Devotional - Negotiating With God – A Plague Upon Us

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Feb 4, 2013.

  1. Pharaoh returned to his palace and put the whole thing out of his mind. – Exodus 7: 23 (NLT)

    God had a very clear instruction for Pharaoh – let my people go so they can worship me in the wilderness. Moses and Aaron tried to convey this to him but his heart was hardened. Likewise, God often has instructed us as well – most often through His Word. Like Pharaoh before us, we too can react to this instruction with a hardened heart before God. Eventually God would call down upon Egypt the ten plagues and within the reactions of Pharaoh to these plagues are similarities of how we can react to the chastisement of the Lord. I know this is not a popular Sunday sermon topic but the Bible is clear:

    As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father?If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all.Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?– Hebrews 12: 7-9 (NLT)

    Shouldn’t we? Absolutely – but do we? That is the real question. Do we submit to the chastisement of the Lord, follow His instructions, and grow in our walk with Him? Or do we react as Pharaoh with a hardened heart? There is a growing trend in modern Churchianity that is troubling in this regard. Anything that happens in our lives or the life of our local church is attributed to a move of the Spirit of God – as confirmation from God. Yet anything negative in our lives or the life of our church is dismissed with a carnal or worldly excuse. The damage is unmistakable. It causes a callousing in our Spirit and a hardening of our heart towards God. It fits in well with the “bless me” theologies that are destroying the modern church. There is not room in the bless me church for discipline from God. Let us examine the ten plagues of Egypt in this regard.

    The first plague was the plague of blood. Moses directs Aaron to raise his staff over the land and all of the water, including standing water and the Nile River were turned to blood. The Bible says that there was blood everywhere in the land of Egypt. The key verse today is the reaction from Pharaoh. Blood is everywhere throughout the land and he returned to his palace and put the whole thing out of his mind. Perhaps the earliest example of the defense mechanism we have come to know as denial. Yet how often do we do the exact same thing! How often when faced with God instructing us that something we are doing is wrong do we just block it out completely? I think about the story of Achan who lived during the time the Israelites took possession of the Promised Land. Instructed by God to not take from the plunder of their defeated enemies, Achan took a wedge of gold, 200 shekels of silver and a Babylonian robe and buried them under his tent. The fact that he buried them indicates he certainly knew what he was doing was “wrong.” Yet he did it anyway. He just put the instructions from God out of his mind like Pharaoh. If we are not careful, we too can end up with something buried under our tent that we know God has said “no” to. We would be wise to keep God in the forefront of our mind and not dismiss what He has instructed. The second plague was the plague of frogs. Sounds harmless enough but imagine frogs everywhere. You couldn’t walk without stepping on them. Their dead bodies piled up and rotting. In your cabinets, closets and baths. Add to this that the Egyptians worship the frog-headed goddess of birth – Heqet. Because of this frogs were thought to be sacred and not to be killed. Oh joyous day! Yet despite this, here is the reaction of Pharaoh:

    “You set the time!” Moses replied. “Tell me when you want me to pray for you, your officials, and your people. Then you and your houses will be rid of the frogs. They will remain only in the Nile River.”“Do it tomorrow,” Pharaoh said. – Exodus 8: 9-10 (NLT)

    Do it tomorrow? Are you serious? Frogs in his food, frogs in his bed, frogs everywhere. Do it tomorrow? Oh, but is that not how we embrace our sins? Just one more night with the sin – I’ll give it up tomorrow God – I promise. Just one more night of the disobedience – I’ll give it up tomorrow God – I promise. Yet tomorrow never comes does it? We can have the conviction of God pouring down upon us like frogs growing out of our hair and still say to God – one more night. You can deliver me tomorrow. Sin and disobedience will always keep you longer than you wanted to stay – frogs or no frogs.

    The third plague was the plague of gnats. The Bible says that all of the dust in Egypt turned into gnats. Remember – Egypt was a pretty dusty place to begin with! Can you just imagine gnats so thick that they were everywhere in front of you? That you couldn’t take a breath without breathing them into your throat? It apparently did not matter to Pharaoh:

    “This is the finger of God!” the magicians exclaimed to Pharaoh. But Pharaoh’s heart remained hard. He wouldn’t listen to them, just as the Lord had predicted. – Exodus 8: 19 (NLT)

    Even the magicians knew at this point that God was behind the plagues. But Pharaoh would simply not listen. How often do we also turn our noses up to God and simply disobey Him blindly and willingly? We do not put it out of our mind as we did with the plague of blood – we are aware of it. We simply disobey. We go to the club on Saturday night even though we know we do not belong there anymore. We continue to flirt with the new female employee at work even though we know it is wrong because we are both married. The more we blatantly disobey the harder our heart becomes about it. The fourth plague visited upon Pharaoh was the plague of flies:

    And the Lord did just as he had said. A thick swarm of flies filled Pharaoh’s palace and the houses of his officials. The whole land of Egypt was thrown into chaos by the flies.Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron. “All right! Go ahead and offer sacrifices to your God,” he said. “But do it here in this land.” – Exodus 8: 24-25 (NLT)

    At this point Pharaoh fancies himself to be Monty Hall and he is trying to play Let’s Make a Deal with God! All of Egypt has been thrown into chaos from thick swarms of flies – after the gnats, after the frogs, and after the blood. At least finally Pharaoh is acknowledging God but he tries to do so on his terms – not God’s. Sound familiar? How often do we too try to negotiate with God? How often when faced with something we know God is instructing us to correct, we try and bargain the situation down to a level where we still get what we want carnally? Well, I go to the club but I don’t drink! Well, I look but I don’t touch! Well, you can make your sacrifices but not in the wilderness! There is no negotiating with God beloved. We either obey Him or we are disobedient to Him. We can have all the rationalizations worked out in our mind but they do not impress God. When King Saul kept the choicest plunder from the Amalekites he tried to explain it away by saying he did it to make sacrifices to God. How often do we dress up our disobedience with religiosity as well? Yet here was the response from the Prophet Samuel:

    But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
    and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” – 1Samuel 15: 22-23 (NLT)

    Rebellion against the Lord is as sinful of witchcraft! Because it is not taught or preached enough, we simply do not realize how our disobedience is viewed by God. The fifth plague was the plague of livestock:

    And the Lord did just as he had said. The next morning all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but the Israelites didn’t lose a single animal.Pharaoh sent his officials to investigate and they discovered that the Israelites had not lost a single animal! But even so, Pharaoh’s heart remained stubborn,and he still refused to let the people go. – Exodus 9: 6-7 (NLT)

    Anger. You can see Pharaoh furious at the five plagues he has seen so far and now to see that they are not affecting the Israelites at all! In his anger, he remains stubborn and refuses to listen to God. How often too do we shake our fists at the heavens because we do not like an answer we have received from God? It seems sometimes that we no longer pray for God’s will as much as we pray for His approval. We have determined the course we want to take already and then we go to God for His ok. When the answer comes back “no” we get angry (or go back to denial). If we were to take an honest look at our lives we would see that those times when God said “no” were some of the biggest blessings He has given us. We can be furious though and scream at the heavens about why we did not get the job we wanted. God however sees all time beloved. He sees what would have happened if you had landed that job. He sees the extra work you don’t see. He sees the giving up of church because of your new found busyness. He sees the strain it would have put on your marriage and the eventual adultery leading from it. We only see what we want – God however deals in what we need:

    And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4: 19 (NLT)

    Now you and God might disagree about what you need but who would you rather trust? The sixth plague was the plague of festering boils and Pharaoh’s heart remained hard. The seventh plague however reveals another reaction we tend to have:

    So Moses left Pharaoh’s court and went out of the city. When he lifted his hands to the Lord, the thunder and hail stopped, and the downpour ceased. But when Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail, and thunder had stopped, he and his officials sinned again, and Pharaoh again became stubborn. – Exodus 9: 33-34 (NLT)

    We simply sin again! No sooner than we obey because we do not like the chastisement we have finally acknowledged do we return to our vomit yet again. Right before these verses Pharaoh finally admits that he has sinned, that God is righteous and that He is not. Yet this admission was not driven by a regret of the sin but a regret of the consequence. We need to differentiate between the two very carefully. If our repentance is based upon regretting the chastisement of God and not based upon regretting the fact that we have been disobedient – it will be short lived. If you want to know why sometimes it seems as if we are circling the same mountain year after year – this is the reason. We live in a society that deals with the symptoms and covers up the real problem. This mindset sometimes spills over into our faith. The issue is not that God is trying to get our attention but rather WHY He is trying to get out attention. With the hailstorm behind them, the eighth plague was the plague of locusts:

    Pharaoh retorted, “The Lord will certainly need to be with you if I let you take your little ones! I can see through your evil plan. Never! Only the men may go and worship the Lord, since that is what you requested.” And Pharaoh threw them out of the palace.Then the Lord said to Moses, “Raise your hand over the land of Egypt to bring on the locusts. Let them cover the land and devour every plant that survived the hailstorm.” – Exodus 10: 10-12 (NLT)

    Still negotiating, Pharaoh now does what we all are guilty of from time to time– he relies on his own human wisdom to try and explain away God. I see through your evil plan! Bring on the locusts! We too can fall for this trap. Well, God wouldn’t want me to be unhappy! Really? God did not send His only Son to hang on a tree so we could be happy in this world beloved – He did it so we can be saved from this world. Undeterred, God brings forth the ninth plague – a darkness so thick no one could move for three days in all of Egypt. Pharaoh now enters into another popular phase for us – concessions:

    Finally, Pharaoh called for Moses. “Go and worship the Lord,” he said. “But leave your flocks and herds here. You may even take your little ones with you.” – Exodus 10: 24 (NLT)

    You may even take your little ones! Look how obedient I am being! See? I am willing to give in…well a little at least. God is not interested in partial obedience beloved. He is interested in full compliance. There are no concessions to make. We either obey or we are in disobedience. If we are in disobedience – God will try and get our attention. We need to tune our ears to the voice of the Lord and not despise His chastening for it is for our own good and our own growth that we listen to what God says. The tenth plague finally was enough to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. The first born of every Egyptian, including Pharaoh was struck dead by the death angel of the Lord. So the stubborn and defiant leader of Egypt finally relented and let the people of God go:

    And the people of Israel did as Moses had instructed; they asked the Egyptians for clothing and articles of silver and gold. The Lord caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the Israelites, and they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So they stripped the Egyptians of their wealth! – Exodus 12: 35-36 (NLT)

    Our continued disobedience often costs us dearly. Sin will always cost us more than we had bargained for. Like Pharaoh, we too can have a hardened heart when it comes to obeying what God has decreed. Look, no one is ever going to be perfect and we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I fear sometimes that we use Scriptures like that to excuse our behavior. Because of the lack of preaching on sin within the modern church growth theories, we become woefully ignorant of it and how we are to respond to God when we find ourselves on the wrong side of Him. This is not about preaching a hard Word beloved. It is not about the harshness of God. It is about His goodness. His desire for our obedience is for our well being. I pray our hearts are never so steeped in disobedience that we lose sight of that. In Jesus name; amen!

    Reverend Anthony Wade – February 4, 2013

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