January 29, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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In part six of the Book of Exodus, we’ll unpack Exodus 7:14–10:20 as we dive into the 10 plagues of Egypt and what they represent, see God’s power on full display contrasted with Pharaoh’s hard-heartedness, and discover how we can experience freedom in this area as well.
Below, you’ll find some key discussion points to consider, questions to personally reflect on and/or discuss in your small group, with your family, or in your circle of friends, and some action points for the week.
Memory Verse of the Week: 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
READ: Exodus 7:1–6
Adversity is a part of life. We’ll all encounter it, and we’ll continue to encounter it for the duration of our stay here on Earth. Try as we might to avoid or insure ourselves against it, there’s no questioning that adversity will always come. What is in question is how we respond to adversity when it arises. We can either submit and succumb to its power and pressure, or we can overcome it by aligning ourselves with something greater: the will of God.
That’s the dynamic that unfolds for us in the next several chapters in the Book of Exodus. Moses and Aaron are about to face adversity on a scale that’s difficult for us to imagine. They’re essentially going to issue a divine ultimatum to the most powerful person on the planet in their day—the Pharaoh of Egypt. Understand that in that time, the Pharaoh was capable of exerting his will just about however he wanted. He had power and had no problem using it! There were no “checks and balances” to keep him from just eliminating whatever he wanted, especially threats as the Pharaoh’s baker learned in Genesis 40:22! Imagine, then, how slanted the scales of power must have seemed when Moses and Aaron went to the Pharaoh and demanded that he release the children of Israel and all their property.
Adversity was inevitable and would prove to be unprecedented, which is why God says what He says to Moses and Aaron here in this passage. Knowing the full weight of Pharaoh’s will would resist their mission, God tells them that despite this opposition, He was going to intervene! Why is that so important? Because in the end, all that truly matters is what God is doing. It doesn’t matter who or what is blocking the way of His will because the Lord will clear the path for His purpose to prevail. On the eve of adversity, as Moses and Aaron locked horns with the most powerful man on the earth, they needed to be reminded that the God of heaven was working through them . . . and that’s all that would matter in the end!
Now what about us? Again, there’s no escaping adversity. But what do we do when it stands as in immovable object of opposition in our way? It depends. If the “way” is merely a trail that we’ve blazed for ourselves, if it’s based on our own agenda, then there’s no guarantee of getting over it. However, if we’re walking in the way the Lord has mapped out for our lives, if it’s His mission that moves us, then we can relate to Moses and Aaron here. We can, and must, take refuge in knowing that God’s plan will prevail in the end. In time, earthborn adversity will bow to heaven’s authority. All that matters in the end is what God is doing, and we can walk victoriously over our adversity in the wake of that!
Discussion Question 1: How do you usually respond to adversity and challenges?
Discussion Question 2: How can you apply the truths of this passage to your own life—to the adversity you’re dealing with now or will deal with soon?
READ: Romans 1:18–32; Exodus 7:8–10:20
Much like a tennis match, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart lobs back and forth. From chapter 4 through chapter 10, we’re told that Pharaoh is either hardening his heart, that God is hardening it, or it’s simply made hard. But we can’t gloss over this question: Did God actually harden Pharaoh’s heart and prevent him from making the right choice?
Is God the One who hardened Pharaoh’s heart and caused the people to remain in Egypt and suffer a little longer? Did God force an innocent Pharaoh, against his will, to hold the Israelites back? Was Pharaoh then not at fault? Was he actually a nice guy who would’ve let Moses’ people go if not for God?
What’s actually going on here? Well, it’s a simple case of greater context not just to the text but to the whole of Scripture and the story of humanity. Consider Romans 1:18–32: Paul tells us that no one can deny God is who He says He is because all the universe testifies to it, and yet Pharaoh declared, “I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2 NIV). He also says that although people know the truth deep in their souls, they reject it to pursue sinful passions and prop up created things as objects of worship (the Egyptians believed in a pantheon of elemental gods and considered Pharaoh himself a god figure). And because of this, God “gave them over.” As theologian Joseph Barnes explains, “It was not that God compelled them; or that he did not give them knowledge; nor even is it said that he arbitrarily abandoned them as the first step; but they forsook him, and as a consequence he gave them up to a reprobate mind. A mind destitute of judgment.” Pharaoh rejected God, rejected His authority, and hardened his heart (Exodus 9:34), so God allowed him to have what he sinfully desired—a hard heart. Pharaoh is fully and solely responsible for the righteous wrath that came upon him.
In the same way, there’s not a single person on the earth without excuse. There is no one who can claim they didn’t know who the Lord was. All of creation points to Him (natural or general revelation) and should cause us to seek answers and find Him for ourselves (special revelation through the Word of God, the Bible). He has also shown Himself time and time again and broken through the darkness of this world to reveal His light, truth, and power. Those who do not seek Him have rejected and turned away from Him, they have hardened their hearts toward Him.
Discussion Question 3: Why is it important that you understand the implication behind Pharaoh’s hard-heartedness? What lesson does it show you about Scripture reading?
Discussion Question 4: Are there any places in your heart that are hardened to God? Have circumstances given rise to doubt or has disappointment created bitterness? How can you move from a heart of stone to a heart of surrender?
Don’t be discouraged—we’re not alone. But remember, we’re also a new creation in Christ Jesus. The old nature is gone and the new is here (2 Corinthians 5:17). Even so, we all could do our hearts some good by realigning them with God’s. Pray this coming week for the Lord to soften this area and bring about submission to His will.
In our next study, we’ll arrive at the final two plagues: the plagues of darkness and death found in Exodus 10:21–11:10.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.