Show Me a Trick
8Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9“When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’ ” 10So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.
Egypt and the Pharaoh are about to experience a set of God-created disasters that had never been seen before nor seen since. While we know the eventual outcome, all of it could have been avoided had Pharaoh repented and bent the knee before God. He makes a different choice.
Whenever I read of this first miraculous sign provided to the Pharaoh I cannot help but think of Jesus standing before Herod at one of His pre-crucifixion trials.
8When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. 10The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. 12And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other.
Herod wanted to see a trick. Prove to me you are God and maybe I’ll help you out of this mess. Jesus remains silent. When Pharaoh demands a miracle God graciously provides one. It was the same sign that God showed to Moses when He first introduced Himself on the mountain. This sign, along with the hand being turned leprous were enough to convince both Moses and the Children of Israel that they were indeed experiencing the True God’s power. Pharaoh remains unconvinced and hardens his heart – a pattern we will see repeated 10 more times.
The obvious question emerges here. Where did Pharaoh’s magicians get the power to turn their sticks into snakes just like Aaron? Many ideas have been put forth but for me the answer is fairly simple. They got their power of Satan. He is able to duplicate this sign and the first two plagues. Then he’s out. And God (through Moses) is left to clean up everyone’s mess along the way. It should not be lost on us that Aaron’s “snake/staff” eats the magicians’ snakes. You have to enjoy that just a little. Imagine being Moses and Aaron standing there watching all of that unfold. If that happened today there would have been high fives all around.
God isn’t providing these signs as a side show. Jesus didn’t do His miracles for entertainment. All of the miraculous signs in the Bible happened to serve God’s purposes and plans. This first sign (not yet a plague) occurs to give Pharaoh a chance to recognize God. God still does that. He sends signs that alert us to the fact that He is alive, all-powerful, and the Master of our lives. He does that because He loves us and wants us to allow Him into our lives. We can choose a hard heart – or we can let His will prevail.