I have been reading through parts of Exodus. Today, I continued reading about Moses and Pharaoh. Pharaoh hardened his heart to the plea of Moses to let the Israelites to travel three days into the wilderness to meet with God, and Pharaoh did not take the signs Moses performed to heart.
Up to this point, all the signs Moses and Aaron performed Pharaoh’s magicians matched. Aaron threw his staff to the ground, and the magicians did the same. It didn’t matter that Aaron’s staff swallowed up the magicians’ staffs. The magicians answered what Moses and Aaron were presenting, and Pharaoh would not listen to them.
Moses turned the water of the Nile to blood. Pharaoh’s magicians did the same, “and Pharaoh’s heart became hard”, it says. (Ex. 7:22) He turned, walked away into his palace, and he didn’t take it to heart.
Aaron stretched out his arm with his staff and caused frogs to emerge all over the land. The magicians did the same, and Pharaoh was not moved, at least not right away.
Later, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and asked to them to “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away…, and I will let your people go….” (Ex 8:8) Moses did it, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen….” (Ex. 8:15)
Moses responded by having Aaron summon a plague of gnats. This time the magicians could not duplicate what Moses did. The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But, “Pharaoh’s heart was hard….” (Ex. 19)
At the former demonstrations, the Pharaoh’s heart became hard, or he hardened his heart. After the plague of flies, however, the Pharaoh’s heart was hard.
Pharaoh’s heart was already hard at this point. He had been hardening his heart all along, but Pharaoh’s heart was already hard by the time Moses and Aaron summoned the plague of flies and the plague of flies “ruined the land”.
Even though Pharaoh’s heart was hard at that point, “Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land.'” (Ex. 8:25)
Sometimes even people with hard hearts toward God will have moments in which they seem to believe, or seem to repent, but there is no heart change. They desire to be delivered from their dire circumstances, but nothing more. It isn’t really a true change of heart, and it doesn’t last.
Moses insisted that the people be allowed to leave the land and go into the wilderness. “Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me.” (Ex. 8:28)
We make deals with God. We bargain for relief from the pain or difficulty that brings us finally to God, but we don’t mean it. We are “forced” to the point of praying to God as a last resort, but we don’t come willingly, and our hearts have not changed.
This was the case with Pharaoh:
“Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord, and the Lord did what Moses asked. The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not a fly remained. But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.” (Ex. 8:30-32)
Pharaoh didn’t understand that the God of Moses and Aaron is the God who gives all people life and breath. He saw “their” God as a means to an end: a possible solution to the immediate relief he desired. Pharaoh didn’t perceive God as his God too!
We are often tempted in the same way to view the Bible, church, and God Himself as a means to our owns temporary ends. We aren’t looking down the road. We don’t appreciate that the universe, this earth, our world and our very beings are wholly dependent on God!
Once we get the relief we are looking for from the immediate difficulty we are going through, we harden our hearts again. We no longer take it to heart. There is no lasting change. We go about our own lives as if God does not deserve our hearts.
This is a human tendency we all have. All people can be “religious” at times. Many people go to church on Sunday, or once in a while, maybe on special holidays, but they live in Egypt the rest of the time.
We get religious sometimes in the same way that we might carry a rabbit’s foot or consult a medium. We want something. We want good fortune and good health.
God should not have to make a deal with you. If you are bargaining with God for some immediate relief in your life, your view of God is too small, and you are missing the mark!
It’s not that God can’t or won’t give us good things. What father doesn’t desire to give good gifts to his children? If earthly fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, how much more must our heavenly Father know how to give good gifts to His children?
But God is bigger than our temporary situations. He desires our hearts. He desires relationship with us. He desires us to become his sons and daughters. He desires to give us the greatest gift of all, which is Himself. Everything we could ever truly want flows from Him!
It is not the things we want God to give us or do for us that we need most. Those things are temporary. They won’t last. What we really, what we were created for is relationship with our Maker.
Sometimes, God does give us that temporary relief when we ask for it, but it isn’t the blessing we think it is. If our hearts are hard, and if we desire the relief more than we want God, that temporary relief may likely harden our hearts all the more. We dodge another bullet, and we are content to remain as we are.
God desires to give us eternal life, to exchange our hard hearts for new hearts, to exchange our perishable bodies for new bodies that cannot perish. He desires us to lift our eyes from our momentary struggles and difficulties and to desire Living Water that will not be quenched, to desire the imperishable seed of Christ in us – to receive Him who came to die for us and was risen again that we might be raised again with Him.
This is our ultimate hope. Not that we might be delivered from our current circumstances, but that we might know God who will be with us in all that we go through because we belong to Him.
We can receive His imperishable seed right here and now. We can receive the “deposit” of the Holy Spirit within us, who guides and comforts us through the trials and tribulations of this life as He works within us to become like Our Father – the weight of glory that will sustain us through all eternity.
He desires our hearts so He can grow us into people who not only know Him, but are becoming like Him – a change that He accomplishes from the inside out. It is nothing we do, but something we allow Him to do in us.
He works all things together for the good for those who love Him and are called according to his purpose. We don’t want to bargain with God so that He gives us what we want, because we don’t know how or whether what we want fits into all that God has purposed for us.
The God who created the universe orchestrated everything in it: from nuons and muons to dark matter, from butterfly wings to raindrops, from sand sculptured deserts to shell covered shorelines, from red rock monuments rising sheer out of tumbleweed plains to springs rising out of the darkness in the depths of the oceans, and from star clustered galaxies that no human eye has even seen to subatomic matter that moves in ways so mysterious we have yet to fathom it.
This God who orchestrated the universe to work gloriously together as a cohesive whole, from the immutable laws of physics to the mysterious fluctuations, entanglements and uncertainties of quantum matter, offers us the keys to His kingdom if we would leave everything else behind.
We don’t control the terms of God’s bargain. Those terms will cost us everything we think we have, but we will gain everything that is truly worth anything.
God doesn’t desire to give us only temporary relief, if temporary relief is all we desire. God desires to give us something far greater than what we can even think to request.
If God was such that He would make deals with us, with each one of us, imagine the kind of chaos that would produce. If God bowed to each one of our wishes, what would the world look like?
Imagine an orchestra in which the conductor allowed each musician to play what they want to play. Would you go listen?