God wanted His people out of Egypt. Why? Because He must fulfill the land promise which He had made earlier to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the promise to give the land of Canaan to their descendants. That was the plan – to fulfill His land promise. However, someone stood in the way. That someone was the mighty king of Egypt.
When the Lord sent Moses back to Egypt in about 1450 B.C. to deliver the Israelites from slavery, he encountered a stubborn ruler on the throne in the land of the Nile River. While a number of different Pharaohs are mentioned in the Bible, the one with whom Moses and his brother had to deal (“the Pharaoh of the exodus”) receives the most attention in the Scriptures. From the biblical account of him and his dealings with the children of Israel, there are some reminders that we all should note.
Reminder: God despises arrogance. Pharaoh had plenty of that. God’s clear message to him through Aaron and Moses was, “Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.” The monarch’s haughty response was, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:1,2). After the Lord gave him numerous chances to change his attitude, he refused, bringing this question from God: “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?” (Exodus 10:3).
It is God’s will for humans to love themselves (Mark 12:31), yet He does not want us to think too highly of ourselves (Romans 12:3). Pharaoh was puffed up, and such a proud spirit is an abomination to the Almighty (Proverbs 6:16,17). “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
Reminder: Being in a position of authority does not exempt one from the need to obey Jehovah. In modern lingo, Pharaoh “was the man” in Egypt. How mighty he thought he was, so mighty that he would just snub God’s instructions. His arrogance kept him from submitting to the Lord’s will. Pride continues to do the same today. There are several arrangements in life in which a person is invested with authority, either divine or human. But, my brother, being the head of your family does not mean that you have no need to submit to the Lord, including in the matter of how you treat your wife and kids. One might be the coach of a team, headmaster of a school, manager at work, owner of a business, head officer in a social club, or an overseer in the Lord’s church. None of those positions entitles one to disregard what the Lord says. All people living today, regardless of their position in life, must submit to King Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).
Reminder: Those who mistreat God’s people are fighting against the Lord Himself. In earlier days, God had warned, “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm” (Psalm 105:15). That is a principle that we find throughout the Bible. How folks treat God’s children is a matter that He takes personally. Jesus said that when we help or refuse to help His brethren, then, in reality, we are helping or refusing to help Him (Matthew 25:31-46). In the same way, when Saul of Tarsus persecuted the Lord’s disciples (Acts 9:1), Jesus said that Saul was persecuting Him (Acts 9:5).
Pharaoh worked against God’s people, and by so doing, he had a battle with Jehovah on his hands. At Pharaoh’s command, the Israelites were forced to work as slaves and fulfill unreasonable demands (Exodus 5:4-9). With Pharaoh’s approval, innocent Hebrew slaves were treated inhumanely (Exodus 5:14); not to mention that he refused to give the people of God an opportunity to do His will. God would take care of such a tyrant.
Reminder: One might fight against the Lord and appear to get away with it or even win, but in the end, no one rebels against Jehovah and wins. Pharaoh learned that, as did the Egyptians who stood beside him against God. After Israel passed through the Red Sea and left Egypt behind them, the Egyptian army tried to cross the sea, too. In the midst of the sea, seeing the handwriting on the wall, the Egyptian soldiers were terrified and said, “Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the LORD fights for them against the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:25). Guess who won!
Brothers and sisters, if it appears that the devil and his servants have the upper hand, do not be alarmed. God does not lose. Never! Trust in Him and leave things in His hands. He will work things out in the right way at the right time. He always does.
Reminder: For one to confess his sins does not mean that he is on good terms with God. When God sent the ten plagues on Egypt, the king cried for relief, confessed his sin, and promised to change. The hail came and Pharaoh admitted, “I have sinned this time” (Exodus 9:27). Later, the locusts came and Pharaoh told Moses, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you” (Exodus 10:16). That all sounds good, does it not?
Each time, though, after the discomfort of a particular plague was over, Pharaoh went back to being Pharaoh! He went back to his old ways, in some cases acting even worse than he had in the past. Yes, the man confessed his sin. But the one who receives God’s mercy is the one that “confesses and forsakes” his sins (Proverbs 28:13). Confession of wrongdoing must be accompanied by a heart of sincere repentance and a desire to do God’s bidding.
None of these reminders from the life of Pharaoh is complex, but they have the potential to help us in the Lord’s service. Let us take each of them to heart.
— Roger D. Campbell