Greetings in the name of the father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
When Moses stood before Pharaoh, he was hugely impressed by the splendor and the power of Pharaoh. Moses was somewhat reluctant to go and tell Pharaoh to let his people go. Then Moses failed to convey what God commanded him to tell Pharaoh. Rather than commanding Pharaoh, Moses begged Pharaoh. Indeed, Moses portrayed God who would kill the Israelites, God’s own people, if God’s own people did not obey God’s command. Moses implicitly suggested that Pharaoh was the only one who could save the Israelites from the fearful hand of God.
“The God of the Hebrews has met with us,” they declared. “So let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness so we can offer sacrifices to the LORD our God. If we don’t, he will kill us with a plague or with the sword.” (Exodus 5:3b)
The king of Egypt, Pharaoh, must have been amused by Moses, and Pharaoh immediately kicked out Moses from his palace. Indeed, God let all these things happen for Moses because God loved Moses. God did not stop there. God let the Israelites come and complain to Moses. As an act of revenge, Pharaoh gave the unreasonably harsh orders to the Israelites – making the same amount of bricks without giving any straws. The delegates of the Israelites came to Pharaoh and begged, but Pharaoh did not budge at all. The delegates directly came to Moses and protested,
“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)
It is how God teaches His beloved children. God let His children fail because God loves them and makes them not forget forever about the sins committed by harshly bringing in the consequences of sins. Please note that it is not a punishment, as many might say, but His love as parents who are actually in pain but discipline children for their better future.
Moses learned a huge lesson. However, Moses was a mere human being too. He could not switch his behavior like turning on a light switch. When God asked Moses to go again to Pharaoh, Moses could not immediately say “Yes.” Then God, who knew Moses’ heart, promised to let Aaron do all things for Moses – delivering God’s message and demonstrating God’s power. Moses then said, “yes.” Moses went to Pharaoh with Aaron. In reality, Moses followed Aaron, but Moses hoped God’s power would change Pharaoh and let his fellow Israelites in slavery go.
However, it became yet another unforgettable lesson for Moses. God pretends to be beaten by Pharaoh’s magicians, making Moses even more depressed. Pharaoh’s serpents made by Pharaoh’s magicians pushed God’s serpent into a corner made out of the staff God had given to Moses by God. Moses hoped to see God’s power and the moment that changed Pharaoh’s heart, but God’s power looked weaker than Pharaoh’s power.
Moses could not watch any longer the losing scene. He felt all his life also went down to drain because even God’s staff was not so powerful enough to beat the magicians’ magic. Moses barely stood and helplessly watched. Then with no reason, Moses closed his eyes and started praying to God, which was truly contrite and humble prayer. One who made Moses pray was God.
Moses asked for God’s mercy and grace in his prayer because he could not endure anymore. Moses, then, waited. Moses became motionless. However, it was the moment that God was working on Moses, nothing else. Moses did not know how long he was there with God, and God was pouring His spirit into Moses’ heart. Moses started feeling God’s comfort and peace, which slowly and steadily displaced disappointment, despair, and desperation.
As Moses was comforted by God, he opened his eyes. Then Moses saw something truly unexpected. God’s serpent, which was pushed into a corner, started to attack and swallow up Pharaoh’s serpents one by one. Soon nothing was left except God’s serpent. It was God’s loving answer to Moses’ prayer in his desperation. God touched Moses’ heart, and Moses saw God’s answer.
The second trip Moses grungily made to Pharaoh became the greatest blessing to Moses. Moses experienced how much God loved him. For Moses, God even sacrificed his reputation initially. God truly wanted Moses back on track without deviating from what God set before Moses. Moses firmly grasped his mission of freeing his fellow Israelites from slavery in Egypt again. After all, it was not for his brother Aaron. Moses realized that he could not hide behind Aaron, and he had to lead. Moses’ true revelation with God was he could not accomplish God’s mission, not by his might and strength, but by obedience to Omnipotent and Ever-Loving God with his utmost humility.
Moses determined to execute God’s liberation plan for the Israelites faithfully and thoroughly. Moses was ready to do whatever God asked him to do. Soon God came back to Moses, and Moses determined no longer not to make an excuse,
“But LORD!” Moses objected. “My own people won’t listen to me anymore. How can I expect Pharaoh to listen? I’m such a clumsy speaker!” (Exodus 6:12)
Early morning Moses went to intercept Pharaoh’s early morning ritual to go down to the Nile river. Then Moses announced God’s message to Pharaoh,
“The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to tell you, “Let my people go, so they can worship me in the wilderness.” (Exodus 7:16b)
Then Moses brought down God’s plague of turning the Nile river into blood. However, Pharaoh responded by calling for his magicians and letting them do the same magic. Due to the plague, all in Egypt suffered, but Pharaoh hardened his heart because he felt that God’s power was not so different from that of his magicians. God foretold Moses,
“Even then Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you.” (Exodus 7:4a)
Yes, Moses knew Pharaoh would refuse to listen to Moses even before going to Pharaoh and announcing God’s command, “Let my people go.”
If our boss says, “Go and do the task that I say to you, but listen, you will surely fail,” how many of us would go and do the task that our boss predicts we will fail? Most of us will not go. Then we will ask, “Why should I go and do the task, although you know I will surely fail to do the task?” It will become a long discussion with our boss. If our boss insists, most of us think, “My boss is crazy. My boss knows my failure but insists I go and do the task.” Some might go due to the pressure from the boss, but they would do the task half-heartedly at most. Thus, the outcome is doomed to be a failure.
How about Moses’ case? Did God say to Moses that Pharaoh would listen to Moses? No, God clearly said Pharaoh would refuse to listen to Moses, although Moses demonstrated God’s power by bringing down God’s plague from heaven. Even so, Moses went. Was it easy for Moses? It was difficult, but Moses went by being obedient to God. Did Moses, then, perform God’s task half-heartedly? No, Moses faithfully and thoroughly followed God’s command with all his mind, heart, and soul. Moses was exceptionally humble to God and obediently executed God’s command, although the outcome would surely be a failure.
Moses, who was exceptionally obedient to God, was not created one day. It took forty years plus God’s two additional lessons. The first lesson came after giving in to Pharaoh’s power and splendor, and the second lesson came after refusing back to Pharaoh.
What did God do for Moses? First, out of God’s love, God forgave Moses’ sin. When Moses refused to go back, God promised Aaron would do the task, not Moses. Amazingly, God did not forget to encourage Moses before sending him back to Pharaoh. God 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.” (Exodus 7:1)
God promised Moses to make him seem like God to Pharaoh, although Aaron would talk and demonstrate God’s power. God also would make Aaron as Moses’ prophet. In other words, God would not change his original plan and promise given to Moses, who would lead the Israelites enslaved in Egypt despite Moses’ sin and reluctance. God kept carving out Moses until he became one who surely and faithfully would execute God’s command by leading out two million Israelites from Egypt.
Now Moses was faithful to God’s command by not being astray left or right out of God’s special love and patience, but Moses was not perfect. Moses knew the outcome, and surely it did bother him. But Moses did his best to faithfully and humbly follow God’s command. Then Moses thoroughly delivered God’s command to Pharaoh and did what God asked him to do by bringing down God’s plague of turning the Nile River into the blood. However, as God predicted, Pharaoh did harden his heart.
It was not long before God came to Moses again and said to Moses,
“Go back to Pharaoh and announce to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs across your entire land. (Exodus 8:1b)
Again? Moses asked himself, “Although I deliver God’s command and pray to God to bring down God’s plague of frogs across the entire land of Egypt, Pharaoh would not release my fellow Israelites. Is it worth doing again? Why does God keep asking me to do something that will not work? God knows the future. Why does God repetitively do the same? I will deliver God’s message, and God brings down a plague. Then Pharaoh will harden his heart and refuse to let my fellow Israelites go. It does not make sense. God is omnipotent. Why doesn’t God accomplish His will at once? Yes, it does not completely make sense to me. Even so, I will do it because I believe and trust in God.”
Moses went, demanded, and brought down a plague of frogs from heaven. Then Moses waited while expecting Pharaoh would harden his heart, but something unexpected happened. Pharaoh called in Moses and begged,
“Plead with the LORD to take the frogs away from me and my people. I will let your people go, so they can offer sacrifices to the LORD.” (Exodus 8:8b)
Moses was surprised that Pharaoh’s response was different for this time because Pharaoh begged. Then Moses felt that he would not do the same crazy thing anymore – following God’s command, although Moses knew the result – Pharaoh’s hardened heart and refusal to free the Israelites.
Per Pharaoh’s request, Moses prayed to God to remove the frogs, and God heard Moses’ prayer. Moses was sure that Pharaoh would release his fellow Israelites. After his prayer, Moses returned to Pharaoh, but Moses found that Pharaoh had hardened his heart. Yes, it was yet another bummer. Moses was greatly discouraged due to the short-lived hope, but Moses remembered again God’s word that Pharaoh would refuse to free the Israelites. However, Moses saw what God did for him – Pharaoh begged. Moses felt God’s mercy on him — giving him a break to refresh Moses. Then Moses knew his journey to free his fellow Israelites did not end yet.
Of course, Moses was disappointed. Then Moses prayed to God while asking for his strength to overcome his feelings. Again God poured His heart and spirit on Moses. Moses was comforted by God.
Soon God came and said to Moses again, “Tell Aaron, ‘Raise your staff and strike the ground. The dust will turn into swarms of gnats throughout the land of Egypt.’” So Moses did just as God had commanded Moses.
Then gnats covered everyone, people and animals alike. “This is the finger of God!” the magicians exclaimed to Pharaoh. Yes, Moses heard the magicians’ exclamation, which gave him comfort. But Pharaoh’s heart remained hard as God had predicted. Moses did what God asked him to do, but his task was destined to fail by Pharaoh refused to release his fellow Israelites as God predicted.
Moses, a mere human being, really hoped to rest and restore himself by getting rid of the hard feeling of being ignored by Pharaoh and failure. Moses truly wanted not to repeat the same unproductive obedience – listening, going, telling, bringing down God’s plague, and getting disappointed by watching Pharaoh’s hardened heart.
Again God came to Moses and sent Moses to Pharaoh. Moses was about to go to Pharaoh to declare God’s message to Pharaoh and bring down a plague of flies. But, this time, Moses heard something new.
“But this time I will spare the region of Goshen, where my people live. No flies will be found there. Then you will know that I am the LORD and that I am present even in the heart of your land. I will make a clear distinction between my people and your people.” (Exodus 8:22,23a)
Even Moses, it was hard to believe what God said. And to Moses’ surprise, God did make a clear distinction between the Israelites, God’s people, and the Egyptians. Yes, God’s power was truly amazing.
Additionally, Pharaoh summoned Moses and negotiated a term. It did not go anywhere. Moses’ small hope did not last long, turning into another disappointment. As God foretold, Pharaoh would harden his heart. Truly it was not easy to follow God’s command while being obedient.
Moses struggled. He thought about whether he would continue following God’s command because Moses knew that Pharaoh would not release the Israelites while hardening Pharaoh’s heart no matter what he did. Then God came again to Moses and said,
“Go back to Pharaoh,” the LORD commanded Moses. “Tell him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you continue to hold them and refuse to let them go, the hand of the LORD will strike all your livestock—your horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats—with a deadly plague. But the LORD will again make a distinction between the livestock of the Israelites and that of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 9:1-4)
Moses again hoped. It would be the last time he had to do something he was not really comfortable doing, but he was determined to follow God’s command no matter the result. After all, faith is not of one’s understanding, rationale, and outcome but of God’s. What Moses always remembered and firmly believed was what God said,
“When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” (Exodus 7:5)
Moses believed God surely would bring out his fellow Israelites, but he did not know when. Moses was sure that in the end, the Egyptians would know who God was — the one and only God, not like Pharaoh, who the Egyptians believed a god but a mere human. At that time, Pharaoh would not harden his heart and release the Israelites enslaved in Egypt. However, all that mattered for Moses was he had to follow God’s command faithfully and thoroughly without relying on his understanding and rationale, especially those disappointing outcomes that he witnessed again and again after he faithfully followed God’s command.
Moses had hope in God because Moses believed God would surely fulfill His promise made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and himself. How many times did Moses have to go back to Pharaoh, deliver God’s command, bring down God’s plague from heaven, and see Pharaoh’s refusal by hardening his heart? God did not tell Moses. Thus, Moses had no idea at all, which did bother Moses. But the little annoyance was not able to deter Moses. Moses believed in God’s solemn promise– freeing two million Israelites enslaved in Egypt. This faith kept Moses going regardless of the disappointing outcomes of his obedient acts on God’s command. Why? Moses experienced God, who was infinitely faithful to him throughout his life, and Moses truly believed in God’s promise and trusted God under all circumstances.
So we are always of good courage. for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:6a,7)