March 21, 2021
Preached on 3/21/21
Pharaoh’s Heart Is Hardened
I cannot know what Moses might have been thinking when he and Aaron set out for Egypt from Midian. What an amazing week it must have been. To begin with he was just watching sheep graze. But then he saw a bush burning. And not just an ordinary burning bush; a burning bush from which God Almighty spoke to him. And the next thing he knows he is on his way to Egypt to inform the Pharaoh that he was going to let all his slaves leave into freedom. What a week. It would not be long before Moses and Aaron were standing before the Pharaoh himself.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the water. Wait on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert. But until now you have not listened. This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.'”
The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt – over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs’ – and they will turn to blood. Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in the wooden buckets and stone jars.” Exodus 7:14-19 (44)
Moses’ first meeting with the Pharaoh did not go well. (Exodus 5:1-14) I am not going to get into all the details about what went on with all the meetings Moses had with the Pharaoh. But there are some more important details that I want us to dwell on as we go through this part of Exodus.
Moses’ first attempt at the release of the slaves ended in disaster. The slaves were driven even harder. But this was only to show God’s great power in the end. Look at Exodus 6.
Now that the table had been set and the Pharaoh’s heart was beginning to harden against the people of Israel, God’s true power could be shown. As you go through the story, as the Pharaoh’s heart is hardened even more God raises the stakes. God always prevails in the end.
As Moses and the Israelites were going through all the increased punishments, and harder workloads, and all the plagues, they asked two questions that many of us ask today. Why? and How? Why am I going through all of this? Why this? Why now? Why me? And How am I ever going to get through this? How do I pay the bills? How do beat cancer? How do I face my friends?
The Why we probably may never know. It is alright to ask Why. After all, Jesus did. (Matthew 27:46) (705) Questioning God is a great tradition of theologians. Many people through ages have questioned God. Few have gotten all their answers, but the questions go up, and I believe since we saw Jesus question His Father on the Cross we are free to question God in our own circumstances.
How? The same way Moses did. You depend wholly on God. Moses could have benefited from reading some of King David’s writings, especially Proverbs 3:5-6 (450) Moses set out on this trek depending on his own power, to a certain extent. As time went by he realized he not only really did need God’s help, but God’s help was far more powerful than he had imagined. Remember, he did not grow up hearing the stories of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is late to the knowing and is learning on the job.
But as God went to work on Pharaoh’s hardened heart He began by turning the waters of the Nile river red. And not just the river, all the streams and canals, the ponds and all the reservoirs. And the water in the wooden buckets and stone jars. All the waters of Egypt were turned to blood. This was followed by all the dead fish and the smells of death.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs. (Exodus 7:25-8:3) With frogs covering the ground in Egypt, still the Pharaoh did not obey God and let His people go.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” 17 They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came upon men and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. 18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals. The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said. (Exodus 8:16-19) We used to live below the gnat line in Georgia, and I can tell you they are relentless in their “attacks” on you. You could not get rid of them, and neither could the Pharaoh. That would have been enough for me, but not the Pharaoh.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the water and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 21 If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, and even the ground where they are. (Exodus 8:20-21) The Lord’s Word was True and Powerful, as it always is.
Then in Exodus 8:25-29 the Pharaoh tried to bargain with Moses, letting them worship in a very limited way. But everyone would not be set free. Obviously, this was not agreeable to Moses or God.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, the hand of the Lord will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field — on your horses and donkeys and camels and on your cattle and sheep and goats. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.'” (Exodus 9:1-6) And guess what! All the livestock of the Egyptians died and none of the livestock of the Israelites was touched. You see, God can produce and control selective plagues.
Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on men and animals throughout the land.” So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on men and animals. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses. (Exodus 9:8-12) In some way you might feel for the Pharaoh, he has never seen anyone more powerful than he was. And for decades his magicians and advisors were able to fool him because no one had been able to stand up to them. But God didn’t feel for him. He only made God’s wrath even more powerful.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, 14 or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. 16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. 18 Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. (Exodus 9:13-18) It’s just getting worse and worse, but Pharaoh’s heart was hardened even more. What is the great advantage of God hardening Pharaoh’s heart? I’m not sure, but it sure does give us a good Sunday school lesson. Through the Pharaoh and Moses, we can see the power of our God Almighty working.
So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 4 If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. 5 They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. 6 They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians — something neither your fathers nor your forefathers have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now.'” Then Moses turned and left Pharaoh. (Exodus 10:3-6) How hardheaded can one man be. But anyone who sets himself up against God will not prevail. Lucifer/Satan is learning that and will acknowledge it in the end. Again, the Pharaoh tried to bargain with Moses and God but to no avail.
So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt — worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.
9 The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you — so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country. (Exodus 11:4-10)
All the first born on Egypt did die, as God said, but not the Israelites. Let’s talk about that next week.
Bostwick UMC 3/21/21