Greetings in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.
As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15)
God brought down nine plagues on Egypt through Moses, but Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, kept hardening his heart. Indeed, Pharaoh never had the intention to release the Israelites enslaved in Egypt at all. Pharaoh even decided to kill Moses. Moses kept bringing God’s message, “Let my people go,” and Pharaoh became sick and tired of hearing Moses. Pharaoh badly needed the enslaved Israelites, who provided all the labors that his country needed.
After nine plagues, God came to Moses and asked to announce to Pharaoh,
“I will strike Pharaoh and the land of Egypt with one more blow. After that, Pharaoh will let you leave this country. In fact, he will be so eager to get rid of you that he will force you all to leave. Tell all the Israelite men and women to ask their Egyptian neighbors for articles of silver and gold.”
Moses was really curious about what God would do for this time. So far, Pharaoh had kept hardening his heart nine times and did not let the Israelites go. Moses could understand why. Pharaoh badly needed the enslaved Israelites for his nation. Indeed, Pharaoh persisted and endured the nine plagues with his willpower, but it took a huge toll on Pharaoh.
After the third plague of Gants, Pharaoh’s magicians declared the third plague was God’s finger and gave up on competing against God’s plagues. They realized they could not match God’s power with their magic. Then their high-rank officials changed their minds. After they heard God’s message and the upcoming plague from Moses with Pharaoh, they quickly went home and prepared for the upcoming plague. They knew Pharaohs would do nothing except only hardening his heart. The ordinary Egyptians also saw God’s awesome and fearful power and how God dealt with HIs own people vs. the rest Egyptians. From the fourth plague, God started to bring down God’s plagues to the Egyptians only selectively, and none of them suffered from plagues from the fourth plague and later ones. Even one single animal in the region where the Israelites lived perished. God clearly distinguished His people, the Israelites, from non-Israelites, the Egyptians, who were not His people. How would we feel amid the plagues if we were the Egyptians? The nation became divided: Pharaoh vs. the rest.
Per God’s command, Moses went to Pharaoh tenth time and announced,
“This is what the LORD says: At midnight tonight I will pass through the heart of Egypt. All the firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on his throne, to the oldest son of his lowliest servant girl who grinds the flour. Even the firstborn of all the livestock will die. Then a loud wail will rise throughout the land of Egypt, a wail like no one has heard before or will ever hear again. But among the Israelites, it will be so peaceful that not even a dog will bark. Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites. All the officials of Egypt will run to me and fall to the ground before me. ‘Please leave!’ they will beg. ‘Hurry! And take all your followers with you.’ Only then will I go!”
What a terrible message from God to Pharaoh through Moses! Did Pharaoh hear the message? No. Pharaoh again hardened his heart and did not let the Israelites go before the terrifying plague fell upon the entire nation, including himself. So far, the nine plagues did little directly on Pharaoh because he was in his palace and shielded from the plagues. He had never experienced the same hardship and pains that ordinary Egyptians experienced. Thus, Pharaoh could persist.
However, the tenth plague that Moses said was different. This plague would touch the Pharaoh’s skin, not like any other plagues. Moses directly pointed at his own firstborn son, whom he loved most. And Moses prophesied his beloved firstborn son would die on the same night as all the other firstborn sons of all Egyptian families.
Pharaoh was in a difficult situation. He could not let the Israelites go because they were essential to his nation’s economy. If not, Moses claimed that the tenth plague would kill his firstborn son. Pharaoh thought deeply about what to do and concluded such a plague was not feasible even to God. So far, God brought down nine plagues with disastrous consequences for his nation. However, none was so specific and pervasive to all firstborn sons: from his firstborn son to the lowest Egyptians’ firstborn sons. God even included the firstborn of all the livestock owned by the Egyptians. Pharaoh questioned, “Could God do this unimaginable thing with such precision?” Pharaoh said to himself, “No. It is impossible to even God based on my experience so far,” and hardened his heart. Pharaoh did not know what would come.
Then God instructed Moses on how to prepare for God’s judgment day against Pharaoh and the Egyptians, but the day of liberation for the Israelites.
Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the LORD’s Passover. On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the LORD! But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Exodus 12: 11b-13)
The blood on doorposts came from the sacrifice given to God on that evening. It signified God’s forgiveness of their sins and God’s saving grace to His beloved Israelites. Then God commanded each family to get around eating together to celebrate God’s salvation from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
When God gave the instructions to Moses, the Israelites were still in the land of Egypt as enslaved people. Even so, Moses 100% believed what God said. Then Moses called all the elders of Israel together and said to them,
“Go, pick out a lamb or young goat for each of your families, and slaughter the Passover animal. Drain the blood into a basin. Then take a bundle of hyssop branches and dip it into the blood. Brush the hyssop across the top and sides of the doorframes of your houses. And no one may go out through the door until morning. For the LORD will pass through the land to strike down the Egyptians. But when he sees the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe, the LORD will pass over your home. He will not permit his death angel to enter your house and strike you down.”
All the elders of Israel heard Moses and also believed. The elders saw Moses’ solid and unmovable faith reflected on Moses’ face. What an absolute faith Moses had! Moses made a decision and moved forward in faith in God, but Pharaoh used his earthly wisdom and experience to decide his next step. Pharaoh did not believe, but Moses firmly believed in God.
By the way, having faith is God’s present. Pharaoh saw and experienced God and His power nine times, but he could not believe. It is true even today. Many saw God’s power and experienced Him multiple times but don’t believe in God. Precisely speaking, they cannot because they do not accept God’s gift of faith that God freely gives to all. Pharaoh had a choice to believe in God, but he chose not to by hardening his heart. Even today, God keeps telling us,
“Today when you hear his voice,
don’t harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7b)
Not hardening our hearts is the first step in approaching God to receive faith from God, but truly softening our hearts takes time. Moses journeyed 40 years in the wilderness with God as a humble shepherd. Before this personal journey with God, Moses was the towering top prince in Egypt, the most powerful nation at that time. Then, Moses became a truly humble person to God. Indeed Moses was humble enough to God to do God’s monumental work of freeing the Israelites under any circumstances. Moses endured Pharaoh’s rejection nine times. Even Moses got a death threat from Pharaoh.
Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
Then God gave the truly honorable title to Moses: the humblest man on the face of the earth. As a result, although the Israelites were still in slavery in Egypt, Moses believed that God would free the Israelites for this time without any doubts because he surely believed God would do faithfully what he promised. In his absolute faith, Moses declared what God would do and encouraged all the elders of Israel to remember and celebrate what God was about to do.
“Remember, these instructions are a permanent law that you and your descendants must observe forever. When you enter the land the LORD has promised to give you, you will continue to observe this ceremony. Then your children will ask, ‘What does this ceremony mean?’ And you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt. And though he struck the Egyptians, he spared our families.’
In fact, Moses’ focus was not on the immediate things God was about to do – killing all firstborn sons of the Egyptians, including Pharaoh while protecting all Israelites’ firstborn sons. Then, Pharaoh would free the Israelites from the bondage of slavery in Egypt. But Moses’ true focus was God’s covenant – giving the Promised Land to the Israelites as God promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
What a faith of Moses! Moses firmly believed God would bring out the Israelites from Egypt and then bring in to the Promised Land, where milk and honey abundantly flowed. Moses’ faith was so contagious that All the elders also truly believed God’s covenant made with the ancestors. When Moses finished speaking, all the people bowed down to the ground and worshiped.
So the people of Israel did just as God had commanded through Moses and Aaron. That night at midnight, God struck down all the firstborn sons in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sat on his throne, to the firstborn son of the prisoner in the dungeon. Even the firstborns of their livestock were killed, as God declared.
Pharaoh and all his officials and all the people of Egypt woke up during the night, and loud wailing was heard throughout the land of Egypt. There was not a single Egyptian house where someone had not died.
Pharaoh hurriedly sent for Moses and Aaron during the night.
“Get out!” he ordered. “Leave my people—and take the rest of the Israelites with you! Go and worship God as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you said, and be gone. Go, but bless me as you leave.”
All the Egyptians urged the people of Israel to get out of the land as quickly as possible, for they thought, “We will all die!”
As God instructed, the Israelites faithfully took their bread dough before yeast was added. They wrapped their kneading boards in their cloaks and carried them on their shoulders. And the people of Israel did as Moses had instructed; they asked the Egyptians for clothing and articles of silver and gold. God caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the Israelites, and they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So they stripped the Egyptians of their wealth! Some Egyptians followed the Israelites because they experienced who God was and believed in God more than Pharaoh, whom they worshiped as their God in Egypt at that time.
That night the people of Israel left Rameses and started for Succoth. There were about 600,000 men, plus all the women and children. The number would be approximately 2,000,000 at least. Yes, it was a truly monumental work of God, and 40 years’ journey with God, equipped Moses to do the monumental job that glorified God.
A rabble of non-Israelites, who believed in God than Pharaoh, went with them, along with great flocks and herds of livestock. For bread, they baked flat cakes from the dough without yeast they had brought from Egypt. It was made without yeast because the people were driven out of Egypt in such a hurry that they had no time to prepare the bread or other food.
The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years. In fact, it was on the last day of the 430th year that all the LORD’s forces left the land due to the severe famine. Only 70 people came to Egypt, and when they left Egypt, they became 2,000,000, a huge nation as God promised Abraham.
I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. (Genesis 12:2)
Indeed, when God made a covenant with Abraham, Abraham was just one single family with no child, and his wife was barren. But Abram believed, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith. However, Abraham also had to constantly fight for his faith against his earthly wisdom, which was completely against God’s promise, and won the victory. Abraham demonstrated true faith in God, and Moses inherited the faith through the forty years of journey with God in the wilderness in Midian.
However, one thing that Abraham could not deny was that God had never left Abraham alone. Indeed, Abraham journeyed with God for twenty-five years and perfected his faith. Through the long journey, sometimes Abraham’s faith became weak, and Abraham struggled. Whenever Abraham struggled, God came and encouraged Abraham.
One time, Abraham decided to appoint his servant in his house as his heir out of his struggle to rationalize God’s promise, “Your descendants will be a big nation,” although he had no child and his wife was barren.
Then God came to Abraham and said, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” Then God took Abram outside and said,
“Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!” (Genesis 15:5b)
Then Abraham believed again. How gracious God was! Yes, God was with Abraham, and Abraham was God in faith. Abraham believed in God, and he prevailed in faith in God.
If anyone struggles because of a lack of faith or even doubt, then remember Abraham and Moses. Such great names in faith also struggled. Thus, what can we say more? When we struggle, as Abraham did, we should look up our eyes and see our Ever-Loving Father who provides His protection and guidance instead of fixing our eyes on our earthly problems while digging deeper into the bottomless pit. Then quietly wait for God. God, full of mercy, grace, and love, will guide us through the paths of righteousness in Him. Here is God’s promise:
And call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15)
In the very night, God kept His promise to bring the Israelites, His beloved children, out of the land of Egypt. Then all the Israelites shouted together, “This night belongs to Him, and it must be commemorated every year by all the Israelites, from generation to generation.” Amen! God is faithful. He will surely fulfill His promise under all circumstances in His mercy and love. Why not praise Him and give thanks to Him? He is our Ever-Loving Father unconditionally and forever.
Understand, therefore, that the LORD your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. (Deuteronomy 7:9)