Israel is oppressed in Egypt. God has heard their cries. Moses has been sent to demand their release. And now Pharaoh has answered no and increased Israel’s persecution.
The people of Israel, along with Moses, are confused and angry that things have gone from bad to worse. But God has promised that he will still deliver his people and will do so through what he called great acts of judgement.
NO ONE IS GREATER THAN GOD
These great acts of judgement are what became known as the plagues - a series of mighty, miraculous acts, that devastate the Egyptian economy, infrastructure, leadership, and people. But through these plagues, God shows how he will save his people, punish evil, make good on his promises, and be there for his people.
The plagues are not only a direct punishment against Egyptian evil but a statement against Egypt’s false gods. Egypt had many gods that supposedly had the power of different parts of their world: the river, the sun, the crops, the livestock, and more.
So whenever God would turn the river to blood or the sun to darkness, whenever he would cut down crops with locust or devastate livestock with disease, he was showing all people that there is no one greater than the I Am, there is no one greater than Israel’s God.
PHARAOH’S HARD HEART
The story of the plagues is a remarkable one. Not just because of the great acts of judgement, but because in the midst of all these undeniably miraculous events, Pharaoh doesn’t budge.
In every plague, pretty much the same thing happens. Moses comes to Pharaoh. Moses tells Pharaoh to let the Israelites go or God will send a plague. Pharaoh refuses. So the plague comes. Then it all happens again, turning into a cycle that determines the fatal fate of the Egyptian people.
What’s strange is that Pharaoh keeps refusing to see God as the power behind these plagues. He rationalizes, barters, and lies, but never repents and obeys.
Why? We are told it is because his heart is hard. No matter how much of God’s glory and might he saw in the plagues, his heart remained unchanged. So the plagues continued to come until Pharaoh and his people were brought to complete ruin.
But to keep us from thinking only people like Pharaoh would have responded that way, Exodus will soon show us the same pattern play out in the Israelites God saves as well. No matter how much of his glory and might they see in how he delivers them and provides for them, they, too, end up disobeying and failing to repent. And we come to find out their disobedience comes from the same place as Pharaoh’s - they have hard hearts too.
Where is Jesus?
This is our story as well. No matter how many times God reveals his glory, justice, and power to the world, we are still hardened in heart, and attuned to disbelief and disobedience.
NO ONE IS GREATER THAN JESUS
In the Gospel of Jesus, God overpowers every false god, every man-made religion and every political infrastructure that would try to claim a power or truth apart from him. That is because Jesus proved in his resurrection that the one true God has acted finally and fully.
He has rid the demonic world of its power to condemn by dying on the cross for our sins. He has authenticated faith in him as the one true religion by rising from the dead. And he has proven himself as more powerful than every worldly regime by ascending to heaven and sitting on the highest throne. The mighty sign of Jesus’s death and resurrection is more proof of God’s power and uniqueness than all the plagues combined.
OUR HARD HEARTS
And yet, like the plagues of Egypt, people look at Jesus and his cross and come up with a thousand different explanations for what it is and why it doesn’t matter to them. Even though, on the cross, Jesus bore all the plagues we deserved but came out victorious, people all over the world remain unchanged.
The only difference between those who look at the cross and see nothing worthwhile and those who look at the cross and see Jesus bearing the punishment we deserved, is God graciously softening hard hearts. If it wasn’t for that, we would always be Pharaoh and never Moses. We would always be Egypt and never Israel.
See For Yourself
May the Holy Spirit give you eyes to see the God who softens hearts so that we don’t end up like Pharaoh. And Jesus as the one who did everything to bear your plagues, change your heart, and move you to repent and follow him.