Plague of Locusts
Exodus 10:1-2 tells us:
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord." ()
The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and the hearts of his servants so that we could know that HE is the LORD.
God brings this up in His word in Romans 9 when He says:
“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? ()
The Lord made out of the same lump Moses and Pharaoh. They were both raised in Pharaoh’s house. They were both educated in the same schools. They were both descendants of Adam through Noah’s line.
We do not understand the process of hardening. In some places, the scriptures say that Pharaoh hardened his heart, and in other places the scriptures say that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. In Romans 9:14, God denies injustice on His part, and then in the following verses He asserts His right as a potter over the clay.
As humans, we forget that we are but dust. The prophet was right when he said:
You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, "He did not make me"; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, "He has no understanding"? ()
The plagues were a teaching tool. They were designed to teach the Egyptians, the Hebrews and us who God is. The Lord says He is displaying His power so that “...you may know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 10:2)
Pharaoh proclaimed himself a god, and after seven plagues, he refused to humble himself. God says to Pharaoh:
This struggle between God and man is the essence of sin. The devil tempted Eve with, “You will be like God.” Since that time, we try to be the god of our own lives.
God warns Pharaoh:
For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day. ()
Later, when Pharaoh was asking for relief from this plague, he called it “this death.” (Exodus 10:17)
Just as God warned Pharaoh, so also God warns all men that the wages of sin is death.
Moses lost patience with Pharaoh. Exodus 10:6 tells us that after Moses finished delivering God’s message, he turned and went out from Pharaoh. Moses knew that the Lord had hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he knew that God was going to show His signs among the Egyptians, so he did not wait to hear Pharaoh’s response.
But, the servants of Pharaoh stepped in and spoke to Pharaoh saying,
"How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?" ()
Egypt was ruined. Plague after costly plague had swept over the land until there was nothing left. The hail especially had devastated the land, stripping trees of the leaves and destroying the plants of the field. Only the promise of a harvest of wheat remained as a chance to have food, and now that too was threatened by the promise of an even greater plague.
In scripture, God likens locusts to an unstoppable army destroying everything in its path. We assume Joel is describing locusts when he says:
Fire devours before them, and behind them a flame burns. The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them a desolate wilderness, and nothing escapes them. Their appearance is like the appearance of horses, and like war horses they run. As with the rumbling of chariots, they leap on the tops of the mountains, like the crackling of a flame of fire devouring the stubble, like a powerful army drawn up for battle. Before them peoples are in anguish; all faces grow pale. Like warriors they charge; like soldiers they scale the wall. They march each on his way; they do not swerve from their paths. ()
This passage describes the destructiveness of locusts and of the consequences of such a plague. Pharaoh’s servants were realizing the threat, and pleading with Pharaoh to do something to spare the land.
The consequences of sin are like the plague of locusts. Not one of our households or families is free from the effects of sin. Chief among the consequences of sin is death, but before death, we all see the endless destruction and pain caused by sin. We are torn by guilt, weighed down by addictions and plagued with anxiety. And yet, we refuse to humble ourselves before God. Instead, we bargain with God as Pharaoh did.
We see Pharaoh bargaining with God when he calls Moses back in and asks who will go. He tells Moses to take the men and go because this is what Moses really wants. Then Pharaoh drives Moses out. In case you do not recognize it, Pharaoh is trying to bully Moses.
We all try to manipulate people. Some are better at it than others, but we all practice manipulation. Bullying is just one form of this. We see it in the way Pharaoh defines for Moses what the Hebrews want even after he has been told what is required. We see it in the way Pharaoh treats Moses with contempt and drives him out. Manipulation takes on many forms with bullying being the most direct.
We all have our ways of dealing with people, and it is with those same people skills that we approach God. When our sin is exposed, or the consequences catch up to us, we plead, we bargain, or we bully, and try to strike a deal with God. We try to set the terms.
Challenging God is one way we do this. We might say that God is unjust because after all, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Some say they do not want to submit to a God who would send a person to hell and try to bully God by saying He is unfair.
God said He was showing these signs in Egypt so that we would know that He is the Lord.
God warned Pharaoh through Moses. He asked Pharaoh to let His people go. God did not take Pharaoh’s slaves from him. God protects and preserves the power of choice that He has given to each one of us.
He does not bully. He does not manipulate. He pleads with us. He warns us. But, He will not take away our choice. He provides a way of salvation, but He gives us the choice.