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"I Have Sinned." (Part 2)

Jul 23, 2008, 7:18 AM | Article By: By Galandou Gorre-Ndiaye

It is not difficult to see through Pharaoh's smoke screen and insincerity for he was neither willing nor ready to succumb. He had determined to resist Jehovah, the Lord God Almighty, even to the very end. Unfortunately, this would cost him the life of all of Egypt's first born - both animals and humans. The price of Pharaoh's sin was paid when God's wrath descended on him and his people at the Passover.

We observe that whilst Moses did not accuse him directly of sin, Pharaoh himself had realised he had transgressed God's commands. Moses had challenged him speaking on God's behalf: "How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?" (Exodus 10:3) The second time he confessed he had sinned against God was after locusts had completely devoured everything that was green in the land during the eighth plague. "I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the Lord your God to take this deadly plague away from me." (Exodus 10:17)

Pharaoh had no intention to believe in the Lord. He had referred to Him as Moses' Lord, 'your Lord'; 'the Lord your God' with a tongue-in-the-cheek kind of attitude. He was just bidding time because he would later dismiss Moses and Aaron from his presence, when he could no longer stand the humiliation. "Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again!" (Exodus 10:28).

It became clear, beyond any shadow of doubt, that Pharaoh would not give in to pressure from Moses and Aaron.  After all he considered himself as god in his own right, one of Egypt's most revered gods. It would have been too demeaning for Pharaoh to have succumbed to another God in the presence of all his courtiers. So he had to put up a show, to make believe he had sinned and in so doing benefit from some relief when maximum pressure was applied. No sooner was the pressure turned off than we realise Pharaoh was still adamant on disobeying the Lord. He immediately returned to his initial position and refused to budge.

The word repentance is derived from a Roman military term which meant to make a U-turn. When we truly repent of our sins, we must make a U-turn, depart or turn away from them. Pharaoh's repentance was far from genuine; it was intended to buy time. When we say we have repented of our sins, we need to look in the opposite direction, return to where we were before committing a particular sin.

We meet another Old Testament character who confessed to sinning before God but declined to admit full responsibility. King Saul, the first king of Israel, had received instructions from God through His prophet Samuel to go and eliminate the Amelekites. Prophet Samuel's instructions were: "Now go, and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them, put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys." (1 Samuel 15:3)

These instructions were clear and unambiguous - to bring down, to annihilate, decimate and raze to the ground every moving thing in the Amelekite nation because they had "waylaid the Children of Israel as they came up from Egypt." (1 Samuel 15:2) However, Saul returned with the best of the sheep and cattle and spared the life of king Agag as well. When prophet Samuel asked him, "Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?" (1 Samuel 15:19) Saul responded: "The soldiers brought them from the Amelekites, they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but the rest we totally destroyed." (1 Samuel 15:15)

You will recall that the instructions were given to King Saul and not to his men. In the face of this blatant disregard of God's orders, King Saul sought to justify his actions by blaming this act of disobedience on his men. He did not just stop at that, he further underlined that it was for a good purpose - to offer a sacrifice to God.

Despite our good intentions, God's instructions are supreme and we have no say in the matter. We are required to comply and not have to justify our disobedience. For acting in this manner, Saul lost his kingdom. Samuel addressed him thus: "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice and to heed is better than the fat of rams." (1 Samuel 15:22)

"Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king." (1 Samuel 15:23b) The reasons given by King Saul for behaving otherwise were very flimsy. In confessing his fault before the prophet Samuel, King Saul admitted: "I have sinned. I violated the Lord's command and your instructions." (1 Samuel 15:24)