In the story of the Exodus, we find an eye-opening truth about honest repentance and obedience. The Israelites were held captive by the oppressive Pharaoh and his regime… slaves in a foreign land. God sent Moses and Aaron to be His hands and feet, performing signs and wonders (albeit expectedly futile attempts as 9/10 were) with the purpose of convincing Pharaoh of letting the Hebrews go into the desert to worship God. God’s repetitive command was for Pharaoh to “let My people go so they can worship Me… they, their women, children, and livestock.” But Pharaoh refused. Over and over again. That is, until things started to get a little serious.
The seventh plague, the plague of hail, was the first plague in which human life was threatened. God gave Pharaoh and his officials instruction as to the preservation of human life from this impending threat in Ex. 9:19; “Bring your livestock and all that you have in the field to shelters. Every person and animal that is in the field and not brought inside will die when the hail falls on them.” God did not desire the loss of human life, but perhaps that is what Pharaoh needed to believe and repent. (Not as if God Almighty is in need of a defense attorney here, but He did give Pharaoh 6 plagues before this one to surrender.) Well, it shook Pharaoh up a little at the very least. In verse 27, he admits that he has sinned against God and that he and his people are the guilty ones. He follows this reluctant confession with a plea for Moses and Aaron to ask for God’s favor and deliverance from the hail. Moses, with great discernment, calls him out here. He knew this wasn’t true repentance. He could see it in Pharaoh’s eyes. But as requested, Moses prayed and God ceased the hailstorm. As expected, Pharaoh backpedaled – hardening his heart again and refusing to let the Israelites go. And this is where it gets good.
The dynamic duo threaten Pharaoh again in ch. 10 – this time with devastating crop-eating locusts (the eighth plague). Their question is rephrased this time: “HOW LONG will you refuse to humble yourself before Me [(the Lord)]? Let My people go so they can worship me,” (Ex. 10:3). “How Long?” Interesting question. Pharaoh’s officials asked him the same question. “HOW LONG must these men be a snare to us?! Let them go!” (Ex. 10:7). How long, Pharaoh? How much more devastation will it take before you humble yourself before the Lord and surrender?
Pharaoh gives up… seemingly. In verse 8 he says, “Fine then! Take your people and go… … Oh, but who exactly will be going?” In verse 11, Pharaoh says only the men will be allowed to go. The problem?… that wasn’t what God was demanding. God wanted all the people, young and old, male and female, and all their livestock to leave Pharaoh’s oppressive rule and go worship Him (Ex. 10:9).
After the ninth plague (darkness), Pharoah gave a little more: “Go worship the Lord! Only your flocks and herds must stay behind,” (Ex. 10:24). But God is not in the business of negotiating with terrorists. God had the upper hand, and Pharaoh had no bargaining power anyway. “No,” says God, “That’s not good enough.” And the most devastating plague sealed the deal: the death of the firstborn sons of Egypt. It was because of this tenth plague that Pharaoh finally acquiesced and allowed the Israelites to leave with all that they had requested plus more (Ex. 12:35-36).
What fault did God find in Pharaoh’s first two offers? Pharaoh wanted to maintain some control. He was, no doubt, a prideful man. His first two offers of “surrender” were not surrender at all. They were desperate attempts to maintain some kind of control. But true obedience and humble repentance does not come without total surrender.
True obedience and humble repentance involve complete surrender, which is the opposite of maintaining control. We are not a let-it-go kind of culture, are we? Personally, I don’t do roller coasters or bungee jumps. If I’m in the car, I want to be driving. I fly, but only when I have to, and even then I struggle to “let go.” Surrendering control is a challenge for me.
But that’s what God requires of us. To LET GO. Give up the illusion of control. If Pharaoh would have seen things from a Godly perspective, he would have realized that it was God who was in control all along (Ex. 9:16). Pharaoh never had control. But to repent, he would have to give up the fantasy – the idolatry – of control. It is interesting to read through the entire story of the Ten Plagues and see how Pharaoh develops from an overconfident control-freak to a bargainer, and eventually to a broken man, humbled by lowly circumstance that resulted from repetitive, arrogant disobedience. Sometimes I wonder where I am on that scale… or if I’ve surrendered in time to humble myself without causing the severe demise of my family and others around me. Pharaoh never got it. He never let go. And it cost him- and those around him – dearly.
Are you currently struggling with being obedient to God in a certain area of your life? Is there something you know God is requiring from you but you’re holding back purposefully? Has maintaining the illusion of control become an idol in your life? God would ask you today… “HOW LONG?” How long will you refuse to humble yourself (Ex. 10:3)? How long will you act so arrogantly and pridefully toward God (Ex. 9:17)? How long will you allow the righteous precepts of the Lord to be a snare to your egocentrism (Ex. 10:7)? HOW LONG?
Obedience and Repentance require complete surrender. Letting go. Relinquishing the illusion of control. And when you come to that point, if you love His Truth, you will find freedom and victory like you have never experienced before.
True freedom and victory are never found in prideful arrogance.
True freedom and victory are found only in complete surrender.
Grace and Peace,