Bringing up kids these days is just NOT EASY! You can’t tell them they are naughty, else they’ll have a self-image of a naughty person, and naughty people do more naughty things. Mmmmm. What you have to do is show them they have a choice. They can make a right choice, and that has it’s rewards. Or they can make a wrong choice, and if they do then such-and-such will happen. And a wise parent or carer will make jolly sure it’s clear what such-and-such is, and that it most definitely happens. Keeps it simple; they know where they stand then.
That was God’s strategy with the Egyptians (Exodus 9:17-26). They’d persisted in making a bad choice to oppress his people, so a something-bad was about to happen in the form of the worst hail storm in history. They still had a choice to make. They could believe God and salvage their livestock, slaves and whatever else they could bring into shelter; or they could ignore him and lose the lot. Their choice. Their informed choice.
What strikes me about this story, is that some of those slaves who got left out in the storm would have been Israelites. God’s own people. Those in the Goshen area were not affected; God saw to that. But those forced to stay out in the hail would most certainly have perished or been injured at least. Did God love them any less that their brothers in Goshen? Was it ‘God’s plan for their lives’ that they should suffer? Of course not! They simply suffered for someone else’s bad choice.
So it is sometimes in life today, we suffer because someone drove badly, or didn’t wash their hands appropriately, or weren’t sufficiently trained, or just wanted to hurt us in some way. All bad decisions; yet we so quickly blame God for allowing us to suffer the outcome. We too can make bad decisions that affect others adversely. Sometimes we have to come to terms with the knowledge that we have harmed another through a bad choice. This bible story shows us that God does not cover every single bad choice, much as we would like him to.
But it also shows us that he covers us far more than we ask or deserve. Those is Goshen were protected simply because of his love. Not because they had prayed about it, and not because they had lived especially righteous lives. God’s love and power had covered them again and again, probably without them even realising it.
We need to thank God for his many, many mercies – probably many more than we know about. And we have to forgive ourselves and others when we get it wrong, and remember it’s not God’s fault when we make bad choices.