Life of Moses
Hard and Growing Harder…
(Orig. 3/16/3; Ed. 11/23/14)
Introduction…How hard or soft is your heart? If hard, why is it hard? Has something happened to you to make your heart hard? Do you know of someone you would consider as having a hard heart? Why might there heart be hard? What does it take to soften or break a human heart?
Why do you think that Pharaoh’s heart was so hard? Why would God need to additionally hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not release the children of Israel to go and celebrate a feast to Yahweh God?
Read the Passage three times
Ask Questions (no answers)…
Exod. 9:1 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.”
Note: The term “Hebrews” means “ones who have crossed over.” “Hebrew” means “to pass or cross.” Soon this nation will be crossing over the Red Sea and Sinai desert and two generations later, the Jordan River.
The children of Israel’s exodus out of Egypt was always based upon the command to worship I AM in the desert, and because Egypt blocks this reunion, it will pay dearly. I suspect one thing that the Creator will not tolerate is the refusal to allow his children to confess the truth…that he is truly God. Get in the way of that very basic fundamental creative right and you are calling down God’s judgment from the heavens
2 If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back,
3 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.
Note the change. It is not just the land or water that is being affected. Now damage is being inflicted upon a living thing. Note the plague is pervasive and being inflicted on all the livestock.
4 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.'”
Here is the distinction thing again so that Pharaoh would know what he was up against. He had encountered a real God, not just an Egyptian god, spirit or demon.
Note: Ultimately, God will make a distinction between his people and the world. In this case, God protects his children while still in the midst of the world.
5 The LORD set a time and said, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this in the land.”
Is this when the angels will go to work? Does God keep track of time or does God have a watch? Who created time? Or aging? God? Why?
6 And the next day the LORD did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died.
Not one animal. Is God not magnificent? Can he not be fully trusted? Why do we even think we could trifle with him, be it the ruler of the greatest nation in the world or little old me in my personal rebellion?
7 Pharaoh sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.
Why was he so unyielding? Stubborn? Prideful? Does he just not want to believe? Does he just not want to admit the truth? In the face of the great Egyptian pyramids, the Sphinx, the Nile—which has been somewhat tamed for agriculture–as well as, Pharaoh’s palace and the houses of his royal officials—how could a god that I have never heard of–the god of an enslaved nation–dare to challenge the greatest civilization in the history of the world? This just can’t be true. How could this be happening on my watch? Who are these guys? Who is there god? And why now after almost four hundred years? But had he forgotten the story of Joseph and how he had rescued Egypt to begin with some many years ago?
On the other hand, how is Pharaoh any different from so many people we know? Stubborn towards the truth of God to their dying day, they die never admitting the truth. How sad.
8 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.
Here comes plague #6.
9 It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on men and animals throughout the land.”
Furnace dust becomes a plague in the air? Man is now affected. The stakes are increasing. First it was the mighty Nile overflowing with frogs and then turning to blood; then Pharaoh’s palace is savaged by flies and gnats; then the livestock is killed; now man is being physically and painfully affected. The stakes keep increasing with each new plague and stubborn response.
10 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.
By tossing the soot into the air before Pharaoh he could not deny that this next plague was again of Moses’ God.
11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians.
No more magic. No more human illusion. Not only could Pharaoh’s magicians not imitate any more of the miracles that God was performing through Moses, but now they themselves are a part of Egypt’s collateral judgment.
I can only imagine what the nation is going through and how much suffering and complaining is going on throughout the land of Egypt.
12 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.
This time God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. Was it about to weaken? Was his family suffering? Was Pharaoh suffering? But God would not allow him to even feign false repentance once again. Here we have two back-to-back plagues with no remorse whatsoever. Is this fair—God hardening Pharaoh’s heart? Why would God want to unleash more plagues? Can God still harden people’s hearts today? Why? Has God hardened the hearts of the Iraqi dictator, Sadaam Hussein, or al-Qaida leader, Osama bin laden? Does God have greater purposes that we don’t completely know or understand, such as causing some to return to him via others evil actions? Are people pawns in God’s hands? Are some tools of God’s greater purposes? Can they not be redeemed? Why is his heart so hard, his addiction so entrenched? Where does the human and divine begin and end? How do the two wills integrate?
(Note: There are a lot of verses here; don’t get too bogged down. Keep it moving, even if you need to move on the next question.)
Who’s? LORD, the God of the Hebrews, Moses, Pharaoh, Israelites, Egyptians, men to investigate, Aaron, men, magicians
Where’s? to Pharaoh, in the field, Egypt, in the land, into the air, over the whole land of Egypt, on men and animals, before Moses, on them
When’s? set a time, tomorrow, the next day, then the Lord
Three Week’s ago…Pharaoh is unmoved even when Moses and Aaron turn the river and all water into blood for seven days.
Two Week’s ago…Although initially willing to allow the people to leave when his land is plagued by frogs, once relieved of the burden, Pharaoh hardens his heart and recants his word.
Last Week…Once again Pharaoh does not get it; when he gets his way, and the gnats and flies are destroyed, he fails to uphold his end of the deal.
- Again the LORD commands Moses to go to Pharaoh and commands him to let God’s people leave and go into the desert to worship their God. He then warns him that if he refuses, then God will destroy the entire nation’s livestock, except those belonging to the Israelites. Theirs will be spared.
- So the LORD set a time the next day, and presumably, when Pharaoh fails to change his mind, then all the livestock were destroyed.
- When Pharaoh sends men to investigate, they discover that indeed the Israelites’ livestock had been spared, but he is unwilling to change his mind.
- Then the LORD commands Moses to toss soot from a furnace before Pharaoh. As it lingers in the air a plague of boils will fall upon the Egyptian nation.
- Not even the magicians were immune from this plague. But this time God hardens Pharaoh’s heart.
Summary…so two plagues (five and six), and no movement concerning Pharaoh’s heart. With respect to the fifth plague, the livestock plague, Pharaoh is hard. With respect to the second plague, the plague of painful boils, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart.
Why’s? Why did God include this passage in his timeless word? Or What do I learn about God? Life? People? Myself?
- Men can be stubborn. Very stubborn.
- No negotiating this time. Just plain hardness, both of man’s own doing and God’s. A spiritually impenetrable wall is being constructed between Creator and his new fallen Adam.
- Sometimes even great amounts of pain are still not enough to change or break a person’s heart.
- God hardens men’s hearts just a men harden their own hearts.
- God can do anything in a moment.
So What’s? How does this truth personally apply to one of my life’s struggles?
Struggle… I am reminded of how hard it is for people to change…really change. I am tempted to cite examples of others I have recently dealt with, but what about my own hardness. I still procrastinate with respect to writing. I still struggle with lust. I resist administrative phone calls and organization. I am not working on my home or garage. And my list could on and on.
I did witness one extreme case of spiritual hardness this week. A mother called me in to help persuade her daughter from seeing a guy she was dating. When I didn’t fall lockstep into line with the mother’s plan, she asked me to leave. Oops! While I was there, the mom did say something that I found to be very interesting. Her daughter had offered to make cookies for her boyfriend’s mother for Christmas. The mom thought that her daughter was being manipulated by her boyfriend into making the cookies. “No one will make me do anything against my will!” the mom emphatically stated. At the same time, I am thinking Who cares about cookies? Really? Cookies? This lady is really wound tight! As I was leaving, I dared to make the point that strangely enough, I too felt manipulated because I had given four hours of my valuable time to this crazy situation (2 ½ hours with the daughter and just over an hour with the mother), and when I didn’t say what I was supposed to say, I was readily excused. Isn’t that manipulation?
Apparently, I had been a pawn in a battle between mother and daughter, and in the end, not a very good pawn. It kind of bothered me that someone who was accusing someone else of being manipulating was indeed guilty of being manipulating themselves, but couldn’t see it. Is that the definition of hard or hardening one’s hear
Principle…No doubt, people willingly work with God in the hardening of their stubborn hearts. People can be hard themselves, and yet, for even greater purposes, purposes that we really have little clue about the time, such as the creation of a free nation or the further weakening of a corrupt empire, God can and will assert his right or will to fashion the thinking of his creatures, be it the breaking of a prodigal’s stubborn heart or hardening the heart of a major ruler of a vast empire. So we have a bit of both/and going on here.
Application…God help me not just to point the finger, but to examine my own stubborn nature. Convict and challenge my conscience, Lord. Be it with my writing, lust, weak administration or working on my home. Unlike this mother, help me to see the truth and be held accountable…to ask questions and even revisit seemingly difficult, but prematurely settled issues within my life. Don’t allow me to turn myself into a pillar of salt. Make my heart soft and teachable. Help me to say I am sorry, to accept pain and suffering, to admit my mistakes, to ask for forgiveness, to keep learning. And in fact, I was challenged by one friend to make a phone call to another.
Bottom line: help me not to be guilty of what I find so contemptible. Help me not to act like Pharaoh. You have my permission to conform me into the obedient image of your Son. Continue to carve away God.
Thanksgiving…My spiritual daughter just passed her twentieth day in rehab and continues to sound like a different person. Still making good decisions, trusting God, doing the hard work…oh God, protect her, continue to clear up her mind and strengthen her dependence upon you. God, I commit her, her growth and maturity and her baby to your hands. Where will they go next in eight days? Let it be good and safe. Allow her to continue her growth and clear, wise thinking. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Thank you, God. Now, bless. Now, protect. Not, provide. Please, please, please…
Another good Sunday, and John 14 has been exploding within my heart and mind. I now see it as an ancient near eastern courtship covenant. Christ proposes to his bride…the church…i.e. represented by his disciples, who believe and trust him. The bride accepts the proposal. Now he must return to his Father’s home to prepare to build an addition onto his Father’s home for his bride and their future wedding banquet. But first, he must atone or cleanse his bride, so that he can dress her in proper wedding attire, which would be white for purity. He does this by giving his own life to atone or pay for the bride’s imperfections. But after he remarkably overcomes death because he is God and his Father restores him to life, he then returns to his Father, while at the same time not abandoning his betrothed as an orphan, but giving her an invisible, all-knowing, all-powerful advocate to protect and comfort his bride during his absence. Therefore, because he has not left us alone and is preparing our future home, because home is where the heart, and if our hearts our with God, then we are as home as we will ever be, and if we are home as we will ever be due to his Spirit who constantly dwells with us, we need not be afraid…of anything. We have a future home with our Lord, and we have his Spirit now. We are home…
Struggle…Not being worried or anxious about the next eight or nine days. Sunday has a lot going on…with worship, sharing, teaching and Thanksgiving dinner and the Night of Worship later that night. Then next week, we move Rhonda’s mom to Branson. It would be nice if her apartment was ready, and we only have to move her once. Then my spiritual daughter will be finished with her 28-day rehab program at the end of the week. Where will she go after that? Trust, Joe. Can you trust God no matter that all this will work out? I hope so, Lord. I hope so.
Truth… People can be hard themselves, and yet, for even greater purposes, purposes that we really have little clue about the time, such as the creation of a free nation or the further weakening of a corrupt empire, God can and will assert his right or will to fashion the thinking of his creatures, be it the breaking of a prodigal’s stubborn heart or hardening the heart of a major ruler of a vast empire.
Application…Can I soften my anxiety, worry and concern by submitting my mind to God’s truth that he has promised to take care of us no matter what? Can I walk on water and not look down? Can I keep my eyes solely on Jesus and not on the wind waves…that I may even be doing the impossible. God can harden and God can soften, or he can first soften my human fear and worry and replace it with the hardness and strength of his truth? Can God soften and harden? Yes. Can he soften and harden my heart at just the right time and in the right ways? Please do, Father. Please do. Help me to prepare the reasonable best that I can, but then help me to be resilient and go with the flow…to Spiritually think on my feet. Continually create and re-make a new heart within me, O Lord—one that is soft for you, but strong in your truth, regardless of the circumstances.
Joseph M. Cross
What about you? Struggle? Truth? Application?
What about your students? Their struggles (list a few; think about several of your students)?
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.