Saturday, December 10, 2011
Exodus 9:27-35 Unrepentant
"Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron.
'This time I have sinned,' he said to them.
'The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong.
Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail.
I will let you go; you don't have to stay any longer.'
Moses replied, 'When I have gone out of the city,
I will spread out my hands in prayer to the LORD.
The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail,
so you may know that the earth is the LORD's.
But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the LORD God.'
(The flax and barley were destroyed,
since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom.
The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later.)
Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city.
He spread out his hands toward the LORD;
the thunder and hail stopped,
and the rain no longer poured down on the land.
When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped,
he sinned again:
He and his officials hardened their hearts.
So Pharaoh's heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go,
just as the LORD had said through Moses."
Exodus 9:27-35 (NIV)
At first it seemed that Pharaoh was finally going to repent. He acknowledged his sin and admitted that the LORD was in the right, while he and his people were in the wrong.
However, there is something suspect about this repentance. He says that 'This time I have sinned...' which seems to suggest that perhaps his other acts of disobedience (during the incidents with the plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, livestock and boils)and his false promises to allow the Israelites to leave were somehow not his fault. A truly broken and repentant heart would have taken responsibility for all of the above.
Moses' actions suggest that he had similar suspicions. He tells Pharaoh that he will pray to the LORD after he is out of the city. Why? Does he suspect that Pharaoh may try to detain or harm him if the plague is removed at that very moment? Moses also plainly tells Pharaoh that he knows that both Pharaoh and his officials still do not fear the LORD. After all, Pharaoh had broken his promises on numerous occasions.
Almost as a side note in the text, it reveals that the flax and barley crops had been destroyed, since they were nearly fully developed. There was still hope for the wheat and spelt (a wheat-like member of the grass family), for they had not yet ripened. Even this was evidence of the LORD's mercy, for had these been destroyed as well, the Egyptians would have nothing to eat, at least in the bread/cereal part of the equation.
In contrast to Pharaoh's wavering stance, Moses keeps his promises. He goes out of the city and prays to the LORD, and the rain, thunder and hail stops.
This is a moment of great promise. It is Pharaoh's opportunity to go in a whole new direction of obedience. But he doesn't take it. Instead, the text says that both he and his officials hardened their hearts. [That seemed strange, for at least some of the officials had seemed to be heading in a God-ward direction previously. (v. 20) I guess their 'obedience' had been strictly practical -- they had only done it to save their servants and possessions.]
This reminds me of a verse in the New Testament which speaks of God giving us the opportunity to escape sin's clutches:
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
I Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
Pharaoh chose to ignore that 'way out'. Instead, he and his officials hardened their hearts. The only way left for the LORD to get through to Pharaoh is through further chastening. I am afraid that Galatians 6:7 -- "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." -- will come true for Pharaoh in a rather painful way in the near future.