Thursday, April 25, 2013

Negotiating Before the 8th Plague – the Locusts -- Exodus 10:7-11

And Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us?  Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God.  Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?”  So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh, and he said to them, “Go, serve the Lord your God!  Who are the ones that are going?”  And Moses said, “We shall go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.”  Then he said to them, “Thus may the Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go!  Take heed, for evil is in your mind.  Not so!  Go now, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you desire.”  So they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.
This portion of Scripture starts off telling us that Moses was ‘a snare’ to the servants of Pharaoh.  And I am sure this included the magicians.  You will remember that they tried to replicate the miracles God was performing through Moses and Aaron, and they could only do so to a point.  This frustrated them greatly and by now, they had had enough.  There is no doubt that they also felt that their own country, Egypt, was being quickly eroded and would eventually be eliminated.  We need to be aware that these ‘servants’ likely included a group of Egyptian civil servants we had not taken note of before – that is, the Pharaoh’s council, his governmental ministers, etc.  They were the ones that brought him the ‘state of the nation’ report from their travels across the land.  They had a responsibility to advise him on the need for action now, before it was forced on them when Egypt would be reduced to nothing.
Two things were at play here.  First, all these ‘servants’ realized that they stood the risk of losing their positions, their authority, and their own wealth.  Secondly, it appears like Pharaoh himself, regardless of how strongly he opposed letting the Israelites go, was now facing growing opposition from his advisors and those that he needed to run his kingdom.  It was clearly time for him to take some, albeit limited, action.
His advisors urged Pharaoh to just let the “men” go.  They were not prepared to let all the Israelites go, just the grown-up males.  To them, it was the men that counted; it was the men’s worship and sacrifice that really mattered.  That should be sufficient.   In addition, they only wanted to give up what they absolutely had to and nothing more.  The women and girls were still housemaids and performed other tasks and responsibilities.  They wanted to hold on to them.  They were the “collateral insurance” that had to be put up toe ensure the Israelites would come back.  Are we not ourselves like that sometimes when it comes to what God wants us to give up?  I know I am.  And yet God is patient with me.  But for some reason, we do not rest completely until we have yielded totally to his will.
I am in the midst of reading again about the life of Hudson Taylor who discovered the need to fully yield all to God and then to fully rest in Him, Who is the “All”.  The principle is as simple as that.  Taylor believes that we need to approach that “All” of God’s not to extract it out and use it for ourselves or our own purposes, but rather we access it by immersing ourselves into His “All” and abiding there, doing His bidding.  And the tool for so doing was and is “faith”.  He writes, “I saw that faith was the only prerequisite, was the hand to lay hold of His fullness and make it my own.”  And then he says, “But I had not this faith.”  He had some, but not the faith in terms of quality and quantity that he felt he needed.  In answer to his own question, “But how to get faith strengthened?” Hudson Taylor responded, “Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.”  There you have it, one of the spiritual secrets of a spiritual giant.  Don’t strive.  Rest (abide, breathe, work, remain, trust, hope, find real joy) totally in the Faithful One.
With the bad advice in hand, Pharaoh orders that Moses and Aaron be brought back before him.  I would suggest that Pharaoh was ticked to say the least as evidenced by the exclamation mark at the end of his first statement, “Go, serve the Lord your God!”  You can just hear the disdain with which those words were uttered.
What happens next is interesting in that while his advisors had given him the suggested plan to be followed as to who he should allow to go, Pharaoh decides instead to ask Moses and Aaron, “Who are the ones that going?”  Was he being crafty or was he just a good negotiator?  We do not know for sure.  My own guess is that he secretly hoped that Moses and Aaron, on their own, would have suggested that only the men go and then he could grant them that request happily, having now had the extra push from his advisors.  That would make him look good.
But instead, Moses, not being fooled by any insincere approach that the Pharaoh took, sticks to his guns and responds, “All must go.”  Of course, for some of us that begs the question – why do you need everyone including all the flocks and all the herds to go simply to carry out an act of worship and to hold a feast?  A good question and one that God had perhaps not prepared Moses for.  But is that not life when it comes to doing the business of the Almighty?  Sometimes we come to the point where we cannot answer an adversary’s questions and the only thing we can do is to stick to the script and rest in Him.  God wanted to have all of Israel go out from Egypt.  As a good intelligence man for the Hebrews, Moses stuck to the plan – “all of us must go!”  And when you have the power of God behind you, as evidenced by all the miracles performed to date, there is no effective counter-response to such a demand.
Pharaoh can only get madder and he does.  His plan of keeping the women and the children as hostages to ensure the return of the men was not accepted.  David Guzik points out that this was the second failed attempt at a compromise the Egyptian ruler was making.  (The first was in Exodus 8:25-26 when he offered to give them a day off to worship God right there in Egypt and Moses had turned that down flatly too.)  With this second compromise, Pharaoh had hoped to do what many of us try to do and that is as Guzik says, “to find a way to give into God without fully submitting to Him”.  I pray each of us realize that this is an impossible end-position for an authentic relationship between the Almighty and us.
In disgust, Pharaoh accuses Moses and Aaron of being evil when they want to take the children out into the wilderness as he claims that will be very hard for them.  In fact, he says they will do so at their own peril implying the children may well die out there in the desert.  It is amazing how evildoers often end up accusing others of being evil.  And then again, perhaps it is not so amazing when we realize it is the devil himself that causes them to do so and to sow seeds of doubt into our hearts about those we love so dearly.  How many potential missionaries has Satan kept at home because “We can’t do this to the children; it’s okay for us to have gone, but we could not have taken the children or left them behind; so we stayed home.”
In the final analysis, Pharaoh orders them to go, but only the men!  It is Moses and Aaron this time that do not get a chance to respond.  Instead, they were “driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.”  Sometimes that is all we can have to settle for.  We make our case before the unbelievers.  We state our position.  We stick to our guns.  We are told to do otherwise and then we get sent away, and sometimes by force.  And the rest is up to us.  Do we take the orders of the Enemy or do we follow the instructions of our God?

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