By Brooke Holt
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.’” Exodus 7:1-5 (“The Great ‘I AM’” Study Reading: Exodus 7:1-13)
As I reviewed the next few chapters of Exodus, a duet from the musical “Annie Get Your Gun” kept running through my mind. In each verse, Annie Oakley and Frank Butler compete at a new task and then return to the chorus:
“Anything you can do, I can do better,
I can do anything better than you.
No, you can’t!
Yes, I can!
No, you can’t!
Yes, I can! Yes, I can!” (Written by: Irving Berlin)
Pharaoh’s sorcerers believed they could do anything God could do. I suspect they felt rather smug after they turned their staffs into snakes just as Aaron had. It looked like round one ended in a draw – a win in their eyes. And then Aaron’s serpent swallowed all of the other serpents. Think about that for a moment: God’s manifestation of power literally consumed theirs. It marked the magicians’ first defeat, but it would not be their last. An epic battle was about to begin as God unleashed ten plagues on the land of Egypt.
While the sorcerers proved overconfident in their abilities, Moses had serious doubts about his. At the end of yesterday’s reading, he once again wondered if he was sufficient to fulfill God’s plan. Today, the Lord reassured him, by word and deed, that he did not need to doubt. Notice the language God used as he reviewed the plan with Moses and Aaron: I have equipped you; I will harden Pharaoh’s heart; I will multiply my signs and wonders; I will bring my children out of the land of Egypt. The Lord was making promises, not demands. He did not expect Moses to accomplish any of those things, but rather to obey and trust.
To his credit, Moses did exactly that when he and Aaron returned to Pharaoh. He spoke the words God provided, even knowing the ruler’s heart would remain hard. And he commanded Aaron to toss down his staff, though he remained acutely aware neither of them could change its form. He trusted God to keep his promises, and God delivered in a fairly spectacular way. The Lord used Pharaoh’s obstinance and Moses’ obedience to reveal himself and demonstrate his might. And so much more was to come.
This raises a challenging question: why would God harden Pharaoh’s heart? We read God’s response in verse 5: “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them”. His plan was so much bigger than Moses or Pharaoh or even the nation of Israel. God wanted the Egyptians, and his people, to know him and to recognize and be transformed by his sovereignty. Each skirmish with Pharaoh and the sorcerers would provide another opportunity to reveal his glory.
Rick Warren opens his book, "The Purpose Driven Life", with these profound words: “It is not about you”. God’s plan does not depend on our abilities, or lack thereof. It is all about him and the work he longs to do in and through each of us. Our frailty and flaws neither surprise nor deter him. Moses, a stubborn and sometimes cowardly man, had committed murder, and yet God used him to free his people from bondage. Paul, who viciously persecuted the church prior to his conversion, went on to write more books of the New Testament than any other apostle. In both cases, God redeemed and utilized broken men to achieve his purpose. Paul offers a far more eloquent description: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Corinthians 4:7). It really is all about God.
Reflection: Could your life be characterized by Paul’s imagery of “treasure in a jar of clay”? How would the Lord like to use your past mistakes, trauma, and sin to display his glory? Spend some time listening to him today. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Come explore the grand story of God as the one who knows and loves his people. In one of the greatest love stories ever told, The Book of Exodus reveals God as Yahweh, the Great “I AM.” He is the transcendent, all-powerful creator of all things who defeated the greatest powers of the earth. This same God would have his people know and love him in an intimate and personal way. The Great “I AM” – A Study of the Book of Exodus is a 9-week study consisting of a small group study guide combined with weekly video teachings. Come and meet The Great “I AM”.
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