There’s a hilarious video clip of Bush and Blair trying to use body language to get one-upmanship over each other. It’s all a matter of nods, pats on the back, and who goes through the door of Number 10 last. Bush won, even though it was poor Tony’s territory!
A similar battle was going on between Pharaoh and God (Exodus 7:10-13). Aaron threw down his staff and it became a snake as a show of power, exactly as God had ordained. Pharaoh was not to be outdone, and summoned his wise men and sorcerers and they equalized by doing just the same. But then Aaron’s snake swallowed the others, and God had the upper hand again. Still Pharaoh was not giving up that easily. He hardened his heart to win the battle for power against the God of the Hebrews.
It wasn’t just one-upmanship: there was a great deal at stake for Pharaoh. Submitting to God would cost him his entire free workforce, his building prestige and maybe even the respect of the Egyptian people; and what would he get in return? Nothing! He had everything to fight for. No wonder that he hardened his heart, and had no plans to submit anytime soon!
When we think about submitting to God, it always seems to be at great cost. What will God demand of us? True discipleship is a very tough road that requires high levels of self-sacrifice. But unlike Pharaoh, we don’t want to go completely against God, as there are distinct advantages in playing on his team. So we tend to opt for the halfy-halfy compromised lifestyle, reaping the benefits of salvation without too big a change in lifestyle.
I was just thinking about the cost of discipleship and submission, when the words of Jesus to the weary came to me: “Take my yoke upon you…for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30) Being yoked speaks of hard work; do I really want that? But he did promise that he would be there right beside us. And personally, I don’t know anywhere else I’d rather be, than right next to Jesus. And his body language is no pat on the back to show who’s boss. No, instead he held his arms of love open wide, and submitted himself to death on a cross. He committed himself to me, totally, at full cost. If that doesn’t soften your heart, and make you want to run totally committed to partnered working right beside him, I don’t know what would.