Text: Exodus 7 - 9
Observe: God has heard the cry of the Israelite slaves in Egypt. These are the twelve tribes of Israel that were descended from the twelve sons of Jacob. They had been in Egypt for 400 years and endured all manner of hardship. They cried out to God to save them, and Moses was chosen as God’s ambassador to Pharaoh. God promised that he would be with Moses and make him “like a god to Pharaoh”, so that he would be convinced to release the captives and Aaron would be “like a prophet to Moses”. They both would be the agents of the miracles God performed to convince Pharaoh to let His people go.
But Pharaoh isn’t accustomed to receiving demands from anyone, least of all from someone who claimed to be the ambassador of the God worshipped by his slaves. Pharaoh was counting on his own magicians to match any “miracle” that Moses could perform. Then he could refuse Moses’ demand and send him away as an inconsequential irritation. Moses and Aaron visited ten plagues on Egypt, seven of which are found in these verses. They brought the plague of blood, the plague of frogs, the plague of gnats, the plague of flies, the plague of the death of the Egyptian livestock, the plague of boils on the Egyptian people, and a plague of very large hail. Each time the Israelite people living in Goshen were spared the plagues as a sign that they were protected because they were God’s chosen people. With each successive plague, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he refused. Even when he agreed to let them go and asked Moses to intervene with God on his behalf to remove the plagues, he would renege on his promise.
God told Moses this would be the case that He would harden Pharaoh’s heart and he would not let the people go.
Interpret: The story of Moses and Pharaoh is really about the consequence of disobedience to God, but it is also a story about belonging to God. Moses obediently followed God’s instructions and went to Pharaoh to demand that he release the slaves so they could worship Him in the desert where He would lead them. But Pharaoh didn’t much feel like letting the slaves go because, after all, they were the basis for much of the Egyptian economy. Slaves performed all the hard work necessary to plant and bring in the crops, and to construct the buildings and statutes Egypt was famous for. Moses was up against Egypt’s very economic foundation as well as a powerful and haughty ruler. But he had God on his side. Moses obeyed God every instruction while knowing full well that Pharaoh could at any time have him imprisoned or killed for making demands on him or threatening to bring plagues against his kingdom. However, Pharaoh humoured Moses at the start confident that his magicians could easily duplicate any miracle Moses could do. Whatever his first impression of Moses and Aaron might have been, they were soon dispelled as Aaron’s true miracles bested anything his wise men could do. Yet still his heart was hardened as the Lord said, not because of anything that God did to Pharaoh, but because Pharaoh didn’t like being bested by anyone. Moses and Aaron faithfully contended with Pharaoh time and again, plague after plague, in an effort to change his heart and mind, but still he refused or he went back on his word. Pharaoh continually defied God, and you could almost see him shaking his fist at God daring Him to do anything else, and each time he did so, a worse plague was unleashed on his land and his people.
Moses and Aaron obeyed God, risking Pharaoh’s wrath in the process, but the people of Israel were spared any of the effects of the worsening plagues. They were set aside and protected by God. He promised Abraham that his descendants would become a mighty nation, that they would inherit a pleasant land, and that they would be His chosen people through whom the whole world would be blessed. This episode clearly shows God collecting His chosen people in order to keep His promise.
Application: In these chapters, we see the consequences of disobedience to God’s will. Over and over, God tells Pharaoh to let His people go. Each time he refuses and the consequences become worse and worse. That’s often how our own lives play out. We hear God’s call on our lives to bend our will to His, yet we refuse. We know that His will is perfect and He promises to make our lives meaningful and fulfilled in ways we can’t imagine, but our hearts are hardened. We don’t want to wait on His timing for things to happen. We don’t trust that He will provide for all our needs. We decide that we know what is in our best interests. We have tasted the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and we have charted our own path in life. And we have suffered the consequences of that defiance in our broken relationships, in our unfulfilling lives, and in our in our constant chasing after the “next big thing”.
Moses on the other hand, obeyed God’s call on his life and accomplished what must have seemed impossible. With God’s power and authority, He convinced an absolute monarch to give up the economic foundation of his kingdom, freed the slaves, and set them on the road to the fulfillment of the God’s promise for them as His chosen people, who would eventually bless the world with the birth of the Messiah. In our own lives, we will never know what opportunities lie before us if only we would hear God’s calling and take the first on the road to His freedom. You may not free an entire people, but think about what you might accomplish for your family, your church, your neighbours, or those in need around the city and around the world.
Questions: Have you ever thought about whether you have a heart that is hardened to what God may be calling you to do? How do you think you would you know if you were actually answering His call?
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your unfailing faithlessness and mercy. You have plans for us from before the foundations of the world were laid. Give us the courage and patience to follow your will for our lives and in our church fellowship. In the mighty and merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.