Text: Exodus 6:28-7:13
For a second time, Moses and Aaron would walk into Pharaoh’s court, and deliver the very same message as before: “Let God’s people go.” Moses knew this didn’t work the first time. So God prepares Moses for what’s going to happen.
[7:3] 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.
What?! If Moses is anything like you and me, he was probably thinking, “Well, why would you do that? I thought the goal was to convince Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go free. God, why would you send me on this errand, delivering this message, but then insure it won’t work by purposefully hardening Pharaoh’s heart? Instead, why don’t you soften his heart, so he’ll let Israel go free, and we can be done with this!” But that wasn’t God’s plan.
[7:5] The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD…
God is not limited to just one goal and one outcome. God is going to free a couple million people from slavery, AND God is going to show His power and His glory, not only to Moses and to Israel, but to Egypt as well. Here we see God’s judgment and mercy, at the same time. God shows His judgment by making Pharaoh and the Egyptians suffer as they have caused God’s people to suffer. But God also shows mercy, to let the Egyptians see His many signs and wonders, so that they will know who the One True God is, and trust in Him. And some did. We know later on, when Israel left Egypt, some of the Egyptians trusted in the LORD and went with them.
So, Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded them. But before they go, God tells Moses exactly what will happen. “Pharaoh is going to ask you for proof that your God is real. So here’s what you’re going to do: Remember at the burning bush, how I told you to throw down your staff and I turned it into a serpent? And you picked it up and it became a staff again? That’s what you’ll do in front of Pharaoh.”
[7:10] So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent.
At this point, I would imagine that Moses was a little relieved to see the stick turned to a snake. It actually worked – again! He probably looked up at Pharaoh, expected to see a look of shock and horror. But to Moses’ horror, Pharaoh was unimpressed.
[7:11] Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts.  For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents.
Put yourself there in that moment. Feel the roller coaster of emotion Moses must have been feeling. Before ever coming here again, Moses expressed his fear to God. God assured Him He is sovereign, He is in control. Moses trusts God, goes back, literally putting his neck on the line, confronts Pharaoh, and does this miracle with the staff turning to a snake.
But not only is Pharaoh not impressed, he also has a couple of sorcerers who apparently can do the same thing! We don’t know if they used slight of hand, or if it was actual demonic power. Either way, it looked like they made their staffs become serpents as well. In that moment, Moses is probably thinking, “God, you didn’t tell me this was going to happen!”
Remember, God is sovereign. Realize that God never realizes. He already knows. He is working His plan in His time. God wants Moses to be comforted in this. Take courage in God’s sovereignty. God isn’t surprised, and God isn’t finished. He’ll have the last word. So what does God do next?
[7:12b] But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.
Picture it. While Pharaoh and his magicians are snickering, their smirks slowly melt from their faces as they watch the snake from Aaron’s staff eat, to literally “gobble up” the other two snakes. Talk about a mic drop moment.
[7:13] Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.
This miracle of the staff and the serpent is not the grand finale. It’s just the opening act. It’s going to set up much greater miracles, greater displays of God’s judgment and power and might in the 10 plagues that that are coming later.
For now, God is emphasizing this one central truth to Moses, to Israel, to the Egyptians, and to us today. And that is, God is sovereign and in control. He is in control in the Book of Exodus. And God is in control in our lives and our circumstances today:
- God is sovereign over all earthly authorities. That doesn’t mean all authority is godly or uses their power for good, but it means that God is the one who has ultimate authority over every human ruler, over every human institution. We are to respect those in authority over us. We are to pray for our government. But if our leaders pass laws that are contrary to God’s laws, we are to obey God rather than man. We are to hold God’s word over man’s word.
- God is sovereign over the heart of every man. Where this often becomes confusing or difficult for us is when we talk about God being sovereign in salvation. No man seeks after God (Romans 3:11). God pursues us. We are the ones who were lost, and God found us. We were the ones dead in our sins. God is the one who made us alive. It is God alone who softens the heart. It is God alone who grants the gift of repentance. It is God alone who opens our eyes to the gospel. It is God alone who saves. And it is God alone who gets the glory.
- God is sovereign over your circumstances. Because God is sovereign, He has intricately woven our lives (along with our trials and struggles) into his grander plan of redemption. Who would come before us. Who would come after us. Who would share the gospel with us. Who we would share the gospel with. Who we would be influenced by. Who we would influence, for the sake of the kingdom.
- God is sovereign over your failures. We never blame God for our sin. But if God is over every circumstance in my life, that includes my failures. The devil wants you to be paralyzed by your past. God wants you to grow from it. Fear and doubt and self-pity look back at our failures and say “God could never use me. God could never forgive me.” God looks at our failings and says, “I can use that.” Because the one who has failed in the past, that person knows when something good happens, it’s not them – it’s God. And God will get the glory.
Trust in Him. Acknowledge Him. Lean on Him. And He will guide you. And when God doesn’t do what we want, the way we want, when we want, we don’t always know why. But we can know this: He knows more than we do, He knows better than we do, His purposes are better than ours, His plan is better, He’s more powerful, more merciful, more loving than we are. He will not only can take a bad thing and make it good, but God can take that bad thing and turn it into 1000 good things.