I know I’ve read the stories of the plagues in detail at least a dozen times in my adult life. But as I write these daily blogs, I am once again struck by Pharaoh’s audacity. Once again, in chapter 10, it’s his officials who are trying to talk some sense into him: "Pharaoh’s officials said to him, 'How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?'" (vs 7)
What I was contemplating today was the thought that this was a man and a society that worshiped gods, that existed on the idea that a good life depended upon finding out who the god was, what the god wanted, and giving it to them so they would go away and leave you alone (or reward you with blessings). This would have been Pharaoh’s mindset, so it’s stunning to me that after seven plagues, Pharaoh doesn’t seem interested in "giving God what He wants."
Or is that it? In this scenario, Pharaoh is also in a bit of a snare. According to Egyptian theology, Pharaoh himself was considered a god in Egypt. So maybe Pharaoh didn’t like the Hebrew God trespassing on his territory.
You see, Pharaoh didn’t seem to mind gods at all... until he met one he couldn’t manipulate. Pharaoh’s frame of reference when it came to deity was that gods were there to be appeased. Like cosmic vending machines, they would spit out exactly what you wanted if you gave them what they wanted. They could be "bought and sold."
But our God cannot be bought and sold. He cannot be manipulated, because He’s not arbitrary. The things He asks of us, even requires of us, are not idle whimsies concocted because He has nothing better to do. They matter, because we matter to Him. Whatever He asks us to do (or not do) is for us, not for Him!
In the story of The Plagues, God was introducing Pharaoh to a whole new concept of deity, and Pharaoh didn’t like it. He, apparently, much preferred the gods who existed only in his head, the ones who could be easily manipulated and controlled.
Eugene Peterson once wrote that he wished there was a sign outside every church that read, "Beware the God." Not because we have to be afraid of getting bitten. But because when a sinful heart encounters the infinite
humility and graciousness of our wonderful God, it can be all too easy to assume that we are in control. We mistake humility for weakness, and in so doing, we try to set ourselves up as god.
But the God we serve — though infinite in grace and humility — does not exist to be manipulated and controlled by His creation. And when necessary, He will provide us with powerful reminders of that!