The Showing of God’s Power
Before leaving the story of the plagues in Egypt, another aspect of the case should be considered. God saw and accepted the opportunity to salvage from the disaster a saving blessing, expressed but rarely understood, in the following words.
But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show my power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth (Exodus 9:16).
Still the heart of Pharaoh grew harder. And now the Lord sent a message to him, declaring, “I will at this time send all My plagues upon thy heart, and upon thy servants, and up thy people; that thou may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. . . . And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee My power.” Not that God had given him an existence for this purpose, but his providence had overruled events to place him upon the throne at the very time appointed For Israel’s deliverance. Though this haughty tyrant had by his crimes forfeited the mercy of God, yet his life had been preserved that through his stubbornness the Lord might manifest His wonders in the land of Egypt. The disposing of events is of God’s providence. He could have placed upon the throne a more merciful king, who would not have dared to withstand the mighty manifestations of divine power. But in that case the Lord’s purposes would not have been accomplished. His people were permitted to experience the grinding cruelty of the Egyptians, that they might not be deceived concerning the debasing influences of idolatry. In His dealing with Pharaoh, the Lord manifested His hatred of idolatry and His determination to punish cruelty and oppression.
He (Moses) was informed that the monarch would not yield until God should visit judgments upon Egypt and bring out Israel by the signal manifestation of His power. Before the infliction of each plague, Moses was to describe its nature and effects, that the king might save himself from it if he chose. Every punishment rejected would be followed by one more severe, until his proud heart would be humbled, and he would acknowledge the Maker of heaven and earth as a true and living God. The Lord would give the Egyptians an opportunity to see how vain was the wisdom of their mighty men, how feeble the power of their god’s when opposed to the commands of Jehovah. He would punish the people of Egypt for their idolatry and silence their boasting of the blessing received from their senseless deities. God would glorify His own name, that other nations might hear of His power and tremble at His mighty acts, and that His people might be led to turn from their idolatry and render Him pure worship.
These statements inform us that God realized a purpose in His dealing with that rebellion. It was that Egypt, Israel, and the nations beyond, were given the opportunity of seeing something of the magnitude of God’s power, the corresponding futility of human resources to either control or contain what it had required God’s power to withhold, and therefore, the utter necessity of human recognition of, and dependence upon, the arm of the Almighty. Implicit in all was the message that the protection of the All-powerful One was available only to the obedient.
But essential to the success of the divine plan was the presence upon the Egyptian throne of an extremely stubborn king. It was by God’s providence that just such a king was there at the very time when the hour for Israel’s deliverance had come. Alternatively, God could have placed upon the seat of power a more pliable ruler.
Once again, unless these words are read in the light that streams from the life and teachings of Christ in the spiritual depth exceeding the rather humanistic superficial study of the past, they will be misunderstood.
If God is obsessed, as earthly rulers generally are, with the demand that all men give unqualified acknowledgement of His position and authority as the absolute ruler of the universe, then His motivation in exhibiting power would be to instill respect, thus insuring that He be given the homage He feels is His due.
Thus His message to all nations would have been, “Take warning, people of the earth. I am making an example of the Egyptians so you will know how I treat those who do not give Me the respect I deem Mine. Dismiss any thought of resistance, for My power is such that none can contend with Me. This pharaoh of Egypt was the greatest on earth. He was more hardened and stubborn than all of you. He dared to resist My will. See him now shattered and dead. Now serve Me, or I shall deal with you likewise. Know that I will take no insubordination nor even the ignoring of My claims upon you.”
The vast majority are convinced that this is the message the Lord communicates through His activities in Egypt. But careful reflection upon the implications this assessment of God’s behavior in Egypt quickly reveals that it cannot be true. For God to conduct His affair as outlined above would show him to be self-centered, self-exalting, self-loving, and therefore totally unrighteous.
God is love to the infinite degree. It is impossible for Him to be love and at the same time manifest any selfish characteristics. Both views cannot be held. The two positions are entirely incompatible and, in fact, hostile to each other.
To maintain the concept that God did act from self-interest is to make Him like every Caesar, dictator, emperor, king, despot, potentate, and, in short, every unconverted individual. The further such depart from righteousness, the more acutely they exhibit this supreme concern for self, and its attendant preoccupation with demanding homage and respect from others. On the other hand, the nearer human beings approach God and become like Him in character, the more this disposition diminishes.
As we behold Christ we cannot find a character more devoid of selfishness. He gave no place for even the faintest suspicion that He had come to establish recognition of His position and authority for His own sake. Christ, as the revelation of the Father’s character, swept away forever any basis for the nation that God unveiled his power in Egypt to bring the world to heel.
Therefore, He is not burdened with any concern over His position or the giving of recognition and obedience to Him for His own sake. Thought of Himself and His position never troubles Him.
But He is actually aware of the fearful peril in which every human being on the earth stands, He knows that in the Garden of Eden humanity cast away the protection of the law and instituted, in God’s place, one who could not control the powers surrounding this earth.
He knows that only because of the interposition of His Son are these perils held in control during the period of probation. He knows Christ cannot maintain His station as Protector of the people of the earth while their mounting attitude and spirit of self-sufficiency demand He vacate that role. Therefore, as a loving Father, He views with deepest distress the developing self-centeredness and foolishness, self-destructive boldness that is edging His wayward children nearer and nearer to the abyss. As such a situation develops, He will do anything within the limitation of the law to save them.
Humanity is unaware of how they benefit from God’s power; that they are living under the divinely supplied umbrella of protection. In their folly, they leave God out of their reckoning. They do not recognize His power or how it is at work, and so they remain in ignorance of it and what it is doing for them.
Therefore, for those who had not the eye of faith and could not see God’s wondrous power, the revelation could only come by the power being withdrawn. Then, as storm, tempest, fire, earthquake, or pestilence ravaged them, they could see by the might of what came, the measure of the power that had previously held it all back.
That is not the way God desires His might to become known to humanity, for it exacts tremendous cost of life and land. Therefore, He labors with all the resources of heaven to prevent such a crisis from developing. But He cannot compel people to obey. They must serve Him from love – intelligently, or not at all.
Since the service of love can alone be acceptable to God, the allegiance of His creatures must rest upon a conviction of His justice and benevolence (the Great Controversy, p. 498).
He takes no pleasure in a force allegiance, and to all He grants freedom of will, that they may render Him voluntary service (The Great Controversy, p. 493).
But despite the utmost entreaties of infinite love, humans such as the Egyptians will press on in defiance of love and entreaty to that point where God’s power will be revealed by its withdrawal.
When God is forced to remove His hand from the helm, He still continues to work from the same love. While the loss of life and property will be enormous, He will work to salvage much from the wreckage.
First, He will endeavor to arouse individuals from the very midst of the unrepentant to an awareness of their need of that power which alone can withhold the fearful forces of nature and humanity. Likewise, He will seek to impress the same saving truths upon the thinking of the onlookers near and far to encourage them not to act rashly and irresponsibility.
God will never engineer these conditions in order to convey these lessons, but when they develop in spite of His best efforts to prevent them, then He will use them to fulfill a valuable service to the needy.
This work is not done in vain. When the Israelites left Egypt, many of the people went with them. During the time of the plagues, when Moses announced the coming of the hail, a number of the farmers revealed their newly formed convictions by hurrying their livestock into shelter.
In Exodus 9:18, 19 it says, “Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause very heavy hail to rain down, such as had not been in Egypt since its founding until now. Therefore send now and gather your livestock and all that you have in the field, for the hail shall come down on every man and every beast which is found in the field and is not brought home and they shall die.”
Here we have a wonderful example of God’s saving character in action. If He had been desirous of destroying the Egyptians and their possessions by the hail, then why did he warn them of its coming and tell them to seek shelter? Not only did He try to save them from the hail, but he also designated the approximate time that it would come so that no one would have to guess and be uncertain. This incident clearly shows that God did not send the hail to destroy them. It came in spite of His best efforts to prevent it, and when that failed. He did as much as He could after that to warn them that it was coming in order to save as many as were willing to be saved.
He who feared the word of the lord among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his livestock flee to the houses (Exodus 9:20).
These were not the only people helped. It was a lesson to the Israelites as well as the far away Canaanites, who would have had cause to take a pause in their headlong rush into total iniquity and its attendant destruction. Thus God achieved a saving purpose through events that he had untiringly worked to prevent.
Naturally the more intense, prolonged, and total the destruction; the more emphatic the lesson; the more God’s message was underscored. Such it could not be without the presence on the throne of a Pharaoh who was especially stubborn and rebellious. As we read in the opening statement of this section, the Scripture declare that God’s providence saw to it that this haughty tyrant would be upon the throne in order that God’s purposes might be accomplished (see Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 267 268).
The same truth is repeated in Daniel 4:17: The decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever he will, and sets over it the lowest of men.
These Scriptures likewise call for a careful, thoughtful, and above all, prayerful consideration, for they can be seriously misunderstood.
If, for instance, it is to be drawn from these words that God personally determines who shall occupy positions of leadership over the nations and elects those men or women irrespective of the wills of the people and their nations, then serious questions about God’s character must asset themselves.
It would mean that in the great democracies when people cast their votes they are merely puppets in God’s hand to execute His will. Worse still, some rulers only come to power through rigged elections, lobbying, threats, and many other unrighteous methods. Some rise to power along a path slippery with the blood of their opponents.
Does God work through such measures as these?
Furthermore, if God purposefully arranged for men like Nero or Hitler to assume absolute authority, then the reigns of terror and the awful atrocities must be charged to God. He becomes responsible for the torture of innocent victims, mass executions, and even for heaping difficulties in the way of His own church.
This is not to argue that the words of this Scripture are false. It is to argue that what, to minds trained in the human processes of thinking, would appear to be the correct interpretation is false. Once again, a deeper, more spiritual and correct understanding must be gained.
Why then did God set upon the throne a very tough and hardened king when He might have put a milder person there?
The answer lies in the way in which God sets up a ruler as distinct from the ways of human beings. When people set out to make a ruler, they first determine who shall be that man or woman. Then they bring to bear every pressure of force, bribery, or persuasion at their command to affect their wishes. The greater the power at their disposal, provided it is skillfully used, the more successful they are.
God is possessed of infinite power and wisdom. Therefore, if He was to operate in the human sphere as people do with their lesser power, then only those of God’s specific choice would ever occupy any positions. We would expect of God the very best choices from what is available – the selection of wise, strong, merciful, and just rulers. But the annals of history reveal very few such people ever rising to the seat of power. Instead, most rulers have been despotic, unjust, cruel. If men like Nero, Hitler, and Pharaoh were specifically chosen by God and exalted to a position of ruler, then some serious questions must be asked in respect to God’s character.
The only occasions in history when God has made direct choices of individuals are when the church has been working in harmony with Him or when there is an individual He can use who has been totally submitted to His ways and will. Examples of these people are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, and various prophets, John the Baptist, Paul, and many others. It is noteworthy that every one of these individuals had a character like unto that of God and was very different from the kings of the earth.
The setting up of kings is all according to law, either used or misused. It is the result of the working out of all powers God has invested in humankind, irrespective of whether those powers are rightly or wrongly, justly or unjustly used. As those powers are of God, then in this sense it is God who sets up and takes down kings.
Examine the rising of all great empires of history. As they are coming up, they are a very hardworking, self-sacrificing people. Before them is a mighty objective of conquest and acquisition to be achieved. Closely united and intensely loyal to each other and their leaders they are strong.
God’s laws provide that abstemiousness, self-sacrifice, hard work, unity, and the mighty stimulus generated by the prospect of great achievements will elevate and establish those who obey them. Therefore, those kings who obeyed these principles were certainly “set up.”
As God is the One who provided these blessing by which kings are set up, then in this sense it can be said that He sets up kings and puts them down. The military campaign by which they ascend to the throne of power may be totally unjust and cruel, yet it is the outworking of these God-ordained principles that brings success, even though it is the illegitimate use of God’s blessings.
Not only do God’s laws set up kings but they also bring them down. The conquest achieved, the riches of the world flow into the hands of the conquerors. A life of ease, luxury, and licentiousness takes the place of industry, hardship and self-denial.
By God’s laws, the fruit of these is weakness, division, and internal strife. The weakness is not only physical and moral but it is also mental. Their wisdom is turned to corruption. Thus comes the period of decline during which a neighboring nation is on its way up. At a certain point the balance tips in favor of the rising power and the once proud lord of the earth is ground into dust.
Thus, by the natural course of God’s law, the nations rise and fall. As those laws are of God, and as He forever upholds and maintains them, it is He who is this way set up kings and puts them down. It is not a person election on God’s part. It is the outworking of His will as expressed in that law.
These principles established, it is simple to understand how God placed upon the Egyptian throne a leader of exceptional stubbornness.
It must be remembered that the fullness of wickedness is developed in a man when the spirit of God, through one of God’s chosen messengers, has appealed mightily to him, and he has chosen to reject that loving ministry. To resist this appeal requires a decided spiritual effort, and this effort exercises and, therefore, strengthens the will to resist. Thus there is a hardening of the spiritual muscles – the heart, the conscience.
Therefore, in order for Pharaoh to be as hardened as he was, he must have been subjected to the strong wooing of the Spirit and persistently resisted it. There is evidence for this.
Moses spent forty years in the land of Egypt before fleeing to Midian. He was placed there by God to bring a powerful and saving witness to the court. He was successor to the throne yet faithfully refusing to enter the priesthood, he stood as a pillar of light for God’s truth.
By the laws of Egypt all who occupied the throne of the Pharaohs must become members of the priestly caste; and Moses, as the heir apparent, was to be initiated into the mysteries of the national religion. This duty was committed to the priest. But while he was an ardent and untiring student, he could not be induced to participate in the worship of the gods. He was threatened with the loss of the crown, and warned that he would be disowned by the princess should he persist in his adherence to the Hebrew faith. But he was unshaken in his determination to render homage to none save the one God, the Maker of heaven and earth. He reasoned with priests and worshippers, showing the folly of their superstitious veneration of senseless objects. None could refute his arguments or change his purpose, yet for the time his firmness was tolerated on account of his high position and the favor with which he was regarded by both the king and the people. (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 245).
The strength of Moses was his connection with the Source of all power, the Lord God of hosts. He rises grandly above every earthly inducement, and trusts himself wholly to God. He consider that he was the Lord’s. While he was connected with the official interests of the king of Egypt, he was constantly studying the laws of God’s government, and thus his faith grew. That faith was of value to him. It was deeply rooted in the soil of his earliest teachings, and the culture of his life was to prepare him for the great work of delivering Israel from bondage. He meditated on these things; he was constantly listening to his commission from God. After slaying the Egyptian, he saw that he had not understood God’s plan, and he fled from Egypt and became a shepherd. He was no longer planning to do a great work, but he became very humble; the mists that were beclouding his mind were expelled, and he disciplined his mind to seek after God as his refuge (The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 1098, 1099).
When he fell from grace and fled to Midian, he vacated his prospects to another who was to be the Pharaoh when he returned with the rod of power in his hands. That other man, as the second in line to the throne, had inevitably been in close daily contact with Moses, and therefore, the beautiful circle of spiritual influence that surrounded the servant of God. Through his heavenly radiance, the Lord’s designs were too soften and convert the hearts of the entire Egyptian court, including the young man who would later be the Pharaoh in Moses’ place.
But that which had been sent to save was resisted and rejected. The spiritual power in Moses must have been very great, for the resistance to it developed in that other prince a hardening of his heart to an exceptional degree. No doubt the burning demon of jealousy intensified the worsening condition in the man.
The placing of Moses in the court was a masterstroke of love on God’s part. Moses was God’s direct and personal messenger by which God offered to Egypt complete and saving conversion. Had this taken place, Moses would have been the leader of Egypt at the death of the existing ruler. Actually, so great was the wisdom and power from God in Moses that he would have been the effective ruler long before the older man’s death.
Placing Moses in Pharaoh’s court was not an arbitrary act on God’s part. It was not something that had to happen because He decreed it. God merely took advantage of the circumstances. He knew Pharaoh’s daughter came down to wash, that she was lonely for a baby, and that this particular babe would touch her heart. So all He had to do was to instruct Amram and Jochebed to hide the child in the reeds and nature took care of the rest.
If placing a spirit-filled messenger in the royal court for forty years gave occasion for the development of a king so hard and stubborn, failure to place Moses there would have produced a king of far less determined defiance.
Thus God did place on Egypt’s throne an exceedingly wicked king by putting Moses in the court. He could have had a much softer king by not putting Moses there. Herein is the principle demonstrated that the same sun that melts the wax will also harden the clay.
The light that shines upon our path, the truth that commends itself to our consciences, will condemn and destroy the soul, or sanctify and transform it (Testimonies to the Church, vol. 1, p. 307).
Let ministers and people remember that gospel truth ruins if it does not save. The soul that refuses to listen to the invitations of mercy from day to day can soon listen to the most urgent appeals without an emotion stirring his soul (Testimonies to the Church vol. 5, p. 134).
Also the principle of God giving two calls to a people but never a third is set out in Matthew 22:14 is clearly revealed in the history of this great nation.
In Joseph’s day, the word of God was obeyed. Then followed the usual apostasy. This placed them in need of a call from God, which He sent to them as soon as He found his opportunity, In Moses, by life and word, during the years of his presence in the Egyptian court, Moses conveyed to those in authority the love and justice of God. But the call was rejected.
There could remain only a second call, which was again given through Moses when he returned with the rod that became a serpent. The call began when the rod was cast down and continued to be sounded as plague after plague fell. But the second call was not needed.
Not until the second call had come and been refused, did God separate His people. The period of servitude spanned several centuries. Why did God wait so long to free His people?
He had no other choice. The constitution of His government, which is His character of love, would not allow it. First, He could not do it by force for “compelling power is found only under Satan’s government” (The Desire of Ages p. 759).
“Whereunto,” asked Christ, “shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what comparison shall we compare it?” Mark 4:30. He could not employ the kingdoms of the world as a similitude. In society He found nothing with which to compare it. Earthly kings rule by the ascendancy of physical power; but from Christ’s kingdom every carnal weapon, every instrument of coercion is banished (The Acts of the Apostles, p. 12).
Second He will not voluntarily withdraw His presence to unleash the deranged forces of nature to break the hold of the oppressor.
Egypt itself would break its own power to hold the people of Israel, thus leaving God with perfect freedom to take His people out. Note how God waited till Pharaoh said, “Rise go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. And go, serve the Lord as you have said” (Exodus 12:31).
The long servitude of the Israelites and God’s refusal to move them out until Pharaoh released them is clear proof that God does not use force, and therefore, the commonly understood views of what God did in Egypt are erroneous.
God is bound by the principles of righteousness to act only within the limitations of the law. Therefore, He had to wait until the inevitable outworking of Egypt’s wickedness brought its own harvest of self-destruction and the consequent release of Israel. This does not mean that God did nothing at all. He was ever there working to save.
I invite you to re-read the texts quoted at the beginning of this post. If the principles outlined in these pages have been grasped, they will be read in anew light altogether. A picture of God will be seen that is consistent with the life and teachings of Christ, thus establishing a perfect harmony between the Old and New Testament revelations of God.
In our next post we will explore the subject of “The Flood”
What caused the flood?
We will explore the pre-flood weather conditions. Was there a hydrological cycle similar that of today?
What was the weather distribution pattern? Were there hot and cold areas of the world? And finally in the restoration of all things, there are going to be tremendous changes to the sun and moon. What are they?
|01 He Wanted to Teach Respect||05 Approaching the Study of God|
|02 Why a Tree to Teach Respect||06 The Constitution of the Government of God|
|03 The End of the Great Controversy||07 A Perfect Law|
|04 Isaiah’s Wonderful Prophecy||08 God’s Principles Tested|
|09 A Summary of God’s Constitution||13 The Supreme Revelation|
|10 Contrasting Statements||14 Urged to Destroy|
|11 Statements and Principles||15 Magnifying the Law|
|12 Does God Destroy – But How||16 Go the Second Mile|
|17a An Eye for an Eye||18 The Mystery of Iniquity|
|17b An Eye for an Eye||19 The Mystery-Unfolding Cross|
|17c An Eye for an Eye||20 The Way of the Cross|
|17d An Eye for an Eye||21 God Is Not A Criminal|
|22 Rods and Serpents||26 Great Changes|
|23 The Upraised Rod||27 Concepts Reviewed|
|24 The Showing of God’s Power||28 Sodom and Gomorrah|
|25 The Flood||29 An Execution|