Exodus 7-9: Yes, Yes and No, No
February 3, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Exodus 7-9; Psalm 26; Matthew 11:20-30; Acts 16:16-40
It is mysterious to human eyes why some believe and some do not, yet in the ultimacy of God’s purpose all is clear: Pharaoh made a conscious choice to refuse to “let God’s people go,” and he did so according to the will of God. This purpose of God is that the extraordinary power of God to rescue against all odds would be revealed to the whole world: “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (9:16). God hardens Pharaoh’s heart so that God’s almighty power to save might be seen throughout the globe.
The story continues in familiar ways. Pestilence after pestilence. Plague after plague. At first the magicians can match Moses’ signs (7:11-12, 22; 8:7), but eventually (when it comes to the third plague of the gnats) they could not do what Moses was doing (8:18)—or what God was doing through Moses, rather. And even they are then forced to admit that what is happening is none other than the direct action of God Himself: “This is the finger of God,” they say (8:19).
Despite all this, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened (8:19). As is typical for someone who partly gets what is going on with the gospel, and partly does not, he apparently repents (8:28; 9:27-28), then changes his mind as soon as the pressure is off (8:32; 9:34-35). He is looking for release from the hassle, the pain, and the plagues; he is not looking himself to worship God. One moment he confesses he has sinned; the next moment he turns his back on that confession and goes on as if nothing has happened.
Pharaoh is desperate not to lose his cheap source of labor, desperate not to appear a failure in the eyes of his people, desperate to believe that he has the power to do whatever he wants, and in that desperation dooms himself and his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Turn to Him while he may be found. Do not harden your heart, but if you hear his word, listen and follow that you might find grace and favor in the hour of your need.
Strangely—at least it is strange initially when you think about it—Moses is given the bravery to go and speak all these bold words and do these great deeds before Pharaoh by being told that he will not listen (7:4)! Isaiah was also so encouraged (Isaiah 6:9), and Jeremiah had a similar experience. We tend to encourage each other by promise of “success.” Whereas God plainly tells Moses that his preaching and evangelism will not be heard, but God will be made famous even in that, and God will have the victory anyway through His power. At bedrock, Christian courage comes from letting God be God and determining in that context—the context of faithfulness—to simply trust and obey. “Abide in me,” Jesus said, “and you will bear much fruit” (John 15:4-5).
Of course, God is a God of mercy for Egyptians as well as Israelites. We are told of Egyptians who fear God’s word (9:20), and the church in Egypt is a testimony today to God’s grace. No, it is not a racial discrimination that God is making, for as we shall see, there is necessity of sacrifice for any to be saved—Israelite or Egyptian, God’s people or not yet God’s people. All alike are sinners in need of the blood of a Lamb to die in their place.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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