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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Day 177: John 12:27-43 & Psalms 42-43 - What does John mean when he says "they could not believe"?

Today's Reading: John 12:27-43 & Psalms 42-43

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What does John mean when he says "they could not believe"?

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,
 “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
    and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them.”
Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him . . . - John 12:39-42
Are you ever just stunned that the people who saw Jesus perform such great miracles and heard Him teach such wonderful things still did not believe in Him? John himself seems shocked by such persistent unbelief and he says, "Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him." (v. 37) Then, the explanation he gives is as stunning and unexpected as the people' unbelief.
John says that their unbelief happened to fulfill prophecy and because God blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts. He attributes the unbelief of the Jewish people to the activity of God in fulfilling Isaiah's prophecy from Isaiah 53:1, Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Why would God harden the hearts of the Jewish and blind their minds, keeping them from believing in Jesus? 
This king of blindness and hardening in Scripture is an act of judgment, a judicial hardening. It is how God brings about judgment against a people for stubborn, persistent unbelief and a lack of repentance. In blinding eyes and hardening hearts, God is not actually working against the will of the people. They want their sin and they don't want God's ways, and do God acts to give them over to their sin and to keep them from seeing their way of salvation.
When God acts in judicial hardening, He is acting within His rights as God. He is also merciful, because even in the midst of such judgment, people still do come to believe. Many of these who were brought to faith in Jesus were too afraid and intimidated to speak out about their faith, but God had shown them to the truth and opened their eyes to see it and their hearts to receive it, despite their cowardice. 
We must always remember that we only get what we deserve when God judges, and we usually get far better than we deserve. If we have come to see the truth in Jesus, that is more amazing than unbelief, because unbelief is the natural desire of our selfish hearts. Faith is the miracle, and it is a miracle of grace! Praise God for it!
Prayer Based on Psalms 42-43:
We must preach the Gospel to ourselves daily, and the wonderful refrain of Psalms 42-43 (likely one Psalm originally) help us do that:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while unbelievers mock my faith, saying to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

O Lord, I remember when going to worship with Your people
    would fill my heart with joy and satisfaction.
I long to be content, satisfied, joyful in Your praises.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
even as I live my life in the midst of unbelievers
   in a God-hating, Gid-denying culture that can suffocate me at times.

Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?"
I confess that I do sometimes feel abandoned, O Lord,
   lonely and forsaken.
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?
Why do You allow Satan to oppress me and my flesh to ensnare me.
   Deliver me from them, O Lord!

As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    the world mocks and taunts me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
    against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
    deliver me!

For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
    why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?
Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

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