So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh.Exodus 10:3-6 ESV
Pharaoh sought power and to elevate his name at any cost. We’ve seen him allow his country to be decimated time and time again for the sake of his pride. His stubbornness and fierce opposition to HaShem has been well documented throughout the course of this narrative. His magicians saw that there was nothing left of Egypt and urged him to let the Israelites go. But Pharaoh could not cave now. He’d held out too long. Ironically enough, the thing that Pharaoh craved more than anything else was always in his hands. Power.
Maybe not power as he desired, but he had the power to choose. Looking back through these plagues, you’ll see that Pharaoh was given a choice to let the Israelite slaves go free or deal with the consequences of his decision. This week is no different. He was warned that his refusal to let the people go free would affect his entire nation, not just him. But as to be expected, he chose to stand against a promise made from Elohim.
How often are we faced with a choice? Just in one single day the choices are likely too numerous to count. Upon being jarred out of a peaceful sleep we fumble for the snooze and use those few extra minutes to gather ourselves before we start our morning routine. Do we give glory to Him for giving us another day or do we ignore Him entirely, making our life about us?
Imagine that you’re running late for work. (Okay, maybe you don’t have to imagine this part!) In order to save time you realize that you can take a shortcut. This shortcut just so happens to be a narrow, one way street with a crest in the middle. You hesitate. It doesn’t appear that there’s another car coming. But just as you go to make the turn, a yellow taxi rises over the hill. Any sensible person would dismiss this option in the future. Not only could you have been hurt or worse, but your family would suffer as well. But that wasn’t Pharaoh. Pharaoh had tried this shortcut seven times prior to this chapter and collided with a Mack truck each time. Is God to blame for the Mack truck or are you to blame for choosing to think that the outcome would be different this time?
God gave one final warning to Pharaoh before the tenth plague began:
So Moses said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle.Exodus 11:4-5 ESV
And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.Exodus 12:30 ESV
Pride killed his own son and every other firstborn in the land. His desire for absolute power left him powerless to stop the consequences of his greed. As I had stated earlier, he had the power of choice in every single instance. I believe that had Pharaoh recognized the humanity of the Israelites and sent them free, the next plague would have never come. It’s easy to read the text that says, “And God hardened his heart” and think that he was a tool in a divine plan for punishment, but I disagree. Concrete, once mixed, will become hard no matter what. You have a limited amount of time to get it how you want it before it is permanent. How fast it hardens is determined by different outside factors such as heat, wind, moisture, etc. Could it be that Pharaoh had set his heart against the one true Elohim from the beginning and each plague was just another factor?