Pharaoh is an interesting character to study. I think we sort of read right by him in most of Exodus, but if we're paying attention, this hard-hearted ruler has a great deal to teach us.
The other day in Bible study, I was reading through the plagues that God inflicted on Egypt. In the first several cases, although it is God who brings about the plague, Pharaoh calls together some of his most trusted magicians and they, too, are able to do the very same things. What's really interesting, however, is what happens after the magicians duplicate God's afflictions.
Take, for example, the second plague - frogs. Here's what happens, straight from the Scriptures:
So Aaron held his staff over the waters of Egypt. The frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. But the magicians did the same thing using their magic spells and brought frogs onto the land. -Ex. 8:6-7
Because when you suddenly have an infestation of frogs in your land, the most logical thing to do is prove that it's not such a big deal by providing more frogs in your land.... If it wasn't a plague already (and it had to be; God doesn't do anything half-way), it's even worse now for all the magic.
Maybe it's just me, but if I want to show that the spectacular thing God has done isn't all that spectacular, and if I'm already troubled by this spectacular thing, I'd be more tempted to use my magic to rid the land of frogs than to add to them. I would ask my magicians to cast a spell to send the frogs away, not to bring them into the throne room. But that's just me. Pharaoh doubles his frog problem in his attempt to say, "See? Your God is not all-powerful. Anything He can do, we can do."
But in the very next breath, he seems to change his tune. Look at this:
Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron and said, "Pray that the Lord will take the frogs away from me and my people." v. 8
He's just shown, he thinks, that his magicians can do whatever God can do. But there's no record of him even asking those same magicians to un-do what God has done. He doesn't even try. He doesn't even ask the magicians to take away the frogs they've introduced to the situation. He's drowning in frogs and his first thought is - pray for me.
Pray for me. Pray to your God to take this all away. Pray to your God to undo this horrible hoppity thing He's done to us.
It's weird, right? If you're trying to stand against God, you don't just turn to Him in the very next breath. If you're trying to make a point that this God is nothing, you certainly don't ask for His help. If you're trying to make the case that you're greater than He is and that these people are somehow more yours than His, you don't entreat His messengers to help you out of the predicament your very argument just got you into. If you want to stand against God, you hire frog catchers. You don't request prayer.
But it does say something about God, does it not? Even the hardest-hearted among us seem to know this truth: that maybe in some small way we can do the things that God can do, but only God can undo them. That we can bring about this or that, but we are helpless to restore. That all the magic in the world may be able to manifest, but it cannot re-create. Only God can re-create. Only God can restore. Only God can undo. Our fixes are, at best, temporary and temporal. Only God brings about resolution.
I think maybe Pharaoh knew that. I think maybe he knew that if he were to try to control the frog problem, he's just rearranging chairs on the Titanic. He's just figuring out somewhere else to put the frogs. He's just setting aside a place for them to be. He's not getting rid of the problem; he's just relocating it. Even if he kills them, kills them all, he still has a frog problem on his hands. Just now, it's a dead frog problem.
Only God knows what to do with so many amphibians. It's prudent to let Him handle it.
It's a subtle lesson, but one we must learn from Pharaoh. Sometimes, no matter how hard-hearted we are, the best answer is still prayer. It's the only answer, really. And our hard-heartedness can't keep us from it.