Exodus – God’s Way Out
We have asked this question in frustrating circumstances. What will it take to fix this thing? What will it take for this to work? What will it take for these kids to behave? What will it take for me to get life right? What will it take for my loved one to be well again? What will it take to get out of debt? What will it take for this virus to diminish? What will it take for us to be out of quarantine?
It could be worse. At this point in our story of God, Moses is probably asking what will it take for this mission to finally be over? What will it take for Pharaoh to cave?
Remember, while plague after plague is occurring, there is no respite for the Hebrews! God’s people, slaves to the Egyptians, are still driven to work beyond human physical and mental limits every day from sun up to sun down building straw bricks. We are sure they are crying out, “What will it take for this misery to cease?” They don’t have time to do anything but work hard during the plagues. But, they do see the power of God at work and are beginning to let hope rise.
Let’s read what is happening next…
Exodus 9, The Message
Strike Five: Animals
1-4 God said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and tell him, ‘God, the God of the Hebrews, says: Release my people so they can worship me. If you refuse to release them and continue to hold on to them, I’m giving you fair warning: God will come down hard on your livestock out in the fields—horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep—striking them with a severe disease. God will draw a sharp line between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt. Not one animal that belongs to the Israelites will die.’”
5 Then God set the time: “Tomorrow God will do this thing.”
6-7 And the next day God did it. All the livestock of Egypt died, but not one animal of the Israelites died. Pharaoh sent men to find out what had happened and there it was: none of the livestock of the Israelites had died—not one death. But Pharaoh stayed stubborn. He wouldn’t release the people.
Strike Six: Boils
8-11 God said to Moses and Aaron, “Take fistfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses throw it into the air right before Pharaoh’s eyes; it will become a film of fine dust all over Egypt and cause sores, an eruption of boils on people and animals throughout Egypt.” So they took soot from a furnace, stood in front of Pharaoh, and threw it up into the air. It caused boils to erupt on people and animals. The magicians weren’t able to compete with Moses this time because of the boils—they were covered with boils just like everyone else in Egypt.
12 God hardened Pharaoh in his stubbornness. He wouldn’t listen, just as God had said to Moses.
Strike Seven: Hail
13-19 God said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh. Tell him, ‘God, the God of the Hebrews, says: Release my people so they can worship me. This time I am going to strike you and your servants and your people with the full force of my power so you’ll get it into your head that there’s no one like me anywhere in all the Earth.
You know that by now I could have struck you and your people with deadly disease and there would be nothing left of you, not a trace. But for one reason only I’ve kept you on your feet: To make you recognize my power so that my reputation spreads in all the Earth. You are still building yourself up at my people’s expense. You are not letting them go. So here’s what’s going to happen: At this time tomorrow I’m sending a terrific hailstorm—there’s never been a storm like this in Egypt from the day of its founding until now. So get your livestock under roof—everything exposed in the open fields, people and animals, will die when the hail comes down.’”
20-21 All of Pharaoh’s servants who had respect for God’s word got their workers and animals under cover as fast as they could, but those who didn’t take God’s word seriously left their workers and animals out in the field.
22 God said to Moses: “Stretch your hands to the skies. Signal the hail to fall all over Egypt on people and animals and crops exposed in the fields of Egypt.”
23-26 Moses lifted his staff to the skies and God sent peals of thunder and hail shot through with lightning strikes. God rained hail down on the land of Egypt. The hail came, hail and lightning—a fierce hailstorm. There had been nothing like it in Egypt in its entire history. The hail hit hard all over Egypt. Everything exposed out in the fields, people and animals and crops, was smashed. Even the trees in the fields were shattered. Except for Goshen where the Israelites lived; there was no hail in Goshen.
27-28 Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. He said, “I’ve sinned for sure this time—God is in the right and I and my people are in the wrong. Pray to God. We’ve had enough of God’s thunder and hail. I’ll let you go. The sooner you’re out of here the better.”
29-30 Moses said, “As soon as I’m out of the city, I’ll stretch out my arms to God. The thunder will stop and the hail end so you’ll know that the land is God’s land. Still, I know that you and your servants have no respect for God.”
31-32 (The flax and the barley were ruined, for they were just ripening, but the wheat and spelt weren’t hurt—they ripen later.)
33 Moses left Pharaoh and the city and stretched out his arms to God. The thunder and hail stopped; the storm cleared.
34-35 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he kept right on sinning, stubborn as ever, both he and his servants. Pharaoh’s heart turned rock-hard. He refused to release the Israelites, as God had ordered through Moses.
WHAT is it going to take for this hardhearted man to give into God’s overwhelming power?
I think of people I love among my family and friends who do not know or follow God. What will it take for them to come to God and believe, really believe He is who He says He is. What will it take for them to realize how much He loves them? What will it take for the lost to be saved?
The fifth and sixth plagues especially affected livestock. Here again is a contest between the Lord and the Egyptian gods. The great gods were symbolized by sacred animals such as the bull, the ram, and the he-goat. God shows that these gods are as helpless before him as are their human magicians.
In a forceful statement to Pharaoh, God underlines the purpose of the plagues (9:15-16). If destruction was God’s purpose, he could have done that long since. Rather, using the Egyptian gods and Pharaoh himself as foils, God intends to reveal himself to the world.
“But for one reason only I’ve kept you on your feet: To make you recognize my power so that my reputation spreads in all the Earth.”
Because of the desert on the west, rainstorms are uncommon in Egypt. It would be frightening enough that this great storm should occur at all. But that it should begin and end precisely on Moses’ cue would make it frankly terrifying.
Finally, Pharaoh admits that there is some other standard than his own to which he is accountable (9:27). But intellectually knowing does not guarantee surrender of the will (v.35). From the perspective of his own responsibility, Pharaoh hardened his own heart. But from the perspective of God’s purposes this act was entirely within a plan.
Pharaoh’s words are ironic. He says something like, “The Lord really will be with you if I ever let you go on those terms.” Faced with proof of his helplessness before God, Pharaoh still tries to dictate terms. Pride would rather see everything around it ruined than admit anything superior to itself. Finally Pharaoh is forced to recognize the Lord’s existence even if he will not acknowledge him (“the Lord your God,” v.17).
What will it take? We will find out as we continue to God’s Story in Moses and in His people.
What will it take for us to really believe what we say we believe about God?
Dear Heavenly Father,
You are God, our Creator, our Sustainer, Deliverer, Protector, and Giver of Life eternal through Jesus Christ, Your Son. You have all power to do what you know is best. We lean into your power, love, mercy and grace this morning. We pray for the hearts of the lost to soften, eyes to be opened and ears to hear you, come to you in surrender to you and your will for them. I thank you for saving my soul, healing my broken spirit and loving me back to spiritual health. I thank you for our intimate relationship. Thank you for allowing me to see your glorious power at work each day.
In Jesus Name, Amen
What will it take? Humility.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV