Plague in our text #8 in series of 10. As we approach end of God dealing with Pharaoh and Egyptian people, intensity of and devastation done by plagues ramps up quickly. Consequences of devastation have long reach, affecting not only present generation but future one also. God takes this opportunity to add to Moses’ store of understanding… and tells Moses how he is to use knowledge and understanding.
Two principles repeatedly described / illuminated throughout God’s word the Bible – first one is sovereignty of God. Shows up first partly because God was here first. Gen. 1:1 does not say “In the beginning God asked a question.” Rather, tells us in the beginning God acted. God did what God purposed to do without asking permission, taking poll, putting up for a vote. God acted unilaterally as He saw fit to accomplish his perfect will and design.
God’s approach still the same when made man and woman, put in the Garden, told them they were responsible for their actions. There is second principle – man’s responsibility. Both are true, both God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility co-exist side by side. Must be diligent not to sacrifice one in attempt to guard the other – man is not marionette, God not a frustrated sovereign. Charles Spurgeon once asked how he would reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility – his answer: “no need to reconcile friends”.
Same motif continues here in Exodus – God both declaring and demonstrating his sovereignty over his creation. At same time, he holds Pharaoh / Egyptian people responsible for sinful rebellion against him. Over and over God shows mercy and grace… to both Egyptian and Hebrew. Since God is immutable, does not change, he is just as sovereign today as then, mankind just as responsible to respond properly to God’s acts of mercy.
A. God’s purposes:
hardened Pharaoh’s heart on purpose (1a)
sounds harsh, unloving, maybe you can think of other words – God himself hardening Pharaoh’s heart… against God!
yet what has Pharaoh done? – repeatedly, in face of repeated reminders of what is right, hardened his own heart – Pharaoh freely chose to rebel against God, not because he didn’t know any better, because he didn’t want to do differently
Pharaoh acting naturally, just like fallen sinner he was, and God justly allowed Pharaoh to have his own way – wanted to stay enemy of God, so God said “ok”, gave what he wanted, holding Pharaoh accountable for actions
same held true for magicians and officials of Pharaoh’s government – freely chose loyalty to Pharaoh in rebellion against God, so God gave them what they wanted
God’s purpose in all this extended far beyond Pharaoh, even beyond Pharaoh’s court and Egyptian people – God had whole world in view, how Pharaoh’s circumstances and story would impact generations of people
show miraculous signs (1b)
God identified 3 expected outcomes from hardening Pharaoh’s heart – first outcome: provided the stage on which God would display power through signs… plagues and what followed
has already begun – remember this is plague #8, another instance of signs God performed before Pharaoh so he would have no excuse
God’s issue with Pharaoh: Satan and sin had deluded him into thinking he was God, could rightfully expect and accept worship due to YHWH alone
God took no pleasure in Pharaoh’s punishment and humiliation – had Pharaoh responded properly God would have ended plagues
yet plagues had purpose: to show to all the world utter futility of idol-worship, powerlessness of Satan against God, God’s power and authority over his creation to use for his own glory
you will tell your son and grandson (2a)
Father’s Day next week, this an important principle every Sunday and all days in between: dad, you are #1 person responsible for religious instruction of your family
get help, of course, your children / grandchildren / great-grandchildren ought to hear about God and his ways from you
instruction here directed to Moses… who was to be leader of God’s people, teaching by word and example how to live pleasing to God
role of husband and father hasn’t changed since Adam – are to be head of home who leads by word and example
many of you know from experience – in spite of best efforts, children don’t get everything passed on to them… is why God expects us to be involved in training up grandchildren
you may know he is the Lord (2b)
lesson in Pharaoh’s hard heart for the world, for the next generation, for Moses… and eventually us: there be no question in Moses’ mind or ours who is true God
B. how stubborn will you be
from God (3-6)
“God says how long will you refuse to humble yourself?” – from God’s perspective the first / most important issue… for all
God of course looking for permanent change of heart, not temporary giving in to demands from one who presently holds an advantage
Pharaoh, like everyone, made in image of true God, had knowledge of true God that he either distorted or suppressed
at this point in time, had seen and experienced enough to have no good reason to doubt existence of true God
obviously rhetorical question from God, he knew exactly how long Pharaoh would remain stubborn, question intended to make Pharaoh and others think
from Pharaoh’s servants (7)
had pretty good understanding of just how much trouble they were in already – economy in trouble, people anxious and complaining, God was threatening to destroy rest of food
servants could see at least in part how disastrous locust plague would be to entire nation, putting survival in serious jeopardy
servants probably believed had little to lose, challenging Pharaoh this way – no food, might all die anyway
from Pharaoh (8-11)
as if “how stubborn will I be? let me show you…” – even from real position of weakness, tries negotiating as if still in charge
“ok, you can go… who’s going?” – Moses’ response, according to YHWH’s instructions, all of us with our animals
responds with open threat – ” if that ever happens, God better be with you, and even that may not be enough!”
little did Pharaoh know… is precisely how it would turn out – God would be with Hebrew children, destroy Pharaoh’s army
for Pharaoh, had become personal contest between him and God, winner take all, one he intended to win regardless of cost to his people
God’s response (12-15)
yet again God demonstrates his authority over creation – wind, blowing now from east, later from west, now bringing locusts in unprecedented numbers… and they were hungry, maybe even hangry
every last shred of green consumed by locusts – flax and barley destroyed by hail, now wheat and grain eaten
not only were they facing severe grain shortage for both man and beast, would have no seed for planting next crop
this a multi-year disaster, would exact huge toll in lives and fortunes, showing no favoritism toward any
C. deceit in face of mercy
if only God will… (16-17)
clear from outcome that Pharaoh’s apparent repentance completely insincere – really had no intention of keeping promise
notice Pharaoh’s mindset about sin: states he has sinned, probably something said with his fingers crossed so wouldn’t count
asks for forgiveness for this one sin – only one worth bringing up, believes will not sin again, maybe doesn’t think this one is that bad… most likely only wants relief from consequences
doesn’t state it but seems to imply – if God honors request for forgiveness and relief, he will honor God’s request to let people go to worship him
God does (18-19)
even though Pharaoh probably had no intention to let Hebrew children leave the country, God yet again shows mercy
was entirely of God’s mercy that Egypt still existed – had God brought down perfect justice on them, would have been thoroughly and completely destroyed
God, knowing Pharaoh’s heart, responded to Moses’ plea for an end to locusts – caused locusts to go for swim in Red Sea
was this foreshadowing what lay ahead for Pharaoh and his army – as locusts met their end in Red Sea at God’s command, so army would be drowned in Sea at God’s command
but Pharaoh doesn’t (20)
in spite of spoken repentance and God’s faithfulness, Pharaoh once again fails to follow through, refusing instead to let Hebrew children go as God had commanded
fallen human nature such that repeated rebellion makes future sin even more likely, makes habit / pattern more difficult to break
see that in living color on regular basis – career criminals, repeat offenders, recidivism rate typically above 80 percent
So what do we see here of man’s character, man’s need? Natural man like Pharaoh hopelessly lost, deceived about true nature of sin, blinded and enslaved to Satan and sin and selfish desires. Not that the lost are dumb, they are deceived and further deceive themselves. Truly do not recognize sinfulness of sin. Anytime get close to thinking of something as sin redefine it as disability, disorder, addiction. Somehow perpetrator of sin becomes the victim. Last person they want or think they need is God, believe they can succeed well enough on their own.
You say, I’m not like that… now; used to be maybe but not any longer. May not be enslaved to sin, may not be enemy of God way Pharaoh was. But… every Christian in this life still subject to sin, temptation, even deception at times. Set ourselves up for failure when we try to handle problems on our own. Got something you think probably should change? Just won’t go away? Can’t seem to overcome it? Have you given it to God, depending on his strength and help?
Something in your life pretty sure God doesn’t approve of? You redefine it to make it less of problem? Make excuses for it – just the way I am, that person’s a good Christian and they do it too, no one’s perfect you know. Stop it. Call it what God calls it, seek forgiveness, be reconciled to God and depend on him to help you please him.
And remember this: God was faithful to his promises when Pharaoh wasn’t. When Moses wasn’t. When Aaron wasn’t. God still faithful, will receive all who come to him by faith, will forgive his children when they confess their sin to him. What will help us please God more by sinning less? Seeking our satisfaction in Christ – he prayed for our satisfaction… that his joy would be fulfilled, made complete in us. Closer we are and stay to Jesus, more satisfying he will be to us.