Fear, Doubt & Unbelief; “By this you shall know”

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by Bob Winter

Can you imagine what it must be like to be God?

Let’s frame this in the parent-child relationship. When our children are born, we are overwhelmed with joy. We fall in love the very moment that child emerges from the womb. We didn’t actually create this child, but it sure feels like we did. Nothing in the world compares to this living human being that is made up of our own DNA. No other human being ever existed before and no one will ever come after that is identical to this child. This child is uniquely ours, knitted together by God himself as a most precious gift. 

If we are capable of loving our own children with the intensity and compassion as we do, imagine how much our Heavenly Father, who created us in His own image, Gen 1:27, loves us. And, just like our children with their sinful nature, we fail our Father time and time again. 
Even before the Israelites began their journey out of Egypt, the Israelites had already witnessed God’s hand in mighty ways. Let’s recount from the book of Exodus chapter 7-11.

God sends ten plagues in Egypt to compel Pharaoh to let His people go. 
Aaron’s Rod; God instructs Moses and Aaron to cast his rod before Pharaoh and let it become a serpent.
First Plague; Water becomes blood
Second Plague; Frogs
Third Plague; Lice
Fourth Plague; Flies (except in Goshen)
Fifth Plague; Livestock diseased (except the Israelites livestock)
Sixth Plague; Boils
Seventh Plague; Hail (no hail in Goshen)
Eighth Plague; Locusts
Ninth Plague; Darkness (light in Israels dwellings)
Tenth Plague; Death of the firstborn

When I read these passages from Exodus, I begin to wonder how the Israelites could ever doubt God, His promises, His plan and His provision. Yet, God himself hardened Pharaoh’s heart intentionally. And He explained why with this frequent refrain;  “By this you shall know that I am the Lord”.

Why would God need to send plagues, provide relief, harden Pharaoh’s heart then send yet another plague ten times? He is God. Well, God knew us. He created us. He created us with free will. He wanted us to decide of our own free will to love Him, honor him and obey the commandments He gave us for our own good!

So in Exodus, we have a series of plagues intended to demonstrate to the Israelites God’s mighty hand over and over again. God uses Pharaoh with his arrogance, sense of self-worth,  pride, ambition, entitlement and legacy to fulfill His purpose. God knew the Israelites would need this constant, repetitive and consistent outcome to reinforce to them His mighty hand and His omnipotence as the only God. He knew the Israelites would enter lands and encounter peoples of other gods whom He detested. Look at the first four commandments! As Rick Warren states in his book The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you. You were born by His purpose for His purpose”.

As a parent of four boys, that makes a lot of sense to me. When they are toddlers, we savor those moments. Young babies are completely dependent on us. We are ecstatic when they begin to recognize and emotionally connect with us. As they grow, we love teaching them, guiding them, encouraging them and yes, setting boundaries for them. And when earned, even disciplining them for their behavior. They don’t quite understand it, but we know these boundaries are for their own good. Sounds a lot like what God does for us. Sounds a lot like what God was doing for the Israelites as He prepared them for their long journey. We loath His admonition, but just like our teenagers, in time we begin to understand only someone who really loves us would stand firm in spite of our own disobedience.
He referred to the Israelites many times as “as stiff-necked people”. And, just like parents, whom He created in His own image, He forgave them over and over albeit with consequences as a result of their sin. Modern psychology may refer to this as conditioning. A series of events intended to “condition” one to follow a course of action based on past consequences.
Just imagine what it would be like to have lived and experienced God’s mighty hand up to this point. After 430 years in Egypt, 215 years as slaves, God sends ten plagues. The Israelites witnessed and experienced these ten plagues along with the Egyptians except for the flies, livestock, hail, darkness, and the Passover. These plagues God sent in order to demonstrate His power to the people of Israel as He forced Pharaoh to release His people. Yes, God continued to harden Pharaohs heart. He wanted to demonstrate over and over again his mighty power and authority over all of creation. Look how many times God says to Moses “by this you shall know that I am the Lord”.
Now, after all these wonders, Pharaoh releases them.


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