So, picture this. Your boss gives you an assignment to convince your co-worker to let something go. He gives you specific instructions on how you’re to accomplish this task, and at the end says, “But just so you know, your co-worker is not going to give it up”. I’m pretty confident that my response would go something like this, “Then why should I bother trying?” What would your response be? Does it seem a little crazy for your boss to give you this assignment knowing that it won’t work?
In Exodus, this is basically what God said to Moses. Instead of saying that Pharaoh just won’t do what Moses asks him, God says that He is intentionally going to harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he won’t do it. Does this seem a little counter-intuitive to anyone else?
As someone who has heard this story her entire life, I sometimes gloss over the fact that Moses wasn’t successful in convincing Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, not because Moses was inept, but because God chose to harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he wouldn’t let them go. If I were Moses, I think I’d struggle with this a bit. I think I’d feel like it was a complete waste of time to take on this task. But Moses doesn’t respond that way. He doesn’t balk when God tells him that he’s going to harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he will not let the Israelites go. He doesn’t decide to be disobedient because he knows he won’t be able to accomplish the task. No, he does what God asks him to do.
How many of us have questioned God when He’s directed us in some way that didn’t seem to make sense? (“But God, I need a job. Why didn’t I get that one? It seemed so perfect!” “But God, we need a bigger house. Why are you making us stay here?” “But God, all my friends are married, why am I still single?”). The answer is all of us. We have all questioned God’s sovereignty because we were relying on our own understanding and not His. We trust what we can see, and we fail to believe God when we can’t see what He’s doing. We can see God’s sovereignty and faithfulness displayed throughout all of scripture, yet we often struggle to trust it in the tough moments.
While Moses never explicitly questioned God’s abilities, he certainly questioned his own. When God originally called him to this assignment, Moses protested, arguing that he wasn’t competent because of his speech. Exodus 4:10- 12 says, “But Moses said to the LORD, ‘Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’ Then the LORD said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak’”. Despite his objections, Moses went back to Egypt to complete the task God had called him to do. Ultimately, Moses was obedient, but it took him a little while to get there.
God is gracious toward Moses in this story because He tells him why he’s hardening Pharaoh’s heart. In Exodus 7:3-5, God says, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”
What is God telling you to do today that doesn’t make sense to you? Are you questioning God and delaying obedience, or are you trusting that He is always working for our good and His glory? As someone who always wants to have a reason, always wants to know the plan and the end result, I can tell you that my typical response is questioning before trusting. My prayer for all of us is that we would learn to trust Him without delay.
Colossians 1: 16-17 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together”. If we can believe that, we can trust that He is sovereign and is working for our good and His glory.