If you asked a random stranger about the story of the 10 plagues, more than likely they could give you a rough retelling and perhaps even name a few of the plagues. And if a stranger couldn’t, you could bet anyone who made it through Sunday School as a kid could. This is because the story and the plagues are so very familiar to us, yet how many really understand why God used 10 plagues to rescue His people from Egypt.
After all, God could have surely rescued His people by another way. Perhaps he could have moved on the heart of Pharaoh to show compassion and mercy towards the Hebrews, and then out of generosity let the slaves go free. Yet instead, God moved on Pharaoh’s heart to harden it, so that it would take 10 plagues of judgment before Pharaoh would set the Hebrews free.
So why did God do it this way? He actually answers this question over and over again through the chapters that span the plagues, and that answer is God rescued His people through 10 great plagues to reveal both His glory in salvation and His glory in judgment. For the Exodus is not just a story about God saving a people, it’s also a story of God destroying a people.
Here is what God says to Moses,
“But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 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. 5 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.” (Exodus 7:3-5)
So why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart? So that He can display His glory through great acts of judgment on Pharaoh and the Egyptians, who have been beating the Hebrews and killing their babies. For through these great acts of judgment, God says both the Egyptians (7:5) and the Hebrews (10:1-2) will know that He is the one true living God!
In our ultra-tolerant cultural, it’s a little hard to swallow the truth that the God of the Bible would actual judge, and then pour out judgment on people. But here we find a story that reveals God is both One who saves and One who destroys. The question is, which group of people will you find yourself in?
For there was another Exodus event where God’s mercy and judgment both fell, and that event was the cross. For on the cross God rescued His own by destroying His Son in their place. On the cross that wrath of God fell much like it did on the Egyptians, yet not on well deserving sinners, but on the only sinless human being to ever walk the planet.
And now let’s fast forward to the end of the age (or the end of your life). For at that moment you will find yourself in the company of one group or another, the company of the rescued or the destroyed. In light of this news, don’t be like Pharaoh who hardened his heart against God, but with all your heart trust in the Lord Jesus and be among that group who will be saved forevermore.