I went to this Seventh-Day Adventist youth conference once. It was like seven years ago. The conference was called iServe, and that was really supposed to be the point of it – service. On one of the days of the conference, all the young people loaded up onto huge charter buses and went out into the community. My group ended up at a nursing home. There were like thirty of us, and I don’t think they knew what to do with all those kids. All I did that day was pick up a piece of trash or two and vacuum for five minutes. I remember leaving feeling as if I didn’t do anything. Had anyone even noticed me?
Moses and Aaron have quite the opposite situation in this chapter of the Bible. The dust has settled from plagues 1-9. The darkness has lifted, the boils have healed, and the swarms of insects and animals are gone. Egypt is experiencing a temporary peace. Moses and Aaron may have even gotten a day off from pestering Pharaoh. Yet the life of every single breathing person in Egypt is about to change.
The tenth and final plague is about to happen. We know it’s final because God comes to Moses and begins to give him instructions for how to leave Egypt. Pharaoh will let you go this time, He tells Moses (verse 1). Pharaoh will not be able to ignore this plague. This plague will be permanent. During this plague, every firstborn son will die (verse 5). Every male who was the first one born in his family will lose his life. Pharaoh, hearing this, somehow doesn’t budge one bit. Despite all he’s seen, he doesn’t change his mind. He would soon come to deeply regret his decision.
The Treasures Within:
Moses was pissed! The timid man who had not even wanted to speak to Pharaoh alone had delivered his final speech about the final plague, turned on his heel and dipped, “hot with anger” (verse 8). He was especially angry this time, and I think it was because Moses knew. He knew what would happen next. The sheer number of Egyptians who were going to die was staggering. This ran through his mind over and over, and it enraged him. Because it didn’t have to happen, but he knew it would anyway.
It would happen because Pharaoh was stubborn. He was lying to himself. He was egotistical. Pharaoh was the one who chose to harden his heart, yet Pharaoh’s simple emotional decision was spiraling outward, and it was about to cause the deaths of tons of people. Of course, Pharaoh wasn’t going to be the one doing the killing. This final plague was decided upon by God. The Sovereign Lord had decided that this was necessary in order to let His people go free. We say that God had to do this in order to get Pharaoh’s attention, that Pharaoh brought this upon himself, but let’s be honest. Those exact words have come out of the mouths of the disturbing kill-happy villains we see on TV and in movies.
Yet God is different. God has control. God could have spared the lives of the Egyptians. He could have forced Pharaoh to let them go free – only that would be impossible. Not impossible in that God couldn’t do it, but impossible in that God wouldn’t do it. God has given us all free will, the ability to freely choose Him and salvation or Satan and death. If He took away Pharaoh’s free will, He’d have to take away yours and mine, too. Love doesn’t do that. Salvation would be meaningless that way. No one would be able to choose. On the other hand, God couldn’t take away the consequences either. There are consequences for literally everything. Taking those away completely would be like taking away centuries of knowledge. Consequences teach us. Horror teaches us: this world is not our home. The evil we cause and see caused leads us to yearn for our true Home.
It’s Our Fault
Thus the blame here could not be shifted. Pharaoh’s sin was the direct cause of the loss that was about to take place. It’s just like how the sin of Hitler and those who followed him was the direct cause of the millions of deaths during the Holocaust. It’s like how the sin of racist white people was and is the direct cause of the destruction and murder of black bodies. It’s like how the sin of Donald Trump and his administration is the direct cause of the trauma and pain of the young children and parents separated from each other at the United States border. The list goes on. People are dying. Every day. They are dying quickly and slowly. They are dying physically, emotionally and spiritually. They are dying because of sin – both the sins of the powerful and the sins of you and I. Sin is destruction. It is not a small explosion that takes place in a vacuum. It is like a bomb. It destroys not just you, but those around you. And it is our fault.
The sins of one cause harm to many. This fact is not one truth, but two. If sin, evil, and decisions that reek of denial of God can cause people to die, then can choosing the opposite path cause people to live? Look at this story. Pharaoh’s decisions were destroying his people, yet they were not all on board with him. His officials were urging him to let them go (verse 8). They and other Egyptians were learning of God, learning to believe in the true Life-giver. Moses and the Israelites and the way they handled themselves was literally giving life to so many Egyptians. Why can’t that be our story also? Why can’t we be a light in our dark world? We can alleviate people’s suffering with our time, effort, and generosity. We can love others through their pain. Most importantly, we can share the good news with everyone – that there is a God who loves and saves and heals and He wants you. This truth changes lives. The goodness of one can thus give life to many.
God’s Message To Us:
“I have come to give you life.” Christians get a bad rap today, and deservedly so. All around us, there are Christians in high places and in low places, causing the deaths of millions because of their sin. As a result, people think that God is just as evil, just as distasteful. But Jesus left heaven, suffered on Earth, preached and taught and bled and died just to make it clear to us that it isn’t true. He is the Source of goodness and life, not evil. People are dying, but they don’t have to be. They can live, if only they know and love Jesus. It is my job to spread this truth far and wide. It is your job. If we would allow God to cleanse us from all sin and fill us with His Holy Spirit, we could be well on our way to speaking life. People are dying. What is taking us so long?
What do you think? What will you do? How can you give life? How have you seen yourself and others cause death? What did God tell you as you studied this chapter?
There Are Always Questions:
- In verse 2, while giving Moses instructions for after the final plague, God tells Moses that the Israelites need to ask their Egyptian neighbors for silver and gold. Um, why? Was it, like, reparations for their slavery? Did they need the money for their journey? Wouldn’t they be living off of their herds and flocks and, well, the land? What did they need the precious metals for?