There remained one more plague in store for Egypt. The word for ‘plague’ here literally means a stroke or blow. this one will crack the stone-hard resistance of Pharaoh, pierce his hardened heart, and bring the freedom God has promised the Hebrew people. God had dealt with Pharaoh through the plagues, sending nine of judgment against his rebellion. And now, this final one, will shock the Egyptians to the core. Moses told Pharaoh that at midnight the Lord would go through the land, bringing death to every firstborn: of kings, of Noblemen, of the lowliest servants in the land, and even the animals. Pharaoh was looked upon as a God by his people, and this event would surely reveal where true power resides. If he could not protect his own firstborn, his impotence would be exposed. This last stoke was in judgment against the cruelty of the Egyptian people towards the Hebrews. Though Pharaoh had the last word, the people revealed their capacity for cruelty throughout the beginnings of Exodus. This judgment will strike them but leave the Hebrew people safe.
At every point, the possibility of change of heart; of Pharaoh, or his advisors, of the people, was a real possibility. Each event showed the power and presence of the Lord, over and against anything that the gods of Egypt, including Pharaoh, could match. The Lord is supreme Lord of all, and at any time, they could have relented and turned in faith. There is a progression in each stroke or blow. Mercy is present, as well as strength and mighty power. But the Lord knew the heart of Pharaoh, and he knew the hearts of the people of Egypt, that they were hardened, and their activity was cruel. This is the meaning of ‘the Lord hardening their hearts’.
When there is willful stubbornness, and a refusal to repent, to relent, to change our mind, eventually the mess we end up in is catastrophic. The further we move away from the Lord, the harsher the situations that present themselves, as our choices lead us into progressively horrific situations. But the Lord continues to challenge us daily to choose life. I guess any Egyptians who saw the reality of the situation could have come with the Hebrew people, stayed in their ghetto. We just watched the film clip from Alpha, how to resist evil. Gram Seed revealed in his life such brokenness, and willful cruelty and anger, that eventually lead him to the abyss. But the Lord met him there, and his mercy turned this man’s life around. Whatever circumstances you face today, however far you feel from God, because of your stubborn determination to control your life, the Lord waits for you with love and mercy, and the promise to bring good out of the mess of your life. Today, choose life in God!