Exodus 3:10 I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.
Forty years earlier Moses felt up to the task, but not anymore. Egypt was the last place he wanted to be, and Pharaoh was the last person he wanted to see. But God said, I will be with you (Exodus 3:12), and that was helpful. What Moses could not do alone, God was going to do through him.
This is the same promise Jesus gave to the church. [G]o and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20), he said.
Moses was called to confront Pharaoh, and the church is called to evangelize the world. Both tasks seem impossible, but nothing is impossible with God (Luke 18:27). God likes to use his people to do impossible things, so they will know the joy of being used by him.
Exodus 3:13-14 Moses said to God, Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, What is his name? Then what shall I tell them? God said to Moses, I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you.
This name reveals two important things about God. First, he is self-existent. Everything else depends on God for existence. God alone is self-existent. He made the trees, rocks and stars, but no one made him. Everything else began to exist, but God has always existed, because he is self-existent.
Second, God is who he is. We can take him or leave him, but we cannot change him. There is not a sinner on earth who would not change God if they could. We like his promises, but not his threats. We like his love, but not his wrath. We like his forgiveness, but not his commands. We like his blessings, but not his curses. We like his heaven, but not his hell.
Instead of worshipping the God who exists, therefore, many worship the god of their imagination. They imagine God as they wish him to be, instead of as he is. But the god of our imagination is merely an idol, and idols cannot save us. If we want God to accept us as we are, we must return the favor. God is who he is.
And this same God has revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Very truly I tell you, Jesus answered, before Abraham was born, I am! (John 8:58). Since Abraham lived two thousand years before Christ, Jesus’ listeners correctly understood him to be claiming the sacred name for himself. So they picked up stones to stone him (John 8:59). They did not kill him then, but when they finally did, Jesus rose from the dead, because he is self-existent (John 10:17-18). He is who he is.
Exodus 4:13 But Moses said, Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.
We are surprised that a man like Moses would try to avoid doing God’s will, but he had a few reasons. First, he felt unequal to the task (Exodus 3:11). Second, the people might not believe him (Exodus 4:1). And third, he did not speak very well (Exodus 4:10). So Moses asked God to send someone else.
Whoever serves God will feel reluctant at times, because God will often ask us to do things that we do not want to do. But if we always do what we have always done, we will never become all that we can be for God. Like Moses, we may try to avoid doing God’s will, but that is never in our best interest.
God denied Moses’ request but sent his brother Aaron to help (Exodus 4:14). For the rest of their lives, these two men fulfilled God’s purpose by working together. Whenever the task seems overwhelming, we can ask God to send us a helper.
Exodus 5:1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go.
Weakness of will did not bring Pharaoh to the top of Egypt. And since he did not want to lose his labor supply, he replied defiantly. Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go (Exodus 5:2), he said.
This is the beginning of a mighty conflict between an earthly king and the King of heaven (Daniel 4:37). Since Pharaoh admitted that he did not know the Lord, God introduced himself through a series of plagues (Exodus 7-12).
The first was a plague on the Nile River that killed the fish. The second was a plague of frogs that got into homes and beds. The third was a plague of gnats that infested people and animals. The fourth was a plague of flies that destroyed the land. The fifth was a plague of death on the Egyptians’ livestock. The sixth was a plague of boils on men and animals. The seventh was a plague of hail that stripped the trees and ruined the crops. The eighth was a plague of locusts that devoured everything green. The ninth was a plague of darkness that lasted three days. The tenth, and final plague, was the death of firstborn males.
Pharaoh could have softened his heart toward God, but chose to harden his heart instead (Exodus 8:15, 8:32, etc.). In response, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart even more (Exodus 9:12, 10:20, etc.). This can be called judicial hardening, and is a fitting response to rebellion. If we harden our hearts against God, he may harden them even more. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts (Hebrews 3:7-8), says Hebrews.
Reflection and Review
How does the promise of God’s presence help us do his will?
What does God’s name reveal about him?
Why did Pharaoh harden his heart against God?