a study through Exodus on how God shapes His leaders
Ten plagues. Some harmless but annoying, while others were deadly and destructive, and all of them wreaked havoc on everyday life. We know that God brought them as a judgment against the gods of Egypt. However, let’s step back and consider one thing: what if Pharaoh hadn’t hardened his heart at the very beginning? What if he had conceded and let the Israelites go after one or two plagues?
Throughout the Bible, God tells us that Pharaoh’s hardness of heart was part of God’s plan of bringing glory to Himself and redeeming His people. But Pharaoh wasn’t without a choice in the matter. God allowed him to be disobedient and used that for His glory; however, Pharaoh could have had a different story to tell. He could have been obedient and sensitive to the voice of the Lord and spared himself and his people all the trouble and heartbreak. But he didn’t.
Pharaoh chose to rebel against the word of the Lord. He chose to let pride and arrogance rule his decisions. He chose to be the villain in the story of Exodus and the enemy of God’s people. And woe to the one who opposes and oppresses God’s people!
Over four hundred years before the Exodus, God made Abraham this covenant promise:
“Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’”
Obviously, Pharaoh didn’t keep this in mind! However, we would do well to remember this promise to Israel and learn from Pharaoh’s mistake. For God’s covenants still stand and so does this promise.
But back to Exodus. Pharaoh chose disobedience and, therefore, brought God’s wrath and judgment on his people. And this went on for not one or two plagues, but nine and ten. What did the people think? Were they signing and sending in petitions asking Pharaoh to just let those Israelites go? Did they realize that all the suffering and hardship they were experiencing were directly related to the ongoing issue with Moses and Aaron’s requests?
Sin doesn’t just affect us, it affects lots of people. In Pharaoh’s case, his sin affected a whole nation and thousands of people. Imagine the national loss to have so much destruction in the way of crops and livestock or the pain and agony of the boils. But if that wasn’t enough, if the nine plagues were not difficult enough, Pharaoh’s refusal to obey God brings one final blow to both the palace and the people of Egypt.
“At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.”
The final and last plague that finally broke through Pharaoh’s stubbornness was death—death of all the firstborn, man and animal. No one was spared. In every Egyptian household there would be mourning and weeping. It was a national tragedy, and all because one man refused to humble himself and listen.
You may think, How unfair! All the Egyptians shouldn’t have had to suffer. Or at least they shouldn’t have had to suffer death. But all sin eventually leads to death whether we experience it on a broader, physical level like the Egyptians did or in a smaller intangible way. Maybe its the death of a dream, death of a relationship, or spiritual death. Either way, our sin affects people. What a sobering lesson.
So what can we learn from all of this? Humble yourself before it causes more grief and hardship on those you love! We don’t have to let our sin take us to the point of experiencing death—any kind of death. We can repent and turn around before then. Pharaoh had nine opportunities to let go of his pride and walk in obedience before death came knocking on his door. But he didn’t.
Therefore, let’s learn from Pharaoh’s mistakes and not let pride stand in our way. And let us also remember that sin doesn’t just affect us—just think of the ten plagues. Hopefully, we can avoid the suffering and misery Pharaoh walked through all because of pride and disobedience.
Your turn: if you were an Egyptian during the time of the Exodus, what would you do? Would you realize God was at work and join the Israelites? Or would you blindly follow your leader and suffer along with him?