For the past few weeks, I have been brought back several times to the Old Testament book of Exodus. Our Sunday Morning Junior High class is doing a series on the Old Testament and is currently in Exodus. Our High School class is a little over half way through a series on Exodus. Somewhere in the midst of that my Bible reading plan took me into Exodus.
If you are familiar with the book of Exodus, you know about the ten plagues that God sent to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelite people go free. At the time the Hebrews (God’s chosen people) were in slavery to the Egyptians. Pharaoh was stubborn and needed some convincing before he would part with his slave work force.
My reading plan took me to Exodus chapter 9 where God threatens to send the plague of hail if Pharaoh doesn’t agree to let them go free.
“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth.” [Exodus 9:13-15]
The plagues definitely show God’s power. He sends hail that will destroy both livestock and the crops. At the raising of Moses’ hands, God unleashes a plague that brings a lot of destruction. God clearly shows His power.
As I read this chapter again, I see how the plagues also show God’s mercy. While God was definitely going to bring destruction, He didn’t do it without warning. He gave Pharaoh and the Egyptian people opportunities to avoid what He was going to do.
Notice was it says in Exodus 9:18-19: “Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every person and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’ ” [Exodus 9:18-19]
Anyone who would listen to God’s warning would avoid the damage done by the hail. God was flexing His muscle, but He also revealed His heart – He gave the Egyptians a chance to protect their animals and possessions from the hail. Those who feared God listened and brought in their slaves and livestock.
God demonstrated His power and His mercy.
Later in the chapter God shows His mercy again:
“The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later.” [Exodus 9:31-32]
Not all the crops were destroyed. God spared some of the Egyptians future food supply.
As I was brought back to the book of Exodus, I was brought back to both the power of God and the mercy of God. Yes, God brought judgement. Yes, God brought His power down on the people of Egypt. But He didn’t do it without warning. He didn’t do it without giving Pharaoh and the Egyptians a chance to respond.
The good news is that God does the same thing for us. He continues to offer His mercy and gives us a chance to respond. That’s good news for those of us who can be stubborn like Pharaoh.