We now turn to the ninth chapter of the book of Exodus, the thirteenth and the fourteenth verses, and read, “And the Lord said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thine servants, and upon thine people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.”
The fifth plague has come. It is the plague of the boils breaking forth with blains upon man and beast, throughout the land of Egypt. Because of the boils, the magicians cannot stand before Moses. For, so it is stated, the boils are upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians. And of Pharaoh it is stated, “And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses.” And now the Lord, through the agency of Moses, speaks to Pharaoh words that He has not spoken to him before, the words that form my text. What is new in this message is, of course, not the command to Pharaoh that he let the people go, but the announcement that the Lord at this time will lay all His plagues on Pharaoh’s heart, and upon the hearts of his servants and upon the hearts of his people, that they may know that there is none like the Jehovah God of the Hebrews in all the earth. The right paraphrase of this message of the Lord to Pharaoh is this, “Let my people go, that they may serve me; for know well, O Pharaoh, that with thee persistently disobedient, I will continue to visit thee with new plagues, thus continue to show thee my power, and in the end thou shalt be destroyed; and moreover, I will send all my plagues on thine heart at this time, and in consequence thereof thou shall know and all thy servants and people shall know, that there is none like me in all the earth, so that, as persisting in thine unbelief with this knowledge in thine heart, thou wilt be wholly without excuse, and therefore thy guilt will be great and always greater, so that in the end, when the measure of thy guilt is full, thou shalt be destroyed. Therefore Pharaoh, be instructed, let my people go. And thou shalt live and not perish.” Has it now become the Lord’s desire that Pharaoh obey? This cannot be. For after the next plague— the plague of hail—has come and gone, the Lord says to Moses, “Go in unto Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these my signs before them, that is, might visit them with new plagues. Thus, the only reason that the Lord anew commands Pharaoh to let the people go, is that through this command he is hardening him. Moreover, the Lord is about to perform a new work in Pharaoh and His servants and his people. The Lord is about to send all His plagues on Pharaoh’s heart, in order that Pharaoh may know that He is the Lord. And as was just stated, with this knowledge in his heart, Pharaoh’s guilt will be great and always greater, until, when the measure of his guilt is full, he will be destroyed. But before the Lord makes a beginning of performing this new work in Pharaoh, he tells Pharaoh about it, his only reason again being that Pharaoh be without excuse.
And now at this time the Lord actually does perform this new work on Pharaoh’s heart, and on the hearts of the Egyptians. The Lord does actually lay all His plagues on Pharaoh’s heart; and Pharaoh and the Egyptians do know that there is none like the Lord in all the earth. But there is first of all this question: Just what does it mean that the Lord lays all his plagues on Pharaoh’s heart—all His plagues: the plagues with which the Lord already has visited him, and the plagues with which Pharaoh is still to be visited. It means this: What the Lord reveals of Himself to Pharaoh by the plagues, namely His power and His wrath, the Lord at this time also sends on his heart, applies to His heart and the hearts of the Egyptians, so that Pharaoh actually knows in his heart, is thoroughly convinced in his heart, that there is none like the Jehovah God of the Hebrews in all the earth. This the Lord now does in a measure and to a degree according to which he has not done before. And it is also most evident from the behavior of Pharaoh and the Egyptians that at this time the Lord sends His plagues on their hearts. Let us take notice of this evidence. The Lord visits Egypt with the next plague, the terrible plague of hail. And during the rioting of this plague, Pharaoh sends and calls for Moses and Aaron; and he says to them, “I have sinned this time; the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked. Entreat the Lord, (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail; and I will let you go, and ye shall stay no longer.” What a remarkable confession as coming from the wicked and rebellious Pharaoh. There is this in it. Yes, indeed, Moses. The Jehovah God of the Hebrews is the Lord of all the earth, thus also my Lord, and maker. The Hebrews are His people. They do belong soul and body to him and I have no claim upon them at all. Thus my refusal to let the people go that they may serve their God in the wilderness—what terrible wickedness on my part. For I am in duty bound to obey the voice of your God. How wicked I and my people are. How disobedient! How rebellious! How righteous your God is in smiting me and my people and country with His plagues. I see it now. I know it in my heart. 1 am convinced. So does Pharaoh now humble himself before God, now, with God’s plagues and God’s terror on his heart, a« put there by the Lord. He is in the dust before Goa. He is humbled. Gone is his disobedience and rebellion. This Pharaoh, in the dust before God, what a far cry from that Pharaoh, with his vile fist in God’s face, defying the living God. What is the solution of it? The Lord has sent His plagues upon Pharaoh’s heart and put upon him His terror. This is the explanation. Has the Lord regenerated and converted Pharaoh? Is he now a man of true contrition of heart? Not at all. It’s the same unregenerated, unconverted and unholy Pharaoh that we see here in the dust before God; but the same Pharaoh minus his active disobedience, rebellion against and defiance of Israel’s God. The unholy Pharaoh is now wholly passive in the hands of God; and in this state of passivity in which God puts him by sending His plagues on Pharaoh’s heart, he only suffers, undergoes, the wrath of God with which he is filled by God, as to his mind and heart and being. In this sense God has overcome for the time being sin in him? How?, By operating in him with His common grace? No indeed, this is not the teaching of my text; but this: For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord of all the earth.” O, it is true, that in the next chapter we see Pharaoh on his feet again defying the living God and exalting himself against God’s people. Indeed, but is it Pharaoh who again raises him up and makes him to stand? No indeed. If it is God who casts him in the dust, how can Pharaoh be the one to raise him up out of the dust? It simply cannot be. It is God who again makes Pharaoh to stand—makes him to stand by sovereignly hardening his heart. It cannot be otherwise. How true it is therefore that Pharaoh’s heart is in God’s hand, and not God’s heart in Pharaoh’s hands. How true it is that God is the Lord of man’s heart and that man is not the lord of God’s heart. How true it is that God turns man’s heart to do all God’s good pleasure. How true it is that God is God and that man is not God. How true it is that God’s will is in the throne and that man’s will is not in the throne. How true it is that the reigns of God’s moral government are in God’s hands indeed and that these reigns are not in man’s hands, in the hands of the Pharaoh’s and the Esau’s in the earth. In a word, how true it is that Pharaoh is the clay, and that God is the potter. How true it is in a word, that Pharaoh hardens his heart only as sovereignly hardened by God.
But there is much more proof in the sacred narrative that God, the true God of the Scriptures, is also the sovereign Lord of sin as it riots in the being of reprobated men; and that, as Lord supreme of sin, God raises it up and casts it in the dust before him, according as he wills, and that therefore sin is not another God next to the true God of the Scriptures, with which he eternally is involved in mortal combat, striving to overcome it, yet not being able, so that everlastingly sin, the reprobated in hell, will be standing there, mocking, defying, and taunting God. I say, there is more proof in the sacred narrative that God is the Lord of sin. God has made the plague of the hail to cease. Then the servants of Pharaoh come to him and say, “How long shall this man Moses be a snare unto us? Let the men go that they may serve the Lord their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?” Assuredly, the Lord has sent His plagues also on the hearts of Pharaoh’s servants, so that they, too, know now that there is none like Jehovah God of the Hebrews in all the earth. There is still more evidence of this in the sacred narrative. At chapter eleven verse 3 it is stated that the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people. And then finally this. Every house in Egypt has been turned into a morgue, on account of the Lord’s having slain all Egypt’s firstborn. Pharaoh rises up in the night, he, and his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there is a great cry in Egypt; for there is not a house where there is not one dead. And Pharaoh calls for Moses and Aaron by night, and says to them, “Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also.” Mark you, “And bless me also,” is now again Pharaoh’s prayer. Don’t we see? The Lord again has sent all His plagues on Pharaoh’s heart; and Pharaoh, sin, is once more in the dust before God. And as to the Egyptians, they are urgent upon the people, that they may send the people of Israel out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.” Rut soon Pharaoh again stands, as raised up by the Lord. Once more he is the disobedient, defiant, and rebellious Pharaoh of yore; he and his servants. And they say, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us. And Pharaoh makes ready His chariots and takes his people with him. And he takes six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them. And the Lord hardens the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so we read, and he pursues after the children of Israel with all his horsemen, and his army. Sin is again on its feet, defying God, who once more raises it up. But consider Pharaoh’s end. Pharaoh pursues the children of Israel in the path that the Lord has made for His people through the sea. And it comes to pass that in the morning watch, the Lord looks unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and lo, sin is again in the dust before God. For the Egyptians say, “Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians. And with all the plagues of God once more upon their hearts and with the terror of God upon them, and thus, as knowing and confessing that the Jehovah God of the Hebrews is in truth the Lord of all the earth, Pharaoh and the Egyptians are destroyed by the waters of the sea and disappear in an everlasting desolation, never again to shake their vile fists in God’s face. Yes, God is indeed the Lord supreme of sin. Sin therefore is no power rioting independent of His almighty and sovereign will. For in the first place sin has no existence apart from man, the sinner. Sin as such can’t meet you on the street and strike you in the face. It has existence only as an active privation operative in fallen man’s being, in the being of the Pharaohs and Esaus in the earth. It is only in and through the Pharaohs and Esaus that sin can take on flesh and blood, so to say, take on flesh and blood through Pharaoh’s powers of mind and body. And therefore it must needs follow that whereas Pharaoh by himself is nothing, he being God’s creature, living and moving and having His being in God, sin, in its ethical opposition to God, is nothingness—a nothingness that God raises up and casts down as he will and puts to whatever use he chooses, so that verily, God is God, and none else.
And in conclusion, Pharaoh in the dust before God, the Egyptians perishing in the sea by God’s wrath, as knowing and confessing that God is God, is indeed prophecy. It tells us that the wicked will be destroyed and that sin in them will cease everlastingly. It tells us that in hell all ethical opposition to God will be no more. Verily, there is no idolatry in hell, no blaspheming of God’s name, no defiance of God, no disobedience to His will, no thieveries, no adulteries, no lustings of the flesh. In hell the wicked who perish are as completely devoted to God in their suffering His wrath with which they are filled as the redeemed in heaven are devoted to God in their heavenly perfection and glory. This fact and truth must certainly be blissfully satisfying to every true child of God. His sanctified reason calls for such a humiliation of the Pharaohs and the Esaus in the earth. The thought of the Pharaohs in the place of everlasting desolation, reviling God as they do on this earth, crying out their rebellion with fists clenched in God’s face, must be shocking to every one in whose heart God sheds abroad His love. Should the Pharaohs and the Esaus continue defiant in hell, it could only be because God has not the power to lay them low in the dust before His feet, and in that case sin were as mighty or mightier than God. But we know that God is God. The Pharaohs will be humbled forever. The evidence is before us in the Scriptures.