13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, 14 or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. 16 But 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. (Exodus 9:13-16 NIV)
God has shown restraint in his treatment of pharaoh (although worse is to come). Pharaoh and his people have suffered a great deal – gnats, flies, a plague on livestock and boils. God contrasts what could have happened with what God has done and might do in the last part of these verses.
God has raised up (or spared) pharaoh for the purpose of showing his power and that God’s name might be proclaimed.
Although not mentioned here, it seems the contest is not just between pharaoh and Moses but also between the God of the Hebrews and the gods of the Egyptians. God’s power would seem to be greater – in fact, there are no other gods to mention here. The gods of pharaoh are not invoked or even mentioned.
This passage seems a turning point – pharaoh will not relent and things will go from bad to worse.
It is interesting to note with this entire narrative that the blame for the suffering lies squarely on pharaoh’s shoulders. We struggle to apply the lessons of this story today – do a leaders’ actions not only have consequences directly but also indirectly in terms of God’s response?
Even if I am unsure what to do and say about these violent plagues it is clear that what leaders do have consequences and that God holds them responsible. If God holds pharaoh accountable how much more me (and others) who are called to lead in the setting of God’s community?
How is God acting in my situation to demonstrate divine power? To see that his name is proclaimed? Am I as obtuse as pharaoh? Do I fail to recognize when God is speaking to me and/or to my community?
Lord I cannot ever remember thinking that you have sent plagues to afflict me. But show me where I have, by my own desires and will, frustrated your purposes – for me, for my family, for my church, for others. May I proclaim your name voluntarily and gladly. May I acknowledge and live in your power, revealed most of all in your son, Jesus. Amen.