A STRATEGIC ‘SORRY’
I praise You, loving God, that I can depend on You to supply all my needs, day by day.
Read EXODUS 9:27 – 10:6
27 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. 28 Pray to the Lord, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.”
29 Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. 30 But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.”
31 (The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. 32 The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later.)
33 Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the Lord; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. 34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses.
The Plague of Locusts
10 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them 2 that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord.”
3 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 4 If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. 5 They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. 6 They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians—something neither your parents nor your ancestors have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now.’” Then Moses turned and left Pharaoh.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Think of an instance when someone tried to appease you with an insincere ‘sorry’. How did it make you feel? When have you been guilty of doing this?
For the first time, Pharaoh admits that he has ‘sinned’ (v 27) and he even asks Moses to pray for him (v 28)! This sounds like a change of heart – but is it? The real reason behind this confession is that Pharaoh has ‘had enough thunder and hail’ (v 28). Moses knows that Pharaoh and his officials ‘still do not fear the Lord God’ (v 30). Theirs is not a reverent fear, just fear of the consequences of God’s wrath. This is clear from what follows, for ‘When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again’ (v 34). Pharaoh’s apology was strategic, not sincere; and it is a strategy he will employ again.1
In The Five Languages of Apology, the authors identify five elements of an apology: expressing regret, taking responsibility, making restitution, genuine repentance, and requesting forgiveness.2 Pharaoh’s apology falls short in almost all respects. Although he appears to accept responsibility for wrongdoing (v 27), he expresses no regret, demonstrates no real repentance (since he has no intention of changing his ways), makes no attempt to offer restitution in any form and – despite asking Moses to pray for him – does not ask for forgiveness but only that the hailstorm be stopped.
A strategic ‘sorry’ may avert unpleasant consequences or smooth over a relationship hump, but God looks beyond words of apology, to the state of the heart: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?’ (10:3). Contrast this with the prodigal son’s apology: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against You. I am no longer worthy to be called Your son.’3 Here is a truly repentant sinner. There is rejoicing, says Jesus, because the lost has been found. Pharaoh was lost; but he had no desire to be found, only to be freed of the hailstorm.
Meditate on Psalm 51. Then use this as a model for your own prayer of confession.
Lord God, I pray I will be soft hearted not hard hearted, humble, not filled with pride.
1 Exod 10:16 2 Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, The Five Languages of Apology, Northfield Publishing, 2006 3 Luke 15:21
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