Words Without Meaning

It's how we talk.

Exodus 9:27-35 (NKJV)

And Pharaoh sent and called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “I have sinned this time. The LORD is righteous, and my people and I are wicked. Entreat the LORD, that there may be no more mighty thundering and hail, for it is enough. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.”

So Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. But as for you and your servants, I know that you will not yet fear the LORD God.”

Now the flax and the barley were struck, for the barley was in the head and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the spelt were not struck, for they are late crops.

So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and spread out his hands to the LORD; then the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain was not poured on the earth. And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, the hail, and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hard; neither would he let the children of Israel go, as the LORD had spoken by Moses.

By now the Egyptian people are deeply divided. Any Egyptian who feared the word of the LORD … made his servants and his livestock flee to the houses. Anyone who didn’t, left his servants and his livestock in the field. This surely led to a great deal of anguish and argument. Since the loss of life and livestock was severe, those who avoided this catastrophe undoubtedly had a few words for to those who didn’t.

This is turning into a clinic on bad leadership. It’s hard to tell whether Pharaoh’s vacillation is a psychological disorder or just someone out of his depth flailing around. We can’t blame this on his advisors (the “magicians”); they got a clue back in plague number three.

As mean as he is, it’s still hard not to feel some sympathy for Pharaoh. He’s just pitiful. Each time he pleads with Moses to end a plague, it’s more obsequious than the time before. This time he even says, “I have sinned.

But he’s just saying that. He doesn’t really mean it.


Words without meaning are way too common in America, and not just with politicians. We elect people who talk like that because it doesn’t offend us that much. This is a catastrophe. We’re so marinated in this culture that we don’t even notice it. That makes this hard to explain.

Our conversations are usually not even conversations. We ask, “How ya’ doin’?” but don’t expect a real answer. We’d be stunned speechless if someone replied with something like, “I’m really hurting.” We talk to people like we don’t want to talk to them, and we say things we do not mean. To wit:

Beware of the line, “I’ll pray for you.” If you commit to praying for someone, write it down (e.g., on your phone). If possible, don’t just promise, stop and pray right then – and write it down.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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