By Johnny O. Trail — He was the most powerful leader in the world at that time. His nation was incredibly wealthy with a powerful standing military that had no rival. The nation he ruled was at the pinnacle of the civilized world. In addition to its art and culture, the architecture of its empire is still studied and marveled at today.
Even though his association with God’s people caused him to prosper, he did not know who God was. Exodus 5:2 says, “And Pharaoh said, Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the LORD, neither will I let Israel go.” In spite of these things, they were destined to be defeated by the slaves they exploited for labor and profit.
A Pharaoh arose in the land of Egypt who did not know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Exodus 1:8 says, “Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.” He ignored or was not aware of the contributions that Joseph and his family made to save the land of Egypt from certain ruin from famine. Jehovah God had been forgotten, and polytheism thrived in the land.
God would “remember” His people, the Israelites, and deliver them from Egyptian captivity. Exodus 2:23-25 says,
“And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.”
God warned Pharaoh from the very beginning about their impending doom and the death of the firstborn if His people were not released. Exodus 4:22-23 says, “And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn.” This declaration was made at the very beginning of Moses interaction with Pharaoh—a point we sometimes miss.
Since God knew what Pharaoh would do, He realized that liberation would only come with a might hand in play. Exodus 6:1 says, “Then the LORD said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.” God would deliver His people from the mightiest nation in existence at that time.
This work of God amongst His people would spread abroad to many of the pagan people in Canaan for decades to come. Jeremiah 32:20 says,
“Which hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even unto this day, and in Israel, and among other men; and hast made thee a name, as at this day; And hast brought forth thy people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs, and with wonders, and with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with great terror; And hast given them this land, which thou didst swear to their fathers to give them, a land flowing with milk and honey; And they came in, and possessed it; but they obeyed not thy voice, neither walked in thy law; they have done nothing of all that thou commandedst them to do: therefore thou hast caused all this evil to come upon them.”
Rahab was aware of the reputation of the Israelites and their God before they ever arrived at Jericho. Joshua 2:9-11 says,
“And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.”
The people of the land feared the Israelites because of the mighty God they served.
Jehovah delivered them from Egyptian captivity and through their wilderness wanderings; logic dictated that Jericho would be delivered into the Jews’ hands also. To that end, Rahab shrewdly struck a bargain with the spies (Joshua 2.12-13). Her wise dealings caused her family to be spared from destruction.
There are many lessons that one can learn from God’s interaction with pharaoh and the power He has to deliver His people. For a moment, we might consider some of them.
God told Pharaoh about what he would do before the culminating act of deliverance was realized—the death of the first born. Pharaoh could not say he was not warned! By the same token, God has warned those living in the last days about the return of Christ and the destruction of the world. 2 Peter 3:10-12 says,
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?”
No person can say that God did not tell them!
God used the deliverance of the Jews and His care over them in their wilderness wanderings to exemplify what the nature of His relationship was and could be to all people. God was always concerned about the spiritual welfare of the Gentiles. The Ninevites are examples of this very thing. Jonah 3:10 and 4.1-2 says,
“And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.”
In the Christian dispensation, God extends His love to lost humankind through His son.
In much the same way, God’s people demonstrate through their relationship with Him, that we enjoy special blessings that people living in the “world” do not have access. Ephesians 1:3-4 says,
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.”
One must be “in Christ” to gain access to spiritual blessings.
God did not forget the struggles of His people in the land of Egypt but prepared a deliverer to assure that they would accomplish His purposes. Moses would have had the equivalent of a Ph.D. education in the court of Pharaoh. He would have been skilled in language, warfare, diplomacy, art, medicine, and a whole host of other disciplines. After forty years of wilderness wanderings feeding the flocks of Jethro, he would have known about the topography of the land. He would know about many of the inhabitants and dangers associated with travel through the region. He was prepared providentially to lead the people of God.
In like manner, God does not forget our struggles and has provided for us a deliverer par excellence. Jesus is described as our “high priest,” and He is familiar with what it means to be “human” in all of our struggles and trials.
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
The lesson that Pharaoh failed to learn is valuable for us today. God can bless those who are His people beyond the imaginations of those attempting to thwart His purpose.