God first appeared to Moses in the burning bush while he was tending Jethro’s sheep in Midian (cf. 3:2). There God revealed His presence, promises, purpose (cf. 3:1-22) and demonstrated His power (cf. 4:1-17) both through and for Moses by His covenant name,Yahweh, on Mount Sinai. However, Pharaoh’s response to Moses, “I do not know the LORD” (5:2), became thematic in the Lord’s descriptions of what the plagues were to signify for Egypt: “that you may know that I am the LORD” (8:10; see also 7:5, 17; 8:22; 9:14, 29; 10:2; 11:7). Pharaoh’s knowledge of Yahweh (or lack thereof) was as much about defiance against God’s claims as it was about ignorance of His identity. Just as God “knew” Israel’s suffering (2:25), Pharaoh would come to know who Yahweh is. Pharaoh’s knowledge would be more than cognitive recognition or acknowledgment, his knowledge of God would also become the inclination or posture of the knower in relation to what is known. By the series of increasing severity of plagues Pharaoh would come to bow in obedience to the voice of The LORD or die fighting against Him.
Four time The LORD refers to Israel as “My people” (vv. 20-23) in His message to Pharaoh describing the fourth plague to be sent on Egypt. In this plague (flies) God began to make a clear distinction between Israel and Egypt (v. 22) by setting apart the land of Goshen, which was originally given to Jacob and his family by the pharaoh who had known and honored Joseph (Gen. 47:4–6; cf. Gen. 45:10; 46:28). The distinctions God drew were for the expressed purpose that Pharaoh (and the Egyptians) might know His identity and presence, that He works on behalf of His people (cf. 7:5).
While Pharaoh was initially reluctant to attribute to God the damage caused by the plagues or what they represented, he began to plead with Moses more often in order to gain relief (see v. 8) while still refusing to listen to the command to let Israel go. In an attempt to maintain his authority, Pharaoh offered a compromise that Israel may go and serve God “within the land” (v. 25). Moses gave the logistical problem with Pharaoh’s compromising offer (v.26), but the real reason Moses rejected Pharaoh: Israel must go out to serve the Lord “as He tells us” (v. 27). Nothing short of complete obedience is acceptable to our God.
Israel’s relationship with God through Moses’ leadership prefigured God’s relationship with the church through Jesus’ leadership. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who tends to His Father’s sheep. The first plagues seemed to hurt Israel more than Egypt, their burden of making bricks was increased as they were forced to gather their own straw. But as God made distinctions between His children and the Egyptians by increasing the severity of plagues on Egypt and setting apart Goshen, Israel’s burdens were alleviated altogether. Christ revealed God’s presence, promises, purpose and power by His life and work eventuating in His sacrificial death and resurrection. He makes the distinction between His children and the children of Satan through the covenant relationship received by faith in His atoning sacrifice. Through Him our burdens are lightened and will eventually be alleviated. But for this present time we share the same environment with Satan’s children (like wheat and chaff). But God will eventually separate and alleviate all burdens.
Sin continues to be the chief adversary precluding vibrant praise and worship in our fellowship with God. Although Jesus has already defeated our adversaries and eased our burdens, like Moses defeat Pharaoh in Egypt by the power of God, we await final separation from the our Egypt (which is this sin cursed environment). The increased severity of plagues indicated the great length to which God was willing to go in procurement of His praise on His terms. Nothing short of complete obedience is acceptable to our God.
Have you completely surrendered to the authority of God in your life? Though we are plagued by sin, increased severity of trials still indicate the great length to which God will go to extend His grace to you. Nothing short of complete obedience is acceptable. What will you do as you await the final separation from your sin cursed environment? How many plagues must He send for you to “know” Him?