Exodus 7 - What God does to make us obey Him
God destroys the things we trust in
The first plague that God inflicted on Pharaoh was one that destroyed the things he trusted in.
Exodus 7:17 Now the Lord says, "You are going to find out that I am the Lord." Look! I will hit the water of the Nile with this staff, and the river will turn to blood. 18The fish in it will die, and the river will stink. The Egyptians will not be able to drink any water from the Nile.’"
The Nile River was the source of life for the Egyptians. The Egyptians depicted the Nile as Hapi, a fat man with breasts of a woman, which symbolized the powers of fertility. They sang a hymn to this god which went something like this:
Thou waterest the fields which Ra created…
Thou art the bringer of food…creator of all good things.
Thou fillest the storehouses…
Thou hast care for the poor and needy.
God sometimes has to strike our false security so that we can take notice of Him. There is very little need for people to think about God when everything is secure and going their way. But when their world collapse on them, they will start to cry out to God.
Have we been putting our trust on things other than God? Do we pray to God to ask Him for providence, health, etc or do we think we can handle such things ourselves and do not need God? If we trust in ourselves, God may need to destroy the things we trust in so that we can learn to trust in Him.
Our non-Christians friends also have little interest to acknowledge a God in their life because they feel that they have no need for a god. We can learn from how God works in this first plague and ask God to shake their false security so that they can focus on Him.
God shows us that other methods or other gods are helpless
Exodus 7:10So Moses and Aaron went to see Pharaoh, and they performed the miracle just as the Lord had told them. Aaron threw down his staff before Pharaoh and his court, and it became a snake. 11 Then Pharaoh called in his wise men and magicians, and they did the same thing with their secret arts. 12 Their staffs became snakes, too! But then Aaron’s snake swallowed up their snakes.
Even before the very first plague, God showed Pharaoh how helpless he is. The Egyptians worship the snake and Pharaoh saw with his own eyes how God's snake swallowed theirs.
In the first plague, God turned the Nile River into blood. The Egyptians magicians were able to turn water to blood as well but notice that they cannot turn blood back into water. The Egyptians need water badly and were without methods to do it.
God showed them that their methods and their gods were helpless.
When non-Christians friends encounter difficulties, let's ask God to manifest His glory in the situation. Ask God to not allow other methods to work that will steal His glory and use that difficult situation to bring the non-Christian to Jesus.
God shows the clear difference between obeying and not obeying Him
Exodus 7:20 Next the Lord told Moses, "Get up early in the morning and meet Pharaoh as he goes down to the river. Say to him, ‘this is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. 21If you refuse, I will send swarms of flies throughout Egypt. Your homes will be filled with them, and the ground will be covered with them. 22But it will be very different in the land of Goshen, where the Israelites live. No flies will be found there. Then you will know that I am the Lord and that I have power even in the heart of your land. 23I will make a clear distinction between your people and my people. This miraculous sign will happen tomorrow.’"
Until now the plagues had affected both the lands of Egypt as well as Goshen, where the Israelites lived. Because of this Pharaoh's advisers may be telling him that the plagues had a natural explanation and may even be caused by the Egyptian gods. From this plague onwards, everything becomes crystal clear that the judgment would only fall on the land of Egypt.
For a person to be convinced that he should obey God, he has to be convinced that it would really make a lot of difference whether or not he obeys God. If we are to continue to obey God, one way is to remember how God has blessed us when we obey Him or how He has punished us when we disobeyed.
When we want our non-Christians or backslided Christian friends to turn to God, ask God to show them clearly the difference between obeying you and not obeying you so that they will be very clear of the implications of their actions.
God shows us miracles that only He is capable of
Exod 8:16 So the Lord said to Moses, "Tell Aaron to strike the dust with his staff. The dust will turn into swarms of gnats throughout the land of Egypt." 17So Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded them. Suddenly, gnats infested the entire land, covering the Egyptians and their animals. All the dust in the land of Egypt turned into gnats. 18Pharaoh’s magicians tried to do the same thing with their secret arts, but this time they failed. And the gnats covered all the people and animals. 19 "This is the finger of God!" the magicians exclaimed to Pharaoh. But Pharaoh’s heart remained hard and stubborn. He wouldn’t listen to them, just as the Lord had predicted.
Exod 9:14 If you don’t, I will send a plague that will really speak to you and your officials and all the Egyptian people. I will prove to you that there is no other God like me in all the earth.
God does a lot of miracles that can be imitated by demons. In the last days, the Bible says that the Anti-Christ will come with demonstration of power and miracles that will fool even the Christians. Yet God also gives us evidences to show that only He alone is God. He demonstrated His power to Pharaoh in such a way that no one should doubt that it is God's hand at work. Notice that even Pharaoh's magicians acknowledge that God was at work when He started the plague of gnats.
Today, God is also giving us wonderful miracles to prove that He alone is God. Many people testify of illnesses that doctors or other spiritual doctors are not able to heal, yet God has healed totally. God gives us numerous prophecies in the Bible to prove that He is the one who inspired it. Other "prophets" have tried to foretell the future but they turn out to be general predictions that can be interpreted in many ways, thus ensuring their chances of happening. The recent discovery of the Bible code in the Torah also confirms that the Bible contains codes foretelling future events. No other book is able to duplicate this. The Bible also contains numerous scientific truths hidden for centuries only to be discovered by modern scientists.
We are not in lack of miracles to use to prove that only Jehovah alone is God. Let's use it to convince our unsaved friends.
God inflicts the body
Exod 9:8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Take soot from a furnace, and have Moses toss it into the sky while Pharaoh watches. 9 It will spread like fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, causing boils to break out on people and animals alike." 10So they gathered soot from a furnace and went to see Pharaoh. As Pharaoh watched, Moses tossed the soot into the air, and terrible boils broke out on the people and animals throughout Egypt. 11 Even the magicians were unable to stand before Moses, because the boils had broken out on them, too.
Some people can stand the suffering of losing many things but they cannot stand the suffering inflicted on their bodies. In the Bible we see evidences of how God inflicts the body to test or invoke a response. God inflicted the Egyptians with boils to force them to obey Him.
In the book of Job, we saw that Job succumbed to many losses, his children, wealth, etc and still not wavered. It is only when he suffered physically that he began to complain against God.
God continues to use physically suffering to get people to obey Him today. People living in sin are sometimes forced by suffering to repent of their ways. Unsaved people have come to seek God simply because they want healing. Many people have become saved after experiencing healing in Jesus' name.
Let's use this as a powerful tool. When any of our unsaved friends are sick, let's use this as an opportunity to pray for them to receive healing so that they too can believe. We should persuade them that they should not put up with their physical suffering and turn to God who can heal them.
Other lessons about obedience/disobedience
We can learn the hard way or the easy way
Exod 7: 4 Even then Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you. So I will crush Egypt with a series of disasters, after which I will lead the forces of Israel out with great acts of judgment. 5 When I show the Egyptians my power and force them to let the Israelites go, they will realize that I am the Lord."
None of the plagues would have touched Pharaoh if he had agreed from the very beginning.
Exod 9:18 So tomorrow at this time I will send a hailstorm worse than any in all of Egypt’s history. 19Quick! Order your livestock and servants to come in from the fields. Every person or animal left outside will die beneath the hail.’" 20 Some of Pharaoh’s officials believed what the Lord said. They immediately brought their livestock and servants in from the fields. 21But those who had no respect for the word of the Lord left them out in the open. 22 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Lift your hand toward the sky, and cause the hail to fall throughout Egypt, on the people, the animals, and the crops." 23 So Moses lifted his staff toward the sky, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and lightning struck the earth. The Lord sent a tremendous hailstorm against all the land of Egypt. 24Never in all the history of Egypt had there been a storm like that, with such severe hail and continuous lightning. 25 It left all of Egypt in ruins. Everything left in the fields was destroyed—people, animals, and crops alike. Even all the trees were destroyed.
If only the Egyptians heeded to warning, their livestock would not have been killed.
The Bible contains many warnings to deter us from wrongdoing. If we only take them seriously, we would not have to suffer the consequences of disobedience. If we are contemplating disobeying God, think again and be mindful of the consequences.
When we obey, God takes away the curses that come with disobedience
Exod 10:16 Pharaoh quickly sent for Moses and Aaron. "I confess my sin against the Lord your God and against you," he said to them. 17 "Forgive my sin only this once, and plead with the Lord your God to take away this terrible plague." 18 So Moses left Pharaoh and pleaded with the Lord. 19The Lord responded by sending a strong west wind that blew the locusts out into the Red Sea. Not a single locust remained in all the land of Egypt.
God takes no delight in punishing us. He does so only to bring us back to the right path as sin ultimately leads to destruction. Once we repent, God is quick to take away the curses that come with disobedience.
Have you been suffering God's chastisement due to disobedience? It is not too late to repent and ask God to take away the suffering.
If we keep on disobeying God, each punishment may get increasingly severe
At first the Red Sea turned to blood. Then the people were inflicted with boils. Finally God killed the first born of Egypt.
Exod 11:4 So Moses announced to Pharaoh, "This is what the Lord says: About midnight I will pass through Egypt. 5 All the firstborn sons will die in every family in Egypt, from the oldest son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the oldest son of his lowliest slave. Even the firstborn of the animals will die. 6 Then a loud wail will be heard throughout the land of Egypt; there has never been such wailing before, and there never will be again.
God's punishment to Egypt reached a climax and was so severe that a loud wail was heard. God even said that no other punishment in the history of Egypt will be as severe as this one.
When we see how earthly parents discipline their children, we notice that parents usually tell their children nicely about their wrong. Then they start to raise their voice. Finally they bring out the rod!
God's punishment is no different. He would rather speak in a still small voice. It is only when we persist in disobedience that He will come on hard. Let's not test God's patience.
Partial obedience is not obedience
Exod 8:25 Pharaoh hastily called for Moses and Aaron. "All right! Go ahead and offer sacrifices to your God," he said. "But do it here in this land. Don’t go out into the wilderness." 26 But Moses replied, "That won’t do! The Egyptians would detest the sacrifices that we offer to the Lord our God. If we offer them here where they can see us, they will be sure to stone us. 27We must take a three-day trip into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, just as he has commanded us."
Pharaoh thinks that God will be pacified if His people would obey Him partially. But he was wrong. God desires from us complete obedience. That does not mean He demands that we be perfect this very instant. But it does mean that He requires us to work on every area of our life and not to put aside any area that we will not follow Him in.
Why do people persist in disobedience?
Avoid having to make the decision
Exod 7:22 So Pharaoh’s heart remained hard and stubborn. He refused to listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had predicted. 23Pharaoh returned to his palace and put the whole thing out of his mind. 24Then the Egyptians dug wells along the riverbank to get drinking water, for they couldn’t drink from the river.
I have heard many people say that if they think about life after death, the feel afraid and that they have to make a decision about God. But these same people say that they try not to think about that and let life go on. They will avoid having to think about God if there is nothing pressing to cause them to turn to God.
Pharaoh could not use the water from the Nile but he found an alternative source. He dug wells and used the water from the wells instead. This removed the need to respond to God.
Many of our friends will never come to know Christ if we do not persist at our evangelistic effort. Each attempt to bring them to Christ may just escape their attention until the situation is right for the gospel. Research has shown that it takes an average of four times of gospel exposure before one accepts Jesus. That tells us that we must persist in our effort and not give up.
We should also ask God to make the conditions right in our friends' lives so that they are ready to respond to the gospel.
Obeying comes at too high a cost
Exod 14:5 When word reached the king of Egypt that the Israelites were not planning to return to Egypt after three days, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds. "What have we done, letting all these slaves get away?" they asked. 6 So Pharaoh called out his troops and led the chase in his chariot.
Pharaoh was so reluctant to obey God because it would cost him too much to do so. He would have to give up all his slaves, who were building his big projects.
This is a common reason why non-Christians do not want to follow Jesus. They think that they have to give up all their sinful practices at once. We need to emphasize that salvation is free and comes only by faith. God does not require us to give up our sinful habits all at once upon conversion. We need to work with God to remove those over time.
Blind to facts
Exod 9:5The Lord announced that he would send the plague the very next day, 6and he did it, just as he had said. The next morning all the livestock of the Egyptians began to die, but the Israelites didn’t lose a single animal from their flocks and herds. 7 Pharaoh sent officials to see whether it was true that none of the Israelites’ animals were dead. But even after he found it to be true, his heart remained stubborn. He still refused to let the people go.
Even after Pharaoh found out the truth, he refused to accept. The devil has a way of making people blind to the truth.
2 Cor 4:4Satan, the god of this evil world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe, so they are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News that is shining upon them. They don’t understand the message we preach about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
It may surprise us why our friends would not respond to well articulated arguments about Christianity. They do not respond because they are unable to see the truth as the devil has blinded them. It is important to complement convincing arguments with prayer as we need God's help to remove the strongholds of disbelief and lift up the spiritual blindness of unsaved people.
Forget about God's punishment
Exod 7:15 But when Pharaoh saw that the frogs were gone, he hardened his heart. He refused to listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had predicted.
God punishes us so that we will turn to Him in repentance. Once we do that God will lift the punishment. Very often we forget God's punishment in the past and turn to our old sins. Pharaoh was remarkable. He forgot God's punishment almost immediately.
We need to forgive ourselves and accept God's forgiveness for the things we had done in the past. But we must not forget that when we repented, God took away the punishment that he meted out. Forgetting that would mean we can easily fall back into sin.
God allows Pharaoh's heart to be stubborn
Exod 9:12 But the Lord made Pharaoh even more stubborn, and he refused to listen, just as the Lord had predicted.
It is in accordance with Hebrew thought to attribute anything as an action of God because that thing would not have happened if God did not allow it. The verse above simply means that God allowed Pharaoh's heart to become even more stubborn.
God sometimes let a person continue in disobedience if repeatedly refuses to repent.
Rom 1:23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people, or birds and animals and snakes. 24 So God let them go ahead and do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies.
It is important to pray for God's mercy on our unsaved friends. Ask God to continue to have patience and mercy towards them and not let them persist in disobedience.
Pharaoh was influenced by his advisers
Exod 7:20 So Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded them. As Pharaoh and all of his officials watched, Moses raised his staff and hit the water of the Nile. Suddenly, the whole river turned to blood! 21The fish in the river died, and the water became so foul that the Egyptians couldn’t drink it. There was blood everywhere throughout the land of Egypt. 22 But again the magicians of Egypt used their secret arts, and they, too, turned water into blood. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hard and stubborn. He refused to listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had predicted.
Pharaoh consulted his magicians before he decides whether or not to let God's people go. Since his magicians could also turn water into blood, they probably told him that Moses' God was nothing great. This had probably influenced the decision of Pharaoh such that he put the whole thing out of his mind.
Old people sometimes do not take young people seriously when they share the gospel with them. Anyway, old people are supposed to know more about life and have experienced more of it. Yet if another old people share the same message with them, they will take it more seriously. Or a sick person will relate more from the ministry of someone who has been sick in the past. Every body has his own "advisers". If we are unable to influence some of our friends to Christ, think about who can influence these people and send them to your friends. Or else ask God to send people to your friends who would have the ability to influence them.