Egypt was no longer a good place for God’s special people, the Israelites.
Joseph and his brothers had all died long ago, and no one in Egypt remembered them, especially the new Pharaoh. He decided these Israelites would make good slaves for his kingdom. Being a slave meant working hard for long hours, being punched and kicked by Egyptians, and barely having enough to eat or more than rags to wear. God saw His people hurting under Pharaoh’s rule. Because He loved them so much, He asked Moses to tell Pharaoh that God wanted His people to go free.
This was an impossible job! Moses was an old man who spent his days hanging out with sheep. He wasn’t very good at talking to anyone, much less a king, but he obeyed God and told Pharoah, “God says His people must go free so that they may worship Him.” Pharaoh sneered at Moses and began to laugh, “Ha! Never!” He wouldn’t listen to Moses, but God was not done. He began to throw down heavy plagues on the Egyptians to punish them. First, God told Moses to make the Nile River run red with blood. Yuck! No one could get a drink or take a bath. Surely that would make Pharaoh listen to God, but he didn’t. God sent a great crowd of frogs that came and ribbited all day and night, but Pharaoh didn’t care. Then gnats and other insects swarmed the land, buzzing in ears day and night, yet Pharaoh still wouldn’t let the Israelites go. So God killed all the horses, donkeys, sheep, and camels of the Egyptians. Pharaoh looked out at the dead animals, held his nose to keep the smell away, and then plugged up his ears to not listen to God. Next Moses watched as God filled the Egyptians’ skin with itchy, oozy sores that made them wail like babies. It wasn’t enough for Pharaoh. Neither was the hammering hail that came next or the leaping locusts that gobbled up the last of the food. Pharaoh wouldn’t even listen when a horrible darkness crept over the land, as if God had turned off all the lights in the sky.
“No!” Pharaoh shouted. “My slaves cannot leave to worship God!”
What would it take? These plagues weren’t enough. What would God have to do for Pharaoh to finally let His people go free? Pharaoh was a hard and mean master of his slaves and wanted them to worship and obey him, not God. God made Pharaoh ruler over the Israelites to show us what sin is like. Sin is the hardest and meanest master of all. Sin wants us to obey what it wants all the time, and it tells our hearts where to go and what to do. Sin doesn’t want us to be set free to worship God. What would it take for God to fight sin and beat it once and for all? What would it take for God to set His people free?
God created Pharaoh and raised him up to be one of the most powerful men in the world. What did it show about God when He destroyed the land that Pharaoh ruled and Pharaoh was unable to stop Him?
Think about what it would have been like to be a slave to Pharaoh. Every day you could only get up and do exactly what Pharaoh commanded. Think about the sin that is in our hearts. If the sin in our hearts is like Pharaoh, then what do we do every day, unless God gives us a new heart?
This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.