So the Lord said to Moses: “See, I have made you as God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you. And Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to send the children of Israel out of his land. 3 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. 4 But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. 5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them.”
The very last verse of chapter six was this: “But Moses said before the Lord, ‘Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh heed me?’” Then, the beginning of chapter seven is, once again, the Lord’s response to Moses’ discouraged heart. God reminded Moses that Aaron would speak for him and also gave him a rundown of exactly how things would play out. It was time for God to reveal Himself to the Israelites and the Egyptians and prove alone that He is God (Wiersbe). I’m so grateful that God proves Himself time and again to me!
6 Then Moses and Aaron did so; just as the Lord commanded them, so they did. 7 And Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three years old when they spoke to Pharaoh.
Verse six has a critical phrase in it: Then Moses and Aaron did so. Despite the doubt, despite the discouragement, despite the negative confrontation with Pharaoh…they did so. They did as the Lord commanded them to do. You can probably recall times when you knew you needed to be obedient and you weren’t; and hopefully you can recall times when you knew you needed to be obedient and you were. Given the doubt and discouragement Moses had been experiencing, I wonder whether he really felt like obeying. But regardless of his feelings, he made a conscious decision to obey – and we can all take a lesson from that.
Notice the ages of Moses and Aaron – they were by far not young chaps! There were eight decades of preparation under their belts. The next time you feel like God isn’t working in your life or that He isn’t preparing you for something greater – just think about these two guys. When most were ready to retire, they were ready to go to work!
8 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 9 “When Pharaoh speaks to you, saying, ‘Show a miracle for yourselves,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and cast it before Pharaoh, and let it become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the Lord commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent.
There were more than 80 different deities worshipped in Egypt at this time, so Pharaoh wanted proof that this God whom he had never heard of was real. The world asks for signs as well. Jesus said this very thing in John 4:28, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” Most of you reading this live in the Show-Me-State. While that mentality may be okay in some instances, it’s not okay spiritually. We shouldn’t have to see to believe. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the evidence of things not seen.
What was the significance of the rod becoming a serpent? During Egyptian times, the serpent, particularly a cobra, was a special creature and was a sign of immortality. Therefore, the first sign to Pharaoh was a sign that God was immortal. It was also the same sign the Lord gave Moses at Midian, but this time Aaron performed it. Remember God’s word was that Moses would be like God and Aaron his prophet – which is probably why the same miracle was performed in Pharaoh’s presence.
11 But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. 12 For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. 13 And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said.
Ah, a performance by the sorcerers! Whether it was truly a transformation or a sleight of hand, we don’t know; but, regardless, the Lord had the final word by swallowing up their rods! Isaiah 25:8 proclaims this very thing: “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken.” Praise to Him who swallowed our sin [death], wiped away our tears, and spoke grace into our lives.
Funny enough, even though Pharaoh was given the sign he asked for, his heart hardened. This has happened in my own life – and if you’re honest with yourself, probably in yours too. You ask God, “Speak to me, Lord.” And so He does, but it’s not what you wanted to hear. So, instead of obeying Him, your prideful heart convinces you it either wasn’t God to begin with or you turn away completely. Proverbs 28:14 tells us that, “Blessed is the man who always fears the Lord, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.”
14 So the Lord said to Moses: “Pharaoh’s heart is hard; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, when he goes out to the water, and you shall stand by the river’s bank to meet him; and the rod which was turned to a serpent you shall take in your hand. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The Lord God of the Hebrews has sent me to you, saying, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness”; but indeed, until now you would not hear! 17 Thus says the Lord: “By this you shall know that I am the Lord. Behold, I will strike the waters which are in the river with the rod that is in my hand, and they shall be turned to blood. 18 And the fish that are in the river shall die, the river shall stink, and the Egyptians will loathe to drink the water of the river.”’”
The first of the ten plagues was turning water into blood. Interestingly enough, this is not the last time we see water transformed. John records Jesus’ first miracle in John 2 when He turned water into wine. In the New Testament, the wine represents the blood of Christ. So, here we have a beautiful foreshadow of the New Covenant because the blood (or death) was necessary for redemption.
19 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their streams, over their rivers, over their ponds, and over all their pools of water, that they may become blood. And there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in buckets of wood and pitchers of stone.’” 20 And Moses and Aaron did so, just as the Lord commanded. So he lifted up the rod and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants. And all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. 21 The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river. So there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
The first three plagues dealt specifically with the comfort of the Egyptians; the second three plagues inflicted their possessions; and the final four dealing with desolation and death (Arthur Pink, Gleanings in Exodus). There is a progression to God’s warning. At first, He may jolt us a bit, trying to awaken us to the road we are about to wander down. Then, if that doesn’t work, He continues in “louder” methods to grab our attention. Praise God for His persistence! James 5:19 reminds us, “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” As I heard it put before in Bible study, we are to be “godly guardrails” for others. Believers who are willing to be “bumpers” so those around us won’t veer off the path.
22 Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments; and Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the Lord had said. 23 And Pharaoh turned and went into his house. Neither was his heart moved by this. 24 So all the Egyptians dug all around the river for water to drink, because they could not drink the water of the river. 25 And seven days passed after the Lord had struck the river.
What does it mean to harden your heart? Wiersbe says it well: to see the clear evidence of the hand of God at work and still refuse to accept His Word and submit to His will. Ouch. Where in your life have you seen God clearly working and yet still have refused to trust and obey? Chew on that, my friends, because there are areas in all of us which need tending to. Amen.