One of my favorite stories is the Chronicles of Narnia. In The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the children are talking about the Christ-like figure, Aslan the Lion. The conversation goes, “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh,” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr. Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
God is certainly good, but he is not safe, at least for sin and wickedness to be around. The Lord is going to demonstrate in our reading His power and intolerance of sin and the evil in the hearts of men and women. God will send ten plagues upon Egypt. We will learn about the first nine in our passage today.
Read Exodus 6:28-11:10
What does it mean that God would harden Pharoah’s heart (Exodus 7:3)? There are a variety of explanations based on how one understands God’s sovereignty and man’s free will. However, it may be sufficient at this point in God’s story to note that this is ultimately above our pay grade, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Still, I would like to point out God’s dealings with people’s hearts in Romans 1:18-32. A passage we have already visited. You will notice that in the Romans passage, three times God says “God gave them over” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28). I believe this is similar to God hardening Pharoah’s heart. Pharoah made a choice to live without Israel’s God and when confronted with another choice, kept going against God. God gave Pharoah over to his desire to not listen, and he reaped the consequences of Godlessness. In other words, Pharoah chooses where he wants to make to his bed, and God said, “Okay, if that’s what you want.”
The plagues demonstrate another aspect of God. God is holy and loving. They are not separate concepts. Instead they are two sides of the same coin. God’s holiness may seem harsh, but it is in His holiness that He is the only real source of Love. As love, there is the aspect of the Lord appearing tough on those things that cast themselves against what God loves. Through the plagues, we see judgment fall on those who are against God, but mercy on those who follow God. Whether God’s action is seen as judgment or compassion is based on what side of redemption you are standing on. From the side of the unredeemed, God’s actions produce conviction, fear, and at times bitterness. However, from the viewpoint of the redeemed, all that came before was accompanied by God’s providential grace. Providence is the grace that God sends before us to bring us to Him. Thank God for His grace that goes before us to prepare the way.