The eighth plague is ready for Pharaoh and Egypt; locust. SO MANY that you can’t even see the ground. Beating wings of death to every green thing in all the land.
If I was in Moses’ shoes and the Lord told me that HE had “hardened the heart” of the person I was going up against I probably would have been discouraged. Moses knew he was fighting an uphill battle from the beginning. He had been part of Pharaoh’s home until he was 40 years old. He knew the importance of the Hebrew slaves to the Egyptian economy. He also knew the overall attitude of superiority of the Egyptians. He was going up against all this with a command he knew they were dead set against following.
One would say he was fighting a “lost cause.” But then whoever said that would have discounted the One who sent him to deliver this message. There is NO WAY Moses would have delivered this message in and of his own will. Instead he was following God’s will. And when God chooses to do something, IT GETS DONE.
I KNOW this with ALL my heart but God’s words that HE hardened Pharaoh’s heart would have been disheartening to me. I would have felt like I was fighting for God but also against Him. I probably would have cried out “WHY? I thought You WANTED Your people to go free! Why not soften his heart instead?”
But Moses got the answer to my question without even having to ask it. “That I may show these signs of Mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may KNOW that I AM THE LORD” (verses 1b-2). God wanted a story SO great that it would withstand time. The Hebrews freedom had to be epic to withstand all the ups and downs that were to come. The people had to remember for GENERATIONS to come the works of the Lord. And here we are today, still recounting His mighty works. I guess a little frustration and “Is it time yet” is worth it. Let’s join Moses and Aaron as they walk their uphill battle.
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Moses is again resting under his favorite tree. Since the Lord first said He was going to free His people, life has gotten harder. The brief reprieves brought on by each new plague were welcomed by the people but the return of the oppression as soon as the plague was over was VERY disheartening. “If this is freedom, I’ll take captivity” rang off many tongues in the camp. Right beside that though, in smaller numbers, could be heard “Be still and see the things the Lord has done! He is working a wondrous thing for us!” This latter camp was the one Moses was firmly in. These were the thoughts going through Moses’ mind when the voice of the Lord spoke to him again.
“Speak Lord. Your servant is listening.
“You are to go to Pharaoh again and carry another message from Me. He is not going to take it to do as I command because I have hardened his heart along with his servant’s hearts.”
“But I thought You wanted him to let the people go. Why are YOU making it harder? Wouldn’t it be easier if You softened his heart towards the people and their plight?”
“It would. But then you wouldn’t have a story to tell. What would you say about your release from Egypt? ‘One day things were a bit rough, then the next we just walked away from it.’ That is NOT the kind of story I am writing here. I am authoring one that you will tell to your children, their children and every generation after them that will SHOW MY hand at work. It will speak of MY power and MY faithfulness. THIS story will stand the test of time and will speak of MY works and not man’s. NO MAN can accomplish what I have done and am continuing to do in your midst.”
“Please forgive me Lord for ever complaining! What message do You have for me to bring to Pharaoh?”
“You are going to tell him of death coming on the wings of locust.”
Moses listens raptly as the Lord gives him specific directions as to what to say to Pharaoh. As soon as he feels he understands all that God has shared with him, he goes to find Aaron. Aaron will go with him, as always, when he stands before Pharaoh. Moses is MOST GRATEFUL for Aaron’s presence.
The next morning Aaron and Moses present themselves at the gate to Pharaoh’s palace. The guard looks terrified! “What are you doing here? Haven’t we suffered enough?”
“Are the Hebrews free yet?”
“No. I will go tell Pharaoh you are here to see him.” As the guard leaves Moses notices his shoulders look slumped in defeat and his steps are slower. The guard returns in short order and ushers Moses and Aaron into Pharaoh’s throne room. Pharaoh and his servants look no happier to see them than the guard did.
“Look! It is Moses and Aaron again. What a surprise. Let me guess why you are here. You have another message from the Hebrew God. Isn’t he getting tired of sending messages yet? I know I’m tired of hearing from Him.”
Aaron steps forward and speaks the message the Lord gave to Moses. “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve Me. For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day’” (verses 3b-6a).
Moses and Aaron didn’t even wait for an answer from Pharaoh. They already knew what his answer would be as God had told Moses He had hardened Pharaoh’s heart. They simply delivered their message, turned around, and left.
Pharaoh watches them leave without saying a word. On the left side of the room wait several of Pharaoh’s servants including the guard who escorted Moses and Aaron into Pharaoh’s presence. They are dumbfounded at Pharaoh’s reaction. They look at one another with fear. Egypt can’t take much more! And Pharaoh just sits there! SOMEBODY has to say something to him but who is brave enough to risk Pharaoh’s wrath? All eyes finally land on the guard. He has been with Pharaoh longer than any of his servants and Pharaoh has listened to his counsel before. He straightens his uniform and steps closer to Pharaoh. He doesn’t want to appear so bold as to address him head on as Moses and Aaron did, yet he doesn’t want to appear as if he is cowering either.
“My lord, how long are you going to let this go on? Let the men go so they can serve their God. You can keep the women and children here in Egypt so they will be certain to return. Egypt is in ruins already. Their latest prediction would wipe us out!”
Pharaoh respects his guard’s opinion and his courage for stepping forward. “You have a valid point and a good compromise. Bring those two trouble makers back here immediately!”
The guard executes a quick bow then hurries from the throne room. As soon as he is out of Pharaoh’s presence he runs to catch up to Moses and Aaron. He didn’t have far to go because they did not seem to be in a hurry as they left.
“Moses, Aaron, Pharaoh wishes to speak with you. I believe you will find his answer favorable to your needs.”
Moses nods to Aaron and they both follow the guard back to Pharaoh’s throne room. There is silence as they enter and assume their position in front of Pharaoh. Moses determines that they will NOT be the first to speak.
After several moments of silence Pharaoh finally speaks with obvious contempt in his voice. “Go, serve the Lord you God” (verse 8b). Pharaoh pauses only for a moment, then tips his head to the side slightly to indicate a question is coming. “But which ones are to go?” (verse 8c) Pharaoh says with a sneer on his lips.
Moses responds without batting an eye, “All of us, young and old, sons and daughters, and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.”
Pharaoh shoots to his feet. “The Lord be with you, if EVER I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. No! Go, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you are asking” (verses 10b-11). Pharaoh then turns directly at the guard who suggested this compromise and sweeps his hand towards Moses and Aaron. “GET THEM OUT OF MY SIGHT!”
As Aaron and Moses are physically compelled from Pharaoh’s throne room Pharaoh falls back onto his throne. He is spent. He also knows that this is not the end of his troubles. Moses has never promised and not delivered before. He has to have faith that Egypt can, once again, rise to the challenge of this foreign God and wait out this plague.
Moses and Aaron are propelled into the street by the guard. All the way out he is railing against them. “Why couldn’t you just compromise a LITTLE with Pharaoh? Why does it always have to be your way? Can’t you see that the rest of Egypt is suffering? What is it with you people! Have some compassion on us who have no option but to follow our god Pharaoh!”
Moses and Aaron remained silent until the guard finished his tirade. Then Moses, with sadness in his eyes responds to the guard’s obvious distress. “We have no other option than to follow our God too. For He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. All that is belongs to Him. If we were to oppose Him we would be no better off than Egypt! All we ask is the right to serve Him as He commands.”
The guard drops his head, turns and walks away. There is nothing more he can do. He has heard what is coming and his spirit is broken. He did everything he could to prevent this catastrophe from befalling his people, but he has failed. He has nothing left to do but wait for the inevitable. He watches Moses and Aaron from the safety of his guard post.
Moses begins to lift his arm holding his staff. As his staff rises the wind begins to stir. By the time Moses’ arm is full horizontal from the land there is a strong wind blowing from the east. Moses relaxes his arm and he and Aaron make their way out of the city.
The wind continues all day and all night. Pharaoh and the guard both stand watch in their own places. Both know what is coming. One feels sorrow and the other outrage. But both also feel powerless to stop it.
As the hour of dawn approaches there is obvious trouble. The morning light is blighted. The eastern sky is eclipsed with a black cloud approaching Egypt. There is also a noise that can be heard as the cloud approaches. It is a droning sound and it grows in volume as the cloud draws nearer. Within an hour of spotting the cloud it covers the whole land of Egypt and its accompanying noise is deafening! It is the sound of myriads of wings beating in unison. The cloud then descends from its original height above the land and moves to cover it from ground to the height of the trees. A second noise joins the first. It is the sound of millions upon millions of little mouths eating. They are eating EVERYTHING that grows from the tallest trees to the shortest blades of grass. Even the houseplants of the Egyptians are not safe. No crack is too small for them to sneak through. No wadding to thick that their numbers cannot defeat.
The Egyptians are running about franticly trying to repel the locust from their crops while also trying to protect their own faces. Their efforts are futile. They might as well be trying to repel the wind or sun. The locusts are relentless in their work. The small lead time warning Pharaoh was given allowed some of the more experienced land owners to set up smudge pots to try and deter the locust from their plants. This was effective for the first day but by the third day of marching, flying and munching not one green sprout remained in all of Egypt.
By evening of the third day Pharaoh was finally ready to admit defeat. He had his guard search out and bring back Moses and Aaron. This was not an easy task as there were locust still flying about in the air, obstructing both vision and breathing. Once the guard reached the land of Goshen he was free of these obstacles. There was not a locust to be found and their plants and grasses abounded everywhere. This sight further divided the Hebrew’s God and Egypt’s god in his eyes. Moses and Aaron were easy to locate as they had been awaiting Pharaoh’s summons all along. The quickly returned with Pharaoh’s guard to his palace and straight into his throne room.
Pharaoh wasted no time or pretense this time as Moses and Aaron entered. He stood and made his heartfelt confession. “I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the Lord you God only to remove this death from me” (verses 16b-17). Moses nodded his head then he and Aaron turned and left Pharaoh.
Pharaoh fell onto his throne. He had no idea whether Moses’ God would listen to him on Pharaoh’s account once again. And if He did listen, how much longer Egypt would have to suffer before the locust were removed.
Moses went out straight away and did exactly as Pharaoh had requested. “Lord God over all Heaven and Earth, I ask on Pharaoh’s behalf for You to lift this plague from the land of Egypt. Pharaoh has recognized Your hand in this work and repented of his sins against You. You are a God of judgement but also one of mercy. Please show Pharaoh that mercy for his land at this time as well as demonstrating YOU really have the power of life and death in Your hands.”
As Moses finished his petition to the Lord the wind changed. It began to blow from the west and was so strong that it lifted the locust into the air with it. It drove the locust into the Red Sea and not a single one was left in all the land of Egypt by the time the wind settled.
Pharaoh watched from his window as the locust were driven from his land. “All it cost me was a few well-chosen words. I didn’t even have to promise to let the Hebrews go this time. Pharaoh smiles to himself at his own brilliance taking no thought for what else might remain ahead in the Lord’s plan to free His people.
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I noticed one prophetic thing Pharaoh said to Moses during our story. He said that the Lord would be with the people of Israel if he ever let them go. Those were the truest words he ever spoke. God WAS with them! That was the only reason they would ever be freed. “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31). This hadn’t been written yet but it was still VERY true!
Father God, thank You that You are a God of mercy as well as judgement. Pharaoh’s repentance was only “skin deep” and never lasted long but You still honored his confessions. I can’t imagine how horrible things would have become if You didn’t end the plagues or stacked them on top of one another.
You know EXACTLY what it will take to accomplish You will. You are watchful to stay within those bounds too. You could have easily have wiped Egypt right off the map and gave their territory to the Hebrews, but You had other plans for them. I wonder why. Maybe because they would always need a reminder of what the world cost and the extent You went to on their behalf.
I have that same reminder in Jesus’ stories. The AMAZING lengths You went to for me! Let me NEVER forget or make light of the cost You paid on my behalf! Thank You Lord Jesus for Your never ending love!!! Thank You also that I can come to You when I sin and be forgiven just a fully as Pharaoh was when he repented. But DON’T let my repentance be only “skin deep.” Help me ALWAYS bring You my whole heart and walk in the repentance You provided. Remind me to walk in a way worthy of the gift You gave; my salvation and forgiveness from sin.