God is preparing Moses for the final plague. The end is in sight but there are a few things to get in order before it happens.
God is a little vague when He first starts talking to Moses about what is coming next. He starts with getting the Hebrews ready for the journey before it happens. Then God sends Moses to share what is actually coming. The next part of our reading has me a little stumped over one issue. We are not told specifically if Moses appears before Pharaoh. We are told that Moses “went out from Pharaoh in hot anger” (verse 8b), but was this a symbolic leave taking or a physical one. Pharaoh had threatened to kill Moses if he had even seen him. Did Pharaoh put aside that threat for the sake of knowledge?
For the sake of our story I’m going to have Moses stand before Pharaoh to announce this plague. We know for certain that Pharaoh isn’t given an opportunity to avoid this plague though. No ultimatums, just straight facts of what will take place so that when it does Pharaoh can point DIRECTLY at the source and solution. This is one “plague” that Pharaoh can’t wait out or go back to business as usual after it passes. This plague alters Pharaoh’s and all of Egypt’s lives from then on.
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The plague of darkness has been over for two days now. Life had once again resumed its regular routine in the land of Egypt and the land of Goshen. The Hebrews were getting braver with each passing plague that Egypt felt and not them. And the Egyptians were getting surlier and frightened with each plague.
Another byproduct of the plagues was the fame of Moses and Aaron. All Egypt held their breath every time Moses approached Pharaoh. The palace guard was not the only one noticing a connection between Moses approaching Pharaoh and bad things happening. Even in the slave pit where Moses and Aaron insisted on laboring besides their brothers, the overseers were gentler and more tolerant in their presence. They didn’t want to anger Moses and see how he reacted. They were convinced that personal tragedy would befall them if they did.
As evening falls on the land of Goshen, everyone has returned from their day’s labor to their homes. Their labor demands had increased since Moses began standing before Pharaoh but they had also been spared MANY plagues that Egypt was required to walk through. This brought some relief to the hearts of the Hebrews. But there was also weariness in the camp. “When is the Lord going to get us out of here?” “Is it time yet?” “How much longer?” “Enough already! Let’s get this show on the road!” These thoughts were running through the hearts of nearly every Hebrew. Even Moses and Aaron entertained a few of these thoughts.
After supper Moses was reclining under his favorite tree.
“Speak Lord. Your servant is listening.”
“I only have ONE more plague to pour out on Egypt. After that, Pharaoh will drive you out of Egypt completely.”
“YES!” Moses pumps his fist in triumph. He is tempted to break into a victory dance but he restrains himself for fear of being disrespectful to the Lord. “What task to You have for me Lord?”
“The first thing I want you to do is to tell the people to start getting ready for this journey.”
“They are ready Lord. Just say the word and we will…”
“No. They are not ready. The people are rich in flocks and herds but poor in money. There will be a need for gold and silver where you are going.”
“But we don’t have silver and gold Lord. We are slaves. We have nothing beyond the food for our tables in the area of wealth.”
“I am going to fix that. Each man and woman is to go to their neighbor and ask for silver and gold jewelry. I will make the Egyptians look favorably upon them and the Egyptians shall fill your coffers out of their own wealth.”
“That’s amazing Lord! Then what?”
“Then each family is to go home and lay aside what they have gathered. Leave it bundled as it came to them. Then it is time to prepare a special meal. This meal will be one that will be repeated yearly as a remembrance to me. We will go into more detail on this in the morning, after you have spoken in Pharaoh’s hearing again.”
“Pharaoh warned me not to come before him again or he would see me dead.”
“Pharaoh will NOT harm you as you are going in my name. But neither will Pharaoh believe you. However you will still go. I want Pharaoh to have NO DOUBT as to Who has done this work in his land. This final plague will be one that will change the course of every man’s life in Egypt.”
The Lord then tells Moses of what is to come. He tells him exactly what to say, including the response Pharaoh is going to give when it is all over.
Early the next morning Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh’s palace. Rather than go in and stand before him they stand in the courtyard. Moses raises his voice to be heard even inside the palace. “Thus says the Lord:…”
Pharaoh’s ears perk up as he hears Moses’ voice. “I thought I told him never to appear before me again! How dare he come here!”
“…’About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle…”
“MY first born! What is he talking about? I will NEVER let him near my child! Who does he think he is!!!”
“…But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’…”
“If he thinks he can kill MY son with impunity he has another think coming! He better not lay a hand on my home!”
“…And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you’…”
“I’LL NOT BOW TO HIM! And I will NEVER let the Hebrews go!”
“…And after that I will go out” (verses 4-8). After delivering this message for the Lord from Pharaoh’s courtyard, Moses and Aaron turn and leave. Moses could hear Pharaoh’s shouts from his palace and he KNEW the Lord was correct regarding the condition of Pharaoh’s heart. Moses anger burned against Pharaoh as they left. “If only he would have listened, the Lord would not have to visit this disaster on the rest of the people. Why should they suffer for his arrogance?”
The Lord speaks to the anger and frustration in Moses’ heart. “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt” (verse 9).
There is nothing more Moses can do for the people of Egypt. Their fate is sealed. He lowers his head in sadness for what is to come. After a moment of silent reflection he and Aaron make their way home. They had several stops to make along the way though. There were the instructions and preparations for this evening that needed to be made. This night would be one that would be talked about for the rest of time.
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Father God, I feel for the Egyptian people. They had no choice but to follow their leader. I’m sure some of them bought in more fully than others did. This time reminds me of the followers of Hitler. There were those who opposed him but none of his own people stepped up and removed him from his seat of power. He insulated himself with “true believers” in his cause. Is this how Pharaoh got away with holding the Israelites even in the face of one catastrophe after another? Why didn’t the people rise up and force Pharaoh’s hand earlier?
I truly believe BOTH these men were used as part of Your plan. We are told of the reason You used Pharaoh; to show Your mighty works and prove Your power above ALL else. But why Hitler? Maybe because his actions prompted close to the same thing; Israel was “let go” and given their own land again. I wish there had been an easier way to accomplish Your goals.
I wish there was an easier way to accomplish salvation too. But there wasn’t. I think that holds true for all three instances. It is AMAZING what it takes to get man’s attention. Even the twin towers bombing in the U.S. is another example of that. But even in ALL these horrific times, “What man meant for evil God meant for good” (Genesis 50:20 paraphrased by me).
Thank You Lord that You can use even the evil intentions of man’s heart in Your plan. Nothing is beyond Your control. And nothing is beyond redemption!