One of the most popular attractions at the Bronx Zoo is its one-of-a-kind Bug Carousel. Instead of mounting horses or other animals, children climb aboard 64 different types of insects, such as fireflies, grasshoppers, and ladybugs. They can even ride a monarch butterfly and a dung beetle! Each insect has been realistically hand-carved and painted. The carousel’s music includes actual insect sounds recorded by the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The bugs featured in today’s reading, however, were no fun at all. Moses had again confronted Pharaoh, and although he worked the miraculous signs, his request was again denied. So God began to send plagues on the land, and a basic pattern emerged: The plague would physically and spiritually damage Egypt, then Pharaoh would relent somewhat, then the plague would be lifted, and the ruler would change his mind. This was essentially what happened through the first four plagues, as the Nile River water turned to blood, and frogs, gnats, and flies swarmed throughout the land.
Pharaoh’s hard heart reflected pride, stubbornness, and a refusal to acknowledge the Lord. He was arrogantly sure the gods of Egypt, or at least his own royal power, would prevail.
How can both be true: God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (9:12) and Pharaoh hardened his own heart (8:15)? The answer is “compatibilism.” The Moody Bible Commentary explains: “[E]ven though God determined . . . that Pharaoh would exhibit a hardened heart, since there were no constraining causes (that is, Pharaoh was not forced to act against what he wanted to do anyway) he was free and thus he is responsible for his own hard heart. Pharaoh freely chose to do exactly what God determined he would do.”
Lord, may we delight in you always and depend on you in all circumstances. May we listen to your voice and obey you. We pray that our hearts will not be hardened, but be open to your guidance.