Before you read: Since the Nile was turned to blood, Egypt has suffered supernatural swarms of frogs, gnats, and flies; the livestock has been killed by disease, and all the people tormented by painful boils. Finally, a massive hailstorm “struck down everything in the open field – people, animals and plants alike. Even the trees were destroyed.” (9:25)
Each plague was predicted by Moses and linked directly to Pharaoh’s refusal to let the Israelites go. Now, Moses says, locusts will come and finish off whatever is left if Pharaoh won’t relent.
Read Exodus 10:7-20
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.”
10 Pharaoh said, “The Lord be with you—if I let you go, along with your women and children! Clearly you are bent on evil. 11 No! Have only the men go and worship the Lord, since that’s what you have been asking for.” Then Moses and Aaron were driven out of Pharaoh’s presence.
12 And the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over Egypt so that locusts swarm over the land and devour everything growing in the fields, everything left by the hail.”
13 So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and the Lord made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning the wind had brought the locusts; 14 they invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. 15 They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.
16 Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. 17 Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the Lord your God to take this deadly plague away from me.”
18 Moses then left Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord. 19 And the Lord changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea. Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt. 20 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.
“Pharaoh’s officials now came and appealed to him.”
They’ve been paying attention.
As disaster after disaster has washed over their country, they’ve begun to hear the footsteps of the God Moses keeps talking about.
Doesn’t surprise us at all.
To us, it’s obvious that Moses speaks for God and God does what He says. For us, it’s difficult to understand how Pharaoh can possibly miss this.
But we stand outside of Pharaoh’s story. On the inside, where Pharaoh is, things are not as clear. They never are. Pharaoh doesn’t want to see God. If he sees God, then he’ll have to admit that he’s not writing his own story.
And God helps him in this self-deception by ‘hardening’ his heart.
What’s that about? Why would God do that? Sure, He’s using all this to show His strength and power, but what about poor Pharaoh?
Maybe he could’ve had a chance if God had left his heart alone.
Or maybe not.
We don’t know.
In this Story-About-Everything this is the only time God ‘hardens’ someone’s heart. The whole rest of the Story is about how He draws people to Himself. This is a piece that doesn’t fit.
When I’m doing a puzzle and come to a piece that doesn’t fit – doesn’t seem to make sense in light of the rest of the picture – I put it aside. Always by the time the puzzle is nearly done, the piece makes sense and I know where it goes.
Usually by then I’m seeing it differently.
At any rate, Pharaoh is the only one still holding out against the inexorable desire of God to bring his people to freedom.
Moses keeps ‘stretching out’ his hand and God keeps doing the things.
And everybody knows it but Pharaoh.
He clings to his version of the story, refusing to accept a different perspective.
Refusing to admit – even to himself – that he might be seeing things wrong.
All the pieces that don’t fit might show him God, if he’d let them.
It often goes that way.