Beware False Finger-Pointing

July 31, 2013 at 11:18 am | Posted in Exodus, The Fives | 1 Comment
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The Hebrews in Egypt had been enslaved and forced into strenuous labor. But their population – under the blessings of God – had increased exponentially. Pharoah’s motivation for keeping them so busy was probably twofold: (1) They were an extremely cheap but productive labor force, and Egypt’s building program was flourishing; (2) People who are exhausted from working tend to have little time to organize, or to even think about insurrection, escape, freedom, or reform. When Moses and Aaron confronted Pharaoh and informed him that God was demanding a three-day sojourn into the wilderness for sacrificing, feasting, and worshiping, Pharaoh’s response was hostile and accusatory:

And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens.

Exodus 5:5

Pharaoh did not want the Hebrews to stop, slow down, or take a break. He laid the blame for an alleged decrease in production at the feet of Moses and Aaron. The fact is, however, that Moses and Aaron had orders from a higher authority.

And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword.

Exodus 5:3

When we, as Christians, resolve to fear and obey God in this present world, we will face opposition, persecution, and undue blame. This can be uncomfortable to say the least. Few of us enjoy being blamed, condemned, or judged for stating – or living out – what we believe. When someone points the finger of blame at you for your faith, do not point your finger back at them (nor at some handy or hapless third party). Instead, point upward to God. The fear of man is a snare, but the fear of God is the beginning of both knowledge and wisdom.

This Is Not a Negotiation

July 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Exodus | 12 Comments
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During the time when Moses was trying to convince Pharaoh to let God’s people go because of the plagues, Pharaoh sometimes treated the discussions like a game of “Let’s Make a Deal.” Given the absolute holiness of God, we should know the absurdity of a pagan king trying to bargain or negotiate with Him. Only those who have some privileged standing before Him – and even that would had to have been granted by Him – may petition God to relent and have mercy. Pharaoh clearly did not get what manner of God with which he was dealing.

And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.

Exodus 5:1

Pharaoh was doing two things here. First, he was negotiating: “I’m a god. If your God is going to make demands on me, he’s going to have to show me He’s a real God first.” Two, he was giving voice to the response that people still have today: “Maybe He’s Lord to you, but he’s nothing to me.” This is the voice of the relativist who obeys absolutes in everything but moral matters.

And Pharaoh commanded the same day the taskmasters of the people, and their officers, saying, Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as heretofore: let them go and gather straw for themselves. And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof: for they be idle; therefore they cry, saying, Let us go and sacrifice to our God. Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labour therein; and let them not regard vain words.

Exodus 5:6-9

Pharaoh sounded like the obnoxiously pretentious and self-important restaurant manager who tells his employees, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean,” when he said, “If you’ve got time to worship, you’ve got time to work.” In other words, he was saying, “Let’s see how serious your God is about this ‘let my people go’ thing [wink, wink] – if He’s real.”

And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said. And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go.

Exodus 7:13-14

Do these verses contradict James 1:17? “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” Let’s think of it this way: Did God make Pharaoh’s heart hard? Yes. Disobedience to God is evil and sin. Did God create fresh evil in Pharaoh’s heart? No. He withdrew His gracious restraint and allowed Pharaoh’s own evil to have full reign. We need to be careful – that could happen to us too if we decide to barter and compromise with God. God’s greatest judgment against a person may be to let him have his own way.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me. And if thou refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all thy borders with frogs:

Exodus 8:1-2

The Egyptians had their own god who was supposed to be in charge of the frogs, so this was a direct assault on their belief system.

And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs: And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants. And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Stretch forth thine hand with thy rod over the streams, over the rivers, and over the ponds, and cause frogs to come up upon the land of Egypt. And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt. And the magicians did so with their enchantments, and brought up frogs upon the land of Egypt.

Exodus 8:3-7

Obviously, their frog deity was no match for the true God.

Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, Intreat the LORD, that he may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the LORD.

Exodus 8:8

Pharaoh’s ploy was to say, “Okay, fine, tell your God that I’ll give in a little to get rid of these frogs.”

And Moses said unto Pharaoh, Glory over me: when shall I intreat for thee, and for thy servants, and for thy people, to destroy the frogs from thee and thy houses, that they may remain in the river only?

Exodus 8:9

Moses allowed Pharaoh a little input here: Did he want the frogs gone completely or just back in the river?

And he said, To morrow. And he said, Be it according to thy word: that thou mayest know that there is none like unto the LORD our God.

Exodus 8:10

It is curious that Pharaoh wanted the frog-removal held off for another day. Did he want a little more time to see if they might go away on their own? Was he hoping his own magicians or priests might finally come through? I doubt he was going to miss the frogs when they were gone! Maybe he was suffering from extreme hardness of heart and was torn between caving in to Moses’s God and maybe offending or angering his own frog-god.

And the frogs shall depart from thee, and from thy houses, and from thy servants, and from thy people; they shall remain in the river only. And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields. And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank. But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart, and hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had said.

Exodus 8:11-15

We must remember to avoid the pattern of Pharaoh here. May we never make a promise to God to get Him to fix our problem, and then back out on the promise when He comes through.

And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.

Exodus 8:25

Pharaoh said they could worship, but they had to stay in Egypt while they did it.

And Moses said, It is not meet so to do; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?

Exodus 8:26

Moses did not accept the offered compromise. God had called His people to come out from among the heathen and be separate. They were not going to be worshiping just another god in the pantheon of Egyptian gods. They were going to worship the One True God.

And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: intreat for me.

Exodus 8:28

But Pharaoh still did not get it. He still thought it was a negotiation. He tells them they can go worship, “but don’t go too far.”

And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?

Exodus 10:7

Pharaoh’s servants saw what Pharaoh could not – or would not – see. “This Moses is kicking our behinds. Let these people go before this powerful and terrible God of theirs wipes us off the face of the Earth!”

And Moses and Aaron were brought again unto Pharaoh: and he said unto them, Go, serve the LORD your God: but who are they that shall go?

Exodus 10:8

Pharaoh still wanted to talk logistics.

And Moses said, We will go with our young and with our old, with our sons and with our daughters, with our flocks and with our herds will we go; for we must hold a feast unto the LORD.

Exodus 10:9

Moses said, “We’re taking the whole shooting match. The God we serve is Lord over our wives, our children, our animals, our possessions. He means business in case you haven’t noticed!”

And he said unto them, Let the LORD be so with you, as I will let you go, and your little ones: look to it; for evil is before you. Not so: go now ye that are men, and serve the LORD; for that ye did desire. And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.

Exodus 10:10-11

Pharaoh would only go so far, though. He makes it a “men only” affair. He wanted to keep the wives and kids to make sure the men came back. As Christian men, let us not leave our wives and children out of worship, but let us neither allow our wives or children to be the leaders in worship. In most churches today, Moses would have quite a struggle, trying to get the men off their Egyptian couches, out of their Egyptian fishing boats or duck blinds. They would say, “Do I have to go worship? Can’t my wife do that?”

And Pharaoh called unto Moses, and said, Go ye, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be stayed: let your little ones also go with you.

Exodus 10:24

Pharaoh was forced to relent and propose allowing the entire family to go, but not the property.

And Moses said, Thou must give us also sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice unto the LORD our God. Our cattle also shall go with us; there shall not an hoof be left behind; for thereof must we take to serve the LORD our God; and we know not with what we must serve the LORD, until we come thither. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.

Exodus 10:25-27

As Christians our souls and our bodies have been purchased by God. Our material possessions are not to be prized in the same way, but neither are they to be disregarded completely. All ground is holy ground for Christians. There is no asterisk in I Corinthians 10:31 that says everything is for God’s glory except for how we manage our possessions.

And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?

Exodus 14:5

In Pharaoh’s twisted way of thinking it occurred to him that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have let his whole labor force go because of some frogs and locusts and the death of all the firstborn.

And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him: And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.

Exodus 14:6-8

Now that’s a hard heart! There is no room for compromise when the Lord has spoken. Pharaoh’s behavior seems strange, but beware. When you only see the visible it’s easy to convince yourself that the consequences of disobeying God were only coincidental. God is not a compromiser when it comes to sin.

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