The Mighty Hand of God – Dr. Charles Stanley

Dr. Charles Stanley: Sometimes we read the Bible and we know that the story is true, but somehow, we don't get the message. Very important you get the message of this passage of Scripture because all of us could be guilty of doing the same thing that these Egyptians did. And so, when we look at this passage, do not look at it just as some historical fact, but is God saying something to me? Is there a pattern here that was found in the life of Pharaoh that could be a pattern I find in my own life? So, let me catch you up on where we are. God spoke to Joseph, who is in prison, who interpreted a dream. Ended up, Pharaoh of Egypt freed him, took him, his family of about seventy, put them in Goshen in Egypt, the best of the land. And now almost four hundred years have gone by. So, a number of Pharaohs. This particular Pharaoh looked around and thought, "Those Israelites, those Hebrews are growing and growing, and they're probably somewhere around two million by now. And they're in the best of the land. If we were to have an enemy, they may side up with our enemies." So, in order to prevent any problem here, I'm just going to enslave that whole crowd. And so, he put Israel into enslavement, building him monuments to himself and so forth. Well, somebody grew up in his family, that is, in the family of Pharaoh's daughter. And he happened to be a Hebrew. He grew up and was educated in Pharaoh's palace. Then he made a mistake. He got banished on the other side of the desert, and now God is speaking to his heart. And at a burning bush, God gave him his next big task. That is: you're to go back to Egypt. I'm going to set My people free. Now naturally, Moses had lots of questions to ask, but the truth is, that was His commandment. So, what we have here is God using Moses to work in the life of Pharaoh in a way that isn't just something distant from the way you and I live, but it should be a lesson to us. And so, I want us to notice what's happening. God says to him, he said, "Lord said to Moses, 'And when you go back to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I've put in your power, I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.'" Now what kind of a command is that? Well, that doesn't sound very fair, but God is not a matter of fair or not being fair, that's His command because he wanted to do something. He wanted to subject Egypt to submission to Almighty God and to know that He's the one true God. So that's exactly what happens. "Afterwards Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, "Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness."' And so Pharaoh said, 'Who is this Lord that I should obey His voice to let people go? I do not know the Lord, and besides, I will not let Israel go.'" Well now, God knew that's what was going to happen. In fact, God begins His work in Pharaoh's life and begins His whole process of liberating the Jews, that is Israel, the Hebrews, from Egyptian bondage. And what happens is that hearing this, Pharaoh increases their labor, causes them to make bricks without straw, so everything's getting worse. And naturally, Moses is not very popular for making this happen. But God says four times in this sixth chapter, "I am the Lord, I am the Lord, I am the Lord, I am the Lord. I'm going to fix all of this." And so, as a result, God begins to send pestilences, the word is--that is, He sends like an arrow on the Egyptians. And so, one by one, He begins to work in Pharaoh's heart in order for him to let the people go. And you and I know the end result is that they were released. So, I want us to notice what happens here. And that is Moses goes to Pharaoh and says, "Here's what God said, 'Let My people go.'" And as a result, he naturally says I'm not going to let them go. And so, God says alright. And what happens is God turns the waters of the Nile River to blood. Now, the Nile was like a life stream for them. It was for food and for transportation, and the Nile river they worshipped. And so, here's what He did. He turned it into blood. And the people had to dig around the edge of the river to find water to drink. Seven days passed after that. And then, God sent Moses back again, said, "Look! I want you to let my people go, and if not, here's what you can expect." And so, Pharaoh naturally said, "No, I'm not letting them go." So then, there came this flock of frogs. And so the Bible says that there were frogs coming from everywhere. The people, everywhere they went, "Moses said, 'The honor is yours to tell me: when shall I entreat for you and your servants and your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your house.'" And so, what happens is frogs were everywhere. Can you imagine going to bed at night and all of a sudden, you feel something down at your feet? Then on your legs, up here-- frogs, frogs, frogs. Frogs on the floor, frogs in the street, frogs, frogs, frogs everywhere. And so, what does Pharaoh do? He calls for Moses and says, "You know, get these critters out of here and I'll let them go." And what does he do? He decides not to. Now, watch this. There are lessons here about making a decision and then not keeping your word. He says, "I will let them go. Get rid of the frogs and I'll let them go." But he didn't let them go. And so, Moses had to confront him again, in spite of all the things that were going on. And so, the next thing that happened was He sent gnats. And so, all of a sudden, all over Egypt, gnats. Just think about gnats all over you. And this is what was happening. It had to be so bad that even Pharaoh said, you know, get rid of the gnats and I'll let them go. Well, he didn't mean that. So over and over and over again, God gives Pharaoh an opportunity to do the right thing. But Pharaoh does what a lot of people do, they make God promises when they're really hurting badly and they keep them about two weeks, maybe a month. Have you ever told God if He'd take the pressure off you, here's what you would do? Did you ever make God a promise? Say amen. Did you ever break it? Say amen. That's exactly right. And so, that's what Pharaoh did. Think about the pattern. We follow the pattern of a pagan. We made promises to God and don't keep them. And so, he's confronted again with Moses. Moses says, "You've got to let My people go. And so, he says, "I'm not going to let them go." And the Bible says and then he sends insects, all kinds of insects begin to penetrate all over Egypt. And so, what does he do? He reneges again. He doesn't let them go. So, they have a confrontation, and then there are difficult problems coming because what happens. He says, "If you don't let them go, I'm going to kill all of your livestock. All of the Egyptian livestock. Going to kill all of your cows. Not going to have anything to eat. You're going to suffer the results." And so, watch this. Pharaoh in his arrogance, He says, "I'm not going to do it." And so, they suffer the results. Now, all the people in Egypt are suffering the results of all of these things as a result of one man's decision that is to have his way, to deny God His command and to deny God's people their freedom. Because what they asked Pharaoh was, "We want to go for a season, and--of worship and praise to God." He wouldn't let them go. And so, session after session with Pharaoh, they confront Pharaoh with the fact that he's disobeying Almighty God. So then, Moses confronts him again and says, "God says let His people go. Are you going to let them go or not?" And the Bible says that God lets boils break out. So, all over Egypt, this is not just moms and dads and grandfathers, but children, everybody's breaking out with boils. So, imagine what they've gone through by now, and that is the water's turned to blood. Got frogs and gnats and insects and livestock and boils, and still nothing's happening. And then of course, he's confronted again. And this time there are hailstorms. Hailstorms everywhere, which would beat down the crops and animals, whatever. It's all a matter of devastation to say to Pharaoh, "Let My people go." Now, God knows he's not going to. He knows he's not going to. And so, He keeps giving him an opportunity, and he keeps saying he will, but then he does not. So then, of course, comes the grasshoppers. And I think about, you know, grasshoppers everywhere. Grasshoppers cover the earth, covered everything. Think of all the innocent people who were suffering because of one man's decision. And I think about sometimes how whole families suffer because of either, it's just the dad or the mother or the son or the daughter. It's hard to disobey God privately. It's hard to disobey God alone, because all of us have influence or relationships in life or testimony. And we disobey God, it isn't--you may think it's private, but it's not. And everybody in the family suffers when somebody disobeys God. Well, here's the head of Egypt, Pharaoh himself. And he refuses to let God's people go, and so everybody suffers as a result. He's made promise after promise after promise, and God knows that all these promises are going to fall apart. That's not going to be true. And then he comes to the last one I want to mention in this message, and that is people wake up one morning and they think, "This is a long night." And God has cast darkness all over Egypt except down in Goshen where God's people are. And it's interesting what he says about it. Because it is so dark. Listen to this, it's so dark that when the people reached out to touch each other, they couldn't--nobody could see anything; absolute, total blackness, total darkness. Now, I would think of all the things that happened, that would be one of the most frightening. Am I blind? Is this that I can't see? And then your husband or your wife and children, what's wrong with--? We can't see anything. For three days, nobody could see anything. Did he let them go? No, he did not. And then, of course, there's one last one, which I will not deal with today on purpose. And so, nine of these strikes, that's what a plague was called, have happened to all of Egypt. Everybody has suffered except that band of Hebrews down in Goshen. So, let's think about this for a moment. When God confronts you with something, or when He tells you something, or you pray and you ask Him about something and He's required something of you, do you take that really seriously? Most people think, "Well, you know, I did pray about it and I asked God to forgive me," and on and on they--they had no intention of changing their activity, no intention of changing their behavior. But they say, "Lord, please forgive me in Jesus's name, amen." God knew that you did not mean to change. Or you may have had a momentary feeling, "Well, yes, I will change. I want things to get better." But you don't. Is God showing us the fallacy of making promises to God we do not intend to keep, or even if we intend to keep them, we don't keep them? In other words, Let's call it what it is: willful, deliberate disobedience to God when He has made His way clear of what He's required of me. And it's amazing how people think they can make promises to God and just move on and act like nothing ever happened. Making a promise to God is serious business. And we watch this happen all through these chapters. Pharaoh is not going to live up to his promise because that's his heart and God knows it. What does it take to finally convince Pharaoh to let the people of God go? Major, major, major challenge. But the important thing is this. What's our lesson here? What is God saying to us? And I think probably all of us have said at some time, "Yes, Lord, yes. I thank You very--thank You for forgiving me. You can count on me, God." And in our hearts, we might think we possibly would, but we're not all that convinced we're going to be obedient to Him. How many times do we have to confess our sins before we're forgiven? How many? Well, most people don't know the answer to that, hmm? If we confess our sin, He's faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But if my confession is only this deep, God doesn't even recognize that. If my confession is heart-deep, soul-deep, spirit-deep, that's one thing. But if I just say, well, you say, "Well now, doesn't the Bible say confession means to agree with?" Yes. But if I really and truly agree with God out of my heart, out of my spirit, out of my soul, genuinely confessing, genuinely agreeing with God, I am going to make a change in my conduct, in my conversation, my character if I really mean that. So, all of us make mistakes. All of us sin at times, probably something that's maybe brief or not really a big serious kind of situation or circumstance, or maybe so. But whatever we ask God to forgive us for and we know in our heart, we're just--we just-- here's what we want: we want relief for the moment. Ahh! And so, I think many people find themselves in a lifestyle of sin, who've been confessing it for years and years and years. Confessing the same thing. Well, the Bible says if we confess our sins, which means that we agree with Him about it. Agreeing with Him about it and changing are two different things. And Moses confronted Pharaoh. Pharaoh would finally have to agree, and yet he had no intention of changing, until the final and last plague, and even then, he did not change. You say, "Why do you spend all that time on all of that?" For the simple reason I think many people are living a life that they think's pretty good. But the question is: What's the condition of your heart? That is, when you are by yourself, you're alone and it's just you and God, are you genuinely truthful with God when you deal with sin in your life? When something comes along, you know that you have to deal with it. Do you just make Him a promise and claim the promise, or do you really and truly deal with it? If I deal with sin, that means not only am I going to confess it, but I am, and I'm going to agree with Him, but I'm going to turn away from it. I may falter, but I'm going to turn away from it. If my confession is all that I do, and I know in my heart I'm going to sin again, I'm going to do the same thing again, is it acceptable to God to confess and to agree, knowing in your heart it's going to be right back again? Now, look at this. When you see what God did to a whole nation of people because they would not recognize Jehovah God as God, would not free God's people, in order for God to accomplish His purpose, He was willing to cause great harm, great suffering, great trial in order to accomplish His purpose. When I look at this passage of Scripture, I think, God, how much gospel have we heard in America? Who in America wants to know the truth? They can't hear it, they can turn on the television or the radio or go to church or talk to a godly friend if they want to know. And are we not slipping and deliberately walking in a direction as if we know what God said. We've had churches and gospel preaching and all these years and we keep moving the same way, same direction. Will we move it in a direction to a point at which God says, "No more." No one has ever lived in a society like this. And yet, we are gradually drifting in our attitudes, in things that we accept as okay, deliberate, willful disobedience to God that God is very clear in His Word about thou shalt not. Attitudes, dress, our whole moral fiber falling apart, and we say that we're Christians, and we say we love God. And it isn't just lost people, but God's people compromising their convictions and think, "Well, you know, if I ask God to forgive me, I'm sure He will." And I think about our whole nation, where we're headed. If ever we needed to be revived, genuine revival, a whole new awakening in our nation, this is the time. When you listen to all the people who are giving their speeches and all the things that they're promising and all the rest, you think, "Where are we headed?" We're headed in the wrong direction. We're going to suffer the consequences for deliberately, willfully disobeying God, His ways, His commandments, His truth, His rules, and His opportunities. And so, when I read these chapters, I can't stop with just these chapters as far as the truth is concerned because the truth goes all the way through this Book. And whether it's a nation or an individual, sin against God has a penalty. Now, I'll say this briefly. We are headed in a disastrous direction in the life of this nation, unless the people of God begin to pray and cry out to God, for God to change people's minds and attitudes. So, the principle is here. You obey God and be blessed. You disobey God as a nation and you suffer the consequences. All of Egypt suffered the consequences of their disobedience to Almighty God. It's a principle, not just a story. It isn't just an event that happened years ago. It is also a principle. If a nation disobeys God, turns their back on God. And I think about all the nations that have. And God's people are the key in this country. God's people are, not politicians, God's people. God knows how ignorant many people are. But He knows that all of us have heard the truth, heard the truth and heard the truth and heard the truth. And our prayers must, our prayers must come not from here, but from our heart. And our prayers must be sincere, asking God to awaken the minds and hearts of people. I think it's just time for us to wake up to realize there are alternatives, there are choices we make, choices we make as individuals, choices we make as a nation. And we are headed in the direction which we're going to have to make a big choice. Will we continually be blessed? Or will we choose to do something that, deep in our hearts, we know is not right? Your family, your friends, your life, everything hangs in the balance of obedience to God. May God grant us the wisdom to make the wise choice, whatever that may be. Not what suits me, not what pleases me, or not what profits me, but Lord, what pleases You, what honors You, that's what we want to do. Father, we thank You for loving us, forgiving us, but God, open the eyes of people on--all across this nation. Let us not be as stubborn as Pharaoh and suffer the results as they did. But Father, let us be honest, obedient, submissive, committed to Your will, standing for truth in spite of what the consequences may be. And Father, help us to be honest about what we know is right. Your precious Word is a guide. God, we pray in Jesus's name. Don't give us what we deserve, but turn the hearts of the leadership of this nation, all across this nation, people all around this nation, that we would ask what is the wisest thing to do? What is the will of Almighty God for our nation? And we pray this in Jesus's name, amen.