Have you ever made decisions based on fear? Has the fear of something coming to fruition kept you from doing certain things? Or, have you built up safeguards, in response to fear, to protect yourself?
I’m not talking about taking precautions for safety. Fear can be a tool to help us assess a situation and stay still or move forward.
But isn’t it true that some fears (if not most) are unrealistic and made up in our minds? Those are the types of fears that settled on my heart today while writing.
I’ve always studied story of the plagues on Egypt from Moses’ and God’s perspectives. I wrote on that last time. I took a different look at the narrative this time, and focused on Pharaoh’s responses and reactions to God’s signs. What I found was that they all stemmed from fear.
There are some good truths and a TON of scripture ahead! Get ready!
S – Scripture: Exodus 7-9
- 7:4-6 – “‘But I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. Even then Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you. So I will bring down my fist on Egypt. Then I will rescue my forces–my people, the Israelites–from the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.’ So Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded them.”
- 7:20-22 – “So Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them. As Pharaoh and all of his officials watched, Aaron raised his staff and struck the water of the Nile. Suddenly, the whole river turned to blood! The fish in the river died, and the water became so foul that the Egyptians couldn’t drink it. There was blood everywhere throughout the land of Egypt. But again the magicians of Egypt used their magic, and they, too, turned water into blood. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hard. He refused to listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had predicted.”
- 8:6-7 – “So Aaron raised his hand over the waters of Egypt, and frogs came up and covered the whole land! But the magicians were able to do the same thing with their magic. They, too, caused frogs to come up on the land of Egypt.”
- 2:15 – “But when Pharaoh saw that relief had come, he became stubborn. He refused to listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had predicted.”
- 2:18-19 – “Pharaoh’s magicians tried to do the same thing with their secret arts, but this time they failed. And the gnats covered everyone, people and animals alike. ‘This is the finger of God!’ the magicians exclaimed to Pharaoh. But Pharaoh’s heart remained hard. He wouldn’t listen to them, just as the LORD had predicted.”
- 8:22-24 – “‘But this time I will spare the region of Goshen, where my people live. No flies will be found there. Then you will know that I am the LORD and that I am present even in the heart of your land. I will make a clear distinction between my people and your people. This miraculous sign will happen tomorrow.’ And the LORD did just as he had said. A thick swarm of flies filled Pharaoh’s palace and the houses of his officials. The whole land of Egypt was thrown into chaos by the flies.”
- 8:31-32 – “And the LORD did as Moses asked and caused the swarms of flies to disappear from Pharaoh, his officials, and his people. Not a single fly remained. But Pharaoh again became stubborn and refused to let the people go. “
- 9:6 – “And the LORD did just as he had said. The next morning all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but the Israelites didn’t lose a single animal.”
- 9:8-9 – “Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Take handfuls of soot from a brick kiln, and have Moses toss it into the air while Pharaoh watches. The ashes will spread like fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, causing festering boils to break out on people and animals throughout the land.'”
- 9:15-16 – “‘By now I could have lifted my hand and struck you and your people with a plague to wipe you off the face of the earth. But I have spared you for a purpose–to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth.'”
- 9:24-26 – “Never in all the history of Egypt had there been a storm like that, with such devastating hail and continuous lightning. It left all of Egypt in ruins. The hail struck down everything in the open field–people, animals, and plants alike. Even the trees were destroyed. The only place without hail was the region of Goshen, where the people of Israel lived.”
- 9:27 – “Then Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron. ‘This time I have sinned,’ he confessed. ‘The LORD is the righteous one, and my people and I are wrong.'”
- 9:34-35 – “But when Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail, and thunder had stopped, he and his officials sinned again, and Pharaoh again became stubborn. Because his heart was hard, Pharaoh refused to let the people leave, just as the LORD had predicted through Moses.”
O – Observation:
- God’s purpose in hardening Pharaoh’s heart was to show is power throughout Egypt and the world by his miraculous signs. Everyone will know that it was only by God’s hand that Israel was freed from the oppression of the Egyptians.
- The first three signs: turning the staff into a snake, the Nile into blood, and the overwhelming amount of frogs, were replicated by Pharaoh’s magicians and affected everyone, Egyptians and Israelites.
- Pharaoh’s heart was hardened because of this.
- The first time the magicians failed at reproducing a sign was with the gnats. Pharaoh wasn’t moved, however.
- Next, flies swarmed over all of Egypt, a plague came and killed all of the livestock, and boils infested all of the people. The magicians couldn’t do it, and the Israelites were spared of these terrible wonders. For the first time, God made a distinction between Pharaoh’s people and his own, whom he had chosen to protect.
- With the flies, as soon as God took them away, Pharaoh’s heart hardened. He had almost let them go until this happened.
- The plague and boils left him unmovable. His pride and stubbornness refused to let them go still. Those weren’t powerful enough to break him down. God knew that in saying that he could’ve wiped the Egyptians out easily, but hasn’t. God had a greater purpose and used Pharaoh’s pride to his advantage.
- Pharaoh almost breaks when the hail comes and destroys everything. He even acknowledges God and his righteousness, and his own sin. But as soon as the hailstorm subsides, he goes back on his word.
A – Application:
“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 11:19
Why Pharaoh’s heart hardened…
1.) God hardened it, first and foremost, for his purpose in showing his power throughout Egypt and the world.
2.) His magicians could replicate the miracles that God performed. Clearly, Moses’ God was only has powerful as his own gods.
3.) The wonders had not completely destroyed, only partially maimed Egypt. They would be able to recover from those. This was flat-out stubbornness and pride in his own abilities to rule.
4.) The plagues weren’t permanent. As soon as Moses prayed for relief, they were gone. God may have seemed like a magic genie, able to be controlled to do whatever one wished.
Egypt was clearly a mighty nation with many resources. It was Pharaoh’s job to protect that and continue to build the country up in power and strength. Earlier, we read of Pharaoh’s fear that the Israelites would soon grown and overtake the people of Egypt. Under no circumstances would the dynasty fall while this Pharaoh was in power. It couldn’t. He must do everything that he could to preserve Egypt. The decisions that followed: enslaving them and killing their sons, were all driven by that fear.
In her article, “Top 10 Fears That Hold Us Back In Life,” Amy Morin describes: the fear of rejection, failure, uncertainty, loneliness, change, loss of freedom, being judged, getting hurt, inadequecy, and of something bad happening as the top ten. I’m pretty sure that I have felt all of these. In response, I’ve built up walls to protect myself from those fears actually happening. Have you ever done this?
I fear failure, so I don’t even try. I fear rejection, so I don’t submit anything. I fear uncertainty, so I stay in my comfort zone. I fear loneliness, so I surround every waking minute with the distraction of people or things. I fear change, so I stay the same. I fear being judged, so I don’t put myself out there. I fear getting hurt, so I isolate myself from the people I love and other meaningful relationships. I fear being inadequate, so I don’t strive or set lofty goals. I fear something bad will happen, so I make everything around me safe and secure.
Sometimes these safeguards are strong. The inner castle is protected by moats filled with alligators, archers, soldiers, tall and thick walls, locks and vaults, mazes and riddles. No one is getting in there!
It’s interesting, then, that these walls can become a source of pride. We see ourselves and appear to others as strong and sturdy.
The great Nile was the source of life. Their always abundant fields and livestock were an image of great wealth and security. The beautiful palaces, homes, and buildings that were built showed perfection by the work of their hands. All of these things were covers to let the world know that they were above adequate, safe, secure, successful, worthy. They were unstoppable and unbreakable.
God was chipping away at the sources of Pharaoh’s pride that were built up because of his fear. Through the plagues, he was going to reveal Egypts greatest fear: that there was a mightier nation and that their gods were nothing in comparison.
Pharoah’s fear led him to pride and stubborness, to the detriment of his whole people. It doesn’t have to be like that for us. He was unrelenting in his pride. We don’t have to let our fear and pride get this out of hand.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18
The fall from pride to humility and the revelation of fear from darkness to light is a tough journey. It takes submission and time. But we can trust in God’s perfect love and faithfulness. When we allow God access to our pride and fears, he can break those down to bring about freedom and purpose in our lives. When we recognize him as the source of everything, our fears can shed off. We aren’t in it alone.
When you say that you fear rejection, God says:
“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37
When you say that you fear failure, God says:
“If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one–for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one–for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” Romans 8:31-34
When you say that you fear uncertainty, God says:
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11
When you say that you fear loneliness, God says:
“‘Do not be afraid. I will save you. I have called you by name—you are mine. When you pass through deep waters, I will be with you; your troubles will not overwhelm you. When you pass through fire, you will not be burned; the hard trials that come will not hurt you. For I am the Lord, your God. … because you are precious to me and because I love you and give you honor, do not be afraid—I am with you!’” Isaiah 43:1-5 (GNTD)
When you say that you fear change, God says:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19
When you say that you fear loss of freedom, God says:
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Galatians 5:1
When you say that you fear being judged, God says:
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him.” John 3:16-18
When you say that you fear getting hurt, God says:
“In my distress I prayed to the LORD, and the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the LORD is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people.” Psalm 118:5-8
When you say that you fear being inadequate, God says:
“It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
When you say that you fear something bad will happen, God says:
“”I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:6-8
For all of these fears, God has spoken true and good words that we can rely on. We don’t need to build up walls, we need him. Our fears, when acknowledged and handled properly, can be an opportunity to bring us to him, not away from him. We can come to him with our fears and expect him to work through us even more powerfully.
When we come to him with our fears, he gives peace in knowing that he’s got a handle on whatever situation we find ourselves in. If we allow ourselves to accept that peace, we can take steps of courage which leads to healing, growth, and hope. We move closer to him and the purposes he has for us.
Isn’t God so good?
P – Prayer:
God, I don’t want to harden my heart to you because of fear and pride. I don’t want to build up walls that keep you out and rely on my own strength. I don’t want to live in fear anymore. I want to walk firmly in the paths that you have for me, because I know they will be great. Help me to acknowledge the fear that comes up and to turn immediately to you. You are so powerful and love me so much, thank you. Thank you that your love casts out fear. Amen.