FROM BONDAGE TO FREEDOM
All a Servant Must do is Obey
Exodus 7:1-13 SCC 7/29/12
So what is our responsibility as we serve the Lord today? I would like to suggest that it is to stay faithful to the full message of the Word of God and not deviate from that in our proclamations. As we present the Word of God in this generation we do so without compromising it. We faithfully discharge that word as it has been given. God alone can produce miraculous results, convictions, conversions, or a hardening condemnation through his word. The sower sows the seed; the Lord prepares the ground. This is the message we learn from the instructions Moses receives from God to bring His word to Pharaoh.
This section marks the beginning of the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh. From here on the confrontation will intensify, until Pharaoh is destroyed. The emphasis here, though, is on God’s instructions for Moses to speak to Pharaoh. The first section (6:28--7:7) ends (v. 6) with the notice that Moses and Aaron did just as God had commanded them; the second section (7:8-13) ends with the note that God did just as He had spoken v 13. In short, the word of God is obeyed, and when it is obeyed it is fulfilled. There is incredible freedom in ministry and service for the Kingdom when we stay true to the word and leave the results with God. Sometimes those results are immediate; sometimes remote; and sometimes unknown but sometimes very real.
WE MUST OBEDIENTLY AND FAITHFULLY DISCHARGE THE WORD OF THE LORD
1. Don’t excuse yourself as not useful to discharge the Word of God 6:28-30
Here we begin with what can be a familiar problem for us. God tells Moses to speak to Pharaoh all that God commands him v 28-29. But Moses is not sure Pharaoh will listen to him v 30. At this point, after hearing the formula…’I am the Lord, speak…’ we might assume that Moses would have no more misgivings since he has become very familiar with this name. In essence, Moses is simply going to be a reporter to Pharaoh of the word of the Lord. It is going to be God’s word through him—he is the mailman. But he still has doubts about the outcome of this entire operation. We can doubt the outcome when the circumstances or personalities seem so insurmountable for the word to overcome.
Why would God choose to do it this way? This seems to be a deliberate and calculated approach by the Lord as He often uses weak vessels to confound the strong. Throughout the Bible he chooses the obscure, the inexperienced, the unknown, and the unacceptable, to step out and do what needs to be done. It requires faith and then it demands obedience. But all along the way the vessel can be confident that the Lord will work to demonstrate his might and fulfill his will. We should never assume that we are not useable for this task. Moses’ response that he is untrained as a speaker (uncircumcised of lips) misses the point. He assumes that the communication of the word of God depends on the quality of the vehicle. God can effectually communicate through any means (even the rocks could cry out Jesus said); what he desires is a willing servant.
2. You represent the Lord with words that are His not yours 7:1-5
First, The Lord answers this worry by reminding him that he had made Moses a god to Pharaoh and Aaron a prophet 7:1-2. “God” and “Prophet” are crucial terms in the theocratic world of Israel. The first could designate divinely appointed judges to rule the people of God, and the second referred to the spokesmen of the Lord. The point is that both were representatives of the Lord. Their words were God’s words. Their power was from above, even though their authority was over men–in this case Pharaoh. They had nothing to fear from human powers including Pharaoh who was seen as a god in Egypt. So there was to be no reason for Moses to feel that he would be ineffective–at least not from his perspective. There would be a failure of sorts, but it would have nothing to do with Moses' abilities.
Second, God would harden Pharaoh's heart 7:3-5. The two elements in the section are common in the later Old Testament: God’s messenger must go and speak the message but God would prevent its
producing results (the same was said for Isaiah and Ezekiel). The point is that if the messenger of God fails (i.e., does not see response to the message) while obediently discharging his duty, his failure is part of God's plan. The plan here is to harden Pharaoh’s heart so that the signs can be done in Egypt that they might know it is the Lord God of Israel. God would work this way for one reason: that it might be known that ‘I am the Lord’ v 5. First amongst His own people who would know the name of their God in receiving the promises 6:7 (i.e. that God will bring the people to a land flowing with milk and honey 3:8 & 17 as He had promised to the patriarchs). Second, for the Egyptians would know that I am the Lord through the great judgments to come 7:5 and third, for Pharaoh who knew not the Lord 5:2 and would know it was the Lord who destroyed him 14:4, & 17-18.
So it seems that if one should refuse to know the Lord, that is, take the Word of the Lord as His message and will, then one can instead know the Lord through the judgments of that Word. In any case, everyone will eventually acknowledge who the Lord God is either by faith in His word or by judgment from that word.
Third, verses 6 and 7 record the obedience of the messengers: they “did . . . just as the Lord commanded . . . so they did”. This summary strengthens the idea of their obedience. The message was not theirs. It was God’s. The effectiveness did not depend on them, but on God. They simply had to obey the Lord. So the point: faithfully and obediently discharge the Word of the Lord. Recognize while doing so that its effect depends on God not us.
THE LORD PRODUCES THE INTENDED EFFECT OF HIS DISCHARGED WORD
In the second half of this passage there is the working of a miraculous sign before Pharaoh 8-10. If Pharaoh demands a sign, then Aaron is to cast down the rod and it will be (literally, “let it be,” as in creation) a snake. After this instruction is given, the text reports, “they did so, just as the Lord had commanded” v 10. So all along the way we see that God had worked through the doubts of Moses to pave the way for his obedience. In every case thus far He and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded.
Interestingly, the magicians seemed also to do this miracle v 11-12 (whether by deceit or by Satanic power we do not know). This is more than just a contest between Moses and the magicians; it is God challenging the gods of Egypt (Exod. 12:12), behind, which is Satan and his demonic assistants. False worship is often demonically inspired (cf. 1 Cor. 10:20-21; I Tim. 4:1). But the rod of Aaron (here it is not called a snake) swallowed up their rods. The sign of this event was that ultimately the God of the Hebrews would overcome the power of Pharaoh--especially since the serpent was venerated as the symbol of the power of the Pharaoh.
The result of it all is the Pharaoh hardened his heart, “just as the Lord had spoken.” So not only did Moses and Aaron obey the word of the Lord (in righteousness), so also did Pharaoh “obey” (but in the hardness of unbelief). This passage stresses that the work from beginning to end is the Lord’s. He chooses the messengers, he gives them the words, he does the authenticating signs, and he effects the results. All that the servants of God must do is obey the divine commission. When those who minister the word of the Lord faithfully discharge their duties, then the Lord produces the intended effect of his word.
God begins the process of ‘hardening Pharaoh’s heart’ (see also Exodus 7:3,13, 9:12, 10:1, 20,27, 11:10, 14:4,8). In the case of Pharaoh, “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” in the sense that God provided the circumstances and the occasion for Pharaoh to be forced to make a decision. God sent Moses to place His demands before Pharaoh. Moses merely announced God’s instructions. God even accompanied His Word with miracles—to confirm the divine origin of the message. Pharaoh made up his own mind to resist God’s demands. Of his own accord, he stubbornly refused to comply. Of course, God provided the occasion for Pharaoh to demonstrate his unyielding attitude. If God had not sent Moses, Pharaoh would not have been faced with the dilemma of whether to release the Israelites. So God was certainly the instigator and initiator. But He was not the author of Pharaoh’s defiance. God does use the wrong, stubborn decisions committed by rebellious sinners to further His causes (Isaiah 10:5-11). In the case of Pharaoh’s hardened heart, God can be charged with no injustice, and the Bible can be charged with no contradiction. Humans were created with free moral agency and are culpable for their own actions.
1. Do the best you can to ensure you are communicating the word of God accurately. Do not proclaim your opinions but the meaning the author meant when he wrote it. Faithfully discharge that message without compromise or accommodating life situations.
2. Remember that it is not your job to secure results. That is up to the Holy Spirit and the willingness of that word to be heard and received by the listener. We do not know what that effect will be nor should we attempt to manufacture one.