For This Purpose

“For this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16)

If we read this verse in isolation we might be inclined to wish that it spoke of us but the context reveals an entirely different circumstance than what we would desire. The Bible reveals that it is God who raised up nations and kings and brought them down and that He is still doing so even in our day to accomplish His purpose. In addressing Egypt’s Pharaoh on this occasion the Lord gives us the primary reason for the plagues on Egypt. It is “that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth” (v 14) and, “that I may show my power in you and that My name may be declared in all the earth” (v 16; cf. 11:7).

The Egyptians had many gods who arose out of the imaginations of men and were, therefore, imaginary. The God of Israel, on the other hand, was truly God who created all that is and sustains it. The judgments against Pharaoh and Egypt showed the power of God so that they would know that He really is the Creator. None of the gods created in the imagination of men could do such things. The extraordinary nature of the plagues would forever be a testimony of declaration of the name of the Lord. History tells us that the account of the plagues in Egypt has been retold many times in every generation all round the world. God accomplished His purpose in a manner that cannot be explained in naturalistic terms. The attempts of men to do so fall flat in light of the biblical historical record.

The Lord had made a distinction between Israel and Egypt after the third plague. This was so that Israel and Egypt and all who hear of the plagues will know that the plagues have their origin in the Lord God of Israel and not in any other god or naturalistic cause (Exodus 8:22; 9:26; 11:7). The Lord also made a distinction among the Egyptians (9:19-21). Those who took God at His word literally and acted upon it were not destroyed and their animals saved in accordance to the degree that they acted upon the literal word of the Lord.

This is the basis of God’s revelation to people throughout history and, in particular, the salvation that is offered to all people in Jesus Christ. Anyone who will take God at His word, interpreting it literally and act upon that word will not suffer God’s wrath and judgment. The Bible reveals that many did not regard the word of the Lord as faithful and true and they lost everything that they treasured (v 21).

Pharaoh must have been under cover to avoid the hail but he still hardened his heart further against the Lord. This is an eternal principle, seen many times in the Bible, that when a person says “No” to the Lord it becomes harder in the future to say, “Yes” until eventually the heart is so hardened it cannot change.

God could have destroyed Egypt at the beginning and set Israel free (v 15) but He chose to set His people free this way for the purpose stated. This would benefit Israel, the Egyptians and us.

Are you as soft clay in the Potter’s hand, or hard and brittle resisting His attempts to mould you in the way He wants? Pharaoh is an example of one who resists the Lord’s hand.

A Distorted View

“What the Lord says, that I must speak” (Numbers 24:13)

Balak was a leader who had gods of his own making. When men make gods they make them in the likeness of men which means that it appears that they can be manipulated by pride, greed, power or an emotion such as jealousy.

In the face of the living God through a threat from Israel Balak imagined Israel’s God to be like his own and therefore believed that Israel’s God could be manipulated. He sought out Balaam, a prophet of Israel’s God, to act on his behalf since he had no relationship with the one true God.

Balak offered wealth to Balaam to manipulate God into placing a curse on Israel. However, Balaam knew that God could not be manipulated though he himself, a man, was vulnerable and eventually was seduced by the lure of wealth.

Before dealing with Balak the Lord first dealt with Balaam’s sin of greed and disobedience. It seems extraordinary that Balaam did not notice that he was having a conversation with a donkey but it was God’s means of rebuking and correcting him. After that Balaam said to Balak, “The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak” (Numbers 22:38). It would be good if we prayed that our preachers did likewise and for those of us who do speak we should have this same mind that Balaam now had.

Balak’s problem was that he did not understand the nature of the true and living God. Unfortunately it is so easy for us to fall into the same trap as Balak and think we can manipulate God. This is the pagan way and has no sway with God. God does not exist to provide us with wealth, health and pleasure like a genie from a bottle, Father Christmas or any other similar imaginative being from the minds of men. On the contrary, He has created us for His own pleasure.

The first step for us in bringing pleasure to Him is that we come to Him through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The second step is to keep on coming to Him always.