|Series Theme: Meditations in Lessons from Israel|
Meditation No. 15
Meditation Title: God of Second Chances
Ex 7:16 ,17 Then say to him, `The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert. But until now you have not listened. This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD : With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile , and it will be changed into blood.
This narrative that goes on for a number of chapters in Exodus, covering the ten plagues that came upon Egypt , is unique in the Bible and it highlights something here perhaps better than anywhere else in the Bible. It is so obvious that mostly we take it for granted. We have, in fact, referred to it already in a previous meditation. It is the fact that God could have destroyed the Egyptians in one go, without any further warning – but He didn't. He gave them a second chance, and then a third and so on. It is so remarkable that, as I said, we take it for granted.
Now this goes right to the heart of the argument that we so often hear from atheists that God is a hard, capricious, unforgiving God. What we witness as we read through chapter 7 to 11 of Exodus is the God of second chances, the God who holds back His hand of judgment, the God who gradually increases the pressure and who, every time, allows the Egyptians to learn and to turn – but they don't. I have commented many times in these meditations in the years of writing them, that I first noticed this many years ago when I did a series of verse by verse studies going through Jeremiah and noted the number of times that God's word came to Israel and Jerusalem before eventually the captivity and exile came. There was nothing hasty about it at all, just as there is nothing hasty about God's activity here in Egypt . In fact it is frighteningly methodical and specific, one thing flowing on from another, almost like a giant steamroller ploughing on over the land so slowly, unstoppable by the puny individuals standing before it. It's almost like the tide coming in, inch by inch, again unstoppable.
But it is only the sin of Pharaoh and his people that cannot see this. Referring to Satan, the apostle Paul said, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4) Referring to the darkness of sin, the apostle John wrote, “whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.” (1 Jn 2:11) Both of them understood that submitting to Sin and to Satan blinds men, and Pharaoh is blind! In his case it is clearly pride that had hardened his heart and it is that which makes him blind so he cannot see that he has no chance of winning this contest. How easy it would have been to have let this foreign people go and just carry on ruling his own people, but the trouble is that pride doesn't like being told what to do and so we hear people saying, “Don't you tell me what to do; I'm just as good as you!” Pride blinds!
The reality in Egypt may have been that there were ordinary people who did take notice of what Moses was saying and thus were saved when the plagues got worse, because you will see that although initially, everyone was affected by the plagues, as they went on, the nature of some of the plagues meant that individuals could respond and avoid the impact of the plague (e.g. the hail). The incredible truth is that God gives us human beings as many chances as possible so we can never say, when we face Him in eternity, that we hadn't been given a chance. This is why Peter wrote, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9) If God seems to allow unbelievers to get away with mocking Him or bad men simply to carry on doing evil, it is because He is giving them opportunities to come to their senses before they face Him in eternity. Jesus also conveyed this in his parable of the fishes (Mt 13:47 -50) showing that good and evil will live side by side until the end – but there will be an accounting. In such ways the Lord gives opportunity after opportunity to people to turn to Him. Never, when they face Him in eternity, will they be able to say they weren't given a chance – they were, again and again!
Now if this seems to just apply to unbelievers, perhaps we who know the Lord should ask ourselves how many times does the Lord need to speak to us before we get what He is saying? It is all very well to point fingers at unbelievers but, in reality, do we hear what the Lord is saying to us? The seven churches of Asia Minor in the book of Revelation testify to the fact that we can carry on blissfully in our Christian lives thinking all is well, while the head of the church has issues with us. It should not be. May we have ears that are open to Him, that hear Him and respond to Him!