Heroes and Villains: Pharaoh
Have you ever noticed that as outsiders, we notice things that others may not? I may not notice the dirt and grime in my own house, but send me to someone else's and I'm ready to start cleaning up the dirt and grime in their house! Sometimes, I think "HOW DO YOU NOT SEE THIS?!" Yet, I miss the same mess in my own home.
I heard a quote recently that says, "Familiarity paints the world gray." We just don't notice the things we're constantly around and familiar with. I remember one time when my mom had lost a bunch of weight, I had NO clue! Get her out in public with people who didn't see her regularly and suddenly she's getting a ton of compliments on her weight loss. I look at her and say, "You didn't lose weight?!" She responds, "Yeah, I lost forty pounds." So much for my observational skills!
The danger of familiarity is that we don't always see a need for change until it becomes blatantly obvious (or maybe is pointed out to us). The danger of unfamiliarity is that we want to make changes without understanding WHY things are the way that they are.
And this is when I think about Pharaoh.
Read Exodus 1:8-22
This Pharaoh comes in on the scene after Joseph dies. If you remember the story of Joseph, he became second in command to Pharaoh, but not the same Pharaoh we meet in Exodus 1. This new Pharaoh comes on the scene and begins to make changes without understanding the history and all the whys of why things are the way that they are. He makes some seriously disastrous decisions that result in a lot of children being killed. The famous exception to this decision is Moses.
The first mistake of Pharaoh's that we notice is that he makes decisions out of fear. "Come let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land." (Ex 1:10) Pharaoh starts making decisions because of some problem that he could foresee way off in the future. He sees this problem of their possible escape and decides to give these people a desire for freedom by oppressing them. Seems a bit silly, doesn't it? The thing he doesn't want them to choose (freedom) is the outcome that eventually happens due to his decision to oppress them. He makes unwise decisions that actually gets God's attention and has God stand up and fight for His people.
What would have happened if Pharaoh had decided to wait and to not make a decision until he had learned the history and understood why things were the way that they were? What would have happened if he would have chosen kindness rather than cruelty? What would have happened if he had chosen to rule justly instead of out of fear?
What else can we learn from Pharaoh?
We learn to find our security in God rather than our own disastrous plans. Pharaoh decided to rule out of fear, searching for that security he was lacking. He feared that the people of Israel would suddenly act out of violence and escape the land. His decisions out of this fear were disastrous. His decisions directly impacted his entire kingdom. When we make decisions without seeking God first, we run the risk of negatively impacting the world around us. We negatively impact our family out of fear rather than security. We manipulate the world around us in hopes of finding the very security that we would find in God and not in our circumstances, our fears, or anything else. God, alone, should be our security!
We learn to seek to understand why things are the way they are before we seek to make changes. Learn the history. Learn why the rules exist. Sometimes rules and habits are in place for a reason. Pharaoh didn't even seek to understand why the Israelites were in Egypt to begin with. How could knowing about Joseph have impacted Pharaoh's own rule?
We learn to love those around us as well as under our authority. Call me crazy, but I think so many of our world problems can literally be solved with some love and kindness. When we choose to love the world around us, we're invested in it. We have a stake in those relationships and want GOOD for them! What if Pharaoh had chosen to approach his whole kingdom wanting GOOD for every individual under his rule? What if he wanted GOOD for those around him and under his leadership? How different could his legacy have been?
Boiled down, Pharaoh teaches us leadership skills. His bad decisions reaffirm the need for kindness and love, even in the workplace. He teaches us to find our confidence and security in God, rather than ourselves. Best of all, he teaches us to take some time to learn the whys of why things are the way that they are before we make huge changes.