Can You Relate?
Hi, my name is Pharaoh, and I’m a lot like you.
I know that’s probably not something you want to hear. When you read about me in the Bible, I know it’s really easy for you to label me the “bad guy.” Reading about me four thousand years after I lived, it might be easy to forget about my human-ness or remember that the same things that drove me are often the same things that drive you when life gets really hard. But it’s true. Here’s the thing: we’re more similar than you might realize. Because we’re both human.
I’d like to share with you the story of Exodus from my perspective. Because after you hear it, maybe, just maybe, I’ll look a little less like the “bad guy” and a little more like a guy who was faced with a really hard situation and responded the wrong way. Does that sound like something you can relate to?
Here are three things you should know about me when a guy named Moses walked into my city with a list of demands:
1. I was scared.
Most people aren’t good with change, and I am one of those people. When life took a sudden sharp turn in a direction I didn’t expect, I responded the way most people do: out of fear. See, here was this guy who was demanding that my entire way of life be changed. He was throwing a curve-ball into everything I had worked so hard to build. I felt I had no control. The fear that comes with a feeling of loss of control and uncertainty makes people do things they normally wouldn’t think of doing.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe for you, it was the time you lost your job and, out of fear, accepted a new job completely wrong for you. Maybe it was the time someone broke up with you, and you immediately started dating someone else because you were afraid no one else would want you.
The difference is, I had to rescue my own self. But you have a God who goes before you and stands behind you when life gets hard and the fear of the unknown tempts you to do things you wouldn’t normally do. God says you don’t need to be afraid when unforeseen circumstances upend everything you know, because He is with you and He is more constant than anything in life. (Joshua 1:9)
2. I was angry.
When faced with fear or uncertainty, many people choose to either run or fight. I chose to fight. I had dedicated my entire life to creating something meaningful and lasting for myself and my family, and I was presented with a situation that threatened to undo everything I had worked for. I was angry. In fact, I was furious. And again, I reacted out of that anger and did things I shouldn’t have done.
I’m sure you know the feeling. When you are so unspeakably angry with your coworker that you lash out with harsh words wishing you could take them back later, but the damage is already done. Or when you feel attacked by a family member and the only thing you can think to do is hurt them more than they hurt you.
Jesus reminds His followers that there are two kinds of anger: a right one and a wrong one. Most of the time, we react with the wrong kind of anger; someone threatens us or says something hurtful, and we get angry and respond in ways we later wish we hadn’t. In other words, our anger comes from a selfish desire to put ourselves above others; to make sure our needs are met over the needs of others. God reminds His people that if they ask Him for what they need, He will provide it to them. Doesn’t matter if it is physical (a job, community, or restored health) or emotional needs (security, comfort, and purpose). God promises to provide everything His people need to not only survive life, but to thrive in it. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
3. I was prideful.
In Egypt, the pharaoh was considered a god. I grew up my entire life being told I was on this level - and I believed it. Once I started to believe it, I acted on it and lived my life out of what I thought was true. I didn’t think anyone had the right to challenge what I said or did. When Moses showed up on behalf of God to do just that, it didn’t sit well with me, and I thought I was strong enough, powerful enough, god-like enough to beat them both.
Have you ever bitten off more than you could chew because you thought you could handle it? Perhaps you were given a workload that was just too heavy, but you were too proud to admit you couldn’t do it all. Or maybe volunteering in an emotionally damaging environment, but you kept showing up because you wanted to prove you could tough it out. Perhaps it was staying in a relationship far longer than you should have, but you were committed to being the one to “change” him.
We often think pride stems from feeling really good about who we are, but often, pride is just a masked version of insecurity and a skewed view of ourselves. From the very beginning, God tells His people they are made in His image (Genesis 1:27) and created with an identity and purpose. (Psalm 139:16) This means you don’t have to live the way I did – constantly proving your identity and living from a place of insecurity. Instead, you can embrace who God says you are and live as that person without worrying about putting on a show.
What I did in the story of Exodus wasn’t right. We all mess up sometimes. It doesn’t matter how you may have messed up in the past. You’re not a bad guy. What matters is how you move forward. Will you trust God to protect you, or will you react out of fear? Will you ask God for what you need, or will you look to others and get angry when they can’t give it to you? Will you look to your own abilities to maintain your identity, or will you let God define you and live out of who He says you are? How you answer those questions could be the difference between captivity and an exodus into freedom.