Life-Study of Exodusby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we come to the last conflict between God and Pharaoh. This conflict issued in the tenth plague, the slaughter of the firstborn (11:1-10; 12:29-36).
In His dealings with Pharaoh God was patient. He sent Moses to negotiate with Pharaoh twelve times. Recently, as I was considering this, I was surprised that the almighty God, the Creator, could be so patient with Pharaoh. Time after time God had sent a plague upon the Egyptians, but Pharaoh still continued to resist His demand.
Exodus 9:16 says, “But for this cause have I made thee stand, in order to show thee my power; and in order to declare my name throughout all the earth” (Heb.). This verse, God’s word to Pharaoh, indicates that it was God who made Pharaoh to stand. Now we can understand why Pharaoh was so strong to reject God’s demand. Here we see two aspects of God’s sovereignty. On the one hand, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (11:10). On the other hand, God made him to stand. Because God had hardened Pharaoh’s heart, Pharaoh would not submit to the Lord’s dealings. Furthermore, realizing that Pharaoh, in himself, was not strong enough to stand against Him, God made him to stand. Otherwise, God would have lost the opportunity to make His power known and to declare His name throughout the earth.
I believe that in history Pharaoh is unique in refusing to submit to God’s demands. Not even Nebuchadnezzar stood against God the way Pharaoh did. Although Moses, God’s representative, came to Pharaoh again and again, Pharaoh was not subdued.
In Romans 9 Paul was involved in an argument related to God’s selection. In the course of this argument, he appealed to God’s sovereignty. Using Pharaoh as an example, Paul pointed out that the Lord “has mercy on whom He wills, and He hardens whom He wills” (v. 18). It is all according to God’s sovereign will. Paul also quoted the Lord’s word to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (v. 15). Here Paul spoke very boldly. According to His sovereign will, God willed to have mercy on Moses, and He willed to harden Pharaoh.
Twelve times Moses, an elderly man, came to negotiate with Pharaoh on the Lord’s behalf. Pharaoh, the troubled one, could do nothing with Moses, the troubling one, because Moses was backed by the sovereign Lord. The One in the heavens was standing with Moses. Moses, therefore, is an example of one who had received mercy from God, whereas Pharaoh is an example of one who was wholly set aside by God. Although God set Pharaoh aside, He still used him. Not only was Moses useful to the Lord, but Pharaoh was useful also. Can you believe that Pharaoh also was useful to the Lord? In your heart you probably believe that only Moses was useful to Him. Actually, they were both needed and they were both used.
If Pharaoh had suddenly died after the first or second conflict, Moses’ job would have been cut short, and God would have lost His opportunity to show forth His power and to declare His name. Hence, God needed Pharaoh, and He needed him to stand throughout the twelve conflicts. God made Pharaoh strong to stand throughout these conflicts in order that His purpose might be fulfilled.
If we did not have the book of Exodus with its twelve conflicts between God and Pharaoh, we would not know God adequately with respect to His sovereignty. It is easy to know God’s love, but difficult to know His sovereignty. Through the twelve conflicts and the ten plagues that transpired over a period of time, God’s sovereignty was made known. Throughout the course of Moses’ negotiations with Pharaoh, God came in to manifest His sovereignty.
Sovereignty denotes absolute right, authority, and power. As the sovereign One, God has the right to do anything and to make any decision. Sovereignty is one of God’s attributes.
In His sovereignty God used Pharaoh in addition to using Moses. Without Moses, Pharaoh would not have been useful in this aspect. Likewise, without Pharaoh, Moses would not have been useful. Pharaoh and Moses were a match. One made the demands, the other resisted them, and neither budged even an inch. Each time Moses met with Pharaoh, Moses was more demanding and Pharaoh was more obstinate. Pharaoh was never subdued; he refused to give in. In the confrontation between these two we see a portrait of God’s sovereignty.
God’s sovereignty is also manifested in the plagues, which caused damage to human living conditions in Egypt. The blood ruined the water, and the frogs disturbed the Egyptians’ peace and comfort. In the plagues of the lice and the flies, the soil and the air were damaged. After the flies came the pestilence, and then the plague of the boils that broke forth with blisters. The plague of hail damaged the environment, and the locusts devoured all that remained after the severe damage caused by the hail. Finally, the plague of darkness made it impossible for anyone to move. But even after these nine plagues had passed, Pharaoh still was not subdued, although the entire environment related to human living in Egypt had been damaged. God continued to harden Pharaoh’s heart and to strengthen him that he might stand.
All this is not a question of God’s love, but of God’s sovereignty. In Romans 9 Paul does not deal with the love of God, but with the sovereignty of God. God’s sovereignty is especially seen in Pharaoh, and His mercy is seen in particular with Moses. Therefore, in the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh, we see a display of God’s sovereignty on the one hand and of His mercy on the other.
While the angels were killing the firstborn of the Egyptians, God preserved the children of Israel and their beasts in peace and calm, even stilling the barking of the dogs. After Pharaoh was subdued by the slaughter of the firstborn, God still caused Israel to plunder the Egyptians of their gold, silver, and raiment. This was all under God’s sovereignty.
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