Have you ever heard something from God and not listened? Sometimes, in his great mercy, God repeats himself. Just like he used Moses and Aaron to speak to Pharaoh, he often uses his people to speak a call of repentance, and, sometimes, repeatedly. Why else would everyone love to hate the prophets? When we hear something once, it might be a non-issue or a misunderstanding. Twice, we can even get away with ignoring or rationalizing it away. But when something of correction is said repeatedly, we need to start turning around and recognizing the truth.
How about seven times? Surely seven same admonishments would push any man in the right direction, right?
Wrong. Not when that man is willfully blind and hardened in heart. Even after physical pain and great discomfort from the plague of boils, livestock, flies, gnats, frogs, and blood, Pharaoh did not repent. So, once again God commands him to let his people go. He even reminds him of the fact that he assuredly could have smite he and all his people by now and has not. God reminds Pharaoh – the most authoritative and in-charge guy at the time – that he was a mere instrument in the hands of a sovereign God. Everything he did and did not do was for the glory of God (Exodus 9:16.)
After Moses and Aaron tell Pharaoh who God really is and what he is doing, they go on to tell him who he is and what he is doing. That had to be off-putting to say the least. Then comes the judgement.
“But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go.” ~Exodus 9:16-17
Hey Pharaoh…guess what? You’re only in charge because I put you there. Guess what else? I only put you there to show you my power and make myself known. Your position is for my namesake, not yours. You don’t fool me with your fake, under-pressure penitence. Your pride is oppressive to my people. More judgement is coming.
Herein lies the root of every man’s rebellion. “You are exalting yourself…” Pharaoh’s biggest problem was his all-consuming pride. It was his absolute unwillingness to yield any part of his prerogatives to or for anyone or anything other than his own selfish ambitions and self-serving desires. It was his self-assured psyche that always and ever thought himself superior – superior to God’s prophets; superior to God’s people; superior to God’s commands; superior to God Himself. Pharaoh simply knew better than them all, and, for that reason the storms of hellacious hail came. This is every last one of us apart from Jesus Christ.
“Pharaoh was a great king; God’s people were poor shepherds at best, and now poor slaves, and yet Pharaoh shall be ruined if he exalt himself against them for it is considered exalting himself against God.” ~Matthew Henry
“Then whoever feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses…Only in the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel were, was there no hail. Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong.’ ” ~Exodus 9:20, 26-27
What great mercy God had to leave room for the protection of his people and even those of Egypt who would hear him! What great mercy he had to tell a man the same thing seven times knowing he had no intention of obeying! Notice, too, how Pharaoh speaks in his pseudo-repentance. “This time I have sinned…” As if all the other times he has disobeyed God’s clear words from these prophets he had not. Even in so-called repentance Pharaoh exaggerates himself and downplays his gross rebellion to God. Again, Pharaoh pretended obedience and again he reneged when the storms had passed.
“Pharaoh was frightened into a compliance by the judgement, but, when it was over, his convictions vanished, and his fair promises were forgotten.” ~Matthew Henry
Let it not be said of us, Lord. Give us hearts of humility. Grant us repentance. Keep us from the ever-tempting sins of self-importance and self-preserving pretense. Amen.