I was reading in Exodus 9 today and was struck by the contrast of leadership that is on display in this part of the Biblical narrative. Moses, the one time adopted child of Pharaoh, is now the somewhat reluctant leader of Israel. Along with his brother Aaron, they are demonstrating bold courage (that flows from humility) on behalf of their people to free them from slavery and see them through to the land that God has promised to them.
Pharaoh, on the other hand, is somewhat of a foil in the narrative. We read simultaneously that he has hardened his heart towards Yahweh and Yahweh has hardened his heart. But make no mistake-Pharaoh is ultimately responsible for his own choices. In the midst of the plagues that Yahweh sends upon the Egyptians-we see both God’s ultimate purpose and the cause of leadership gone bad. Nestled in verses 16 and 17 we read this, “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go.”
Did you catch that? God’s ultimate purpose is to make His own name great in all the earth. His power is on display as a contrast to Pharaoh’s power. Egypt was the greatest nation on the planet at this time-most would have seen Pharaoh as the most powerful man alive. But Yahweh is out to prove that His power is vastly superior-and he does so to the proclamation of His own name. As Christ-centered leaders this should be our purpose too. We are to be about making His name great in all the earth. We are to trust in His power alone to accomplish this-because his power is vastly superior to our own-or that of any would be spiritual foe. But we must be very careful not to fall prey to the Pharaoh syndrome-self exaltation-even in the midst of clear evidence that he was being made little of while God was being made much of.
I can live out the Pharaoh syndrome in many ways-most of them quite subtle-some of them quite obvious. Whenever I am trusting in my own power over that of the Holy Spirit I am leaning towards self exaltation. Whenever I secretly want credit for the success around me or run from credit when failure occurs-I am leaning towards self exaltation. When I see my team or those I minister to as there to advance my agenda-I am leaning toward self exaltation. These attitudes are about me making my name great-not His.
I need the three allies of the faith to avoid the Pharaoh syndrome-the Word of God as a regular dietary part of my day; I need the Holy Spirit in all of His convicting power in my life-and to choose to respond to His probing instantly; and I need the community of believers to speak truth into my life (and leaders, you will have to openly and honestly invite this into your life).
What are some other ways the Pharaoh syndrome shows up for you? Where are you leaning towards (or possible basking in) self exaltation? How will you purpose to lean into His power today and make His name great in all the earth?