"Tomorrow at this time I will cause the heaviest hail to fall that has ever fallen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Send, therefore, and have your livestock and everything that you have in the open field brought to a secure place."
Occasionally I'd wonder about the 10 Plagues. Remember the ones God inflicted on the Egyptians because the Pharaoh wouldn't let Moses leave with the people? It always seemed a bit harsh to me. Why ten? Couldn't God have accomplished the same result with seven... or five... or three... or even one? And if it was mostly Pharaoh's stubbornness, why'd the rest of Egypt have to suffer as well?
And then this morning as I was rereading a portion of the passage from Exodus, I saw something I'd never seen before. It came during plague #7: HAIL. (Well, technically just before plague #7) When Mo told the Pharaoh and his advisers what was coming next on the hit list, he gave them an out. He told them the hail would hit - and if they wanted to save their animals & slaves, they should bring them in from the open field. "The officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried their slaves & livestock off to a secure place" (v.20).
Now why more didn't heed Mo's warning (after SIX PREVIOUS PLAGUES!!!), I have no idea. But I found it incredibly compassionate that God gave the Egyptians this out - a minor respite from the divine assaults due to Pharaoh's hardheartedness. Call it a "pocket of grace," if you will.
I'd wager that God provides tons of "pockets of grace" throughout our lives - if only we'd take the time to notice them. Heck, it might even save us a bit of heartache.