And Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” But Moses said, “It is not right to do so, for we shall sacrifice to the Lord our God what is an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice what is an abomination to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not then stone us? We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as He commands us.” And Pharaoh said, “I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Make supplication for me.” Then Moses said, “Behold, I am going out from you, and I shall make supplication to the Lord that the swarms of insects may depart from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people tomorrow; only do not let Pharaoh deal deceitfully again in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.” So Moses went out from Pharaoh and made supplication to the Lord. And the Lord did as Moses asked, and removed the swarms of insects from Pharaoh, from his servants and from his people; not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and he did not let the people go.
When the swarms of insects made their presence felt, it was Pharaoh who had had enough and our text says this time he called for Moses and Aaron. He wanted to propose a settlement of the issue before them. As I read this I yearn for the time when God would make things so difficult for this today’s world leaders that they would do the same thing.
But notice how the discussion went. First, Pharaoh tells Moses and Aaron to go and sacrifice as they wished, but they had to remain within the inhabited land of Egypt. This, of course, presented a problem for the Israelites who really planned on getting away. Brilliantly, and legitimately I may add, Moses indicated why this would not work – for the nature of their sacrifice would be considered an abomination to the nearby Egyptians who would take note and seek to stone the Israelites. The Egyptians worshiped animals and the Israelites would have to kill animals in their sacrifices to God.
The lesson here, as Matthew Henry points out, is that those that would offer an acceptable sacrifice to God must “(1.) Separate themselves from the wicked and profane; for we cannot have fellowship both with the Father of lights and with the works of darkness, both with Christ and with Belial, 2 Corinthians 6:14, etc.; Psalm 26:4,6. (2.) They must retire from the distractions of the world, and get as far as may be from the noise of it. Israel cannot keep the feast of the Lord either among the brick-kilns or among the flesh-pots of Egypt; no, We will go into the wilderness, Hosea 2:14 Song of Solomon 7:11. (3.) They must observe the divine appointment: "We will sacrifice as God shall command us, and not otherwise.’’ Though they were in the utmost degree of slavery to Pharaoh, yet in the worship of God, they must observe his commands and not Pharaoh’s.” – from his commentary on Exodus 8.
Pharaoh agreed. There is a resemblance between what Pharaoh had suggested as a compromise – “stay in the land” or “don’t go too far away” and the way Satan often attacks a new believer. He tells us to keep one foot on what he considers to be solid ground (Egypt) and not to get too carried away with all this “religious” stuff. The Bible commentator Chuck Smith implies that the Enemy knows that he is better off when we “compromise” our faith – there is nothing weaker than a ‘lukewarm’ Christian. As I watch how liberal politicians treat Christians and Christianity today, I concur with David Guzik who says this is also how the ungodly politicians tolerate us, forcing us to compromise. God has no use for such half-hearted tributes. Notice the appropriate response from Moses, “No, we must do it the way God commanded us to.” I pray we can be that strong to the end.
At this point Pharaoh realizes that if he is going to rid himself of the insects swarming the country, he would have to agree and so he does, asking Moses to ask God on his behalf to take the insects away. Simply put, Pharaoh knew Who it was that was in control of all this. It is no different today – people deep down know the score; they know that God still reigns supreme but they have been infected by the Enemy with his desire to replace God. We see this clearly in the matters of abortion and euthanasia (they want to decide who lives and who dies) and many other issues. Moses nevertheless agrees and tells Pharaoh he will ask the Lord to remove the insects from the land the next day, and hopes Pharaoh will not be deceitful this time about his intentions to let the people go to sacrifice to God.
Matthew Henry again points out that Pharaoh here was exhibiting the difficulty many a person has when it comes to the question of God. He writes, “We observe here a struggle between Pharaoh’s convictions and his corruptions; his convictions said, ‘Let them go;’ his corruptions said, ‘Yet not very far away:’ but he sided with his corruptions against his convictions, and this was his ruin.” If you are there, may this not be ‘your’ ruin; may you be bold and side with your conviction in your acknowledgement of God.
True to his word, Moses did just what he promised Pharaoh. Now you have to love this next part, “And the Lord did as Moses asked.” Can you imagine that kind of a relationship with the Creator? The more I read these accounts, the more I am convinced that “prayer changes things” – sometimes the change is not visible to us or not as much as we would like, but we know this – God listens and is aware of what his children desire or need.
There is another aspect to this that we must be aware of. While God hears our prayers and may even carry out His end of the bargain, evil man may still renege on the agreement, as Pharaoh did -- for the text says his heart "hardened this time also" and he did not let the people go.
The saga is . . . to be continued.
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