Thus Saith Pharaoh?

The Bible is full of all sorts of heroes. Often the apex of Old Testament figures is the prophet Moses. Certainly Moses was the greatest prophet of Old until the coming of Christ. Accompanied by his brother Aaron, and with the initial support of the elders of Israel, these two men came forward unto Pharaoh delivering the message of the LORD.

The two brothers stood before Pharaoh, and said, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness.” (Exodus 5:1 ESV). Pharaoh simply responded, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:2 ESV). Pharaoh had no awareness it seems of the God of Israel. He had not been with Moses at the burning bush, nor did he remember Joseph, or his kin. But the Apostle Paul reminds us, “For His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 ESV) What do we learn from this?

God has created mankind with a knowledge of His Creator hardwired into them. Theology has called this the “sense of the divine”. We all exist hardwired to know God and receive His revelation daily. Reformed Pastor John Calvin wrote, “God Himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty…” (Institutes 1.3.1) What this means is that there really aren’t any atheists in any substantial sense because God has told us that the knowledge of Himself is rooted in every man, woman, and child that you will ever meet. This is why Moses is hopeful even before the likes of Pharaoh because God has established a lightning rod in the soul of Pharaoh where His revelation can meet; a point of contact rooted within him.

However, we know that all people do not respond to God’s revelation with worship (and all God’s people said “duh!”). But a poor response is not rooted in the insufficiency of God’s Word. Reformed theologian Cornelius Van Til notes, “…every man by his sinful nature seeks violently to suppress the voice of God that keeps on speaking within him through his created nature … Sinful human nature loves to speak … of a God because it hates the God [of Scripture].”

The fundamental difference between Moses and Pharaoh is made evident when they are confronted by God Himself. At God’s revelation, Moses says, “Who am I…” (Exodus 3:11) but Pharaoh instead says, “Who is the LORD …” (Exodus 5:2). At the end of the day, it’s always about identity. Our world thinks of God as a deified Barney ready to provide snacks, hugs and songs for our trivial boo-boos. Sadly, many churches do not aid this false presumption of the Holy One of Israel. God will correct Pharaoh’s ignorance and hard heart, but it will cost Pharaoh everything. And so this text hits our hearts with the basic question: Who has the final word? Is it God or Pharaoh? Who rules you today? Are you enslaved to your culture? your peers? your success? your will? What Pharaoh will make clear is that any time we claim ultimate authority – we usurp God’s rightful place, and God does not take that lightly.

If we use the language of this text whose word is the final word for you? Is it “Thus saith the LORD” or “Thus saith someone else”? God uses that phrase over 400x in the Bible to remind us and others that He always has the last word, regardless of the nature of our hard-hearted hubris. Every situation needs to be approached from this basic stance: What has God said? Am I faithfully responding to it? Pharaoh heard God, but it didn’t do him any good because he was more concerned with his word than God’s. Friend don’t fall into that same trap. Submit to the God who has perfectly revealed Himself in the Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man.