Reading: Exodus 6-13
In my life, I’ve heard two competing pieces of advice: “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again,” and “The sign of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” Last week, we talked about Moses approaching Pharaoh to say: “Let my people sacrifice to their God,” and how Pharaoh reacted by not only saying “no,” but also increasing their workload and creating excuses to beat them. The result of Moses making a request from Pharaoh was things got worse for the people, and everybody blamed Moses for it.
Moses kept going back to Pharaoh, and Pharaoh kept saying “no.” It would have been easy for Moses to decide that approaching Pharaoh was a completely pointless action, but he kept doing it; was he crazy, or was he trying and trying again until he succeeded? I can say that it didn’t take long before Moses wanted to give up, and it only took one try before the people of Israel didn’t want Moses’ help. I don’t know if I’d have the courage to go back — then again, after losing an argument with God, I don’t know if I could do anything else; God seems pretty convincing, and God is much more stubborn than those who want to argue.
Anyways, Moses asked Pharaoh, he said no. Moses turned a rod into a snake, Pharaoh’s magicians did the same, and Pharaoh said no. Moses turned the water of the Nile, and all the water people had stored into containers into blood, the court magicians also made water into blood, and Pharaoh said no. Moses called down a plague of frogs, Pharaoh’s magicians called more frogs, but the frogs somehow got to Pharaoh
Pharaoh called Moses to tell him that if he got rid of the frogs, he would let the people of Israel go and sacrifice to God. Moses asks: “when should I pray for God to get rid of the frogs,” and Pharaoh answers: “Tomorrow.” I really don’t understand this man; he has his magicians bring more snakes, more blood, and more frogs. If I were him, I’d ask if they can get rid of them — and, if I were so annoyed with the frogs that I was ready to capitulate, I’d not say “tomorrow,” I would say “now” so that I could finally get a good night’s sleep that is not interrupted by all those frogs in my bedroom.
As soon as the frogs are dead, and everybody is cleaning up the dead frogs, Pharaoh changes his mind — so, Moses sends gnats, and the magicians tell Pharaoh that they are not able to summon more of them, but Pharaoh would not listen. Moses comes again, and God sends flies — Pharaoh tells Moses again that if if he prays to God to remove the flies, the Israelites may sacrifice to their God; Moses prays, God takes the flies away, and Pharaoh changes his mind and says they must stay.
This is followed by an illness that kills all of the livestock of Egypt, but leaves the livestock of Israel untouched; Pharaoh still does not let the people of Israel go sacrifice. Next, an illness touches the people, and they break out in boils, when Pharaoh still won’t let them go, Moses warns that the next plague will be a severe hail storm that will kill and destroy everything and everyone that is outside. Many, seeing the other plagues, believe this and take shelter, but those who do not die and all crops are destroyed — and the hail destroyed everything in Egypt, except the land of Goshen where the people of Israel lived. Pharaoh called Moses, told him he’d let the Israelites go and sacrifice, but after the hail stopped, he changed his mind again;
Now the hail only destroyed the crops that were near harvest — the wheat was planted recently enough that it would grow back and there would be a wheat harvest, however the next plague was locusts — and the locusts ate everything that the hail did not destroy, making it so that this year would be a total loss. Again, Pharaoh called Moses to ask him to get rid of the swarm of Locusts, again Moses prayed and God blew them away on a wind, and again Pharaoh changed his mind and would not let the people of Israel go.
Next all of Egypt, except Goshen, was covered in darkness for three days — again, Pharaoh called Moses, told him that the people could worship, and then again changed his mind; and he told Moses that the next time they saw each other, Moses would die. After this, the firstborn of every Egyptian family died. Pharaoh called Moses at night, and he ordered that they all leave, and not come back; Moses did not die, and Pharaoh was ready to give up.
Earlier I pointed out that Moses argued with God, Moses did not want to be a messenger, but God is far more stubborn than we are. Moses might not had it within himself to win an argument with Pharaoh, but Moses was just the messenger, it was God who argued with Pharaoh, and Pharaoh lost that argument. By the time Pharaoh said Israel could leave, all of Egypt wanted them gone.
Arguing with God is futile — I don’t know if we receive this as good news or bad news. If we are in the place of Egypt, it is very bad news. If we are in the place of Israel, and God is working to free us from our chains, it is good news. Abraham Lincoln once said: “My concern is not whether God is on my side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
I must say, this is a hard thing — we want God to be on our side against somebody else, but too often no matter how much we want God on our side, God is on the side of those caught in the middle. We know who’s side God is on, because scripture tells us multiple times. God is on the side of the slaves, of the poor, of the hungry, of the orphan, and of the oppressed. God is on the side of the desperate who need God’s help. Is this good news for us? It is if we are on God’s side, otherwise it is bad news because we know God wins in the end.
But whether we are on God’s side or not — we need patience. I don’t envy the prophets; they suffer quite a by repeating God’s message to those who don’t want to listen. I certainly don’t envy those who are held captive; though God will release them, for too long, they are bound and they are suffering. Too often, things get worse before they get better. If God works for a person’s freedom, there is a time when that person was a captive. No matter if we are on God’s side or not, if there is a struggle it is hard. Moses, Pharaoh, the Israelites, and the Egyptians all faced difficulties.
No matter what, we need to make sure we are on God’s side — if we are, we have hope and hope is good news.