“I need to get out more.” That is only one of the refrains that makes up the constant background noise in our minds, but it is a common one. Especially nowadays. What with perfectly crafted Instagrams, Facebook check-ins, and Venmo histories, we are always being bombarded with reminders of the things we should be doing and the people we should be seeing. But it’s easier to stay in, to be perfectly honest. Relax. Get comfortable. People are messy and irritating anyway. Why bother, I say!
You can probably think of as many reasons to bother as there were reasons for Pharaoh to stop it already. Two more plagues descended on Egypt, while all the while Pharaoh was holding on for dear life to…his ego? His belief in magic? Whatever it was, Pharaoh did not give in, no matter how gross the plagues became. Number eight was locusts, and a ton of them. “They covered all the ground until it was black” is what the Bible says (verse 15) and I don’t think a more horrifying sentence has ever been written. Before this plague, Pharaoh almost gives in. He tells just the men to go worship God, but Moses and Aaron reiterate that everyone must go. Furious, Pharaoh orders them out.
After the locusts comes the thickest darkness ever before seen. It was “darkness that can be felt” (verse 21). Imagine that! People couldn’t even move around (verse 23). Pharaoh calls Moses to him and the king of Egypt comes SO CLOSE to letting the Israelites go. Yet so far, because Moses explains (quite eloquently, and without Aaron, no less) why every last one of them must go to worship God. Pharaoh snaps. He rages at Moses, threatening his life and vowing never to see his face again. Moses agrees.
The Treasures Within:
The most dreadful darkness in this story was not the ninth plague. It was the darkness taking hold in Pharaoh’s heart. Take a look at this man underneath a magnifying glass and you find a worsening and still worsening mass of brokenness. Pharaoh was full of pride. He refused to let the children of Israel go partly because he did not want to let his property go. He was not to be ordered around. He was the boss – how dare his slaves challenge that? Pharaoh was stubborn. He knew that something greater than him was at work here. He’d looked into it. He was accidentally admitting it to himself and then drawing back in disgust. He didn’t want to believe it because it went against everything he knew. Thus the evidence piled up as he turned a blind eye. Pharaoh was angry. The slightest push back from Moses sent him into a rage. He refused to listen to counsel and reason (verse 7), blinded by his emotions. He hated Moses and he hated the Israelites and he hated their God.
This was a tortured man. This was a man in agony. This was a man in the darkest period of his life. Yet the cause of Pharaoh’s pain was quite simple. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, the son of the gods, could not accept that there was something more. He was not the only one at the top of the pyramid. He was not the one in control. The world did not revolve around him. It wasn’t really his way or the highway. Instead, there was, unmistakably, a God. There was a higher Power. And he needed to obey It. This truth may have been difficult for his officials to stomach, but for Pharaoh it was impossible. He refused it, even as it became frighteningly obvious to him. Thus, Pharaoh sunk into a pit he had dug himself. It would only get worse.
Pharaoh’s wretchedness is astounding, but not uncommon. His exact brand of darkness is rampant today. Our world is also angry, proud, and stubborn. We don’t want to obey anyone but ourselves. We want to believe that we are on our own. We go to therapy, we practice “self-care”, we treat ourselves, we do our Sunday Fundays, we travel, we binge-watch, we do as much as possible for ourselves and ourselves alone because that’s the way things should be. Living a life serving self is the theme of our most natural, most comfortable, most ideal world.
It sounds glorious, but in reality that world is dark, tortured, and frightening – we can tell because we’re living in it right now. Our valiant attempts at self-medication are only doing so much as things worsen and still worsen. Our frequent panics, angry schisms, worsening mental health, and problems upon problems are the subject of thinkpiece after thinkpiece. We think we can solve this. We’re trying to make it on our own. Yet all the while we are ignoring the wisdom and love of the Higher Power. We refuse to accept Him or obey Him, all the while teetering closer to our grave, suffering only from the consequences of our own stupid decisions. We are slowly killing ourselves, sinking deeper and deeper still…just like Pharaoh.
God’s Message To Us:
“I want you to know that I am the Lord.” This was the thesis of every action God took in the land of Egypt. He said it over and over and over – because that was the point. That was what Pharaoh was missing – that there was a God out there who wasn’t him. There was a supernatural God, a powerful God, one who altered physics, chemistry, and the weather. There was a loving God, a real God, one who tirelessly pursued His children. The reality of that God shook Pharaoh to his core, yet he could not acknowledge it. What about now, in 2018? It takes supernatural humility to acknowledge the sovereign God. It takes a miracle to escape the delusion and believe in Him. Pharaoh could not change because the only change available to him was in that he constantly rejected. But we can be different. We can start today.
What do you think? What else strikes you about Pharaoh and his decisions? What did God teach you from this chapter of the Bible?