Sabbath School Lesson 03 - Facing Royal Opposition

Sabbath, January 20, 2018 

“Every additional evidence of the power of God that the Egyptian monarch resisted, carried him on to a stronger and more persistent defiance of God. Thus the work went on, finite man warring against the expressed will of an infinite God. This case is a clear illustration of the sin against the Holy Ghost. ‘Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.’ Gradually the Lord withdrew His Spirit. Removing His restraining power, He gave the king into the hands of the worst of all tyrants–self.” –(Review and Herald, July 27, 1897) Conflict and Courage, p. 89. 

1. What great mission did the Lord entrust to Moses? Was it to be expected that the Pharaoh would easily accept the request for the Israelites to be freed?

Exodus 3:10, 18, 19 Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt…. 18And they shall hearken to thy voice: and thou shalt come, thou and the elders of Israel, unto the king of Egypt, and ye shall say unto him, The Lord God of the Hebrews hath met with us: and now let us go, we beseech thee, three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the Lord our God. 19And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand.

“Moses was commanded first to assemble the elders of Israel, the most noble and righteous among them, who had long grieved because of their bondage, and to declare to them a message from God, with a promise of deliverance. Then he was to take the elders before the king,…

“Moses was forewarned that Pharaoh would resist the appeal to let Israel go. Yet the courage of God’s servant must not fail; for the Lord would make this the occasion to manifest His power before the Egyptians and before His people. ‘And I will stretch out My hand, and smite Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.’ ” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 253.

2. Full of his own authority as ruler, how did the king express his feelings of independence from God and declare his own self-will?

Exodus 5:1-5 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness. 2And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go. 3And they said, The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword. 4And the king of Egypt said unto them, Wherefore do ye, Moses and Aaron, let the people from their works? get you unto your burdens. 5And Pharaoh said, Behold, the people of the land now are many, and ye make them rest from their burdens.

“When the Hebrew leader came before the king with a message from ‘Jehovah, God of Israel,’ it was not ignorance of the true God, but defiance of His power, that prompted the answer, ‘Who is Jehovah, that I should obey His voice?… I know not Jehovah.’ From first to last, Pharaoh’s opposition to the divine command was not the result of ignorance, but of hatred and defiance.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 333.

“Of all nations presented in Bible history, Egypt most boldly denied the existence of the living God and resisted His commands. No monarch ever ventured upon more open and highhanded rebellion against the authority of Heaven than did the king of Egypt. When the message was brought him by Moses, in the name of the Lord, Pharaoh proudly answered: ‘Who is Jehovah, that I should hearken unto His voice to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, and moreover I will not let Israel go.’ Exodus 5:2, A.R.V.” –The Great Controversy, p. 269.

Heavenly signs and wonders

3. What sign did the Lord give to urge the Egyptian ruler to set the Israelites free? What was his reaction to the signs and miracles?

Exodus 7:1, 2, 10-13 And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. 2Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land…. 10And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. 11Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. 12For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. 13And he hardened Pharaoh’s heart, that he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had said.

“Again Moses and Aaron entered the lordly halls of the king of Egypt. There, surrounded by lofty columns and glittering adornments, by the rich paintings and sculptured images of heathen gods, before the monarch of the most powerful kingdom then in existence, stood the two representatives of the enslaved race, to repeat the command from God for Israel’s release. The king demanded a miracle, in evidence of their divine commission. Moses and Aaron had been directed how to act in case such a demand should be made, and Aaron now took the rod and cast it down before Pharaoh. It became a serpent. The monarch sent for his ‘wise men and the sorcerers,’ who ‘cast down every man his rod and they became serpents: but Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods.’ Then the king, more determined than before, declared his magicians equal in power with Moses and Aaron; he denounced the servants of the Lord as impostors, and felt himself secure in resisting their demands. Yet while he despised their message, he was restrained by divine power from doing them harm.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 263.

4. After the devastation of four plagues struck Egypt, how willing was Pharaoh to accept God’s call and give freedom to His people? What consequences can a person expect if he refuses to give up his own will?

Exodus 8:32 And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go.

Romans 2:5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.

“Pharaoh desired to justify his stubbornness in resisting the divine command, and hence he was seeking some pretext for disregarding the miracles that God had wrought through Moses…. By the work that he wrought through the magicians he made it appear to the Egyptians that Moses and Aaron were only magicians and sorcerers, and that the message they brought could not claim respect as coming from a superior being. Thus Satan’s counterfeit accomplished its purpose of emboldening the Egyptians in their rebellion and causing Pharaoh to harden his heart against conviction.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 264; Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 697.

“He [the human agent] may choose to be inspired and controlled by Satan, to withdraw himself from all righteous principles, as though he lived by his own invention. Nevertheless he will be judged as one who might have used all his capabilities in the service of God, but who refused to do this, and took his position under the black banner of the powers of darkness. His failure to do the good he might have done, had he been a partaker of the divine nature, will be recorded against him as a sign that he despised and neglected the great mercy and loving kindness of God, refusing to recognize God’s claim to his service.” – Pamphlet–An Appeal for Missions, p. 28.

Stubborn refusal to give in

5. What was the king’s attitude after the nation had been impacted by nine terrible plagues? What did his words to Moses show?

Exodus 10:28, 29 And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die. 29And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.

“It is unsafe to cherish doubt in the heart even for a moment. The seeds of doubt which Pharaoh sowed when he rejected the first miracle were allowed to grow, and they produced such an abundant harvest that all subsequent miracles could not persuade him that his position was wrong. He continued to venture on in his own course, going from one degree of questioning to another, and his heart became more and more hardened until he was called to look upon the cold, dead faces of the first-born.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 274.

6. What finally broke Pharaoh’s iron will? What do you think kept the king from surrendering his ideas much earlier to avoid the plagues and devastation that came upon himself and his people?

Exodus 12:30-33 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead. 31And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, 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. 32Also take your flocks and your herds, as ye have said, and be gone; and bless me also. 33And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.

“Throughout the vast realm of Egypt the pride of every household had been laid low. The shrieks and wails of the mourners filled the air. King and courtiers, with blanched faces and trembling limbs, stood aghast at the overmastering horror. Pharaoh remembered how he had once exclaimed, ‘Who is Jehovah, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not Jehovah, neither will I let Israel go.’ Now, his heaven-daring pride humbled in the dust, he ‘called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, 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.’ The royal counselors also and the people entreated the Israelites to depart ‘out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.’ ” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 279.

Delighting to do God’s will

7. In contrast to the proud Egyptian monarch, what was the attitude of God’s Son? What should we learn from the record of these remarkable events in the Bible?

Psalm 40:8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.

Matthew 26:42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.

Ephesians 5:17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.

Psalm 143:10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.

Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

“The Lord Jesus declares, ‘I have kept My Father’s commandments.’ How? As a man. ‘Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.’ To the accusations of the Jews He stood forth in His pure, virtuous, holy character and challenged them, ‘Which of you convinceth Me of sin?’…” –Christ Triumphant, p. 25.

“Christ said of Himself, ‘I delight to do Thy will, O My God; yea, Thy law is within My heart.’ Psalm 40:8. ‘I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.’ John 5:30. And the Scripture says, ‘He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.’ 1 John 2:6.

“The word of God often comes in collision with man’s hereditary and cultivated traits of character and his habits of life. But the good-ground hearer, in receiving the word, accepts all its conditions and requirements. His habits, customs, and practices are brought into submission to God’s word. In his view the commands of finite, erring man sink into insignificance beside the word of the infinite God. With the whole heart, with undivided purpose, he is seeking the life eternal, and at the cost of loss, persecution, or death itself, he will obey the truth.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 60.

For additional study

“Before the infliction of each plague, Moses was to describe its nature and effects, that the king might save himself from it if he chose. Every punishment rejected would be followed by one more severe, until his proud heart would be humbled, and he would acknowledge the Maker of heaven and earth as the true and living God. The Lord would give the Egyptians an opportunity to see how vain was the wisdom of their mighty men, how feeble the power of their gods, when opposed to the commands of Jehovah. He would punish the people of Egypt for their idolatry and silence their boasting of the blessings received from their senseless deities. God would glorify His own name, that other nations might hear of His power and tremble at His mighty acts, and that His people might be led to turn from their idolatry and render Him pure worship.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 263; Signs of the Times, March 11, 1880.

“The law of self is erected, human will is made supreme, and when the high and holy will of God is presented to be obeyed, respected, and honored, the human will wants its own way, to do its own promptings, and there is a controversy between the human agent and the Divine.” –Christ Triumphant, p. 25.