Open Exodus 9:13-35.
Hail falls from the heavens. Egypt’s proud rulers run for cover like everyone else. With lightening striking all around them, Egypt’s rulers are powerless before the one who reigns from heaven.
But God’s aim is not to strike Pharaoh dead:
Exodus 9:15-16 (NIV)
By now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
This is crucial. When human rulers conduct war, the goal is it overthrow their enemy. That’s not God’s goal. God authorized human rule: it’s always problematic, but it’s better than anarchy. God’s goal is to bring human rulers back under his reign, so they recognize their true sovereign. Peace comes to the nations only when they submit to their true sovereign.
God will make himself known through Israel, but he’s also making himself known through Pharaoh. Powers that resist his reign ultimately fail, and when they do they reveal his reign! In one of the most outlandish claims of YHWH as ruler of all history, God claims that he raised up the most powerful ruler of the ancient near east for this very purpose.
By resisting God, Pharaoh undermines his own authority. Moses said, “Storm’s coming! Everyone inside!” (9:18-19). Do Pharaoh’s servants believe YHWH and bring their workers in before the storm hits? Or do they trust Pharaoh’s protection and leave their workers and animals outside? (9:20-21)
When hail strikes, Pharaoh is humiliated. When YHWH’s people in Goshen are unscathed, Pharaoh’s humiliation is complete. All Egypt sees that YHWH looks after his people, while Pharaoh cannot. He’s shamed into a public admission that he was wrong to resist the great ruler:
Exodus 9:27 (NIV)
Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong.
Of course, Pharaoh reneges once the hail stops. Moses isn’t surprised: he knows human rulers are driven by self-interest:
I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.”
What will it take to break the power of evil and prevent the rulers of this world usurping God’s authority?
That’s the question the whole Bible addresses. How will God’s reign be restored in a world under evil oppression? This is the story of the Red Sea, the story of Israel in Canaan, the story of Israel in exile and Israel under foreign rule.
The question of how God’s reign is restored over the earth comes into focus in a man standing before a Roman consul, accused of undermining Caesar’s authority by claiming to be the king of God’s people. Truth is, Jesus is king (John 18:37). He’s so sure of his divine appointment that he sees no need to kill Pilate to gain power. Resurrection vindicates him as earth’s ruler.
When you realize Scripture is this story of the kingdom of God, it’s no surprise that God’s purposes haven’t changed. The point God made when he raised up the unfaithful Pharaoh to reign over Egypt is the same point God made when he raised up his faithful son to as king over the whole world:
Exodus 9:16 (NIV)
But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
Does it strike you as odd that so many Scriptures sound like they’re fulfilled in Jesus? While the method by which Jesus was raised up to rule was so vastly different to Pharaoh, God’s goals have remained the same.
Everything God has been working towards — the restoration of his reign — is ultimately fulfilled in the one he has anointed as our king: Messiah Jesus.