In the first chapter of his award-winning book, The Trouble with Jesus, Joe Stowell laments the exclusion of the name of Jesus at public religious ceremonies. Speaking of a Chicago Leadership prayer breakfast, Stowell writes, “No one said He [Jesus] wasn’t welcome. But the message was clear. All our 'gods' were to be equal.”
We live in a society where everyone’s gods are supposed to be politely “tolerated.” People aren’t necessarily discouraged to worship the divine, as long as their “god” makes no demands on anyone else. It’s when Christians talk of the one true God that people get nervous. Our time resembles that of ancient Egypt.
The Egyptians worshiped many gods. Like many nations in the ancient world, they believed in regional gods. Egypt had her gods; other nations had theirs. Pharaoh, when first introduced to this Lord of whom Moses spoke, shrugged and said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go?” (5:2). The stage was set for a dramatic confrontation of the “gods.” Yahweh doesn’t seem to fare well after today’s reading. The Egyptian magicians replicated the miracles performed by Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He did not believe that he owed any special allegiance to this God of whom Moses was a representative, he refused to let His people go.
But Moses did not back down in fear. Moses spoke God’s name to the Pharaoh, calling him “the Lord, the God of the Hebrews,” and giving us a framework for understanding who God really is (v. 16). Moses called Him the Lord and declared His sovereign rule of everyone and everything. He called Him the God of the Hebrews, demonstrating His intensely personal nature.
Moses could have approached Pharaoh with alternate arguments, maybe citing economic and political benefits for letting the people go. Instead, Moses unapologetically and courageously represented God, as faithful leaders must do.