Greetings in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pay close attention to this. I will make you seem like God to Pharaoh, and your brother, Aaron, will be your prophet. Tell Aaron everything I command you, and Aaron must command Pharaoh to let the people of Israel leave his country.” (Exodus 7:1-2)
Moses was so much encouraged by God after Moses had just experienced the bitter taste of losing in the first battle with Pharaoh. God sent Moses with his older brother, Aaron, and the elders of the two million Israelites. They fully supported Moses because they believed God sent Moses to deliver them from slavery.
Please imagine. How would you feel if two million people fully support you and have sent the best spokesperson and their representatives? You would feel like you are at the top of the world. Yes, two million people are behind you, and they give you 100% full confidence in yourself.
Moses also had the staff of God, which God gave him. To Moses, it was the physical proof of God’s presence. What else would Moses want before confronting Pharaoh?
Pharaoh was his opponent, the king of Egypt, the most powerful nation, but he was a mere human. Who is more powerful? Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, one single most powerful person on earth, or God with two million people’s support? Then did Moses stand confidently before Pharaoh and boldly proclaim God’s message to Pharaoh?
Sadly, Moses didn’t. In reality, Moses couldn’t deliver God’s message. He changed God’s message by adding his own excuse. He had a good intention, but he demonized God, who would kill His people if His people did not obey God’s command to leave Egypt. On the other hand, he made Pharaoh a benevolent king who would grant freedom because the two million Israelites were in threat of being killed by God.
The outcome was the opposite of what Moses expected. Pharaoh immediately expelled Moses and the people accompanying Moses. In anger, Pharaoh ordered the entire Israelites an unreasonable and cruel order and made his Egyptian slave drivers execute it. The Israelites begged Pharaoh, but Pharaoh did not even budge. Pharaoh insisted on his order to be completed no matter what happened, which was Pharaoh’s punishment for what Moses requested.
Thus, the Israelites’ lives became too harsh to bear. They came to Moses and blamed him with a cursing voice,
“May the LORD judge and punish you for making us stink before Pharaoh and his officials. You have put a sword into their hands, an excuse to kill us!” (Exodus 5:21b)
Moses sinned against God and suffered. Then Moses gave his repenting prayer to God, and God heard Moses’ prayer. God did not punish Moses like Pharaoh, but God forgave Moses.
Then God promised to make Moses like God to Pharaoh. It was a huge encouragement to Moses, who was almost paralyzed mentally, emotionally, and spiritually due to his failure before Pharaoh and his fellow Israelites. Additionally, God promised to let Aaron do the job for Moses for this time. Moses just needs to be there with Aaron. All were God’s grace and mercy in His love. God started a baby step for Moses to restore Moses. God’s goal was to make Moses firmly stand in faith under all circumstances because God chose Moses to deliver the Israelites, His people, from slavery in Egypt. Of course, Moses gladly accepted God’s offer, and Moses was truly comforted by God.
Moses and Aaron together went back to Pharaoh. Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron was eighty-three when they made their demands to Pharaoh. God is always gracious and merciful to all, including Moses and us. It has been proven again and again in our lives regardless of our ages and circumstances.
God saw Moses walking to Pharaoh’s palace, where he miserably failed. The miserable failure could have utterly destroyed Moses, but Moses got back on Moses’ own feet in faith in God.
As Moses and Aaron walked to the palace, God came to Moses and said, “Pharaoh will demand, ‘Show me a miracle.’ When Pharaoh does this, say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down in front of Pharaoh, and it will become a serpent.” God gave detailed instructions like dearly loving parents concerning their own child. God loved Moses despite Moses’ terrible sin. God is love, and His love is greater. How greater? His love is greater than all sins combined, including mine and yours.
Imagine how did Moses feel at that time? His failure was not the end of the relationship between him and God, even though Moses portrayed God as a monster who would kill His own people if His own people did not obey God’s impossible command. But God still fully trusted Moses, who would free two million people enslaved in Egypt by commanding Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, not using any physical forces but God’s power. What can we observe from the relationship between God and Moses? Aren’t we see our God with infinite patience, unconditional love, and unchanging faithfulness?
So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did what God had commanded them. Aaron, not Moses, threw down the staff of God before Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a serpent! All were surprised except Pharaoh, who was calm throughout the event.
Pharaoh saw before the same magic performed by his own magicians. Then Pharaoh called in his own wise men and sorcerers, and these Egyptian magicians did the same thing with their magic. They threw down their staffs, which also became serpents!
Then God’s serpent and many Pharaoh’s serpents fought. Neither could prevail for a while because God’s serpent was as strong as Pharaoh’s serpents, although they were many. However, soon the Pharaoh’s serpents started overpowering God’s serpent.
Moses had nothing to do about losing God’s serpent. Moses helplessly watched the scene. Moses prayed to God for His help and power. However, the situation did not change. The Egyptian serpents then started a coordinated attack on God’s serpent from all directions. Then the Pharaoh’s serpents put God’s serpent into a corner, and they were about to swallow God’s snake. It looked like the end of God’s snake, which meant to Moses — no more mission to rescue his fellow two million Israelites. God’s power looked weaker than Pharaoh’s magician’s power. If you were Moses, how would you feel?
A train of thought went through his brain quickly in a split second. “What I initially felt was right when I first met Pharaoh. When I came to him to demand the freedom of his fellow Israelites, Pharaoh looked powerful. Surely he is now too. His magician can overpower God’s miracle. I only returned because the serpent miracle convinced me. I thought that God’s miracle would make Pharaoh immediately obedient to God, but it was the case. Then what shall I do? Have I followed an empty promise of God? After all, God Himself cannot do anything to Pharaoh’s serpents, as I witness with my own eyes. What a stupid person I have been! I have been blindly believing in God and His power. Now, it is time to prepare my exit strategy to get out of this mess.”
Then this train of thought clung to his brain without knowing when to leave. As watching what was going on, Moses felt even God could not do anything to Pharaoh, which made Moses more fearful about Pharaoh. Moses regretted what he had done for God so far. He should have stayed in the Midian wilderness as a shepherd who tendered sheep without this type of pressure from God’s torturous and impossible mission.
As watching the struggling serpent made out of the staff of God, Moses’ faith quickly diminished, and he kept asking, “why does God do nothing although Pharaoh’s serpents overpower God’s serpent?” Moses could not watch any longer. God’s serpent truly struggled, which reminded Moses of his own life struggle. Moses thought that he saw the light at the end of the tunnel, but Moses was wrong. God was still far away without doing anything for Moses. Even worse, a doubt cloud came up from his heart — God might be indeed weaker than Pharaoh.
Have we got in the situation where Moses was struggling? We believed in God and did everything in faith by confronting even the most fearful enemies in faith in God. We believed that God would surely be on our side for this time, and we would prevail. But it was not the case. The reality was too painful even to watch and threatened to shatter our faith completely. Where is God, and how about His promise? We are losing and losing, but nowhere can we find God.
Moses’ pain was too great to describe. Moses felt that his 80 years of life were nothing but an illusion. God was not there when Moses needed Him most. If God were truly powerful, why couldn’t God’s serpent prevail over the Pharaoh’s serpents, although they were many? God did answer any of these. Moses just suffered.
Moses closed his eyes and made all his efforts to shut off all noises, including the noise of the struggling God’s serpent being bitten by the attacking Pharaoh’s serpents. Moses mysteriously heard a subtle voice in his heart and looked up to Heaven. It was God’s voice. Moses started praying to God not because he saw any evidence that God would change the situation but because the voice told him to pray amid the confusion, disappointment, desperation, and fear of failure again.
All things around him suddenly became quiet. Moses was alone with God. Moses did not know what to say to God, but Moses felt God knew all things in and around Moses. Moses was silent before God. Then God reminded Moses of what God told before:
“But I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. Even then Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you. So I will bring down my fist on Egypt. Then I will rescue my forces—my people, the Israelites—from the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” (Exodus 7:3-5)
When God talked to Moses before, Moses was so excited about God’s promise to make Moses like God to Pharaoh. Thus, he did not hear the rest of what God said. Now Moses heard clearly and loudly: God’s warning, plan, and final victory prepared for Moses and the Israelites.
Then Moses understood why Pharaoh’s serpents were prevailing before his eyes. It was a part of God’s plan set even before Moses went to Pharaoh with God’s staff. Ah! God let Pharaoh stubborn his heart. For this purpose, Pharaoh’s serpents had to prevail over God’s serpent.
As God said to Moses, Pharaoh had to be stubborn so that all Egyptians would know (not just knowledge but through experience) “God is the truly mighty God and loves His own people.” If God’s serpent had prevailed initially, Pharaoh would have already changed his heart. Then how would the entire Egypt know “I am the LORD.”?
As going through a truly intimate conversation with God, Moses’ heart was filled with God’s spirit. There was no more Moses in his heart. Indeed, there was no room for himself in his heart except for God’s spirit. Moses could not tell how he came to the point. It was indeed God’s mercy and grace. As Moses became truly lowly, God came open Moses’ heart. Then God poured His spirit into Moses’ heart. Then God comforted Moses and gave him an understanding of God. As Moses opened his eyes, he returned to reality. Moses remembered the last scene: Pharaoh’s serpents were about to swallow God’s serpent.
But now Moses was witnessing God’s serpents prevailing over Pharaoh’s serpents. Moses could not believe what was happening. God’s serpent swallowed up Pharaoh’s serpents one by one until none left. God initially let Pharaoh’s serpents created by Pharaoh’s magicians prevail for a while until God’s set time. The time was perfect for testing Moses’ faith and making Moses pray to God while trusting God even in the impossible situation. Moses clung to God, and experienced God. It was a rare moment to build a deeper relationship with God and one of the most blessed moments in Moses’ life.
Indeed, Moses prevailed in God. The battle between God’s and Pharaoh’s serpents was not a battle between God and Pharaoh. Pharaoh could not match God anyway because Pharaoh was a mere human being. It was a battle prepared for Moses to step up his faith to another stage in God. God’s goal was to continue shaping Moses to be the man who could lead two million Israelites out of Egypt, the most powerful nation at that time. Who is God? God is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and the one and only omnipotent God. Even Pharaoh, the king of the most powerful nation, must be subject to God.
God temporarily let evils such as Pharaoh prevail, but God plans to prepare for His own people. But we don’t deny the pain due to the prevailing evils, but the pain leads His beloved people to go into a deeper relationship with God and become truly mature in Him. God wants a truly deep loving, and trusting relationship with us because He loves and trusts us. Surely we will confront such a battle between Pharaoh and Moses. Then we know it was one of God’s plans for us out of His unfathomable love. Yes, we know it is true because God loves us unconditionally and always under all circumstances, and He wants us to be mature in Him to do God’s will and glorify His name.
So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. (1 Peter 1:6-7a)