What lessons for us are there in the Exodus 10 account of Moses' meeting with Pharoah?
1 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them 2 that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord."
3 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, "This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: 'How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 4 If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. 5 They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. 6 They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians -- something neither your parents nor your ancestors have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now.'" Then Moses turned and left Pharaoh.
7 Pharaoh's officials said to him, "How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?"
8 Then Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. "Go, worship the Lord your God," he said. "But tell me who will be going."
9 Moses answered, "We will go with our young and our old, with our sons and our daughters, and with our flocks and herds, because we are to celebrate a festival to the Lord." . . .
. . .20 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.
21 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt -- darkness that can be felt." 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. 23 No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.
24 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, "Go, worship the Lord. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind."
25 But Moses said, "You must allow us to have sacrifices and burnt offerings to present to the Lord our God."
Some years ago the film His Land was being used in an evangelistic thrust in Sicily, that island "football" off the boot-shaped Italian peninsula. This film, produced by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, portrayed the land and people of Israel in the light of biblical history, with a particular emphasis on divine prophecies.
At the conclusion of one film showing in Sicily, some left-wing Italian radicals stood up and began loudly accusing the church group of being CIA agents who were saying the modern state of Israel was "untouchable" because it is under special, divine protection.
That's an absurd accusation, of course. There is something special about God's people, of course, but it's not because of a plot by the U.s. government's Central Intelligence Agency. It is because God called His people out of Egypt and then on a special day in the Sinai, Israel took her marriage vows to the Lord (vows that the New Testament says binds even us today as the spiritual ancestors of that people of God).1
To be sure, the Sinai event wasn't called a marriage ceremony. But the covenant between God and Israel at Mount Sinai was almost immediately identified by Moses as a kind of marriage covenant. It is clear from the Exodus 10 events that God wanted His people to set themselves apart only for Him. Later in the book of Exodus, Moses refers to the People of God's unfaithfulness to the covenant agreement as "whoring" (KJV) or "prostituting" (NIV).2
That's strong language. However, it is a theme used in the Old Testament by prophets such as Ezekiel and Hosea. The use of figures of speech drawn from the man-woman relationship indicates the kind of exclusive relationship God wants with His people, including us today.
The covenant agreement is not to be understood in terms of Western marriage, however. It is more like the Eastern marriages, which were in many ways "imposed" marriages. The bride had little to say in the choice of her husband. Still, if he was obviously a good man, offering her status, a home, a future, and a promise to love and cherish her, she would willingly say "yes" to his offer. The stories of Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and his two wives are good examples of this.
It's easy to make parallels between this kind of marriage agreement and the covenant at Sinai (and with the "better covenant" outlined in Hebrews 8).
Neither the inborn merits of the Jews nor a plot by the CIA made them the chosen people. The same thing can be said of us. We did not choose ourselves. God has always taken the initiative in wooing us into a covenant relationship by His loving promises.
In a certain sense, God's covenant today is an "imposed" covenant, but only upon a willing people. God asks us only to respond to His offer of "a better covenant established upon better promises" (Hebrews 8:6). He calls us to pledge our lives, our love and affection to Him. He wants us to accept our part of the joint responsibility which a covenant always entails.
We are not signing just a mutually-agreed-upon, haggled-over contract. We are committing ourselves to a marriage-type covenant already signed and sealed with Jesus' precious blood.
In the light of His sacrificial love, can we do less than take our vows seriously? Let's discover anew the depth of meaning in our relationship to God. Let's reciprocate His faithfulness!
1 Exodus 19:8
2 Exodus 34:15-16, Leviticus 17:7; 20:5, Deuteronomy 31:16
I wrote these devotional thoughts while a missionary in Italy. They were originally published in in the Standard, a take-home curriculum piece for adult Sunday school classes produced by what is now The Foundry.
-- Howard Culbertson
More Italy-related pages: Alfredo Del Rosso: An Italian captivated by a vision Building St. Peter's Reflections on Christ and Mussolini Little baby Jesus Open doors in Italy Pasta, pizza and Pinocchio Rookie notebook: Our first nine months as missionaries in Italy
More devotional articles: Devotional using illustrations from ham radio Ready for Christmas? Come Ye Apart Standard, a year of weekly devotional thoughts
Messianic Jews 10/40 Window explanation and map Seeking God's will? African martyr's commitment Mission trip fundraising Ten ways to ruin your mission trip Nazarene Missions International resources