Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pharaoh Pleads for Relief and Gets It -- Exodus 8:8-15

Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Entreat the Lord that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the Lord.”  And Moses said to Pharaoh, “The honor is yours to tell me: when shall I entreat for you and your servants and your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses, that they may be left only in the Nile?”  Then he said, “Tomorrow.”  So he said, “May it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.  And the frogs will depart from you and your houses and your servants and your people; they will be left only in the Nile.”  Then Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the Lord concerning the frogs which He had inflicted upon Pharaoh.  And the Lord did according to the word of Moses, and the frogs died out of the houses, the courts, and the fields.  So they piled them in heaps, and the land became foul.  But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

Do you remember the film Ghostbusters back in the mid-eighties?  That film gave us the song Who You Gonna Call?  It went on to become a household expression whenever things went wrong and one was overwhelmed with something troublesome.  I think, with frogs jumping all over his house and his land, Pharaoh knew it was time to call for the ‘exterminators’.  But who was he going to call?  He knew Who had caused the problem and he knew Who could stop it.  (Certainly his magicians could not; they would only bring on more frogs.)  He also knew how to reach Him.  So Pharaoh calls for Moses and Aaron and tells them to beg God to remove the frogs and, in exchange, he would let the people go.
It would have been nice had he entreated God himself, but admittedly, it is hard to do so when you really do not know God and perhaps more so when you may not really be sincere in what you offer to God.  Pharaoh promised a lot in his time of need and although he may have had every intention of keeping his promise when he uttered it, certainly did not end up doing so as we will see time and time again.
I find it interesting that Moses did not just say, “Okay, I’ll do that.”  He did not run off right away to ask God to stop the frogs from literally running the land.  Instead, in a moment of sheer brilliance, he said to Moses, “I’ll even give you the honor of picking exactly when this arrangement will take place.”  He knew he had to make preparations for the Israelites to leave so he wanted to know when was God supposed to get rid of the frogs so the people could leave on their journey.  One supposes that Pharaoh could have said “Right now” but instead he said “Tomorrow”.  We can wonder why that was.  Was it perhaps an indicator of his unwillingness to accept these frogs had beaten him?  Was it a desire for an ‘escape’ or ‘change your mind’ period in case he could have had second thoughts?  Sometimes it wise to have such opportunities, and at other times the adage, “he who hesitates, loses” is more apropos.  We need discernment as to when the right approach applies.  Usually making a godly positive decision (going to church with your family when you normally do not; inviting a widow over for dinner; giving a large donation; stopping to help someone in need; etc.) should be done right away.  Making a questionable decision (going somewhere you know you should not go; making a purchase for the wrong reasons; etc.) are good candidates for the ‘change your mind’ clause.  The problem with Pharaoh was that, at this point in the text, he was making a good decision but chose the wrong approach to its implementation – tomorrow.
Now notice what happens next in our text.  After Pharaoh says, “we’ll do this as of tomorrow”, Moses indicates, in advance, that God will respond favorably when he says, “If you keep your word, God will show you there is no one like Him.”  What a relationship Moses must have had with God by now in order to be able to make that statement with assurance.  I often wonder if I know God well enough to feel that confident about His next action in a particular situation I may be involved in.
Then Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh to his misery and perhaps some self-initiated hope, and Moses cries out to God on behalf of Pharaoh and his people, but also on behalf of the Israelites who would be let go if God were to answer positively.  Can you imagine how Moses was feeling at this time?  He nearly had a deal or at least God nearly had a deal; all God had to do was to grant Pharaoh his desire and all that God had planned for Israel would ensue.
God has an incredible way of both satisfying His servants and also, because He knows the bigger long-term picture, accomplishing His will.  Moses’ crying out to God was indeed heard and God did respond positively.  The Bible specifically says, “God did according to the word of Moses” implying that a big part of the reason for the response was God’s love for Moses, even though the Lord knew what the outcome would be.
Nevertheless, the frogs died and the people piled them up.  But the foul smell remained.  It was enough to remind Pharaoh of the power of God and to keep him humble before God.  Unfortunately, one can get used to a dirty smell in one’s life as long as he does not have to deal with the creatures that give rise to it.  So, sensing this relief, and believing perhaps that the sun would eventually dry out the carcasses of the frogs and the smell would diminish over time, Pharaoh hardened his heart.
And is it not the same with mankind today?  We get into trouble and we call on God to save us from it, promising Him everything – our life, our money, our time, our love and worship of Him.  Then God does His part and we realize, “hey, we’re okay now, it wasn’t that bad – we could do it again on our own if we had to, or we’ll just not make that mistake again”.  And we forget our promise to God.
And maybe that is where you are today.  Maybe you had made a promise, but the good times have come along and you have forgotten your word to God for what He did for you.  It is time to get the matter settled.  This time for real, and for good.  Who You Gonna Call?
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