The worst since records began….denial and betrayal

11 02 2011

DAY FORTY-TWO : Exodus 9 v. 1 – 10 v. 29; Matthew 26 v. 69 – 27 v. 10; Psalm 20 v. 1 – 9

I found it interesting to reflect on Pharaoh’s hardening of his heart, refusing freedom for God’s people, and President Mubarak’s ‘refusal’ to grant the Egyptian people the ‘freedom’ they are protesting for, an immediate handing over of power, today.
The modern-day Pharaoh hardening his heart ?

EXODUS 9 – three more plagues : Livestock die, boils, hail.

Livestock – again, only the Israelite livestock survive, untouched. Pharaoh is ‘unyielding and would not let the people go.’

Boils – Moses and Aaron throw soot into the air, which resulted in a fine dust over Egypt causing horrendous boils to inflict the people. Even the magicians (who a few verses ago were mimicking the miracles) are unable to stand because of their sores. Pharaoh’s heart is further hardened.

Hail – this plague is gone into in greater detail than the others. Again, Moses and Aaron intercept Pharaoh and warn him of what’s to come next. God’s message for Pharaoh includes,
“I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
This story of God v. Pharaoh will be told from one generation to another, forever and ever.
v. 20 indicates that some of Pharaoh’s officials were God-fearers, and others not.
When Moses stretches out his staff, hail and lightening begin to devastate the land.
We often hear of extreme weather conditions being the worst ‘since records began’. Here, the hail is described as ‘the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation’.
Goshen, where the Israelites live, is the only place to escape !

Pharaoh appears to repent, acknowledging his sin, and begging Moses to stop the hail, and he will let the people go.
However, once again, when the hail does stop, Pharaoh shows he was insincere, he still does not fear the Lord, he hardens his heart and refuses to let them go.

EXODUS 10 – Locusts and darkness.
Locusts – again v. 1 /2 explain that God has a purpose in Pharaoh’s hardened heart, to enable Him to perform His miracles of power, that future generations may always remember what God did.
Pharaoh’s officials begin to beg Pharaoh to relent – can’t he see the damage being done to his country, Egypt. They beg Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.
Pharaoh offers a concession to Moses and Aaron – just the men can go. Not what they were wanting to hear, so the staff is stretched out and the locusts appear.
Again, Pharaoh confesses his sin, and begs Moses to stop the locust attack. But, again, when the locusts are all gone, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened further……

Darkness – no warning this time, darkness everywhere. The description of a ‘darkness that can be felt’ is chilling ! This time Pharaoh says that the men, women and children may go, but not the Israelite livestock. Moses says it’s all or nothing !
Now, Pharaoh banishes Moses from his presence. They won’t see each other again !
But, it’s about to get very, very messy !

MATTHEW
Peter disowns Jesus
– what a frightening and heart-breaking moment for Peter, the Rock. He denies knowing Jesus, his ‘best friend’, rather than standing up for him and potentially suffering with / for him.
I am reminded of the wonderful Paul Field song, “Stony Ground” which Peter sings after this moment, in the musical ‘Daybreak’ :

“Surely this is stony ground on which to build a kingdom.
 Surely, Lord, You might have found a better man than me.
 There must be many, Lord, much worthier than I…
 For I will only let You down…..”
 

(Peter’s Denial, by Michael D. O’Brien)

Judas hangs himself – the betrayer appears not to have expected this outcome. Judas’ aim may have been simply to cause Jesus to react and herald the uprising Judas longed for. He returns the ‘blood money’, but the chief priests and elders show him no mercy, and so he goes out and hangs himself. What a devastating last few hours for Judas. He couldn’t forgive himself for what he’d done, ‘betraying innocent blood’.

PSALM
“May the Lord answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you….
 may He give you the desire of your heart, and make all your plans succeed….
 some trust in chariots and horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God….”
My re-created thoughts :

today’s readings get me to reflect upon my response to God :

Like Pharaoh, do I try to do a bargain with God, insincere in my true motives and commitment ?
Like Peter, do I pledge unfailing allegiance in one moment and then deny being His either by word or by action ?
Like Judas, do I hang myself to readily (so to speak) on a rope of my own guilt and unforgiveness ?
Like David, do I look to God alone for my protection, for the desires of my heart, for my trust and dependence ?

Lord, soften Pharaoh’s heart (even President Mubarak, today).

Lord, soften the hardness in my heart.
Lord, strengthen my resolve to bear witness for You, and not be ruled by fear.
Lord, enable me to forgive myself, to receive Your gracious word, and life free from self-destructive guilt.
Lord, increase my desire to live only for You, to depend only on You,
my protector, provider and faithful Saviour.
AMEN.

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