Book of Exodus Chapter Ten Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Locusts And Darkness
Don't harden your heart against God, for at some point He may harden it Himself, turning your earthly "victory" into eternal loss, much like it was for Pharaoh in Verses 1-2: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them,2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.” And indeed those of Israel have been telling their sons and daughters what God did to Pharaoh for thousands of years. No one wants to become a "mockery," but it will happen to all who reject the Lord, now and in eternity.
Verses 3-4 inform a stubborn Pharaoh of an eighth plague that was to come upon his land: "Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let My people go, that they may serve Me. 4 For if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory.'" Locusts have been a plague on the farmlands of this world since the beginning of recorded time, and this was to be an unprecedented infestation of the hungry little monsters. As Verses 5-6 predicted, "They shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one will be able to see the land. They will also eat the rest of what has escaped—what is left to you from the hail—and they will eat every tree which sprouts for you out of the field. 6 Then your houses shall be filled and the houses of all your servants and the houses of all the Egyptians, something which neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day that they came upon the earth until this day.' And he turned and went out from Pharaoh." Notice Moses' growing annoyance at the resistance of the Pharaoh...it can be upsetting that others don't see what God has revealed to you. And this Pharaoh, who refused to "humble" himself before Almighty God, did not WANT to see.
In Verse 7, "Pharaoh’s servants said to him, 'How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?'" The economy of Egypt was ruined, and just like sovereigns now, Pharaoh had advisors who were to help him rule the country through wise suggestions. Pharaoh was dangerous to his friends and enemies alike, but some of his advisors had families and loved ones who might not survive whatever additional plagues might be coming onto the land, and they urged him to release Israel. Pharaoh listened to their pleas and "So (in Verse 8), Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh, and he said to them, “Go, serve the Lord your God! Who are the ones that are going?'" It sounded like Pharaoh was ready to let the people go, and in Verse 9, "Moses said, 'We shall go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we shall go, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.'" No compromise.
"Then he (Pharaoh) said to them (in Verses 10-11), 'Thus may the Lord be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Take heed, for evil is in your mind.11 Not so! Go now, the men among you, and serve the Lord, for that is what you desire.' So they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence." Pharaoh was still acting like a petulant child rebelling against his parents, which is the way it is for people who rebel against God. "The Lord had better be with you, Moses and Aaron," Pharaoh was saying, "if I ever let you go." He continued, "Take the men, but leave everybody else!"
And so the Lord continued His judgment against the land, as seen in Verses 12-15: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, that they may come up on the land of Egypt and eat every plant of the land, even all that the hail has left.' 13 So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the Lord directed an east wind on the land all that day and all that night; and when it was morning, the east wind brought the locusts.14 The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled in all the territory of Egypt; they were very numerous. There had never been so many locusts, nor would there be so many again.15 For they covered the surface of the whole land, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every plant of the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Thus nothing green was left on tree or plant of the field through all the land of Egypt." The Lord brought an "east wind" full of locusts, more of them than ever seen by anyone, before or since that ravaged time. Have you noticed that God does not need our prayers, anymore than He needed Moses or his "staff?" And yet, in places like 1 Thessalonians 5:17, we are encouraged to "Pray without ceasing." You and your prayers are WANTED by Almighty God—because He loves you—just like He loved—and continues to love—Moses.
The lives of Moses and Aaron had been turned upside down, and when trouble comes, it's important to remember these events in Exodus...recognizing that our troubles might not be about us at all, but instead be about people we meet or will meet in the future. Israel always was intended to not only come to the Lord themselves, but also bring others to Him. The Egyptians, including Pharaoh, were being given the opportunity to trust in the Lord right at this minute, as glimpsed in Verses 16-17: "Then Pharaoh hurriedly called for Moses and Aaron, and he said, 'I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. 17 Now therefore, please forgive my sin only this once, and make supplication to the Lord your God, that He would only remove this death from me.'" Repentance is a key step toward faith, and though Pharaoh would choose to not accept the offer, he was being given a great opportunity. What is your response when the Lord reaches out to you?
Another responsive person in this narrative account is Moses, who was becoming ever more sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In Verse 18, he did not hesitate, but "went out from Pharaoh and made supplication to the Lord." He prayed immediately, and the Lord responded quickly as well, for it would soon be time for Israel to leave Egypt. In Verses 19-20, "So the Lord shifted the wind to a very strong west wind which took up the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea; not one locust was left in all the territory of Egypt.20 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go." The locusts suddenly were gone as led by the Lord, and notice again that control even over Pharaoh's own "heart" had shifted from Pharaoh to God. The time to trust in the Lord is now, before the right to choose is lost—forever.
Most of us live in an age when light can be ours at the flip of a switch, making the Ninth Plague in Verses 21-23 especially frightening: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt.'22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days.23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings." Can you imagine it? A blind person certainly could, but for everybody else, what would it be like to suddenly be plunged into utter, unbroken darkness for three days? Whatever lamps they had did not work. I remember what it was like to be in an underground cave as the tour guide turned off the overhead lights...it was like the utter darkness could be felt. And to add insult to injury for Egypt, the lamps of Israel DID work—they could see!
In Verse 24, "Then Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, 'Go, serve the Lord; only let your flocks and your herds be detained. Even your little ones may go with you.'" Most of us probably would have taken Pharaoh's offer at this point. All the people could go, even the children, but Moses had a more complete focus than we do—as he had said to Pharaoh on a number of occasions, the point was for Israel to serve the Lord, and if their animals did not accompany them, the sacrifices to God of a nation could not occur. And so we find the reply of Moses in Verses 25-26: "But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice them to the Lord our God. 26Therefore, our livestock too shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we shall take some of them to serve the Lord our God. And until we arrive there, we ourselves do not know with what we shall serve the Lord.'" Notice that Moses was becoming stronger all the time. The hesitancy seen before was now gone as he confronted the Pharaoh with uncompromising words.
The Lord, however, was not done with the Pharaoh, with Egypt and certainly not Israel...and so in Verse 27 we read His response: "But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go." The athiest or agnostic thinks that he or she is acting indepenently of the God they don't want, but the one who will not have faith in Him becomes a puppet of the very God he or she doesn't believe in.
And now we see the final words of Pharaoh and Moses within this meeting, in Verses 28-29: "Then Pharaoh said to him, 'Get away from me! Beware, do not see my face again, for in the day you see my face you shall die!'29 Moses said, “You are right; I shall never see your face again!'" It would be frightening to face the anger of the ruler of a country...to be insulted and reviled by someone who has the power to destroy you and your hopes for a better life. Moses was now strong in spirit, even fearless, for God had brought him on a journey of growing faith, just as He is doing with each one who is willing to believe and receive. Notice in Moses' response that faith helps us to know the unknowable...he knew a bit of the future—that this was to be the last of his negotiations with the king of Egypt. Yes they would meet again, but their formal negotiations were finished.
Lord, please help me. I confess to You the unbelief You already know about. I am willing to believe. Please increase my faith, that I may serve You and love You, even when it seems difficult to do so. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.