Athlete, Don't Be Stubborn

*This devotional series was written by the AIA staff team at the University of Virginia

Read Exodus 8-10

Pharaoh thinks that he is in a cosmic game of “uncle” (aka “mercy”).  If he can wait it out, and cheat a few times along the way by feigning surrender, perhaps he can outlast Moses’ God.  We are tempted to think that Pharaoh’s extreme stubbornness and foolishness is unrealistic, but we need to remember just how much is at stake for him.  During their four hundred years in Egypt, the people of Israel had multiplied into a vast workforce for Pharaoh (12:37), so their departure would entail a crushing blow to production and a complete restructuring of the economy.

What is happening, through the plagues, is an undoing of the created order.  Pharaoh, who failed to rule well by bringing God’s goodness, truth, and beauty to his land, is no longer subduing and ruling over creation (Genesis 1:30).  Now the created waters and animals are ruling over him!   Light, no longer breaking in on the darkness, is covered up in darkness!  Pharaoh must learn that there is no one like God in all the earth (9:14).  His magicians, who were able to replicate only the first two plagues on a small scale, are much more ready to acknowledge that the plagues are from “the finger of God” (8:19), but God allows Pharaoh to spiral down in obstinacy in order to display his power and glory (9:15-17).  

Whenever we read of God’s judgments, especially those on such a large scale, we need to remember that God is not capricious in judgment.  He judges justly, on his timetable.  In this case, Egypt is judged for centuries of worshipping false gods (12:12), which culminated in the enslavement of entire of race of people who were to be God’s instrument in blessing the nations.  Seven hundred years later, God will use Assyria to judge Israel, at least as harshly, for their false worship and oppressive practices.  Today, God is redeeming a people from Israel and Egypt and Assyria, just as He promised (Isaiah 19:19-25).  

Questions for Reflection and Prayer

1. You may not have an enormous labor force at your command to lose, but there is always a cost to repentance.  As you search your heart, where are there areas of stubbornness or hardness of heart due to the cost of giving up short-term treasures, pleasures, or comfort?  (See Hebrews 11:24-28).  How are God’s ways better than our ways?  Take time to confess, to thank God for his grace in Christ, and to pray in specific ways for obedience and joy in God’s ways.  
2. How do you respond to God’s judgment?  It is tempting to try to take God’s place and to sit in judgment on his judgment!  What does this passage teach you about God’s holiness, power, and justice?
3. How are you called to steward God’s goodness, truth and beauty in your areas of influence/calling this week?

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