Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the Lord; your little ones may also go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.”Exodus 10:24
I have to wonder what the mental process was like in Pharaoh’s mind as he worked through each stage of the ten plagues. How high was his threshold for trouble? How deep did his arrogance and belief in his own divinity run? Though I believe that it is possible to start “believing your own press”, at some point we all have those quiet moments when we have no doubt in our heart that we are mortal, that we are weak, that in the scope of the broadness of the universe we are very small. For Pharaoh this took a long time, and eventually the death of the only true immortality that he knew in the form of his successor, his first-born son.
With each plague Pharaoh would convince Moses that he had changed his mind and he was ready and willing to acquiesce to his and Aaron’s requests. They hadn’t even asked to leave Egypt forever, they merely wanted to take a few days to go worship, to go honor their supreme Being. But even that, for Pharaoh, was too much. So he would, each time Moses prayed the plagues away, invoke certain conditions on the Hebrew Worship Conference that he had conveniently failed to mention as he was sipping blood, swatting frogs, flies, or locusts, or even wandering around in the dark.
The verse above is merely the last in a long line of exceptions that Pharaoh was determined to levy on the children of Israel. He was willing to let them go worship each time, all of them except for, “fill in the blank”.
At some point I wonder, if I was Moses, whether I would have taken the deal. In our modern day culture where truth is as fickle as the latest public opinion poll taken, Moses’ numbers were low. Pharaoh and the Egyptians obviously didn’t like him, his own people were ready to be rid of him due to the extra work they were faced with, and on the way to Egypt his wife had been frustrated with him for God’s dealings with them (unless “Bridegroom of Blood” sounds like a pet name to you Ex 4:26). Moses was out on a limb with this operation; just him, Aaron (who we find out later wasn’t the most diligent of assistants Ex 32), and God. I don’t think I’m in dangerous waters by saying that it was really only God that Moses was counting. But how tempting would it have been, when everyone except God and your used-car salesman relative is against you, to just take the best deal possible and be done with it all. How badly did Moses just want to get out of there, have church, and then get back to Midian with the sheep and the burning shrubbery?
The truth is that half-way is much easier. All the talk about integrity and honor and effort wouldn’t be needed if everyone did everything all the way. If everybody gave as much effort at their little slice of life as Michael Jordan gave to basketball then we would have a lot fewer problems on this planet, a lot more inventions in our homes and offices, and a lot less use for the mindless forms of entertainment that plague us in the West. But with all the problems, the slowdown of invention, and the unrelenting stream of sub-par television into obese minds we can see that, for the most part, Michael Jordan we ain’t.
This is a powerful tool of sin and evil. Sin not only allows us to do things half way, it is perfectly willing to let us do things “a little” quite a bit. We can go to church, give in the offering, read our Bible, pray, etc… any of those things are in bounds, but a total and full, unabashed surrender to the living Christ is where the line gets drawn.
Moses wouldn’t allow some to be enough. This was the way he had lived his entire life, and his leadership into worship of God was no different. There was no whole in any half. There still isn’t. Worship is not something that we do some of. Some equals none in the realm of worship. Paul told the Corinthians that worship is not done only in a church. It is done at the dinner table and at the water cooler or coffee shop as well. Moses even found worship in a desert. Every aspect of our life is a temple that longs to be filled with worship.
Moses, wisely, not only rejects Pharaoh’s exceptions, but he refuses to go “worship” with anything less than everything. There is no room in Moses’ understanding of worship for leaving something behind. Nor should there be in ours.