Friday, September 5, 2008

Exodus 9 - Your Pharaoh

Has anyone ever told you who you are? Has anyone ever handed you a label you didn't want and said, "here, wear this. This is who you are, this is who you will always be."

It's a frustrating experience. It makes you feel small and stuck, as if your story is already finished. As if someone else has already read to the end of your book and they are ready to tell you how it all turns out.

That's what Pharaoh tried to do to the Israelites in Exodus. He tried to tell them they were slaves. He tried to tell them who they were and give them a label that felt impossible to shake.

It had to be frustrating to be the Israelites in that moment. To be under the thumb of a ruler that refused to release them. To be suffering at the hand of a man that kept telling them, "you are slaves, you are slaves."

And maybe that's where you are right now. Some Pharaoh is making your life miserable. A boss, a parent, a friend, a family member, a stranger. Someone is trying to tell you who you are. To make you smaller and stuck. And in that moment it's tempting to cry out to God, "Why is this person in my life? God do you not see them? Do you not see what they are doing to me? Why?"

And in Exodus 9:16, I think God answers those questions:

"But I have raised you (Pharaoh) up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth."

Maybe your Pharaoh is just a megaphone for God too. Maybe your Pharaoh is just a neon sign that ultimately, surprisingly, impossibly is going to point to God. Maybe that person that keeps trying to make you feel small is there so that God can show you how big He really is.

I'm not good at this, I don't have this idea down yet, but my hope is that the next a Pharaoh tries to tell me how small I am, my response will be "Whoa, this is going to be big."


Debbie said...

Excellent post Jon. The hard part of the whole "label thing" is staying focused on who you know you are in Christ and I think most of us realize if we can keep our human side in check God can most certainly use whatever situation we are in for His good. In trusting God for the outcome we ourselves learn who we are in His eyes and when you are there feeling His love and protection even for a moment it is the ultimate place to be. For me that has usually been after the hard part of whatever I had to go through and I find myself saying
thank you, thank you Lord without You I would have never seen it that way.

Alison said...

I'm so glad you finally updated, and of course it's exactly what I needed.
I can already see how my response to my Pharaoh is showing God's goodness to others....even though it hurts in ways I never imagined.
Good news is, I know God takes care of Pharoah in the end.
Thanks for the reminder.

Sarah said...

Oh, this is the story of my life!
Growing up I had an awful family that told me I would never amount to anything. Well, through the years I became really involved in a church where I was really loved on. It helped me find my potential and break through some of those things I believed as a child. I learned about a God that believed in me. It changed my life.

About a year ago, there were some issues with a high school pastor at our church. A lot of my friends were talking about it (I'm 25, not actually in high school), so I told them that they needed to speak with the head pastor about it, instead of eachother. Well, somehow what I said got flipped around and passed around, and it looked like I had been gossiping about our high school pastor.

I was called into a meeting with 3 pastors and had every part of me questioned. Over a rumor. I was working with my church Jr. High group at the time, and they threatened to kick me out of ministry if I refused to be held accountable. So, after defending myself for over an hour, I gave up and agreed to be held accountable for something I didn't think I did.

After that, it's like I had a scarlet letter. The Jr. High pastor would randomly call me into his office and question me, I had to write a paper about how awful gossip is, and was expected to stand up in front of the church and confess what I had done. I did everything but the confession, because I refused to confess to something I didn't do.

Longer story shorter, I had to quit ministry because everyone in leadership showed me that they didn't trust me, including asking students if I was gossiping about anyone to them, then telling them not to tell me. Then the Jr. High pastor lied to the leadership staff, and parents, and said he asked me to step down.

Now, I'm not allowed to do youth ministry at the church I attend, because I've been labeled as a dirty gossiper.

It has been awful. I love students, and want to serve them the same way I have been served. But because of my "label" I can't.

Thanks for sharing that story. I know that even if I had done what I was accused of doing, that God would still have a better label then that for me. :-) That's the difference between God and people. God sees the good in us, even if others see the worst and we agree with them!

Kristin Zuvich said...

Thank you for posting this.

Patricia said...


Take a step back and read what you wrote...Your friends and pastors lie to others about you. You allow them to do this and take the blame for things you didn't do.

What is wrong with this picture? You are not helpless or a slave. You have choices, hard choices since you are attached to your church. There are no bonus points in heaven for being a doormat. You can choose to hold your friends and pastors accountable for what they say. Ask yourself why do you accept this abuse?

You can choose to go somewhere else where you can serve as you are called to serve. One option may be that this is God's call to you to move on.

jenn3 said...

This is a great way to look at difficult situations.

jonathan said...

maybe this would make it easier to love 'pharoh'? maybe.

Dog snob said...

Hum, food for thought. I think I'm my own pharaoh a lot of the time though. I seem to put myself in a box, and label myself, and make God smaller instead of letting Him be who he is. I'm working on that.

Sarah said...


Thanks for your comment. I feel like I'm in a hard place because I don't want to be a doormat, but at the same time I'm not one to "rock the boat" so to speak. See, I'm a runner awayer by nature, and typically when things get hard I just say "whatever" and move on, but I feel like I don't just want to run away, I want to try to stick it out. Sadly, it's proven to be quite a daunting task. I sit in church angry, feeling the weight of injustice on my shoulders. The issue wasn't even my friends gossiping about me, they just told the Pastor that I gave them the advice to talk to him about everything. Which the pastor took as me "stirring the pot". So I have no issues with any of my friends.

When I first questioned the methods being used to "keep me accountable", I was told that I need to have the attitude that Jesus had when he was being persecuted. What I wanted to (and should have)said was "oh, so it's like a game, I'll play Jesus and you can be the Roman guards. Anyone have a cross?". However, they had already mentioned that they thought I was sarcastic, so I thought I'd keep my mouth

I know I have the choice to leave. The fact that people at that church were the only decent family I had growing up slightly complicates things. I don't just want to walk out. I'm sure that is coming soon though.

I guess it's just hard going from someone that is highly trusted, generally well liked, grew up babysitting all the pastors kids, always asked to help with every event, To, not trusted, gossiping, pot stirring jerk that gets dirty stares from anyone part of the situation.

I'm just so thankful for the grace that God gives us. I couldn't imagine carrying all of this and not knowing the grace of God. It's just so insane to me that the people called to represent Him are the ones acting in a way totally contrary to the way Jesus treated "sinners". Even if I was guilty of this one, I still don't think that this treatment would be right.

How sad I feel for Jesus though. How sad that his last days were filled with unimaginable persecution. I know even what I'm going through pales so much in comparison with what he suffered though.

Sylvia Basham said...

Dear Jon,

(Yes, it's a "Dear Jon" letter.) I've waited for you, day after day, hopefully, expectantly, mulling over Exodus 10 in anticipation. Obviously you don't have the same commitment to this relationship that I do, so it may be time for us to part ways and just be friends....thanks for the memories. (Well, maybe I'll keep checking in, just in case....)


Stephen Hunton said...

Great post. Needed to hear this today.

Megs said...

i miss this blog! :(

Joie Mayfield said...

Thank you for an amazing message!

sara said...

Jon, where did you go? I miss this one!

Yhtomit said...

I know Exodus could be daunting at times; but, I really miss your insightful, witty commentary on the scripture. It has helped me to get into the Word more. Hope all is well; take care!

Debra said...

Hey Jon, Love SCL but this one is my favorite. Missing the 97 seconds ... is God, too?

Anonymous said...

where are you?

Kim said...


If I told you that I stopped reading Exodus when you stopped posting here, would you feel guilty and start writing again?

I hope things are well with you and your family and I truly look forward to hearing from you soon.

Love and blessings,

Toia said...

Great post. Allowing people to label you and keep you lock in a box makes you inferior to them. As Christians we should not give people the power to label us, especially when God as already labeled us as His special treasures, joint heirs to the throne, more than conquerors, fearfully & wonderfully made, and etc.

It's time to take back authority we have given to others, and live up to the names God has labeled us to be before we were formed in our mothers' womb.

Thanks you for this post.

God Bless.

nessie said...

Gosh Jon, you really put something into words that I've been struggling to express for ages. I'm reading this post a bit late, but this is where I've been at almost since I became a Christian 3 years. I sometimes wonder how much of it is me not taking hold of what God has for me, or if it's really possible that I feel surrounded by Pharoahs almost all the time. I just realised last night that frienships are a part of God's plan, but we can't count on that support as a given in our walk. God wants us, all of us, and we need to live for him - maybe this is a way of drawing me to Him? I don't know. I do know it really sucks being I feel (and here's where I really don't want to sound like a angsty teen, because I'm not) misunderstood. As we say in South Africa, Eish.