When you read the early chapters of Exodus, what do you learn about God?
We're talking here about a very strange season in the history of Israel, a time in which they were living in captivity and counting on the Lord to set them free through a man named Moses who was abandoned as a Hebrew baby, grew up in Pharaoh's palace, murdered an Egyptian, ran away for several years, then came back to both a people and a palace who didn't recognize him. And, oh yeah, he wasn't really interested in the job anyway.
For most of us, this story takes a whole lot longer than our brand of Christian faith tells us that it should. We are a people who believe that whatever God wants, God gets, and so if God decides to do something, it's as good as done. We don't really understand why it took so long to get Pharaoh on board or why God put up with the hard heart of the Egyptian ruler as long as He did. After all, He's God. If He wanted to march His people out of Egypt, there really wasn't anything that could stop Him.
Can you just imagine Moses? "No, no, Pharaoh. This isn't a request. Think of this as more of an informational meeting. We're outta here."
That would be a story for the ages, too. Wouldn't it? We would love to have that kind of God, wouldn't we? I would.
But instead, what we have is a meek little man, an older man, an exile who came back to captivity, of all things, asking Pharaoh to let his people go...and getting a resounding "no." Not once. Not twice. Not even three times. Over and over again, God sends Moses to ask, even when they both know the answer.
Then, we get a series of plagues. Frogs covering the land. Flies covering the land. Locusts covering the land. Darkness covering the land. All of the water turns to blood. The Egyptians are downright horrified. Even they start begging Pharaoh to let God's people go. (Okay, this isn't *exactly* biblical, but it doesn't seem far-fetched. The outcry of the Egyptian people had to be astounding. Like, dude, we will make our own bricks; just make the hail stop.)
The question is - what do we learn from this story? What do we learn from the plagues?
Because of the way that the story is written, I think what we often learn is something about the awesome, terrifying, absolute power of God. We learn about this God who will absolutely destroy the land and everything in it when you tell Him "no." We learn about a God who sends blood and flies and frogs and hail and casts everything into darkness.
And I think all of this leads us to a God the world should worship, should fear, because...just look what He can do.
But I think the way we read this story betrays us. I think we're missing out on something really important, something fundamentally faith-changing that is written for us in the Exodus.
What is it?