“So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on men and animals. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.” (Exodus 9:10-12 NIV84)
You’ve certainly heard of, or seen variations of, the “chicken” challenge. It is a modern-day jousting tournament. Two cars barrel toward each other challenging the other to flinch and veer off the path. It has been played out in many variations, but the point is to see who flinches first out of fear. At first glance, this is a stupid thing to do, regardless of your opponent. But it is especially stupid to do with God. God does not flinch. He is not our equal! What in the world was Pharaoh thinking? He had finally gone too far. God now took everything up a notch. Previously, His plagues were powerful nuisances, but now they were getting personal. In the last plague God attacked the livestock of the Egyptians. In this plague He attacked the Egyptians themselves. With a little soot thrown into the air by the hands of Moses, God attacked the Egyptians with boils all over their bodies. God had shown that He has control of creation. Now He showed the Egyptians that He has control over their very lives.
God also hardened Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh had played the false repentance card just one too many times. God knew the disposition of his heart. God knew that he would not yield his heart, so God locked it (at least in the earthly sense of these plagues). God was now going to make sure that He could make a statement with the life of this Pharaoh. What was that statement? It is the theme of this devotion: Playing chicken with God never pays! Like Peter, we need to fall at Jesus’ feet claiming our unworthiness to be in His presence. We need to humble ourselves as creatures before our Creator. We need to always yield to his purpose and will for our lives.
One more account of playing chicken with God has to be what Satan attempted throughout Jesus’ ministry. It started at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when He was tempted in the wilderness, and it continued all the way through Good Friday. Satan did everything he could to get Jesus off track. He foolishly attempted to tempt Jesus with a frontal attack; that didn’t work. He continued to attack His ministry from the outside by raising up opposition within the religious elite; that didn’t work either. Even on the cross, I imagine Satan hammering Jesus with everything he had, thinking that he was nailing Jesus with his blows; but that didn’t work either. Jesus’ sixth phrase on the cross was “Tetelestai!” (It is finished!). With these words He crushed Satan’s head and proved beyond a doubt that playing chicken with God never pays. Three days later, Jesus rose victoriously from the dead to prove that Satan was defeated and death no longer had a hold on those who believe in Jesus.