Expectations & Hopes Meditations: 10. Foolish Expectations
Ex 5:2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.”
Facing Negative Expectations: Expectations are all about ‘anticipated outcomes’. Putting it like that they may be positive or negative anticipations. For most of the time we are focusing on positive anticipations and later on in the series, when we tighten our focus on ‘hope’, we will consider the Christian’s hope, a ‘confident anticipation built on the promises of God’. In the light of these positive expectations, I hesitate to write this study because in some ways it is so negative, but it is a vitally important lesson in order to understand our whole world, and so we will persevere with it.
Pharaoh v Moses: As we have been working our way through the early chapters of the Bible we come to this terrible story of Pharaoh versus Moses. I recommend you read it in chapters 5 to 14 of Exodus for I will not attempt to cover it all here. Some key points:
- The Lord had called Moses to deliver Israel out of Egypt (Ex 3 & 4)
- Moses had picked up his brother Aaron and they had told the elders what would happen, and they received it with worship (Ex 4:27-31)
- Moses had approached Pharaoh this first time and he had responded as our verse above indicates.
- Moses persisted but Pharaoh simply made the work of the slaves harder (5:3-21)
- The Lord reiterated His intentions in detail to Moses (6:1-8) and expanded on this after Moses faltered (7:1-5)
- Moses performs his first mini-miracle-sign but Pharaoh’s magicians simply copy it (7:8-13) and Pharaoh is not impressed.
- Then comes the first of the ‘plagues’ – blood (7:14-21) Pharaoh is not impressed
- A week later come frogs (8:1-8), then gnats (8:16-19) then flies (8:20-25) and so on.
Progressive Process: Now what we start to notice as we read these incidents is that initially the magicians copy the first ‘plagues’ and initially Pharaoh rejects them outright, but then comes a long process where he half relents but doesn’t! The plagues get progressively worse and it becomes more and more obvious – because Moses is speaking them out before they happen – that it is God doing this, but Pharaoh continues to try to weasel his way out of it and get his way.
The Sin Factor: These chapters of Exodus, more than any other verses in the Bible, show us the way Sin works in an individual. I have defined ‘Sin’ as self-centered godlessness resulting in unrighteousness. It is that self-centered element that is at the heart of all this and is at the heart of the human condition that leads us then to be godless and then to make a mess of life, living contrary to God’s design for us (unrighteousness).
Self-Centred Expectation: Now we just said that expectations are all about ‘anticipated outcomes’ and when we read through the story involving Pharaoh we see this; he anticipates that the outcome will be that his will, will prevail and (presumably) God and Moses will give up. When you hold this understanding in the face of these ten plagues that are getting gradually worse, you realize the crass folly of this self-centered godlessness. But there it is, and it is in every single human being.
The Mystery of the Human Heart: It may manifest itself in a variety of ways. Like Pharaoh it can be the intense intention to resist God and to deny His will. Alternatively it may be the simple intention to pretend that He is not there and struggle on through life on our own. Now it is a complete mystery why one human being will go to the stupid lengths that Pharaoh went to, while another is completely opened hearted to God, hears Him and responds easily to Him. We speak about the human ‘heart’, not meaning the muscle that pumps blood round the body, but the inner being, the inner intentions or, as one dictionary has struggled to put it, “the central, vital, or main part of a human being, real meaning, essence, core of that being, the center or source of emotions, personality attributes, etc.” The mystery is why one person, e.g. Pharaoh can be ‘hard-hearted’ and others ‘open-hearted’, but it is like that.
Understand People: Understanding this is vital to understanding human experience and understanding the message of the Bible. Jeremiah declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9) When we see this in operation within Pharaoh, we can see that it sets the mind on foolish thinking that is echoed all around us: “I will get my way! I will do what I want. I don’t care about God. He has no power over me.” It is the folly of unbelief that tries to pretend there is no God: “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Psa 14:1, 53:1) and a footnote in your Bible says, “The Hebrew words rendered fool in Psalms denote one who is morally deficient.” It isn’t just an intellectual thing, it is a moral thing.
A Need to Resist: I headed this study, ‘Foolish Expectations’ but it could easily have been ‘Deceived Expectations’ or ‘Utterly Unrealistic Expectations’ for that is what these ‘hopes’ or ‘anticipated outcomes’ are that come out of the sinful heart. We recently did a study on Jacob and I have to be honest and say, I catch myself again and again, plotting or planning or scheming to get my own way or prove that I am right, and have to stop and hand it all over to God. When the apostle Paul wrote, “do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires,” (Rom 6:12) and later, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature,” (Col 3:5) these were commands that recognized that although we have died to sin when we were born again, we find that people, circumstances and Satan constantly challenge us to be self-centered and godless, and we need to make an act of will to reject that approach and purpose not be like that and then to act contrary to that.
You are not immune to it just because you are a Christian. You are different from your non-Christian neighbour because you now have a living relationship with a Saviour and you have been empowered by his Spirit and you have a new goal to work for. So yes, picking up on those last words, we will see later in the series, how our ultimate goal is indeed to act as a motivating force to keeping us on the right track on a daily basis.
So, Us Today: Finally, if we are wise, we will check out ourselves on a regular basis to ensure we have not let the seeds of self-centred godlessness germinate, take root and grow within us, for they lead to unrealistic and foolish expectations. Every time we respond to pride and let it empower our present actions, they lead towards folly and destruction. Every time we let negative thoughts about another settle and grow, we are moving towards self-centred godlessness which is contrary to the Spirit of Christ. It is an ongoing battle, but he is here to help us and works with us to help us overcome. Pharaoh died because he refused to let go his pride and self-centred godlessness and, tragically, that will be the end for multitudes around us who act similarly and refuse to heed the call of God. May that never be you or me.