People are leaving churches in record fashion. Pastors, it’s time to look within for the reason.
Taken from John’s book Pharaoh in the Church, the follow up to Covens in the Church. (Covens in the Church is a message about the body’s responsibility to submit to authority and Pharaoh in the Church is a message calling leaders to stop using people to build their own kingdoms.)
God is looking for leaders who are humble, broken and driven by the fear of the Lord not the fear of looking like failures to their peers. We must be a people who trust God fully.
This must end! As a senior leader I had an open hands policy. I never owned the sheep and I made that known. I told other pastors and leaders that they were free to come to my church and, without guilt or fear, recruit anybody they chose to leave my church to join theirs. They could ask my best leaders, most amazing musicians and most committed intercessors to leave me to join them. If they agreed, I’d bless my friends as they entered into their new assignments.
It was important for me to kill the competition spirit, that spirit of Pharaoh, quickly—and that comes as we trust God and his church building process.
A Shocking Shift in the Church
Its days are numbered. I don’t know what that number is, but it isn’t large. In fact, the beginnings of change are here. You can feel the temperature fluctuating as the days are suddenly growing shorter. We’re in a transitional season that will ultimately result in the rebirthing and reintroduction of a long forgotten biblical structure–the Church.
As I thoroughly investigated in the sister book, Covens in the Church, the change is not, as many believe, an exodus from relationship with Christian leaders. It is, however, most certainly an exodus. In fact, it’s an exodus that will either invigorate or irritate leaders across our nation.
You see, there is a God-ordained and God-initiated revolution taking form. It is quite simple to understand that resistance to God’s process is always a tragic mistake and that embracing God’s process always guarantees success (God never fails). Revolution, by definition, is drastic and momentous change. It’s shocking and it’s shaking. It will rock every one of us as the process unfolds before us, but those who will trust God’s wisdom will survive–and even thrive as humble, faithful and tested men and women of almighty God.
I WAS DONE BEFORE I WAS DONE
One of the most important moments of my life, without any exaggeration in the least, occurred as God was calling me into the wilderness of encounter. I planted Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado, and though it was a challenge, we were watching with amazement as the church developed and grew in one of the nation’s darkest cities. You see, it has been reported that since the mid-1980’s, around 15 churches have been planted in Manitou Springs–and all ended up failing before hitting the two year mark.
I received a life mission from God in the early 1990’s, and that mission was to see a city taken for God. Pure revival at the city level was the mandate. I was extremely zealous in my adherence to God’s instructions, and I worked hard to see Revolution Church grow in strength, anointing and in number.
We were a few years beyond the ominous two year mark, and things were going well. I was in prayer at the church one day, and God said something that made no sense whatsoever. He said, “John, you’re done.”
What? How could this be? I wasn’t even close to being done. There were years of progress ahead of me. The city wasn’t even close to being taken and developed into a “model of revival for the nations” as another confirmed prophecy communicated.
“You’re done.” My brain was irritated, but my spirit was burning. I knew the second I received that message from God that I was done.
The next day, as I was emotionally undone and intellectually attempting to figure out what all of this meant, I went to a scheduled meeting with someone I had recently met. She brought a friend with her, who quite strangely remained silent for the first thirty minutes or so that we were together.
But then, she spoke. “John, I apologize for not participating in the conversation up until now, but God has been talking to me about you.”
She had my attention.
“John, God says to you that he is pleased with you, and with what you have built. He sees the foundation and the walls, and he is well pleased. However, John, the Father also says, ‘you are done.’”
Tears were instantly filling up in my eyes, and seconds later flowing down my cheeks. God was talking to me. He had my attention. I was shaken.
Over the next three weeks, eight or nine different people, most of whom I had never met, gave the exact same word. “John, you’re done.”
The word was expanded and confirmed time and again: “John, you’re done. You’re called apostolically to the cities of the Earth. This is very much about Manitou Springs and the vision there, and it’s also about so much more.”
Some time went by, and I did as well as I could in responding to God. Practically speaking, I honestly didn’t know exactly what to do, so I awaited further instruction. It came one day at the same altar where God revealed to me that I was ‘done’.
“John, you are to pray. I’ve called you to minister to me as a house of prayer for all nations.”
I understood then what the call was–the church was to rediscover its identity as a house of prayer. I’ve always been a zealous man of prayer, yet I know that the call was not only for me, but for the body, for those who would respond, to minister to God night and day in Manitou Springs.
My conversation with God, as I sat there alone in a dark room at the altar, went like this:
“God, I know I am to embrace and lead toward radical change. I know this body is to be a team of fiery, determined and tested people who pray on site continually. But, Lord, if I do this, the church is sure to lose people.” God offered no response. I sat there in silence as the implications of such a drastic change were bombarding my mind. My fear was evident as I continued my discussion.
“And, God, if I do this, I’m certain we’ll lose money.” Again, no response. Surely this was an acceptable concern. If we did something like this we’d experience such a severe loss of finances through the offerings that we’d most certainly fail to responsibly pay the church’s bills. Yet, God was silent.
As I sat there feeling both alone and very much in the company of Someone who was looking right into my heart, I finally said, “And, God, if I do this, I’ll lose my reputation.”
You see, I am a visionary leader. People had bought into the vision and had settled into the church in its current form. If I did this, I’d open the door for accusation, ridicule, mocking, disappointment and betrayal. I knew it would come, and it would be very hard.
“…if I do this, I’ll lose my reputation.” This time God responded with a message that changed my outlook on life forever. He said, “Good. My Son was a man of no reputation. Why should you be?”
I was broken in my humanness but spared the force of God as I hit my knees and prepared for the greatest shaking of my life.
Pharaoh in the Church
You may be wondering just exactly what the Pharaoh in the Church is. The spirit of Pharaoh that must be uprooted is revealed in a powerful line from a worship song by Brian Ming:
“Forgive us for building man’s kingdoms on doctrines of demons in Your name.”
There it is. Due to a great lack of understanding and trust of God and his process, it has become acceptable to use people to build religious systems. Pastors have often unwittingly taken on the mantle of Pharaoh as they advance their vision to develop their kingdom instead of leading the body into the burning presence of God in the wilderness of encounter. Again, much of what happens has benefited people. In fact, the development of excellent programs and ministries have both benefited people (to a degree) and built man’s kingdom. They have even, to a degree, built God’s Kingdom. It’s not always all bad or all good. There is some mixture. But, the call to minister to God in the desert will require a degree of trust that is rare today. We’ll discuss this further, but for now understand this: we must drop our bricks, rediscover our identity and follow God’s ordained leadership into the wilderness of encounter.
There is both a spirit of bondage and a spirit of Pharaoh upon the Church. In Egypt, the Hebrews’ very identity was based on their ability to produce–to make bricks and build the kingdom. Similarly, the Church has become comfortable in learning how to make bricks; our identity is founded on how we can fit in the body, how we are received and what we can produce. This focus is self-serving, and it can easily cause us to resist the call of God to change. This change will greatly affect both the body and the leadership–but, it is at its core a trust and obedience issue. Does the body trust God’s wisdom in placing us under our authority? Does the leader trust God’s call to release and lead the people into a place of encounter?
This is a call of release from making the bricks that are used in building the kingdoms of man. It’s an issue of trust as we see the body released into a place of intercession and ministry in the fire of God’s presence. It’s a great transition from a human system into a system of God that will lead us into the wilderness of encounter. Churches must at their very core be prayer fueled, encounter driven ministries unto God.
The goal should be for people to tremble and collapse under the weight of the glory of God as they walk up to the church building! In 2 Chronicles 7 they couldn’t even enter the building! They all hit the pavement as the glory of God consumed the place. That should be our church growth strategy today! It’s time to discover the fire and glory again.
We must understand that it’s time to stop trying to become expert brick makers and start following the voice of the Lord! There is no need for bricks where God is leading the Church!
The Church must become responsive to the prophetic voice of God to put down the bricks and to move out! There are tents to be set up, directions to be received, rivers to be crossed and cities to be taken! In order for this to happen, we first must move from our current position and step into the great unknown. God has mighty plans to blow our minds, and we have to trust that he’s very good at leading us into that brand new place.
The current system that is being threatened with reformation from Heaven is one that survives by using. Pastors and leaders must take notice. We must repent. We have marketed and sold our church experiences. We have been mindful of man ahead of God. The day has come where instead of convincing our communities that we have the best children’s ministry and the most progressive worship and the nicest sanctuary and the best way to connect with others we will actually announce the severity of the call!
When people join our churches, they must find themselves in the wilderness of encounter from day one! The bar will be raised high, the cost is everything they have, holiness is non-negotiable and an extreme lifestyle of prayer IS the experience! When the fire of intercession burns the flesh of those who wander into our meetings, you will witness a deep and dramatic conversion of desperate souls.
And, yes, it’s true, many won’t come. The tithes might be low. Pastors’ reputations will be at risk. Pride will take a mighty blow. Buildings may not be built. People will complain. You see, in Egypt it’s all about the desire of Pharaoh to build a kingdom. In the wilderness, control over the people is surrendered, and the only acceptable plan is to lead them into God’s presence. Pastors, we must let the people go–and lead them into the tent of meeting where God Himself burns night and day.
As I write this, tears are trying to form in my eyes. I’m quite undone. A violent groan is in my spirit. The call of the Lord is:
“NOW, NOW, NOW! The remnant, the hungry, the broken- step into position, stand up with a great burning within, a wellspring of tears pouring out, with your cross crushing your back… stand up and prepare to march. NOW, NOW, NOW! Change, change, change! I am coming! I am moving! I am moving! NOW, NOW, NOW!”
I feel we must be willing to risk losing everything for the sake of reformation. Recalling again that life altering moment at a dark, lonely altar at Revolution Church, I said, “God, if we do this, I’ll lose my reputation.” As a dreamer, leader and visionary, I had an all encompassing passion to fulfill my mission. People would certainly presume that I had missed God if I shifted gears so severely. They’d think I was confused. I was dropping the ball. But, of course, Jesus was of no reputation. It’s not about who we are; it’s about Who we represent.
Are we willing to risk everything for the sake of offensive, shaking, cross-centered revival that puts an end to much of what we have held dear? Will we move our churches into a place that may result in great personal loss? Will we be willing to lose our retirement, our health insurance, our salaries and our comforts? Friend, momentous change is coming. It’s a reformation. It’s a revolution.
The Egyptian System
The spirit of Pharaoh will use every tactic to keep the current structure in place and will resist the release of people and resources even if it means it will move the people closer to God.
Let me shout this with clarity–we must repent for, either intentionally or subconsciously, considering the growth of the Church ahead of the call to lead people into God’s presence!
We need to soberly understand that God is removing leaders who lead with the spirit of Pharaoh and is raising up those who declare without apology the current directive of the Lord.
Church, pastors, leaders, this is where we are now–God has come down to see what has been built, just as he did with the Tower of Babel, and he’s about to act.
Let me make a very important point–I am not saying that the old structure is fully and comprehensively evil–no way. Just as Moses himself lived in the Egyptian system and started to lead God’s people by defending them from the abuse of the slave drivers, there are leaders now who know nothing but the current church system and have a great heart for God’s people.
However, if we refuse to release the current structure, and the people of the Lord for what is next on God’s agenda, our evil intentions will be riled up and exposed. We must be humble, broken, alert and responsive. We must resign our positions and opinions daily and refuse to hold on to anything too tightly.
Exodus 5:2 And Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go.”
This spirit of Pharaoh has gripped the Church.This is evidenced in the alignment with Pharaoh’s statement–I don’t receive the word of transition. I don’t acknowledge that God is saying anything. I will not release my project of building what I’ve been working on for years.
As in other transitional periods throughout biblical history, the word of change resulted in hardened hearts instead of obedience. The current structure as we know it must be left entirely, and those who have anything to lose in that process will be tempted to fight the change.
Exodus 5:3 So they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go three days’ journey into the desert and sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest He fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”
God is raising up prophetic men and women, messengers to sound the alarm, to call the Church into reformation. The declaration is clear–let the people go!
Note that the call is not simply to step outside the gates of the kingdom, but rather to travel a day’s journey. It’s a call far away from the current structure.
Exodus 5:4 Then the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people from their work? Get back to your labor.”
Pharaoh became irritated at the first threat of the structure being disrupted. Allow me to boldly ask you to examine your own heart. A spirit of Pharaoh in a leader can often be evidenced through a resistance to the call of God for change. Pharaoh’s very identity was wrapped up in the development of Egypt. Any thought of risk to that identity was not even an option.
For those who align with this spirit, the prophetic call to change will be rejected, then mocked and then become a cause of great irritation.
Exodus 5:5-11 And Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are many now, and you make them rest from their labor!” So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their officers, saying, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. And you shall lay on them the quota of bricks which they made before. You shall not reduce it. For they are idle; therefore they cry out, saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Let more work be laid on the men, that they may labor in it, and let them not regard false words.” And the taskmasters of the people and their officers went out and spoke to the people, saying, “Thus says Pharaoh: ‘I will not give you straw. Go, get yourselves straw where you can find it; yet none of your work will be reduced.’ “
The tension will certainly be extreme as the prophetic mandate for reformation hits a spirit that’s intent on staying the course of his kingdom-building plans.
This may be another good spot to bring some clarity to the point I’m trying to convey. I believe that the spirit of Pharaoh is something that every leader must contend with. I am by no means saying that the leaders I am writing this message to are evil, as we know Pharaoh was. This issue can affect the most amazing, zealous and surrendered servant-leaders in the Kingdom of God. The reality is that, in our Western, American culture, the pressure to succeed in the minds of men is extreme. Pastor’s salaries, reputations, security, retirement, stability in their own families and so many other factors are a part of this wide-reaching drama. All of that and much more is at risk. I understand that embracing an Egyptian building blueprint has loads of benefits and it may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done if and when you break this model of ministry off of your church.
In the story we see that Pharaoh is greatly irritated, and his response is to highlight his control over his people and his kingdom. Not only will he not relent, he proves that he is in charge and increases the demands on the Israelites.
Exodus 5:12-14 So the people were scattered abroad throughout all the land of Egypt to gather stubble instead of straw. And the taskmasters forced them to hurry, saying, “Fulfill your work, your daily quota, as when there was straw.” Also the officers of the children of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten and were asked, “Why have you not fulfilled your task in making brick both yesterday and today, as before?”
As the hope for freedom draws near, the enemy, Pharaoh, raises his head and strikes. More production with less resources is demanded, and the result is a mandate that can’t be obeyed. Unholy judgment comes and increases the fear and bondage of the people.
Pressure From Both Sides
Okay, are you ready? Can the pressure possibly get any greater? By now we realize the move from Egypt to the wilderness of encounter is going to be possibly the most difficult thing we’ve ever done. The fear and anger and tension is already quite extreme at this point of the story, but it’s about to be increased. Now both Pharaoh and the Hebrews resist!
Exodus 5:20-21 (Then, as they came out from Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron who stood there to meet them. And they said to them, “Let the LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
The complaints against Moses were flying! Why? Suddenly, this movement toward freedom resulted in life becoming worse, not better than it was before. Rather than being mission minded, they were focused on their own comfort level. It’s the epitome of self-centeredness! Instead of agreeing with the call for the masses to experience freedom, instead of having a heart for our children who have an opportunity to be free from Pharaoh’s curse, the selfish cry for personal preservation resounds.
Leaders, get ready. When the word for change comes, the cries will begin to sound!
“I want this and that. This is NOT what I signed up for! Let me tell you how things are supposed to be!”
Wiersbe Expository Outlines reveals: Believers who are out of fellowship with God bring grief to their leaders instead of help.
Prophetic leadership by its very nature will attempt to lead people into the invisible realm, into the unknown. In the face of certain resistance, we must pray for agreement as God gives us the directions for the journey into the unknown and challenging place of discovery.
Those leaders who take on the mantle of Moses and press against the spirit of Pharaoh, will not only have that spirit to deal with. They can also expect to be attacked by the very people they are called to lead to freedom!
You see, the Egyptian system is a place of bondage, but it’s also a place of safety and comfort–if you follow the rules. As the captives are being led from chains to the very presence of God, their discomfort will be more than most feel they can bear. Don’t be surprised if most members of your church choose to remain in an Egyptian system when you attempt to lead them into freedom. It will be all too easy for them to leave your church and find another that reminds them of the ‘good old days.’ Do you remember the cry of the Israelites after they made it to the wilderness? They complained and wanted to return to Egypt. Truly, this call out of Egypt is extreme and costly. The message of comfort and safety must be replaced with the Kingdom message of advance!
This issue is a key reason why most leaders refuse to move the people into the primary focus of fervent prayer and intimacy with God. People will leave. They will take their money with them, and reputations will be lost.
When a prophetic word is given, the one delivering it will usually feel very alone and opposed by all sides–by the enemy and by those he is leading into freedom.
Noah was alone, Elijah cried out after his greatest victory that he was alone, Jonah was rejected by those on the boat who were concerned for their own lives, John the Baptist was murdered, and on and on.
If we are going to partner with God and be a mouthpiece for his prophetic word to the current system and culture, we better be prepared to stand alone for a season.
1 Kings 19:9-10 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
Yet, we are not alone.
1 Kings 19:18 Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
So much of this story surrounds what seems to be a trivial object–a brick. As I shared previously, Pharaoh’s identity was in the expansion of his kingdom, a kingdom built with bricks. Further, the Israelite’s identities were based on the bricks themselves. That’s what they did. If they made a good brick, life was good, if they made a bad brick, life was bad. They were as good as the bricks they made with their hands.
In the confrontation with Pharaoh, Moses was declaring that there was no need for bricks where God was taking the Israelites. Yet, because the Israelite’s security and livelihood were tied to the bricks, they couldn’t see beyond that. The idea of a life void of the very thing that gave them their security and identity was too much to bear. The Egyptian system is very good at giving leaders and the people a measure of security, identity and community. However, it’s a significantly flawed system; a self-serving system.
God, through Moses, was working overtime to communicate that they didn’t need bricks to build a tent! Not only were they being called to drop their bricks, the very thing they were building was about to change! What an amazing opportunity to move from building a kingdom for Pharaoh to building the tent that would house the very presence of the Living God!
Additionally, they didn’t need bricks to make an offering– God won’t accept a brick as an offering! In fact, in Isaiah he rebuked them for making a sacrifice on top of brick!
Isaiah 65:2-3 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts; A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; Who sacrifice in gardens, And burn incense on altars of brick;
God’s plan was to remove their bricks and replace them with gold to take into the wilderness! The plunder of Egypt was theirs if they would only drop their bricks!
Exodus 12:35-36 Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
As in any transitional period, there will be a time of insecurity and struggle as both personal and corporate identity is threatened.
“I’ve made bricks my whole life. I make a great brick. I am helping build something greater than myself. I’m taking classes on how to make better bricks much faster. My leaders like me. I don’t like change. Why are you making my life harder?”
This reformation requires a complete paradigm shift. It’s a brand new wineskin for a brand new season of revolution. As we release our control over the people God placed under our care, we simultaneously put to death that spirit of Pharaoh and take on the prophetic and apostolic mantle of Moses.
As we do this, oh my! Are you ready for what is coming? God’s chosen people, you and me and the people we are leading into the wilderness of encounter, will finally drop the heavy, dusty bricks of yesterday and take on the precious metals of God’s Kingdom! It’s time to drop the bricks! It’s time to move out into a mysterious and fresh place full of wonder and promise.
The Power of a Declaration
I’ll again highlight the connection between my previous book, Covens in the Church, and this one, Pharaoh in the Church.
What is the body’s right response to challenge within their local church? For one, it’s to honor their commitment and refuse to flee. At the moment of conflict, the inescapable reality that we are called to lovingly submit to authorities in our lives can’t simply be ignored or invalidated. However, the cry of the people from their caves of oppression is to be free, to encounter God. Their cry is tearing at God’s heart. They are sure to have their cries heard, and you are the Gideon, the Moses, with the call of the Lord to lead them into life.
In the midst of this chaos and crisis, the wrong response of the body would be to leave, to vacate their assignment to serve, and to look elsewhere for what they desire. Church hopping and church shopping is not an option at this point.
Additionally, God won’t simply force change in the current Church structure without our participation. Consider this truth–God so honors the authorities (good and evil) that he put into position that he will not violate himself by taking lightly the call for people under their leadership to honor them–even at terrible times of crisis. So, we can’t just move to another church. There’s process. We need to humbly pray and serve and hold up the arms of our leaders. However, leaders beware. God won’t casually sit back and allow an Egyptian system to keep his Beloved in slavery. Using people to build kingdoms of man instead of leading them into the glory realm of God’s presence will bring increasingly severe and convincing judgment.
For those of you whose theological perspective causes you to struggle with the concept of the judgment of God in the New Covenant, allow me to explain what judgment really is.
If we hold to an accurate definition of judgment there’s no way we’d ever think of living a single day without it. Judgment is simply making wrong things right. For example, when God heals a sick person, he’s declaring judgment on disease. We are crying out for judgment on a murderous system of abortion in America. That wrong must be righted.
If a church is Egyptian in structure, or if there are imperfections in the system, it’s okay to agree with a process of judgment. We want wrong church structures to be made right. The risk, fear and trembling come when we resist God’s often difficult, yet loving process of calibration.
However, hear me very clearly and be warned. The biblical principle for judgment is that whatever we embrace for others will visit us first. If we declare judgment on a religious system that’s oppressing us, prepare to have religious attitudes in our own lives addressed.
1 Peter 4:17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
If we are praying for wrong things to be made right in our churches, we must be ready to receive the force of God’s correction in our lives first. Humility, love and determination to serve throughout the process are mandatory.
The Wild Process Toward Freedom
Now, with all of that being said, let’s look at the wild process that God took Pharaoh through. The Hebrews wanted to be free, and God wanted them to be free. They cried out, and God brought a prophet, Moses, to deliver them. It’s a done deal; they are moving into the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land.
Exodus 2:23-25 Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage. So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.
However, since God won’t violate his own principle of established authority, he had to compel his delegate Pharaoh to agree with his plans and to make a governmental declaration that only Pharaoh himself could deliver–the people of God may go!
Exodus 8:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.
We’ve heard this passage of scripture countless times, yet have you ever stopped to consider just what’s being said? We’re in the middle of this huge drama where some of the most bizarre signs and wonders ever recorded are taking place. By now in the story we have already had confrontations, staffs turning to serpents and a bold messenger of God risking his life by irritating the most powerful person in Egypt.
I’ll ask the question again–why in the world was all of this necessary? Why didn’t God simply snap his fingers and translate all of the Israelites into the wilderness (or directly to the Promised Land for that matter)?
Let’s look at one portion of the above passage again:
… Let My people go,
Is that not interesting? God didn’t say, “I’m taking my people, see ya!” He is making a demand on Pharaoh to let His people go.
Pharaoh had God’s rightful possession in his control. Because of Pharaoh’s governmental position, a position that God created and honored, he had to be the one to release the Israelites.
Romans 13:1-2 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
So, if God asked the Israelites to rebel against Pharaoh, clearly a very evil authority indeed, it would actually result in judgment landing upon them!
Exodus 8:21-22 Or else, if you will not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. And in that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, in which My people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there, in order that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the land.
So, instead of receiving judgment for prematurely leaving Egypt and rebelling against Pharaoh, God protected them from the judgment that hit the rest of the nation. A miracle occurred.
Leaders, please understand how devastating this entire process can be. If we refuse, as Pharaoh did, to release people from their brick-making duties, the pressure will increase. But even more tragic, those who are craving to move into God’s presence will not have that opportunity without enduring quite an ordeal. Or, if we cause people to abdicate their responsibilities of staying through the process of transition to leave for another church, the results can be devastating for all parties involved–sometimes for years or decades.
Okay, let’s really dig in and look at the process that was necessary, since God was honoring his established authority, Pharaoh.
Exodus 7:19-21 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your rod and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their streams, over their rivers, over their ponds, and over all their pools of water, that they may become blood. And there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in buckets of wood and pitchers of stone.’ “ And Moses and Aaron did so, just as the LORD commanded. So he lifted up the rod and struck the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants. And all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. The fish that were in the river died, the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink the water of the river. So there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
So, the pressuring continues. However, while Pharaoh was certainly impacted, he was not yet ready to relent–not even close.
Exodus 7:22-23 Then the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments; and Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house. Neither was his heart moved by this.
His concern was clearly not for any of the people of Egypt. All he cared about was the advancement of the great Egypt building project.
Exodus 7:24 So all the Egyptians dug all around the river for water to drink, because they could not drink the water of the river.
Pharaoh returned to the safety and comfort of his house while the people under his charge went without water. Many in the church today might complain (which is a sin) about a leader that doesn’t nourish the body. While their analysis may be correct, their gossip and complaining is very incorrect. As leaders, we have to know that a malnourished people will become desperate. They will seek refreshing and water, and it’s our job to lead them to it. Of course, Pharaoh couldn’t care less.
Exodus 8:1-2 And the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me. But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will smite all your territory with frogs.
Again, God’s cry is for his people to be free so they can be with him. So, pressure again increases.
Exodus 8:8 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Entreat the LORD that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.”
Well, isn’t that interesting? It looks like God has won! God’s leader, Pharaoh, seemed to come into agreement with the plan of the ages. However, notice that there is no official decree here. Let’s read on:
Exodus 8:9-10 And Moses said to Pharaoh, “Accept the honor of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses, that they may remain in the river only.” So he said, “Tomorrow.” And he said, “Let it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God.
Oops. Pharaoh wasn’t as determined as it appeared. Even in the midst of great trial, he decided to delay obedience to God’s directive to let the people go until the next day. This slight hesitation gave ample room for the enemy to haunt Pharaoh and to cause his heart to change. Delayed obedience is disobedience.
Exodus 8:15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not heed them, as the LORD had said.
Next we have the plague of lice which didn’t work. Maybe some flies would get the point across?
Exodus 8:25-32 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God in the land.” And Moses said, “It is not right to do so, for we would be sacrificing the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God. If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, then will they not stone us? We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as He will command us.” And Pharaoh said, “I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Intercede for me.” Then Moses said, “Indeed I am going out from you, and I will entreat the LORD, that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people. But let Pharaoh not deal deceitfully anymore in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” So Moses went out from Pharaoh and entreated the LORD. And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; He removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people. Not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also; neither would he let the people go.
Here we have Pharaoh starting to bend. He even asked for prayer! However, he placed conditions on the release of the Hebrews. This is a very important point that we have to consider. When God is calling us to transition, it truly is a call to the extreme. There will be a lot of temptation to compromise and to avoid as much static and risk as possible. When we take this approach, we are giving way to the enemy. We’re providing an opportunity for the enemy to counsel us in our place of wavering commitment to change.
Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go, but just a short distance,. That way, when they were done, things could return to normal. The bricks would be made again and the kingdom would be built again.
Understand, this movement is not a slight adjustment or a momentary redirect. This is massive reformation and the old will be left behind to fade away. The coming church will look nothing like the current.
Next God takes out the cattle of the Egyptians while saving the cattle of the Israelites. Pharaoh’s heart remained hard.
Would the spread of nasty boils throughout Egypt work? Nope. Pharaoh almost gave in again when the hail or the locusts came, but, once again, his heart hardened.
When the darkness came, we again see Pharaoh relent–to a degree.
Exodus 10:24-27 Then Pharaoh called to Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be kept back. Let your little ones also go with you.” But Moses said, “You must also give us sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. Our livestock also shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind. For we must take some of them to serve the LORD our God, and even we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.” But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go.
God’s call was for everyone and everything. This was not a conditional request. It’s all or nothing. Churches that attempt to keep one foot in Egypt while allowing another in the wilderness will end up with a hard heart. It just can’t work. We see this happen often when pastors provide a certain level of liberty for the resident intercessors to call the people to prayer–in a small room on a day, any day, other than Sunday. It’s a compromise that results in the main purpose of the Church, prayer for the nations, being relegated to an extracurricular activity. The prayer rooms will remain empty until the prayer meetings become the main meetings. The Church is a place of night and day prayer and ministry to God. Building the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God side by side just can’t work.
Psalm 127:1 …Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain.
The Necessary Declaration
Now, the point of this message is before us:
Exodus 12:29-33 And it came to pass at midnight that the LORD struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. So Pharaoh rose in the night, he, all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where there was not one dead. Then he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, “Rise, go out from among my people, both you and the children of Israel. And go, serve the LORD as you have said. Also take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone; and bless me also.” And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.”
It happened. Pharaoh finally released them. It was his choice and he chose to agree with God’s desire for his people. The risk of further loss was too great, and Pharaoh went from one who violently opposed God’s plans to one who then relented to a degree, yet placed conditions on the release of the Israelites, to one who wanted them gone–and fast. God’s pressure was sufficient. Throughout the entire process, the Israelites did not rebel. They stayed and submitted, and God protected them throughout. Now, as they were leaving, the freedom they were experiencing was indescribable. After the declaration by Pharaoh, the authority transferred from him to Moses. Pharaoh would attempt to chase after the people he no longer had any authority over, but now, due to his decree to transfer leadership to Moses, God then had full governmental cause to refuse his advance. Moses was now in charge. This is why the concept of seeking blessing from pastors prior to moving from one church to another is so important. We must transfer the authority and responsibility to serve and lead those God placed in our care to another.
Exodus 12:35-36 Now the children of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, and they had asked from the Egyptians articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing. And the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they granted them what they requested. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
Their new journey had begun, and God gave them everything they would need to bring an offering into the wilderness of encounter. Can you imagine how it must have felt to leave the heavy, dusty bricks in the sand while carrying gold and silver?
As this message closes, I want to drive home the point one more time. Since the body cannot rebel against authority and improper church systems, it’s up to the leaders to relent and make the governmental declaration that, yes, God’s people can go. The Egyptian system of old is done and we’re apostolically moving into a place of intercession, life and freedom.