“So Moses and Aaron came in to Pharaoh and said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of the Hebrews: “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?“ ‘” (Exodus 10:3).
RARELY HAS ANYONE DEFIED GOD AS BLATANTLY AS PHARAOH DID WHEN HE REFUSED TO LET THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL LEAVE THE LAND OF EGYPT. His contempt for the God of Israel was open and arrogant. When requested by Moses and Aaron, at the command of God, to allow Israel to leave Egypt, Pharaoh replied bluntly, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:1,2). And indeed he did not. Throughout nine of the worst disasters any Egyptian could imagine, Pharaoh refused to bow before the mighty God who brought these plagues upon him. It took a tenth plague, involving the death of his own firstborn son, to break his pride. And even then, as soon as the immediate crisis was over, he changed his mind and sent his army after Israel. The very least we can say about this man is that he was extraordinarily strong-willed. Anyone who can hold out in rebellion against God as long as he did is no ordinary rebel (Exodus 10:1,2).
But as shocking as Pharaoh’s rebellion was, a similar stubbornness is at the root of every person’s sin. When we disobey what we know to be God’s will, we are saying by our actions, “Not Thy will, but mine be done.” Sin is always a refusal to acknowledge God. It is a declaration of our independence, a stiff-necked resistance to God’s sovereignty. And as long as we hold out in this resistance, God will be asking us, as He asked Pharaoh, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?”
The tempter’s argument is that we don’t need to humble ourselves. Adam and Eve found the “courage” to defy God only after being led to believe they could get away with it (Genesis 3:1–8). Satan had said, in effect, “Stand up and take care of yourselves. Don’t let God interfere with anything you want.” Once they imagined that such a rebellion could succeed, sin was not far behind. So from the beginning, sin has always disguised itself as strength. The only real strength in the world, however, is that which the devil denies: a simple willingness to acknowledge God.
“Independence is not strength but unrealized weakness and is the very essence of sin” (Oswald Chambers).