There have been despots, tyrants and oppressors in every age and Christians have wondered: why doesn’t God wipe them off the earth? Saddam Hussein. Osama Bin Laden. Wouldn’t the world have been a better place without them?
These questions are hard—perhaps impossible—to answer this side of heaven, but God occasionally gives us a peek into his strategy room throughout the Bible. This is the message God sends to Pharaoh through Moses:
For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.— Exodus 9:15,16
And we learn four important things about God in his dealings with Pharaoh:
1. God is sovereign, even over the lives of the wicked. Admit it, wicked—I mean truly evil—people live a lot longer than they would if you held their beating heart in your hands. Yet none of them live one moment longer than God permits. And remember, Paul would consider himself one on that list: “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
2. God is sovereign over the rise of the mighty. The power of the nations may rest in the hands of a very few men, but each one of them rests in the hands of One greater. This does not remove us from political and social responsibility, but eases the frustration when we fail there.
3. God delights to show his power. Toward the proud, God’s power is set against them. But for the oppressed and humble, God’s power is for them and “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
4. God will see to it that he gets his glory. God’s tolerance of the wicked, the rise of Pharaoh, and God’s power against him. All this to magnify and amplify God’s name, His glory, His renown. They proclaim the good news in all the earth that there is a powerful God who fights on behalf of the poor, the oppressed, the needy and the captive.
1. Why doesn’t God wipe all the wicked off the earth? Have you ever asked such a question? If he ever did, do you think you’d “make the cut”?
2. Do you think the Apostle Paul was really as bad as he thought he was? Why or why not? Do you think are really as bad as you think you are? Why or why not?
3. Has Christ Jesus displayed his unlimited patience towards you? How do you know? How might you respond to God considering his patience? How might you respond to others?