would worship the Dagon, you would worship the fish god because you know, you’re fish people and therefore you need the good graces of the fish god. If you were in Egypt and your crops were irrigated through the inundation of the Nile, you’ll worship the sun god. So you decide who to worship by looking at your self interest. And then when you do worship, you have to realise that no god is all powerful because there is many of them so they each have their strenght and their weakness; and therefore worship is consist of sort of bartering where I try to provide for the needs of the gods,I try to appease the gods by providing for their needs and giving them stuff that they might kind of want. And if you think about why I would do that? The answer is I would do that because of fear. Fear is the great motivator for worship - “I’m afraid, I need to live and if we don’t appease the gods they will get mad at me and hurt me”. This is how it works in polytheism.
Okay. Now let’s contrast this to monotheism. In monotheism there is One God and that One God is the Creator of all; and that has many ramifications. Here is some of them:
God is all-powerful - so how am I going to worship the one God who has no needs. If God has no needs, why would he even want worship? What can I give him that he would be interested in? My motivator for worship is not fear, but it is something else; it’s love and gratitude. When you give something out of love and gratitude, it’s not actually so important than giving something that fulfills a need in the being. Love actually comes in the picture, yes, fear might be there, there might be some trepidation, but the great novelty in monotheism is love. In addition to that there is actually a moral component to worship which is that, there is an idea that it’s the right thing to do; it’s that you are my Creator,I should rise to the expectations of you. I serve you out of love;not solely because I am scared.
So this is how monotheism is very different than polytheism which answers why it is so important for God to reveal that he is the Creator God. It’s all of these things; it’s the implications that flow from the idea that there is one God. The fact, that there is a moral component to worship, that there is there is love rather than self interest that motivates worship. All of these things are crucial because it affects the nature of our relationship with God. God wants to make sure that we have a real relationship with him. In polytheism, there is no relationship. There is nothing. All there is is fear.
There is of course one other difference between monotheism and polytheism here. And that is in polytheism, you sort of make your own god and then you don’t ever hear from the god again. In monotheism, that’s not the case. In monotheism, God can speak to you and tells us what it is that he wants from us and this will come into play as well.
Okay. So now, with this in the background, let’s come back to some of our questions; having answered to some extent the question of why right. Why would want to do this? He want to do this because it changes our relationship with him if we understand he is the one monotheistic God. So now let’s get to the question of how?
If you were trying to demonstrate that you were the Creator, how could you possibly do it? I think now we’re in a position to understand why the Ten Plagues could do it, even though any individual plague; blood, frogs, lice and then going all the way down, you know. If you were a good polytheist you would say “ blood, hmm, okay, so let’s see; the Nile is turned to blood so evidently the Nile god is angry with us,”and that wouldn’t prove that you're the Creator of the universe. But then when the frogs it’s like “okay, so I guess the water god teamed up with the amphibian god, and then they must have gotten together with the insect god over here and then the god of the ground and then”, what happens is that the slow accumulation of evidence starts to poke holes in the theory of an alliance. Remember, in a polytheistic system, each of the gods don’t particularly like the other gods so alliances would be few and far between. So at some point, you know, how many gods are angry at us? The simplest explanation is their is one force in charge of all of this. So the accumulation of Ten Plagues is one way you might show that you’re Creator. Ten Plagues show something that any one plague doesn’t.
But, it’s not just the amount of the plagues; it’s precision versus power. Remember how pharaoh wasn’t so interested in power, it was really the precision by which the plague was waged that really caught his attention. What makes perfect sense, you see, in a polytheistic system, you could see power, right. The water god is going to be powerful. Every god would be powerful. What you wouldn’t see is a lot of precision. Why? Because the way the universe works in the polytheistic mind, right, there is a lot of chaos. One day there is rain, another day there is sun; there is battles between the sun god and the rain god and nature is unpredictable. You can never really tell what’s going to happen. So in a polytheistic universe, you would see power; what you wouldn’t see is control. So, what gets Pharaoh’s attention is “one second. You said you can turn it off tomorrow with precision in time?” “ You said the plague will only affect here and no affect there whatsoever. Are you willing to predict that precision in space?” That’s the kind of thing that really get’s Pharaoh’s attention. That’s not something you see in a polytheistic universe. Another indication that you are dealing with the Creator God; the author of time and space.
Okay. So these are two ways in which God can make manifest the idea that he is Creator through the Exodus and as we will see shortly, there are other ways as well. We are going to see this by actually going through the plagues one -by-one and reading them very carefully. But before we do that, I want to ask, not just how it is that God is going to show himself as Creator through the Exodus,but why? What exactly is God after? Now I think the answer is this.
What if the monarch of the most powerful polytheistic society ever recognise the Creator. You have to remember that Egypt was the greatest world power in the ancient world and they were also the society most voted polytheism. They worshipped a pantheon of gods and their Ruler, Pharaoh, was convinced that he was a god himself. What if you get that Ruler to understand that’s it’s all a lie, that in fact there is one God who is incharge of all powers in the universe, including him. To recognise that worship is not just a matter of bartering with whichever god which sorts of serve your self interest. But that there is actually an idea of morality, that people are duty bound to rise to the expectations of their Creator and that one of those people is Pharaoh himself. See, if you could get this to happen, this would stand forever as a historical testament of the truth of monotheism. If polytheists throughout the centuries would ever doubt the idea that there is one Creator God in charge of everything; they could just look back at the historical example of Egypt. There could be no greater historical testament to the truth on monotheism than this.
There is only one problem; it all depends upon Pharaoh. You see, in order for this to work, Pharaoh needs to get this of his own free will. No one can interfere. So the interesting question is “what if it fails?” “ How is God going to deal with this?” It’s inconceivable that the master of the universe would have a plan for his revelation of the truth of who he is in the world, would depend upon one person. There must have been a Plan B. That Plan B comes back to some issues that we talked about earlier on in this series - the two words that the Torah uses to describe the changing of Pharaoh’s mind chizuk halev on the one hand verse kibud halev on the other hand.
Now, I mentioned to you before that just if you translate these words, the translation is not the same as the JBS translation over here suggest when it translates them both as ‘hardened’. This word doesn’t really means hardened and I suggest that the best word for it is actually strengthens. Chazak means to be strong and vayichazek would mean to strengthen. That’s different than vayachbed libo would have to be translated as either ‘to hardened’ or ‘to become heavy’. Let’s talk about what the difference between these two things are.
First of all, one has a negative connotation, one has a positive connotation. You think biologically, a hard heart is going to die, it won’t be able to pump ay blood; a strong heart is actually supple and vibrant and actually flexible which makes me gets to the difference between these. You might say that a heavy or hard heart is a stubborn heart, it conveys a sort of inability to see the truth, even if it’s sort of staring you in the face. A flexible or strong heart, we might actually call that courage, a courageous kind of person. Now, this gives us a very fascinating possibility in terms of how God might deal with the two possibilities which were suggested above.
Well yes,okay, you know, let’s accept this idea that God wants to use the Exodus as a way of demonstrating that he is the Creator of the Universe and that he is going to do so by seeing if he can get Pharaoh to recognize this. But of course we said something could get in the way. Pharaoh might give in but for the wrong reasons, right. What if he let’s the Jews go not because he theologically capitulates and realises that God is the Creator but just because it’s too hard for Egypt to continue to fight the battle. What if he gives in for tactical reasons but not actually for moral or theological reasons. Well, one obvious solution suggests itself. Because in that situation we might say that Pharaoh suffers from a lack of courage to see his vision through. So, maybe God could give him that courage. If God gave him the strength of will and the strength of heart to be able to continue to pursue his vision we actually wouldn’t consider that taking away Pharaoh’s free will at all; I’m strengthening your free will. A mean, if you even think about someone going through a hard time and you give them a pep-talk and you can give them courage, you haven’t taken away their free will,you’ve given them the power to achieve the vision they want.
So really, what God might to be saying to you is like Pharaoh look, you know, “ if you ever want to give in because you think it is too hard to continue, but you would rather continue fighting, I will give you the courage to see your vision through. You decide. Do you think it makes sense to give up? If you ever do that well then of course I am not going to interfere in your free will.” But it’s the idea that chizuk halev might well be an enhancement of Pharaoh’s free will. And then, over and over again, if you look at the language; what God does is this language of strengthening - God strengthens his free will. So what I actually want to do with you is go through the plagues and see how this plays out because of course, there is another way that things could get in the way. What if the opposite happens? What if instead of giving in too easily, for the wrong reasons, what if Pharaoh never gives in at all? What if it’s plain as day the God is the Creator but Pharaoh is too stubborn to give up? What would God do then? Is there sort of a Plan B to deal with that situation?
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