And They Cursed God and Did Not Repent
Man bereft of the Spirit of God does not care to know God. Indeed, he is in rebellion against God, and even prefers things that way. And no matter what anyone does for him, no matter what judgments befall him, he will not repent. Indeed, one can see Pharaoh’s shadow behind chapter sixteen in both the condition of sinful men and the nature of the judgments, which seem eerily similar to the ones that befell Egypt. As Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, regardless of God’s judgments and the sufferings of his people, so the hearts of sinful men are hardened, regardless of God’s judgments and the sufferings of themselves and those around them. Unsaved and unredeemed man chooses to be hardened, and he delights in his hardening. He shakes his fist at God. And no matter how respectable he may seem, no matter how good a citizen he may appear, until he is transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, he is as much a child of the devil as Pharaoh, whose true colors only await the dreadful judgments that will come when God’s patience finally runs out.
And this is the sorry refrain we hear three times in chapter sixteen: “They did not repent and give him glory. They did not repent of their deeds. They cursed God for the plague.” God’s judgments should bring sinful men to repentance; indeed, it is an act of God’s mercy to judge men that they might awaken and repent. But they do not: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their works were evil” (John 3:19; emphasis added).
And this is the only way we can explain the unexplainable. Sin ultimately makes no sense, and neither do sinners. They destroy their lives, because it is their nature to do so. Thus, Paul says, “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21). Thus, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). No wonder Paul said, “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18). This is why they will not repent – because they cannot. But it is equally true that they cannot repent because they will not. And so they are caught in the “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thessalonians 2:7 – KJV), but by their own doing. And who has delivered us from a similar captivity? “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 7:24-25).