To be a tough negotiator is looked upon as a very positive quality in this world. For a person to be able to wheel and deal, working the situation so that they can come out with the best deal possible, is a great virtue especially in the business world. The Pharaoh of Egypt seems to be just this kind of person. He is a tough negotiator, seeking always to bring the most positive advantage to his side of the table. As he wrestles with God and with Moses in this situation in which he is being asked to allow the Hebrew slaves to leave, he tries over and over again to negotiate a deal that will still leave him with some advantage and some benefit. At first he refused to let the people go. This was his opening position. Then, when that didn’t work and he was forced to give in, he takes the position that the people can only go for a little ways and only for a little while. When that didn’t work he tries to make it so that only some of the people could go. Over and over again he tries to keep the advantage on his side.
God however, does not negotiate with mankind. He holds firm to his original demand and will not back down, even in the face of Pharaohs powerful demands. He continues to send the plagues, this time consisting of the locusts that came and ate every green plant in the land of Egypt. And even when he does give in, he still tries to make it sound like he’s more innocent than he really is. He declares, “I have sinned against the Lord and against you. Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once”. Obviously he has sinned more than once in this situation and God has already put up with his shenanigans several times. And, amazingly, once the locusts are gone, he hardens his heart yet again against the Lord. He still envisions himself to be the tough negotiator.
Do you try to negotiate with God ever? Our reading today once again emphasizes the truth that God does not make deals with us, nor do we have the opportunity to negotiate with him concerning our demands in relation to his. We once again see that the best way to respond to God is simply to surrender to him, for in the end that is what we are going to do one way or the other. Being a tough negotiator means that we are always thinking about our own benefit and how we can accomplish that even when dealing with God. But when it comes to the kingdom of God tough negotiators have no place.