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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 7:14-8:6; The Finger of God (Mighty Acts 1-3)

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101024_exodus07_14-8_6.mp3

10/24 Exodus 7:14-8:6 The Finger of God (Mighty Acts of God 1-3)

7:1 And the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” 6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them. 7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh.

8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.

God is about to lay his hand on Egypt. God has many purposes for striking Egypt with these mighty blows. He is keeping his promises (2:24; 6:4, 8). He is bringing his people out from under the burdens of the Egyptians (2:23; 3:10; 6:6). He is bringing judgment on Egypt (Gen.15:14; Ex.6:7; 7:4). He is executing his judgments on all the gods of the Egyptians (12:12; Num.33:4). But most importantly, he is spreading the knowledge of God to all peoples. He is answering the question of the Pharaoh:

Exodus 5:2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”

He sends Moses to Pharaoh to answer his question in this way:

Exodus 7:15 Go to Pharaoh,… 16 And you shall say to him,… 17 Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood.

Exodus 8:10 And he said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “Be it as you say, so that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God.

But this answer is not for the Pharaoh alone. God says:

Exodus 7:5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”

And, most importantly, God says to his own people:

Exodus 6:6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, I am the LORD,… 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

One commentary I read summarized it this way:

Each of the first nine mighty-act accounts may be said to have the same fundamental point, expressed in much the same way. That point, concisely summarized, is that Yahweh powerfully demonstrates his Presence to a Pharaoh prevented from believing so that Israel may come to full belief.” Durham, WBC p.99

God’s purpose is to put his own character and nature on display for the watching world and for the coming generations. The book of Exodus was written to the generation whose parents witnessed God’s mighty acts but died in the wilderness because of their unbelief. These things were recorded that the generations to come would know that YHWH is God. Moses reminds this generation in Deuteronomy 4:

Deuteronomy 4:34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. … 37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, … 39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

God’s purpose of putting his own glory on display is not limited to the nation of Israel. God’s global purpose is clearly stated in:

Habakkuk 2:14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. (cf. Isaiah 11:9)

The apostles recognized their mission was to ‘spread the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere’ (2Cor.2:14)

2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.

As a side note, I often hear people complain as they read the Old Testament, ‘I just can’t believe in a God who would do something like that’ or ‘How could a God of love do such harsh and horrific things?’ These often tend to be people who don’t want God to take sin seriously because they don’t take sin seriously. But when God says ‘I will make myself known both in my great acts of redemption and in my mighty acts of judgment’, we highlight one and ignore the other to our own eternal peril. God is a God of love, and God is a God of justice. God will send you to hell if you refuse his own Son whom he provided out of love as a substitute to absorb the consequences of your sin. If you reject his grace, you will know his justice.

Structure of the Mighty Acts Narrative

The nine mighty acts of God are organized in three cycles of three mighty acts, introduced by the preparatory sign of the staff-turned-serpent that swallowed up the magician’s staffs, and followed by the final climactic act of God in the Passover and the death of the firstborn. Each of these cycles begins with a morning outdoor confrontation with Pharaoh, warning him of what is to come, followed by a confrontation in the courts of Pharaoh, again warning him of what is to come, then followed by an unannounced mighty act unleashed on unbelieving Egypt.

Intro Sign: Staff-Serpent

1st Cycle: Blood -warning -by the Nile -Aaron’s Staff

Frogs -warning -palace -Aaron’s Staff

Gnats -no warning -Aaron’s Staff

2nd Cycle: Flies -warning -by the Nile

Cattle -warning -palace

Boils -no warning

3rd Cycle: Hail -warning -by the Nile

Locust -warning -palace -Moses’ Staff

Darkness -no warning -Moses’ Staff

Climax: Death of Firstborn -warning -Moses’ Staff

The Exodus: Destruction of Egyptian Army in Red Sea

Many scholars believe that this sequence of God’s mighty acts went on for six months to a year. Today we’ll look at the first cycle of three mighty acts.

Nile to Blood

14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness. But so far, you have not obeyed.” 17 Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.’”” 19 And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’” 20 Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile. 25 Seven full days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile.

This sign of God’s sovereignty begins by a statement of the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. In the Egyptian belief system, when a person died, they went to judgment in the underworld. Each man’s heart, which was thought to be the very essence of the person, would be weighed in the scales of truth. If the heart was heavy or weighty with misdeeds, the person was judged unjust and condemned to be eaten by the devourers. If the heart was pure and light, the deceased would enter the afterlife. (John Currid, quoted by J.Ligon Duncan, 09aExo.htm). God is saying of the Pharaoh of Egypt, who was considered a god, that he has weighed his heart and it is heavy. He is not even qualified to enter the afterlife! God is the judge of the Pharaoh’s moral condition. God is sovereign over the so-called gods of Egypt.

In these twelve verses, the Nile is mentioned at least seven times by name and also referred to by terms like ‘water’ and ‘river’. The Nile river was central to Egypt. In fact, it was said that the Nile is Egypt and Egypt is the Nile. There would be no Egypt without the Nile river. The waters of the Nile deposit rich silt each year to nourish the land to create an oasis in the desert.

“It was appropriate that the first of the plagues should be directed against the Nile River itself, the very lifeline of Egypt and the center of many of its religious ideas. The Egyptians considered the Nile sacred. Many of their gods were associated either directly or indirectly with this river and its productivity. For example, the great Khnum was considered the guardian of the Nile sources. Hapi was believed to be the ‘spirit of the Nile’ and its ‘dynamic essence.’ One of the greatest gods revered in Egypt was the god Osiris who was the god of the underworld. The Egyptians believed that the river Nile was his bloodstream. …” (Davis, p. 102; cited by http://www.biblelandhistory.com/egypt/plagues-egypt-1.html).

The book of Exodus opens with the Pharaoh demanding that the Hebrew boys be drowned the Nile. Now the life-giving Nile threatens death to all of Egypt.

At different seasons, the Egyptians would make offerings to the gods of the Nile, coming down to its banks and casting in various images and tokens in hopes that the waters would continue to nourish their land. It is likely that this was the reason the Pharaoh was coming down to the banks of the Nile this day.

God is very clear in his warning to the Pharaoh. He is very clear that these are not the demands of Moses; these are the demands of YHWH the God of the Hebrews. He is very clear in what he demands: “let my people go that they may serve me in the wilderness.” God is clear that the reason for striking the Nile is the disobedience of the Pharaoh. God tells Pharaoh that he will teach him by experience who he is. He is clear in the mechanism he will use to bring about this great sign – the same staff that had become a great serpent in the presence of Pharaoh, the staff that swallowed up the staffs of his magicians, will now strike the waters. And God is explicitly clear in what the punishment will be – the water will turn to blood, the fish will die, and the river will stink.

This is also a foreshadowing of what is to come. This is a warning. First it was the Hebrew infants who were found floating in the waters. Now all the fish are belly-up. Soon, it will be all the men in the Egyptian army that will be washed up on the shores of the Red Sea.

God is demonstrating that he rules over the waters. Even the great Nile is under his complete control. It all happened exactly as God had predicted.

Then the sorcerers of Egypt duplicated the transformation. They take some of the precious little clean fresh water that remained in the land of Egypt, and they turned it into blood also! Never do we see them attempting to undo what God has done. Never do they attempt to restore order to the chaos. Instead they copy God’s action and exaggerate the problem. But Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, just as the Lord had promised. He went home and didn’t even take it to heart. His people, however, were sent scrambling to find suitable water for drinking. It appears that even the water storage they may have had was contaminated as well. They resorted to digging shallow wells along the banks of the Nile. This water crisis lasted for seven full days. Have you ever had the water shut off to your house?!

Frogs

8:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2 But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your country with frogs. 3 The Nile shall swarm with frogs that shall come up into your house and into your bedroom and on your bed and into the houses of your servants and your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls. 4 The frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your servants.’”” 5 And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, over the canals and over the pools, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt!’” 6 So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. 7 But the magicians did the same by their secret arts and made frogs come up on the land of Egypt. 8 Then Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and said, “Plead with the LORD to take away the frogs from me and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the LORD.” 9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “Be pleased to command me when I am to plead for you and for your servants and for your people, that the frogs be cut off from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.” 10 And he said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “Be it as you say, so that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God. 11 The frogs shall go away from you and your houses and your servants and your people. They shall be left only in the Nile.” 12 So Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, and Moses cried to the LORD about the frogs, as he had agreed with Pharaoh. 13 And the LORD did according to the word of Moses. The frogs died out in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. 14 And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

First blood, now frogs. Frogs were common in the wet Nile marshlands. In fact the Egyptian god Hequet (Hekt), a goddess of childbirth, was depicted in Egyptian art with the head of a frog. Egyptian women would carry and amulet of a frog to give them safety and protection in childbirth. Some of these amulets have the inscription ‘I am the resurrection’. Again, the warning is clear and in vivid detail. The Nile will swarm with frogs. This is the same word that described the Israelite infestation of Egypt which the previous Pharaoh responded to by slaughtering the male children.

Exodus 1:7 But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.

The Pharaoh had tried to reverse the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Now he would be overrun by frogs. God was bringing judgment on the fertility goddess of Egypt. Now frogs will be in your bedroom and in your kitchen. They will be hopping on the rich and the poor alike. They will even be on the Pharaoh himself. Have you ever cooked something and you find a hair in it? Imagine not being able to keep the frogs out of your dough!

Here again the magicians of Egypt make their contribution. The land of Egypt is overrun with frogs, and they by their secret arts help the situation. They cause more frogs to appear! They had made their staffs turn into great serpents, and Aaron’s staff had eaten theirs up. They had taken some of the precious clear water that remained in Egypt and turned it into blood. Now they exaggerate the frog infestation.

But this time the response of the Pharaoh is different. Pharaoh doesn’t turn to his wise men. He turns to Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh is starting to get the picture. He ignores his sorcerers and asks these two shepherds to plead with their God YHWH to take away the frogs. He is finally realizing that although his magicians have been able to replicate the miraculous, they can do nothing to counteract God’s judgments. So he makes a deal. He makes a promise. Pray to you God to take away the frogs, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to YHWH. Earlier, he said that he didn’t acknowledge YHWH. Now he is requesting that Moses and Aaron pray to YHWH on his behalf.

Moses’ reply is razor sharp with sarcasm. Pharaoh is literally crawling with frogs and reduced to begging these slave leaders for relief, and Moses gives the great Pharaoh the honor of choosing the time of his deliverance. Moses is confident in the ability of his God. He is bragging on his God. Pharaoh, you name the time, because my God is so powerful that he will show up whenever I ask. He can answer the impossible request of making this incredible infestation cease in a day. Moses says this is all a demonstration for the benefit of the Pharaoh “that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God.” The so-called gods of Egypt are no match for the one true God of the Hebrews. There is no one like the LORD our God.

Moses cried to the LORD about the frogs …and the LORD did according to the word of Moses. This passage highlights the awesome power of God at work in response to the prayers of his people.

Proverbs 15:29 The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.

James 5:16 …The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

1 Peter 3:12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

Moses believed that God would answer his prayer. He knew that God loves to demonstrate that there is no one like the LORD our God. Moses took prayer seriously and cried out to the LORD. Moses was doing what Jesus would command his followers to do:

Matthew 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…

God answered Moses’ prayers. But God answered creatively. I’m sure Pharaoh had hoped that all the frogs would return to the Nile, or that they would magically disappear. Instead they all died. The Egyptians piled the rotting frog carcasses up in heaps and the land stank. In this case the cure was worse than the disease. But that was enough for Pharaoh. He saw that there was respite so he went back on his word and refused to honor his own promise. This, of course, was exactly what God had predicted would happen.

Biting Insects

16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats in all the land of Egypt.’” 17 And they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt. 18 The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast. 19 Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.

Because Pharaoh did not honor his own word, God did not give Pharaoh a warning this time. Gnats, or mosquitoes or lice, maybe all of the above – the word is general for small winged insects. The mention of dust is a reminder of the creation of man:

Genesis 3:19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

It is also a reminder of God’s promise to the patriarchs of their descendants, promises that the previous Pharaoh had tried to fight:

Genesis 13:16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.

Genesis 28:14 Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

Now God, who made man from dust, makes pesky winged insects from dust, covering the land. One of the powerful gods of Egypt was Geb, god of earth. He was thought to be so powerful that the Pharaoh’s throne was known as the seat of Geb. Here, Aaron is to strike the earth with the staff of God, and the earth would produce pests rather than plants. The Hebrew’s God is God over land and sea and over every creature. There is no limit to his awesome power.

Here again, the Pharaoh’s magicians tried to duplicate the wonder, but this time they failed. Their power was no match for the power of God. Not only could they not undo what God had done, they couldn’t even copy it. The magicians confess to Pharaoh ‘this is the finger of God’. God had promised that “the Egyptians shall know that I am YHWH” (7:5), and now the Egyptian magicians are testifying to the Pharaoh that this is indeed the finger of God. There is, indeed, no one like the LORD our God. But even in the face of overwhelming evidence and the testimony of his own people, he persists in his stubborn unbelief, again, exactly as God had promised would happen.

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October 24, 2010 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , ,

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