We go with Moses and Aaron as they stand before Pharaoh the second time to tell him to let God’s people go. Let the signs begin!
God gave Pharaoh one easy chance to let His people go. But even that “chance” was not really a chance but part of setting up the whole process. God knew Pharaoh’s heart. He also knew that He wanted to do a GREAT work for ALL to see and remember. So God used Pharaoh’s own arrogance to His advantage. He “hardened Pharaoh’s heart.”
Does this mean that God MADE Pharaoh and the Egyptian people suffer just so He could look good? NO! It means that God used a hard headed ruler to display His wonders to His hard headed people, and their neighbors. God KNEW it was going to take some doing to convince Pharaoh to see things His way. He just made sure his heart didn’t get in the way of his stubborn head. Pharaoh’s heart was really what would make him drive Israel out, but that is a story for another time.
Let’s join our heroes of the faith as they stand for God and His people. When we left them the last time they had met with God because the people were angry with the results from their first meeting with Pharaoh. Moses had asked “Why did You have to send me?” He also ‘pointed out’ how his last meeting with Pharaoh had resulted in harsher treatment for the very people God wanted relief for. God then sent Moses and Aaron back to the people to confirm that, YES, God really did intend to set them free. The people had lost hope and didn’t believe them. NOW God tells them to go back to Pharaoh and tell him to let the people go. GULP!
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“Lord, Your own people didn’t believe me! How am I supposed to convince Pharaoh to listen to Your words and let the people go? What if he imposes even harder conditions on us? How will we withstand it? Wouldn’t it be better if we just forgot the whole thing and You tried again later with someone else?”
“No. I am NOT going to ‘start over’ with someone else. ‘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 if this land. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart and though I multiply my sings 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 judgement. The Egyptians shall KNOW that I AM THE LORD’ (verses 1a-5, emphasis added).”
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I want to step back here and address something that caught my attention. I was struck when God said He would make Moses “like God to Pharaoh.” I had to think about that for a bit. It just didn’t sit right. This is what I feel I received.
In Egypt, to the people Pharaoh was one of their gods. I won’t swear to it, but I believe he was placed above all their other gods. His word carried more weight than any other in his kingdom. BUT that didn’t make him God. He was no more a god than anything else we try and put on God’s throne. He was a counterfeit.
God was giving Moses direct access to Himself to demonstrate power above and beyond what Pharaoh had access to. Moses wasn’t God but acted in His stead. He would pass on every word God gave him. He was pretty much in the place of the angel of God who delivered messages directly from the throne room. Aaron would do the signs called for from those words and act strictly in accordance to whatever God spoke through Moses. Moses was NOT God but His direct representative to Pharaoh.
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Moses squared his shoulders and looks at Aaron. “Are you ready brother? The Lord says we are it and He doesn’t seem to be backing down.”
“No He doesn’t. I’m ready. Lead the way brother, or more accurately, let Him lead you and I will fall in behind” Aaron says with a smile.
“This isn’t going to be as easy as we thought it would be. I don’t know how long this process will last and what kind of problems we are going to face along the way. Did you notice He didn’t say anything about Pharaoh lightening up on us along the way?”
“No He didn’t. We just have to trust the Lord to know what is best and how to complete His plan.”
Moses gives a deep sigh. “Let’s go see Pharaoh.”
Aaron nods and the two of them ready themselves to do the Lord’s work. Both of them wash and dress in their best robes. They also take the staff that Moses had in the wilderness when he met with the Lord.
When they reach the palace gates the guard looks at them with boredom. “What do you want?”
“We are here to see Pharaoh. We have a message for him that he must hear in person” replies Moses.
“Wait here. I will see if he is willing to see you.”
The guard goes to Pharaoh and quickly returns with Pharaoh’s invitation for them to enter. “Follow me.”
“Well, if it isn’t the voice of the Hebrews” Pharaoh laughs as Moses and Aaron approach.
“Yes Pharaoh. We speak on behalf of the children of Israel but we are the voice of their God, the One true God” says Moses.
Pharaoh’s face loses all traces of humor. “What do you want?”
“The Lord says to ‘Let My people go so that they may worship Me.”
“That is NOT going to happen! Didn’t you learn anything from the last time you were here? I have the power to crush your people with a single word! Why would I listen to you?”
Moses looks over at Aaron and then says, “Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent” (verse 9b).
Aaron steps forward and tosses his staff onto the ground where it immediately becomes a serpent.
Pharaoh laughs, “Nice trick. Watch this.” Then he motions for his magicians who have been standing at the side of the room. “Show them what Pharaoh thinks of this trick of theirs. Match their God’s powers with the powers commanded by Pharaoh, the god of Egypt!”
Three magicians wearing smirks on their faces step forward and toss their staffs down near where Aaron tossed his. Their staves too become serpents. Pharaoh roars with laughter. “Three to one! Who holds the power now?”
A second after Pharaoh utters those words Aaron’s staff swallows whole all three of Pharaoh’s magician’s staves. As soon as Aaron’s serpent has finished its ‘meal’ Aaron reaches down and grabs it by the tail and it becomes his staff once more.
Pharaoh glares at Aaron then looks to his magicians. None will meet his eyes and they remain speechless. “GET OUT! You have proved NOTHING! I will NOT let the Hebrews go!”
Moses and Aaron bow and turn to leave. As soon as they are outside the gates of the palace they break their silence. “Did you see his face when your staff swallowed the others?”
“I did! But he still says he isn’t going to let the people go.”
“Now what do we do?”
“We follow where the Lord leads. He said this wasn’t going to be a quick and easy process. We have to trust that He knows the next step in His plan and be willing to walk in it, no matter what it is.”
“You are right brother. Lead me where the Lord leads you and I will follow.”
Moses and Aaron are strengthened by the Lord’s display of power over Egypt’s gods but they know there is a long road ahead of them still. For today, they must return to work beside their brothers. All hands are needed to meet Pharaoh’s demands. They will do what they can to help Israel carry the load. Moses will also continue to listen in order to hear the Lord’s voice as he labors beside his brothers and then under his quiet tree when evening comes.
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I believe God was breaking in and stretching Moses and Aaron’s faith as much as He was showing Himself to Pharaoh. God could have done an AMAZING miracle right away but He chose to do something that He KNEW Pharaoh would scoff at. It was amazing to Moses and Aaron because they didn’t practice the dark arts like Pharaoh’s magicians did. Before the burning bush was the first time Moses had seen such an event. Aaron saw it the first time when Moses showed it to him as proof of his encounter with God. But this was old hat to Pharaoh.
But God’s serpent EATING the other serpents was NOT something Pharaoh had expected. To him, these serpents were nothing more than animated objects conjured by the magicians. They had no power in themselves. But God’s serpent did! It ATE Pharaoh’s serpents. It dominATEd Pharaoh’s power! I wonder what Moses and Aaron thought of that moment. Did they smile? Did they laugh? Or did they respond with shock too at the display of God’s power? Aaron didn’t hesitate to retrieve his staff once it finished its ‘meal.’ He wasn’t afraid of it like one would be with a live snake. He recognized it as God’s tool given into his hands. He would NOT behave this way with any other snakes he came across!
Father God, Your power is ABOVE ALL other power in this world. Some people can blow off Your miracles as just everyday occurrences, like finding the perfect parking space at the store. But I KNOW the difference! When I ask for Your help, even with the little things, You NEVER fail to show me Your love. I don’t always get exactly what I asked for but I ALWAYS feel You presence in my situation. Sometimes I need to walk the extra few steps as my exercise for the day. I have SO MANY little miracles You have performed in my life over the years that there is NO WAY I could ever doubt You. Pharaoh will have enough proof too, soon. I’m talking story wise and not history wise right now. I look forward to the rest of the story!
Help me remain ever listening and watching for the little things You do in my life every day. Please keep Your hand over our water situation right now, INCLUDING the final bill! Please let it be something we can afford. Thank You for the blessings You have provided in our finances in order to prepare for this issue too!