Brief Notes

Bargaining with
Pharaoh (1):
The Pharaoh
Within

23 December 2023

There is an evil
spiritual force within
each of us that struggles
to keep us from
following Christ

In his first letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul describes how he was running the Christian race, seeking to gain the incorruptible crown of reigning with Christ (1 Cor. 9:24-27). He then goes on to illustrate his meaning, using the example of the Children of Israel leaving Egypt on their way to enter into the Good Land, where they would eventually build up the temple as God’s dwelling place (1 Cor. 10:1-11). In doing so he says, speaking  of the experiences the Israelites went through on their journey, that,

…these things happened [to them] as a pattern for us.
— 1 Cor. 10:6, 11

So, as the New Testament believers, we should consider the history of the Children of Israel to see what lessons it has for us as we follow Christ today.

One particular aspect of that history has impressed me a great deal lately, namely, how Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, bargained with the Children of Israel in an attempt to keep them under his authority.

Pharaoh, of course, typifies Satan as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11). But he not only rules over this world outwardly; he is also working as the evil spiritual force within each one of us (Eph. 2:2) who, as “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), attempts to rule over us from within and thus keep us from fully turning to Christ and following Christ. That is why Martin Luther said,

I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self.

So, there is not only a “Pharaoh” ruling over this world outwardly; there is also a “Pharaoh” within each one of us, that is, the fallen, satanic nature within us expressed as our self-life (Matt. 16:22-24).

This indwelling Pharaoh of our self-life keeps telling us that we must give ourselves to gain the blessings of this age; that we must fight and struggle with others so we can get ahead of them in the world; and that we must consume all our time and energy to enjoy the pleasures, joys, luxuries, and amusements the world has to offer.

Of course, if we do take this way, we will be useless as far as God and His purpose are concerned, for even without knowing it we will be fully enslaved in Satan’s world system, just as in the Old Testament the Children of Israel were living in bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt, building up his “treasure cities” (Exo. 1:11).

In fact, once we realize there is such a Pharaoh within us, working to enslave us, the Old Testament picture in Exodus becomes much more meaningful in terms of how it applies to our Christian experience. Then we will see how it shows us the subtle ways in which the Pharaoh of our self-life seeks to “bargain” with us to keep us from following Christ, and how our self-life must be dealt with if we are to run the Christian race successfully.

And that is what we will consider in the upcoming Notes in this series.

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— 21 December 2023 —