As Moses stood for that last time in the presence of Pharaoh, before he left the palace, the Lord revealed to him that he should give warning of the last dreadful judgment that was about to come upon the Egyptians. God also made it clear to him that the Hebrews were about to go away at last. Their taskmasters had cruelly abused them in their servitude, and they certainly would have sent them away empty. But the Lord would not permit the laborers to lose their just payment for all their hard work that they had been compelled to do for decades without wages; so He ordered them to ask for it now, right before their departure – and it was given to them, in the form of jewels of silver and gold. The Lord will surely right the wrongs of His oppressed and persecuted people who commit their cause to Him in humble silence; He will not allow them to become losers by their patient suffering. We see here how He gave the Hebrews favor in the sight of the Egyptians, by making it appear how much He favored them. Those who honor God, He will honor.
But let us go back to the scene in Pharaoh’s palace, as Moses was about to make his final retreat from his presence (verses 4-8). He delivered the Word of the Lord, and gave the rebellious king fair warning of the death of all the firstborn in Egypt at once. This plague had been the first to be threatened, but it was the last to be executed. See how slow God is to execute His wrath! The final plague was foretold, and the time was fixed. All the Egyptians’ firstborn would sleep the sleep of death – not silently, but in such a way that it would rouse their families at midnight. Even the prince was not too high to be reached by it, nor were the slaves at the mill too low to be noticed. And while the Lord slew the Egyptians, not so much as a dog would bark at any of the children of Israel. The Lord would make a distinction between His people and their oppressors; for although there is no difference between His people and anybody else as far as their naturally sinful state is concerned, yet His redeeming grace sets them apart and preserves them from the plague of His wrath. All people have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of holiness, but a merciful difference is made between those who are shelter under the blood of the Lamb and those who continue in their rebellion against Him!
When Moses had delivered his final message to Pharaoh, he left the palace in a storm of righteous anger at his obstinacy. The Scripture has foretold the unbelief of many who hear the Gospel, so that we may not be surprised thereby (Rom. 10:16). Let us never think badly of the Gospel of Christ because of the slights that sinful human beings put upon it. Pharaoh hardened his heart; yet in the end, he was compelled to yield his haughty will, and give the Hebrews their full freedom. And in the same way, the people of God will find that when they struggle against their spiritual adversary in the might of Jesus, make every attempt to overcome him by the blood of the Lamb, and desire to attain increasing likeness and love to that Lamb – then they will be rewarded by true freedom from the enemy of their souls!
In all of this, we may observe that even in threatening judgment, our God remembers mercy and is slow to punish. In the case of this proud and self-willed king, how patiently the Lord dealt with him! How many lighter strokes were laid upon him first! How many chances were given him to turn back from his obstinate folly, and to save himself and his people from the ruin that was sure to follow their disobedience! When Pharaoh’s crops were ruined by the hailstorm, and when his cattle were destroyed by the pestilence – if he had repented then, he would not have had to weep for the loss of his firstborn. But Pharaoh would not hear; he shut his ears to the voice of mercy and patience; he shut his eyes to the awful fact that the plagues would have taught him – namely, that it was the Lord Almighty Whom he was dealing with, and that neither he nor his gods could stand before Him for a moment.
The narrative of Pharaoh is written for our learning; so let us make sure that we profit by it, and give heed to the Lord’s chastening hand. Sorrows and trials are sent to God’s people, in order to purify and make them better. If we receive them as coming from our Father’s love, they draw us closer to Him; but if we look upon them as being sent by an angry God, they drive us further from Him in sullen defiance. The same sunbeam that melts wax will also harden clay. Pharaoh’s heart was as hard as a millstone; he would not give up his own stubborn will, not even to save all the firstborn in Egypt. But let us pray that the Holy Spirit may make our hearts soft like wax, so that they may be easily melted by the glow of our Father’s love!
Dear Redeemer! How is it, and why is it, that You have manifested Yourself to us, and not unto the world? O what wondrous distinguishing love which passes knowledge! Lord, cause us to take warning from a contemplation of Pharaoh’s character. We pray that that we may never become like those who reject the counsel of God against their own souls, slight the Gospel of Jesus, and refuse to hear Your Word. Let Your redeeming grace shelter us under the blood of the Lamb, and set us apart and preserve us from the plague of Your wrath! Amen.
Join other families all around the globe! Receive the full-color, freely downloadable format of these thoughts in your email every day, and enjoy a FREE copy of my e-book A Call to Family Worship! It’s my prayer that you and your family will be equipped to receive abundant blessings from the hand of the Lord as you study His Word and worship in His presence together.
photo by Syed F. Hashemi | Unsplash.com