As a web developer, I write code a lot. The only purpose I ever have in writing code is to get a computer to do what I want it to do. Sometimes I succeed pretty quickly, and I feel great, like a magician or something. Sometimes I fail pretty quickly – I don’t properly express myself to the computer, thus it does something hilariously wrong. Sometimes this miscommunication will last for hours, no matter what I try to make the computer understand me. Eventually I devolve into this state of desperate insanity, trying every trick in the book, doing everything in my power to make the computer do the right thing.
Speaking of doing the right thing, Pharaoh is still not doing the right thing. Another week, another three plagues, and still Pharaoh refuses to budge. First God sends a plague on the Egyptians’ livestock, causing hundreds and maybe thousands to drop dead. Pharaoh only flinches a little, and next God inflicts people left and right with boils (oh my word, grossssss), some getting it so bad they can’t even stand (verse 11). Moses and Aaron are still asking to be allowed to go worship God for just a few days. Pharaoh is still like “it’s a no from me”.
The seventh plague is a real doozy. Relentless thunderstorms come upon Egypt, bringing with them heavy, dangerous hail. It was the worst hailstorm to ever hit Egypt (verse 18). Animals died. People were injured (verse 19). Trees and plants were stripped bare (verse 25). Crops were ruined (verse 31). I am pretty sure there have been nations that have surrendered to powers threatening less than this. Yet Pharaoh. Is not. Having It. His heart is hard. The battle continues.
The Treasures Within:
These plagues are rough. Seriously. I would have taken myself to Israel by now just to get away from the horror of it all. And at the other end of all this suffering is God, the God of love. It seems wrong. Why fight stubbornness with force? Why cause innocent people to suffer? What could this be accomplishing? Let’s be honest, we ask some of those same questions today. As hatred, poverty and tragedy increase, we feel as if this is a bit cruel. Why is God letting people suffer? What’s His end game?
If we look closer at this text and these plagues, we can see God’s heart shining through the devastation. God is not in a pissing contest with Pharaoh – He’s trying to reach His heart. Before the plague of livestock, God gives Pharaoh a start time for the plague (verse 4), both showing Pharaoh mercy in giving him time to repent and making it clear to Him that these plagues are by His command only. After the plague of hail, God, through Moses, predicts that Pharaoh “still [doesn’t] fear the Lord” (verse 30, 35), showing the hardened man that the Lord knew his heart! And during multiple plagues, God gave the Israelites special treatment, impossibly keeping the plagues from them so that again, Pharaoh would know that an intentional Power was behind this. And that wasn’t all. God gave Pharaoh physical demonstrations (verse 8), thorough explanations for His actions (verses 13-19), and ample warnings before plagues (verse 19). All this and more God did for Pharaoh. He pulled out the stops. He was pleading with Egypt’s king. He was after this man’s heart. Today, when pain and sorrow comes to our world and our hearts, do we ask who God is pleading with? Or do we harden our hearts in anger?
There Are Two Kinds Of People
God was after some hearts, but would He win them? The answer is yes, for some of the Egyptians at least. In verse 20 we see them listening to God, believing Him, and obeying Him. They obviously were not trying to convince themselves that these plagues were really dramatic magic tricks. They “[feared] the word of the Lord”. God’s love was breaking through to them.
Meanwhile, Pharaoh and his officials were cracking, but not all the way. We know for sure that Pharaoh was beginning to second guess himself. Would someone confident in their denial of a God check that same God’s work to see if He did what He claimed? Probably not, but that’s exactly what Pharaoh did when he investigated to be sure that the Israelites were not affected by the livestock plague (verse 7). Pharaoh even called his own actions “sin” (verse 27), which, although not repentance, was a moment of clarity. God was touching Pharaoh’s heart, bothering his conscience, getting his attention over and over and over again. He was touching the heart of every Egyptian. He was trying to save every single man, woman, boy and girl into His kingdom. Some accepted God’s overflowing love. Others, well, others ended up like Pharaoh.
God’s Message To Us:
“I am relentlessly pursuing you.” God wanted Pharaoh. He wanted Pharaoh’s officials and Pharaoh’s people. But right here and now, God wants you. He, unlike you, knows the end from the beginning. He knows what will happen if we continue to ignore Him – the gnawing emptiness we’ll feel, the consequences of sin, the hopelessness, the eternal regret. And He also knows what we will experience if we accept His gift of love – the completeness in Him, His outpouring of blessings, the hope of eternal life. If God didn’t love you, He wouldn’t bother over which option you took. But He can’t imagine life without you, so He is trying to get your attention. He is calling you. He is tugging at your conscience. He is pleading with you. He is doing everything He can. He is going big because He doesn’t want to go home without you. How is God pursuing you? Is He sending you plagues of your own? Is He reminding you of Him every chance He gets? Is He dropping answers to your questions about Him in unexpected places? Only you know what He’s doing for you. Only you know how to respond.
What do you think? How is God pursuing you? What do you like about this chapter of the Bible?