Moving into Exodus chapter 7, God retells his plan once again to Moses. This is the third time God reiterates for a hesitant human like us. What grace Our Father has for our immature rebellion, fear, and faithlessness at his commands!
Moses’ objections to obey God’s directives finally cease. He stops contending with God and begins contending with Pharaoh. I suppose that is the way it generally works for God’s people. We cannot fight a good fight against this world when we are busy fighting against personal obedience to God’s clear Word.
God reminds Moses that Pharaoh will not listen despite all the signs and miracles he is about to perform. Then he says something that I find quite curious. God says, “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” (Exodus 7:5)
God causes the ungodly to know he is Lord by “great acts of judgement.” (Exodus 7:4) Conversely, he causes his people to know he is Lord by great acts of gracious, merciful deliverance. In his wrath and his mercy – both solely dependent upon his own sovereign choice – God is glorified.
As the story goes, Moses and Aaron obey, Pharaoh asks for a sign, and their staff becomes a serpent. The sign is quickly dismissed as the Egyptian magicians are able to do the same. Still, Aaron’s staff swallows up the others. While that proof of authority should have been enough, instead Pharaoh’s hard heart deemed it enough reason to disbelieve. Matthew Henry says, “…the very appearance of an opposition to truth, and the least head made against it, serve those for a justification of their infidelity who are prejudiced against the light and love of it.”
I guess the most obvious question here is, “Why would God allow and enable the false magicians to imitate the true sign so similarly?” Apparently, it serves as part of his sovereign will to harden the hearts of some and deliver the hearts of others. Again I defer to Henry’s words: “God suffers the lying spirit to do strange things, that the faith of some may be tried and manifested, that the infidelity of others may be confirmed, and that he who is filthy may be filthy still.”
The bottom line in this strange interaction between a sovereign God who sent a humble man to speak to a proud man on his behalf only to exalt the one and bring down the other, is to prove his authority and prerogative to do just that. And why would an all-powerful God have need to do anything like that? He doesn’t need help, approval, or acceptance from mere men. Therefore, the reason he does so is solely for their sake; for our sake – that we might know who he is and what he does; that we might know his grace and mercy; his greatness and his wrath. God gives us the whole of the Biblical text that we might know just what kind of God he is.
And what kind of God is that?
He is a God who humbles men and hardens men. He exalts men and delivers men. He chooses whom he will for whatsoever he pleases. This is a God who made men for his own purposes, and for his own purposes alone men live and breathe. This is a God of greatest power, authority, knowledge, and wisdom over all things, all nations, and all people everywhere.
Such may seem a great mystery. So be it. It is a mystery woven throughout all of scripture for us to investigate and inquire of him about -and that is what he wants from us. We serve a God that is altogether sovereign.