Grasshoppers. The image in my mind is of a childhood family holiday in the country; a warm evening, and the amazing sounds of their chirruping all along one particular hedge. Yet one species of these things can suddenly turn into a swarming plague of locusts as witnessed by Pharaoh and the Egyptians in Exodus 10:8-15. Apparently it’s a response to overcrowding, and they suddenly change colour, appetite and breeding capabilities; a swarm can cover hundreds of square miles, and consist of many billions of locusts. All with voracious appetite for anything in their path. Devastation on a scale I can only imagine.
I try to put myself in Moses’ shoes in this story. I know probably most of the Egyptians had been willingly exploiting his own people the Israelites, but nevertheless I would have been feeling pretty wretched looking at the mess their country had already been reduced to after so many plagues. Now Moses was about to bring about a most awful devastation on these folk: not just for the present, but for many generations to come. Destruction of every tree would imply loss of shade, fruit and seeds, and cause soil erosion. Their homes and businesses would be damaged, with no wood to mend them. Any foodstuffs would be lost, as would the hope of growing more in the near future. What an awful responsibility at Moses’ door.
Yet he could not compromise. Moses simply had to force Pharaoh’s hand, and God had ordered it. Was it God’s fault that the ordinary Egyptians suffered? Was it unfair to them that he pushed through his agenda? The real problem was Pharaoh. And the fact is that ordinary people do suffer under bad regimes. That is not God’s fault. And there will always be ‘innocent’ casualties of valid resistance to bad regimes. Does that mean we should not resist?
Sometimes doing the right thing can cost others, but we still have to do the right thing. For Moses, it was imperative that every single Israelite man, woman and child be released from the bondage of slavery they had endured for generations. There could be no compromise. Neither as Christians can we compromise our standards. There are times when we are called to challenge bad systems, oppression, or wrong decisions by those in authority. It is truly shocking, for example, that today in the UK slavery, though illegal, is alive and kicking. As Edmund Burke put it, “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.”
Lord give me the eyes to see the issues you want me to challenge, the wisdom to know how to respond, and the courage to act when we are called, whatever the cost.
We have to trust that God himself will defend a right action.