On our property in Colorado, we frequently encountered rattlesnakes. They posed a threat to our well-being; moreover, two of our horses almost died from snakebites. Many locals exclaimed, “The only good snake is a dead snake”. Given our experiences, it was hard to disagree.
Snakes in the Bible fare little better. Scripture uses snakes frequently as a symbol of sin and evil, with Satan himself represented as a serpent in his first appearance (Genesis 3:1-2). God, however, in His infinite power, can use even the despised serpent to demonstrate His goodness. A good example is when God turned Moses’ rod into snake in front of Pharaoh to show how His goodness will always triumph over evil.
In Exodus 7, Moses and his brother Aaron went to the Pharaoh a second time, just as the LORD commanded, to plead the cause of Israel’s release from bondage. In those days, getting one audience with the Pharaoh, much less two, was exceptional, because only those considered worthy of Pharaoh’s attention and time were allowed access to his presence. God had revealed the goodness of Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh in advance, thus, He opened the door for a second summit (v.1).
Moses and Aaron had the proper credentials for the meeting, but this alone would not convince Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go. Pharaoh would challenge God’s servants to perform a miracle. This demand satisfied more than Pharaoh’s amusement or entertainment. Ostensibly, Pharaoh wished to see these petitioners demonstrate power above the power of nature, thereby demonstrating their commission from the God of nature.
Pharaoh doubted Moses’ and Aaron’s power, but secretly his undisclosed motives were much more sinister. He wished not to be convinced of God’s goodness and power; rather, he wished Moses would fail. Failure by Moses would provide Pharaoh the justification to shame God’s servants publicly and allow Pharaoh to dismiss them as frauds. Pharaoh’s hardened heart and hidden agenda had been predicted by God Himself (v.21).
Pharaoh lacked critical knowledge – this very rod had been turned into a snake once before (Exodus 4:3). It was also a rod blessed as the staff of God (Exodus 4:20). When Pharaoh ordered Aaron to cast the rod to the ground, it instantly became a serpent (v.10). This event was the beginning of a long process attempting to soften Pharaoh’s heart. This miracle should have struck not only Pharaoh with wonder at the goodness and power of the Living God, it should have struck fear into him as well. The Bible, however, documents Pharaoh as a slow learner, requiring ten plagues to get his attention.
The very sight of a live snake, especially one produced miraculously, would soften most hearts, causing a person to fear the God whose power produced it. But not Pharaoh, who failed to realize that God, in His goodness, was trying to circumvent the misery of the plagues He was about to send upon Pharaoh and his people. Instead, the act of producing a snake to demonstrate God’s goodness only increased Pharaoh’s rebelliousness.
Unimpressed, Pharaoh commanded his own magicians to replicate the miracle, which they did. This bolstered Pharaoh’s position in his own mind. Replicating the miracle allowed him to maintain the delusion that he was in control, not the God of Israel. God, however, was not finished. In this contest of miracles, Moses and his God are clearly the victors. In full public view, the serpent which was Aaron’s rod turned and swallowed up the other snakes. This second miracle is enough to prove to the repentant heart that God is sovereign and on the Israelites’ side.
It is normal for God’s goodness and Truth to prevail always. God provided a demonstration of His goodness and power using one of His most despised creatures. For His goodness, snakes were employed to soften hearts of those who were willing to see the Truth.
Is God using something dark and ugly to get your attention today? Is He trying to show His goodness to you? Are you feeling swallowed up by your sin? God can use anything to reveal His glory. Pray today for God to save you from being swallowed up by your sin or by circumstances that seem overwhelming. Pray He will soften your heart so He can reveal His infinite goodness to you, even if it takes a snake.
A servant of Jesus Christ
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