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The Plagues of Egypt; the Plagues of Pride (Moses pt3)

Notes & Transcripts

The Plagues of Egypt; the Plagues of Pride

February 14, 1999             Exodus 4:18 – 12:51

Seven times in these chapters, God says to Pharaoh, “Let my people go!” (See 5:1; 7:16; 8:1, 20; 9:1, 13; 10:3.) This command reveals that Israel was in bondage, but God wanted them to be free that they might serve Him. This is the condition of every lost sinner: enslavement to the world, the flesh and the devil (Eph. 2:1-3).  Some, like the Hebrews, will eventually listen to God’s message of deliverance, but others, like Pharaoh, will be hardened with self-exalting pride and be destroyed by the wrath of God.

“Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” was Pharaoh’s response to God’s command (5:2). When we envision ourselves as a god, why should we be compelled to listen to another?  The world has no respect for God’s Word; it is “vain words” to them (5:9). Pharaoh called the words of God a lie.  Moses and Aaron presented God’s command to Pharaoh, and the result was more bondage for Israel! The sinner will either yield to God’s Word, or resist it and become hardened (see 3:18-20 and 4:21-23). In one sense, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart by presenting His claims, but Pharaoh himself hardened his own heart by resisting God’s claims. The same sun that melts the ice also hardens the clay.

Unfortunately, the people of Israel initially looked to Pharaoh for help rather than to the Lord who had promised to deliver them (5:15-19). No wonder the Jews were unable to agree with Moses (5:20-23) and accused him instead of encouraging him. Believers who are out of fellowship with God bring grief to their leaders instead of help. Moses certainly was discouraged, but he did what is always best—he took his problem to the Lord. God encouraged Moses in chapter 6 by reminding him of His name (6:1-3), His covenant (6:4), His personal concern (6:5), and His faithful promises (6:6-8). God’s “I AM” and “I WILL” are enough to overcome the enemy! 

What is sin except that which holds us back from serving God, like it held  back Pharaoh - and yet God’s power is greater (6:1).  God’s purpose in allowing Pharaoh to oppress Israel was that God’s own power and glory might be known to the world (6:7; 7:5, 17; 8:10, 22; see Rom. 9:17).  We, like the Hebrews, can become so oppressed by our own situation that we cannot see or hear anything else (6:9), but God delivers us.  Sometimes God uses us to show others that he is God (7:5).  When Aaron threw down the staff of Moses and it became a snake that swallowed up the competition (7:12), it is symbolic of God’s ultimate power over evil.  Perhaps it is symbolic of God’s sovereign will that evil must ultimately be destroyed by itself because of its opposition to God’s natural law.  God threw down his snake, the magicians threw down their snakes, and God’s snake consumes the magicians’ snakes.

The stage is set: Pharaoh refused God’s command, and now God would send His judgments on Egypt. He would fulfill His promise in Gen. 12:3 to judge the nations that persecute the Jews. He would reveal His power (9:16), His wrath (Ps. 78:43-51), and His greatness, showing that the gods of Egypt were false gods, and that Jehovah alone is the true God (12:12; Num. 33:4).

The ten plagues that God sent upon Egypt accomplished several things: (1) they were signs to Israel, assuring them of God’s power and care, 7:3; (2) they were plagues of judgment to Egypt, punishing the people for persecuting Israel and revealing the vanity of their gods, 9:14; and (3) they were prophecies of judgments to come, as revealed in the Book of Revelation.

Note the escalating sequence of the plagues. They fall into three groups of three each, with the tenth plague (death of the firstborn) set last.  Each group begins with Moses personally going to warn Pharaoh as he went out to the Nile in the morning, perhaps to worship, and closes after Moses pronounces a plague without warning.  They increase in severity.  They did not happen in rapid succession, taking perhaps up to a year to become complete.  God offered them to Pharaoh as visual aids in understanding who God is (12:12).  Each plague is specifically against one of the gods of Egypt: the Nile as the source of life became polluted by blood as the substance of life, the frog goddess Haqt as the symbol of resurrection died in heaps, the fly god Uatchit became ineffective as the gnats and flies brought the defilement of uncleanness which prohibited the worship of the other deities, Hathor the cow-goddess and Apis the sacred bull were rendered impotent by anthrax, the gods and goddesses that controlled health and safety (like Seth) were attacked in the plagues of boils, hail, and locusts, the mighty sun god Ra as chief of gods could not compete with the one true God as creator of light, and Meskhemit the goddess of birth and Hathor her companion could not keep the firstborn safe from the hand of God’s judgment.  The last plague was even an attack on Pharaoh himself as a deity.  The ten plagues begin and end with blood (Hebrews 9:22, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”).  When a person will not obey God willingly, God will often bring to bear circumstances that force him to obey God unwillingly.

Discomfort:  By this you will know that I am the Lord.  (7:17)

1.       Water to blood, (7:14-25) 

         

a.       Cycle 1:  Moses appears before Pharaoh (7:16) in the morning at the river to warn him (intimately).

b.       Natural Explanation?:  Plague sequence triggered by abnormally high seasonal flood carrying red earth and microorganisms from highlands, turning Nile red and killing fish.

c.       Magician Involvement:  Duplicated by magicians (7:22), which made the situation worse.

d.       Israelite Involvement:  Had to endure the first three plagues along with the Egyptians.

     e.       Pharaoh’s Involvement:  Unimpressed, hardened heart (7:22-23).

2.       Frogs, (8:1-15) 

a.       Cycle 2:  Moses “comes before” Pharaoh (8:1) to warn him (formally).

b.       Natural Explanation?:  Decomposing fish pollute water and cause frogs to desert banks, infected with disease organisms from dead fish, causing the sudden death of the frogs.

c.       Magician Involvement:  Duplicated by magicians (8:7), which made the situation worse.

d.       Israelite Involvement:  Had to endure the first three plagues along with the Egyptians.

e.       Pharaoh’s Involvement:  Promise given to let the people go offer sacrifices to God, but retracted when relief came in response to Moses gracious offer of prayer at Pharaoh’s request (8:8,15).

3.       Lice, Gnats or Mosquitoes,  (8:16-19)

a.       Cycle 3:  Moses does not appear but only uses a symbolic gesture with no warning (distantly).

b.       Natural Explanation?:  Insects would breed freely in the ideal conditions left by the stagnant waters of the retreating flood.

c.       Magician Involvement:  Magicians could not duplicate – said the finger of God had performed it (8:18-19).

d.       Israelite Involvement:  Had to endure the first three plagues along with the Egyptians.

e.       Pharaoh’s Involvement:  Unimpressed, hardened heart.

Disease:  That you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land.  (8:22)

4.       Flies, (8:20-24)

         

a.       Cycle 1:  Moses appears before Pharaoh (8:20) in the morning at the river to warn him (intimately).

b.       Natural Explanation?:  Insects would breed freely in the ideal conditions left by the stagnant waters of the retreating flood.

c.       Magician Involvement:  None.

     d.       Israelite Involvement:  Israelites spared in the land of Goshen.

e.       Pharaoh’s Involvement:  Compromise offered to let the people worship God in the land or if they didn’t go very far into the desert, but retracted when the answer came in response to his request for prayer (8:25-28, 32).

5.       Plague on livestock, (9:1-7)

a.       Cycle 2:  Moses “comes before” Pharaoh (9:1) to warn him (formally).

b.       Natural Explanation?:  Anthrax, caused by the dead frogs infested with microorgainisms, perhaps carried by the flies.

c.       Magician Involvement:  None.

d.       Israelite Involvement:  Israelites spared – none of their animals would die.

e.       Pharaoh’s Involvement:  Investigated what happened but would not yield.

6.       Boils on the people as well as animals, (9:8-12)

a.       Cycle 3:  Moses does not appear but only uses a symbolic gesture with no warning (distantly).

b.       Natural Explanation?:  Skin anthrax, related to cattle anthrax, transferred now onto the people as well as animals because of bites from the flies.

c.       Magician Involvement:  Magicians afflicted and could not stand (9:11).

     d.       Israelite Involvement:  Israelites probably spared.

e.       Pharaoh’s Involvement:  Hardened heart.

Distress:  So you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.  (9:14)

7.       Hail and Lightning, (9:13-35)

         

a.       Cycle 1:  Moses appears before Pharaoh (9:13) in the morning at the river to warn him (intimately).

b.       Natural Explanation?:  Came at the time of year such things may be seasonally expected in order to be in sequence with the rest of the plagues.

c.       Magician Involvement:  None.

     d.       Israelite Involvement:  Israelites spared in the land of Goshen.

e.       Pharaoh’s Involvement:  Moses explained God’s mercy in limiting the full force of the plagues up to now, but no longer.  Pharaoh fulfilled his purpose in opposing God although many of his people now believed God.  Even though Pharaoh now admitted his own sin and God’s righteousness, Moses knew his heart was still deceitful.  When Moses prayed for relief at Pharaoh’s request, his heart was hardened once again.

8.      Locusts, (10:1-20)

a.       Cycle 2:  Moses “comes before” Pharaoh (10:3) to warn him (formally).

b.       Natural Explanation?:  Locust outbreak would be favored by the same rains that caused the abnormally high flood.

c.       Magician Involvement:  None.

d.       Israelite Involvement:  Israelites probably spared in the land of Goshen.

e.       Pharaoh’s Involvement:  The officials press Pharaoh to let the people go.  Compromise offered to let only the men go worship God in the desert, but unacceptable (10:7-11).  Pharaoh once again admits sin, requests prayer, and hardens heart.

9.       Thick darkness, (10:21-23) 

a.       Cycle 3:  Moses does not appear but only uses a symbolic gesture with no warning (distantly).

b.       Natural Explanation?:  An apt description of an unusually strong desert sandstorm, whipped up by seasonal winds that tore across plains of the Nile, laden with silt from the retreating flood.

c.       Magician Involvement:  None.

     d.       Israelite Involvement:  Israelites spared in the land of Goshen.

e.       Pharaoh’s Involvement:  Moses summoned and compromise offered to let all the people go worship God in the desert without the livestock, but unacceptable (10:24-26).  Pharaoh refuses to see Moses again (10:27-28), but Moses announces the final plague before he leaves.

Death:

10.     Death of the firstborn male, both people and animals, (Ch.11-12)

a.       Cycle X:  Personal warning given to Pharaoh beginning in 10:29 and continued in 11:4-8.  This final judgment was the first threatened (4:22-23) but the last executed.  God knew it would come this far, and God intended it would go this far in order that his power be proclaimed on behalf of his people unto his own glory as their God, making a distinction between Egypt and Israel, protecting Israel even so far as to silence the minimal threat of a barking dog (11:7).

b.       Natural Explanation?:  None.

c.       Magician Involvement:  None.

d.       Israelite Involvement:  Israelites spared because of obedience through faith.

e.       Pharaoh’s Involvement:  This plague hit Pharaoh up close and personal, so personal that he would now drive them out completely.  Pharaoh let all the people go along with their flocks and herds, supposedly forever, but again later changed his mind, leading to the destruction of himself and his army in the heart of the Red Sea.  The “blessing” that Pharaoh requested (12:32) once again fell on an unrepentant heart (14:5-9).

Even though the first nine of these plagues may have a naturalistic interpretation in the unbelieving mind because they so perfectly fit the naturally expected climatological, geographical, and microbiological events of Egypt, they were divinely inspired and executed.  There is nothing that limits God from using the laws of his creation to purge those who oppose him.  Even though the plagues happened in a natural sequence, it was still an order that God set in motion.  He deliberately caused them to fit the known physical conditions and biological realities of Egypt in order to show the people that their very breath is dependent upon his providence from day to day.  It is only the hand of the Lord that stays our execution.  These events happened exactly when Moses said they would.  They are all severe and Moses has foreknowledge of each one in order to time his demands on Pharaoh to fit.  The magicians duplicated the first two plagues.  The miracle of blood happened even in the water that stood in buckets and jars (8:19).  There is nothing in the first six plagues that would have caused the hail.  It is true that several of the plagues captured Pharaoh’s attention, and the attention of many of his people who were to believe in God (9:20) and who even later left with the Israelites (12:38) because many of the people became favorably disposed toward the Israelites (11:3).  There is no natural explanation whatsoever for the death of the firstborn.

If God were to bring ten plagues upon our nation today – ten attacks upon objects of worship in our land in opposition to our pride – what might he use?  Is there evidence of this?  What should be our response?

      There are several gods of our culture that immediately come to mind.  There is the god of sexual pleasure, the god of material possessions, the god of technology, the TV, and even the god of political action – putting our hopes in the efforts of man.

If we doubt that sex has become a god, consider: the Chicago Tribune reported this week that the new Victoria’s Secret flimsy fashion show over the internet captured more interest than the President’s impeachment.  So what you say?  The same people that say they are sick of all the hype about the President’s sins are themselves getting all hyped up in their own sins.  Will they become sick of them too?  They close their ears and don’t want to hear of accountability to God.  In fact, immoral sex has become a national epidemic with about half the internet space devoted to pornographic web sites.  Also reported this week was a story about how much money can be made by leaving your own piddly work-a-day job and earning mega-bucks by creating your own porno web site.  And another story just the other day about U of C’s national survey that revealed rampant sexual dysfunction in our society.  But we might observe, the more sexual sin, the more sexual dysfunction.  Satisfaction cannot be found in sinning, but only in following God’s design for intimacy.  This is Valentine’s Day – go home and renew your love for your spouse.

ILLUSTRATIONS:  Added

Is the AIDS epidemic one of God’s attacks on this god of the culture?  How about the rampant divorce rate and the breakdown of the family (Mal. 4:6)?  How about our presidential leadership crisis, the scourge of homosexual rights, and the so-called choice of abortion?

What about the god of materialism?  Is there anybody here who really thinks this economy is going to float very long?  Look at the worldwide signs of economic disaster and even economic take-over.  But read Rev. 18.

Do we think technology will save us?  What about YK2 and what it is teaching us about our fallibility.  We can only trust in God.  Technology is a work of man that he uses to advance sin as much as he uses it to advance human welfare.  And what about the TV?

How about the political system?  It can’t save us either.  During Founder’s Week, Pastor Erwin Lutzer said that our society and culture is too far gone to expect that any work within the political system will return us to any semblance of Christian normalcy for the nation.

So what is the answer?  Each person, each family, who believes in God must place themselves under the blood of the covenant and obey as the Hebrews did that first Passover.  On this side of the cross, it is the blood of Christ as the new covenant which saves us.  This will give visible sign to the world that we are Christians, and when the death angel comes during the Tribulation we shall have already been on our Exodus journey. (Malachi 3:18  And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.). Even if we must endure the first rumblings of the Tribulation, we will be preserved.  Sometimes God uses us to show others that he is God.  This is God’s greatest single example of salvation in the O.T. period and may be compared to the coming rapture in the N.T.  God will preserve and save his people, old or new. 

God knew that Pharaoh would not comply.  He allowed all this to be staged for the purpose of exposing Pharaoh, exhibiting his patience, and equipping his people.  The testing of our faith proves God’s ultimate deliverance to the saint and God’s ultimate judgment to the sinner.  The plagues of Egypt will be revived and revisited because Pharaoh’s heart of pride has not yet been subdued among the sons of men.  God will save his people and break the backs of all who resist him.  The waters of death will flood over them.  But perhaps there are some yet who will turn and be saved.  Like Moses, we must heed the voice of God to call them out.

We may trace these same plagues in the Book of Revelation, when God describes His final conflict with the god of this world, Satan: water to blood (Rev. 8:8 and 16:4-6); frogs (16:13); disease and afflictions (16:2); hail and fire (8:7), locusts (9:1ff); and darkness (16:10).

The Egyptian magicians were able to imitate some of Moses’ miracles—turning the rod into a serpent (7:8-13) and the water into blood (7:19-25), and bringing forth the frogs (8:5-7). But they could not turn the dust into gnats (8:16-19).   2Timothy 3:8-9 warns us that in the last days false teachers will oppose God by imitating His miracles.  (See 2 Thes. 2:9-10.)  Satan is a counterfeiter who deceives the lost world by imitating what God does (2 Cor. 11:1-4, 13-15). 

Pharaoh is a type of Satan: he was the god of Egypt; he had supreme power (except where limited by God); he was a liar; he was a murderer; he kept people in bondage; he hated the Word of God and the people of God. Pharaoh did not want to release the Jews, so he offered four subtle compromises:

A.      Worship God in the land (8:25-27)

God demands complete separation from the world; the friendship of the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). Since the Egyptians worshiped cows, they would be offended if they saw the Jews sacrificing their cattle to Jehovah. The believer must “come out and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17).

B.      Do not go too far away (8:28)

“Don’t be a fanatic!” says the world. “It’s fine to have religion, but don’t get too serious about it.” Here we have the temptation to be “borderline believers,” trying to stay close to the world and close to the Lord at the same time.

C.      Only the men should go (10:7-11)

This meant leaving the wives and children in the world. Faith involves the whole family, not the men only. It is the privilege of the husband and father to lead the family into the blessings of the Lord.

D.      Keep your possessions in Egypt (10:24-26)

Satan loves to get hold of our material wealth so that we cannot use it for the Lord. All that we have belongs to Christ. And Jesus tells us, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). What a tragedy to rob God by leaving our “flocks and herds” for Satan to use (Mal. 3:8-10).

Moses refused each of these compromises because he could not compromise with Satan and the world and still please God. We may think that we have won a victory by pacifying the world, but we are mistaken. God demands total obedience, complete separation. This was to be effected by the blood of the lamb and by the crossing of the Red Sea which are pictures of Christ’s death on the cross and our resurrection with Him, delivering us from “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4).  The only cure for pride, the root of sin, is the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Preach it, teach it, and live it because there are many plagues upon the spiritual life.  The more one rejects God, the darker it gets, and right after darkness comes death.  But there is a light that leads through its waters.

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