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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 10:21-29; The Darkness of His Absence (Mighty Act #9)

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101121_exodus10_21-29.mp3

11/21 Exodus 10:21-29 The Darkness of his Absence (Mighty Act #9)

We have seen God put his sovereignty and justice and wrath and patience and mercy and redeeming love on display by the mighty acts he performed against Egypt so that future generations might know that he alone is YHWH. He alone is to be worshiped and served. He alone is worthy.

Now we come to the third act in the third cycle of three strikes against Egypt. This is the last of the nine warning blows that God brings against Egypt to display his glory and justice and love. This is the final warning to rebellious unbelieving Pharaoh before God touches his own firstborn son. This is the last act of mercy before God releases his justice on Egypt, as he had promised. Back in 4:22-23

4:22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.”’

Now God gives his final warning.

Darkness

10:21 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. 24 Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. 26 Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the LORD our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.” 27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” 29 Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.”

The ninth blow against Egypt – darkness. We might think, wow, this doesn’t seem so bad. Darkness for three days? The Egyptians might feel like things are getting better. After their water supply – the life of Egypt – turned to blood, after the frog infestation and the heaps of rotting carcasses heaped up all over Egypt, after the lice or mosquito infestation and swarms of biting flies, after the death of all their livestock, after the painful boils on their own flesh, after the hail that shattered trees and killed man and beast, after the locust that wiped out the remainder of their crops, we might be inclined to feel that darkness for three days would be almost a blessing. Darkness might be a welcome relief. This, however, is not the case. Let’s look at the significance, the meaning, of the darkness.

Judgment on the gods of Egypt

We have seen in several of the mighty acts of God a direct correlation between what God did and one of the many gods the Egyptians worshiped. In fact, in Exodus 12:12 God says specifically:

12:12 …and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. (cf. Numbers 33:4)

God is executing judgment on all the gods of Egypt. Darkness would be a blatant attack on the Egyptian sun god known by various names, like ‘Amon or Re’. A section from the book of the dead, an ancient Egyptian text, reads like this:

I am he among the gods that cannot be repulsed. Who is he? He is Atum, who is in his sun disc.” or “he is Re, when he arises on the eastern horizon of heaven.” (Durham, p.142 citing ANET, 4)

In the Egyptian worldview, each day Re was thought to travel the celestial sea in his boat, then descend into the nether world where he defeated Apophis, the serpent of chaos, to arise victorious every morning.(Longman, p.109) For the world to plunge into darkness would mean that Re had been defeated.

This would strike personally against the Pharaoh, because Egyptian kings were sometimes referred to as ‘sons of Re’

So one way to understand the supernatural darkness is a blatant attack by the one who made the sun and moon and stars on the inferior gods of Egypt. Let’s look at the darkness from another angle.

Undoing of Creation

Progressively in these blows against Egypt, God has been undoing his mighty acts of creation. He has disrupted the natural order of his design to bring chaos to the land. Water, the basic substance that gives life, was turned to death. Instead of being a vital part of the food chain, frogs and insects were turned against man to wage a maddening war. Livestock, given to man to rule over and to use for food and for farming, were now taken away. Even people, created in the image of God, were scarred and disfigured by painful debilitating boils. Precipitation, an expression of God’s blessing to nourish the earth, is unleashed to crush and destroy. Now, God’s primary creative act is undone.

Genesis 1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

The implications of this removal of light are staggering. Without the light of the sun, photosynthesis can’t happen. Plants cannot grow. Now, not only has Egypt been stripped of all their crops and animals, but any future hope of rebuilding agriculture is gone. This was paralyzing, immobilizing darkness. Being afraid of the dark is normal and healthy. If you run around when you can’t see anything, you’re going to get hurt. This was utter darkness, total absence of light, where you literally had to grope to feel your way around. Apparently, this was impenetrable unrelenting darkness, so that the Egyptians couldn’t even light a lamp. This would be an oppressive suffocating supernatural darkness. Clearly it was supernatural, because the Israelites had light where they lived. God again makes a distinction between his people and the rebellious Egyptians. This is a withdrawal of God’s common grace. Jesus says:

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. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Common grace is a term we use to describe the good gifts that God pours out on both his friends and his enemies – gifts like the sun and the rain or as Paul puts it ‘he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything’ (Acts 17:25). These things are common to everyone, unlike salvation which is given only to those who believe, and these gifts are grace because they are undeserved. Here God withdraws even his common grace as a sign of his judgment. This leads us to another way to view the darkness.

God Withdraws His Favor

Darkness in the bible is a sign of the judgment of God. The expression used here could be translated ‘darkness of calamity’. It is used in reference to the great and terrible day of the LORD.

Joel 2:1 Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near, 2 a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them through the years of all generations. …31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

Zephaniah 1:14 The great day of the LORD is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the LORD is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. 15 A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, …17 I will bring distress on mankind, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung.

Isaiah 8:22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

Darkness is associated with the judgment of God, usually cataclysmic apocalyptic end of the world, God pouring out his righteous wrath on rebellious mankind kind of judgment. That is what is so alarming about the crucifixion of Jesus.

Jesus our Wrath-absorbing Substitute

Mark 15:33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (cf. Matthew 27:45-46)

For three hours, while the Son of God hung suspended between heaven and earth, this kind of darkness covered the land. The darkness of divine judgment enveloped the sinless lamb of God. At the end of that time, Jesus cried out. He cried out with a loud voice. He said “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Gone was the familiar intimate address ‘Father’. In its place the cry of one who was experiencing abandonment by the creator of the universe. The darkness of divine displeasure in judgment had fallen over the only begotten Son of God, and he named himself ‘forsaken’. How can this be? Why, the sinless One, abandoned under the crushing weight of holy wrath toward sin?

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Isaiah 53:4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Jesus experienced for us the darkness of divine displeasure. Why is darkness the manifestation of God’s judgment?

1 John 1:5 … God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

Psalm 18:28 For it is you who light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.

Psalm 118:27 The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. …

Numbers 6:24 The LORD bless you and keep you; 25 the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; 26 the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Here we see that God is light. God is the one who lightens my darkness. He causes his light to shine on us. His light is the shining of his face in grace toward undeserving sinners. The good news is that we can be taken out of the darkness of God’s judgment and into the light of his undeserved favor. Paul was sent with the gospel:

Acts 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

John who baptized was sent to:

Luke 1:76 …go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

The sunrise of the tender mercy of God gives light to undeserving spiritually blind and dead sinners. John, of course, was pointing to Jesus. Jesus himself said:

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (cf. John 1:9; 3:19; 9:5; 12:46)

We see in coming kingdom, that Jesus will be our light.

Revelation 21:23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

I wonder, when the Israelites had light in their dwellings, if it was the supernatural light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Back to Egypt

10:21 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. 24 Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. 26 Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the LORD our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.” 27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” 29 Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.”

Pharaoh attempts to make one final deal. He has offered to allow the Hebrews to worship their God in the land, (8:25) then he offered to allow them to go, but not very far away (8:28). He attempted to limit who will be released to the men only (10:10-11). Now he agrees to allow even the children to go, but he requires that they go empty-handed. This of course is unacceptable. The purpose of the exodus is worship. They must give their best to the LORD, not to Pharaoh. Not a hoof shall be left behind. Yes, worship is a family affair, but worship is also a costly affair. David articulated well this principle that genuine worship will personally cost you something.

1 Chronicles 21:24 But King David said to Ornan, “No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (cf. 2 Samuel 24:24)

Giving leftovers and freebies to the LORD is offensive to him. If we have truly experienced the joy of God’s undeserved favor shining on us, we will naturally want to, in fact we will insist on demonstrating the surpassing worth of our great Savior by giving him our best.

Again the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not cooperate with the demands. This time Pharaoh ends the encounter with a death threat. Moses is not to see his face again alive. This yet another set-up for the poetic justice that will follow. Moses will indeed see the Pharaoh’s face again, but it will not be Moses that dies as a result. The people will be released to worship, but it will not be Pharaoh’s doing. It will not be Moses’ doing. It will not be a mass uprising of the populace. God himself will do what he promised. Only God can bring light into the darkness in the shadow of death and bring life and joy and glad wholehearted worship.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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November 21, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 10:1-20

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101114_exodus10_1-20.mp3

11/14 Exodus 10:1-20 Teach Your Children About Bugs (Mighty Act 8)

Introduction:

We are in stage 3 of God’s mighty acts against Egypt. When he introduced this last of his three cycles of three strikes against Egypt leading up to the final death blow, God said “I will send all my plagues on you …so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth” (9:14). God is acting as kinsman redeemer to his people to rescue them from their evil oppressors, but in the process he is displaying his uniqueness and superiority over all the so-called gods of Egypt. All along, God is demonstrating his boundless mercy and great patience in restraining the full fury of his wrath toward rebellious sinners. He gives warning after warning after warning, and mounting evidence of his sovereign right to alone be worshiped, and multiplied time to repent.

God takes Pharaoh at his word even when Pharaoh doesn’t take God seriously. Things get intolerable so Pharaoh cries out to Moses to plead with God for deliverance. Moses prays and God answers even though everyone involved knows that Pharaoh is not genuine and will not live up to his word. God even reveals to Pharaoh one of his reasons for relenting and sustaining him through this sequence:

9:16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

God has a global purpose in mind. God is prolonging this contest for the fame of his Name for the good of his people. We see this good purpose expanded in the present section.

God’s Good Purpose in Hardening

10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

This is a sobering passage. God says go, because I have hardened his heart. In fact, this is what God told Moses that he was going to do up front (4:21) “But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go”. Our prayers are naturally ‘Lord, soften hearts, so that when we go there may be fruit’. We want to wait for God to prepare hearts so that our going will be productive and the response to our speaking will be positive. And I believe it is right for us to pray that way. But here God stuns us and says ‘it is because I have hardened their hearts that I want you to go now’. Go, precisely because you will be rejected.

What is God up to here? This is incomprehensible if we are man-centered in our approach to the gospel. If we begin with the infinite value of the human soul, then the highest good is that no souls be lost and we become frustrated and disheartened and feel like failures when we do all that we can and the good news is still rejected and our message is not heeded. But if we subordinate the immense value of the human soul to the infinite value of God’s own glory, we begin to measure fruit and success in ministry differently. When Paul tells us that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, both in heaven and in hell, he tells us that this is ‘to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil.2:11). God’s glory is the ultimate thing, and while many undeserving sinners will be praising the glorious grace of God, other deserving sinners will be praising the just righteousness of God. God’s righteousness demands that he always act for the greatest good. In the case of Pharaoh, the greatest good is described this way:

10:1 … that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

God’s gracious purpose in the hardening of Pharaoh is ‘that you may know that I am YHWH’. The means to this end was to sustain the Pharaoh in his wickedness so that he could judge the sin of Egypt and come to the aid of his people in such a conspicuous way that the telling of his mighty acts would be passed on from generation to generation. God is here communicating to his messenger that his purpose is much bigger than one isolated conversation. I am acting to put the fame of my name on display in such a staggering way that it impacts all your future generations.

This is the same divine intent we see when God’s ultimate messenger was sent for the very purpose of being despised and rejected and betrayed and ultimately crucified. This is what John says was happening in Jesus’ day:

John 12:39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”

Praise God for his work of hardening – because God had a bigger purpose in mind. Paul gives us insight into what this grander purpose of God is in Romans 11

Romans 11:11 …through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous. …25 Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

Praise God for his hardening, so that the Gentiles – friends, that’s us! – so that we Gentiles might come in! God had promised to Abraham ‘in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed’. And through the hardening of some of the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day, God has extended salvation to us who were outside of his covenant community! We respond with Paul:

Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

Divine Show and Tell – Teach Your Children

10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

This is a powerful demonstration of divine show-and-tell. God says ‘I am acting in a way that I may show and you may tell. God is the main actor and we are called to be his witnesses. That means that he performs the action and we testify to what he has done. God does the astonishing and we get to talk about it.

Acts 10:39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree,

Notice this is primarily a family affair. You may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson. The ‘you’ is singular – you personally. Not you as a group. This doesn’t mean bring your kids to church so that someone will teach them about Jesus. You, the parent, be a witness to your kids and to your grand-kids. I can’t understand parents who say things like ‘I don’t want to force my kids to believe what I believe – I want to give them the freedom to choose for themselves what path they will follow’. For one, this is an arrogant statement because it assumes that you actually have the capability to force your kids to believe what you believe, which you don’t. Only God can do the work of regeneration in a sinners heart, including the hearts of your kids. You might be able to force them to parrot the answers to specific questions the way you want them to, and you may even get them to repeat some words after you in a prayer, but only God can change their hearts. Not only is this arrogant, but it is foolish. Foolish because while attempting to remain neutral, you are sending a strong message. You are teaching them that there is no such thing as absolute truth and it doesn’t really matter what you believe. Here’s what God’s word says about how we are to train our children:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

First, we are to teach by example. You parents love the Lord. You parents keep God’s word on your heart. First live it. Then teach your children diligently. That describes persistent effort and discipline. And we are told to talk about it all the time. Integrate God into every area of your life. Don’t simply have a ten minute religious lecture about God and the bible before bed. Your whole day should be saturated by your relationship with the Most High, and that will be infectious with your kids. This is a long range multi-generational plan. We must teach our kids in such a way that they become parents who are so in love with God that they raise their kids to raise their kids to raise their kids to know and love Jesus.

But what are we to talk about to our kids and our grand-kids? What is to be the content of our teaching? What do we want them to get? I find the answer this passage gives somewhat unexpected. I think most Christian parents would answer that we should teach our kids the golden rule – to do unto others as you would have them do to you. We should teach them to be kind and nice to everybody. Teach them to love and to turn the other cheek. Teach them to control their temper and behave properly in public. And of course we should teach them that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Listen again to what God says we should pass on to our kids: “tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” Here’s God’s priorities for your child-rearing instruction: teach your kids about the wrath of God. Teach them about God’s justice and about his awesome power. Teach them how God humiliates his enemies. Teach them how he tore Egypt apart and brought massive destruction because of their hard-hearted rejection of the one true God. Teach them that God is a jealous God. Teach them how seriously he deals with sin. If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then for God’s sake put the fear of God into their tender little hearts. I think we do our kids a disservice when we tell them only that God is all love and hugs and smiles and it doesn’t matter what you’ve done – we might be in danger of making them think that God condones their sin and will coddle them in their rebellion and will always give them another chance. Don’t shield your kids from the righteousness and justice and wrath and awesome sovereign power of this great God we worship. Let them see that our God is really big enough to deserve our awe and praise. I think this is at least part of the reason for many of the horrific gruesome Old Testament narratives:

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Start today. When you go home, talk with your kids about how important it is to know the LORD. Talk about how God humiliated the Egyptians and the awesome signs he performed. Talk about bugs.

Let’s pick up in verse 3:

The Wages of Sin

3 So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. 4 For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, 5 and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, 6 and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh.

Pharaoh’s fault was that he refused to humble himself before the one true Lord. God is God and Pharaoh is not. It is one thing to acknowledge that God is sovereign. It is another thing to own that God is sovereign over me. This is what Pharaoh refused to do. Pharaoh is in rebellion against his own nature as a being created by and under the rule of the Creator. God has every right to demand from his creation that we acknowledge him as our Creator and Sovereign. Because of Pharaoh’s stubborn rebellion, he must be taught the lesson forcibly. Remember the hail? Yes, Pharaoh surely lost men to the hail, but what he cared about was that there were two crops that survived the hail onslaught. There was still hope for Egyptian agriculture. This plague of locust will eat everything left by the hail. Nothing will be left. Egypt will starve.

7 Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?”

Pharaoh’s magicians had testified that this was the finger of God after mighty act number 3. They suffered from the boils of the sixth blow and are not heard from again. Now Pharaoh’s court officials are turning and testifying against him. They confess that Moses has entrapped and enslaved the Egyptians – captured them and stripped them of their freedom – rich irony in the face of the king’s refusal to release his Hebrew slaves. They advise the Pharaoh to grant their request for release. They even question the wisdom of their king – do you not yet know that Egypt is ruined? In 5:2, Pharaoh refused to acknowledge God and now he refuses to acknowledge that his country is ruined. What Paul says has happened to him:

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,

Pharaoh at least bows to the pressure of his counselors and before the plague recalls Moses and Aaron.

8 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. But which ones are to go?” 9 Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” 10 But he said to them, “The LORD be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. 11 No! Go, the men among you, and serve the LORD, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.

Pharaoh still thinks he is in a position to bargain with Moses. His starting position was ‘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 (5:2). He demanded that they go and serve him, making bricks without straw (5:18). Then, after the fourth blow, Pharaoh offered to allow the Hebrews to worship their God in the land, (8:25) then he offered to allow them to go, but not very far away (8:28). Now he attempts to limit who will be released. Moses makes it very clear that he is not bargaining. God is making sovereign demands and he expects to be obeyed. Everyone must be released to hold a feast to YHWH. Worship is a family affair. Pharaoh’s response is dripping with sarcasm and a play on the covenant name of God. ‘The I AM will truly be with you when I let you all go’. Pharaoh offers to release only the men and has Moses and Aaron driven out of his presence.

12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.” 13 So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. 14 The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. 15 They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt.

God keeps his word. God is uncreating Egypt. God created green plants and trees bearing fruit. Now he is stripping the land of all vegetation. God is unleashing the forces of nature against nature to consume and destroy.

16 Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. 17 Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the LORD your God only to remove this death from me.” 18 So he went out from Pharaoh and pleaded with the LORD. 19 And the LORD turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea. Not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.

Pharaoh realizes too little too late that his counselors were right. He quickly recalls Moses and Aaron and confesses his sin against them and against the LORD. In the last plague (9:27) Pharaoh admitted that he had sinned or made an error, but this time he names the offended parties and even asks forgiveness. His sin was against YHWH your God and against you. All sin is firstly against the LORD and secondarily against the people we have wronged. Pharaoh aptly describes the consequences of his sin as ‘this death’. The wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23), and the stripping of their food supply would inevitably lead to the starvation of all of Egypt. This is a reversal from the days of Joseph, where his brothers who were suffering from famine in Canaan heard there was grain in Egypt. Moses graciously intercedes, and the LORD mercifully relents, driving all the locust into the Red Sea. This too is a foreshadowing of what is to come, when the Egyptian armies are plunged into the Red Sea. There again this same wording will be used – not one of them remained (14:28).

Again God takes credit for the superhuman stubbornness of the Pharaoh. He is being put on display and humiliated by God so that

2 …you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have humiliated (dealt harshly with) the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

November 14, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 9:13-35; Hail from Heaven and the Fear of the LORD (Mighty Act #7)

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20101107_exodus09_13-35.mp3

11/07 Exodus 9:13-35 Hail from Heaven and the Fear of the LORD (Mighty Act 7)

God is beginning the third and final cycle of his mighty acts of power against Egypt and against Pharaoh and against all the gods of Egypt. God is demonstrating his power and his sovereignty and his ability to save his people. The blows against Egypt are mounting up to his climactic blow, the death of the firstborn and the drowning of the Egyptian army in the sea. Here we are at the seventh mighty act of God, the first in the final round of three. This account is longer than any of the other narratives, and it signals a significant escalation in intensity of God’s actions against Egypt. At the beginning of the seventh display of his might, we are reminded of the ground and the goal of the exodus.

9:13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.

Ground and Goal of the Exodus

The ground of the exodus is the ownership of the people. They are God’s people. They belong to him. They are not the Pharaoh’s, to do with as he pleases. They are God’s and must be released so that they can serve and worship their true Master and Lord. The exodus is rooted in God’s relationship with his people. ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me.”’

The ground of the exodus is the rightful ownership of God over his people. The goal of the exodus is to restore God’s people into service of their true Master. The goal of the exodus is worship, glad service of the true King of kings and Lord of lords. And this is the demand of the King of kings to the king of Egypt – ‘Let my people go, that they may serve me.’

And this command comes with a warning.

14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth.

Now, at this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself. This is the first use of this particular word translated ‘plagues’ in the bible, and its only use in the plural. Up to this point, God has described his actions as ‘extraordinary difficult work (translated wonders in 3:20), signs (4:17, 28, 30, 7:3, 8:23), wonder or miracle (7:3, 9, 11:9-10), great acts of judgment (6:6, 7:4), striking down (3:20; 7:17, 20, 25; 8:16-17; 9:15, 25; 12:12-13, 29), strike or smite (translated plague in 8:2), a very heavy destruction or pestilence (translated plague in 9:3). The word used here means a fatal blow, a plague or a slaughter. God is letting Pharaoh know that he is about to let the hammer fall. The six mighty acts up to this point have been merely a warm-up. Turning the water supply to putrefying blood, heaps of frogs littered all over town, a horrible infestation of biting insects, inescapable swarms of biting flies, disease and death of all the livestock in Egypt, and painful deep festering wounds covering all the people and animals to the point that they were incapacitated – all this was merely an introduction, God says, to what I have in store for you. ‘This time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people.’

Know there is none like me

And the purpose is clear – ‘so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth.’ Pharaoh has begun by saying ‘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.’ (5:2). God said in 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.” Introducing the first mighty act, Moses said to Pharaoh: ‘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.’ (7:17). When Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron after only the second mighty act to ‘plead with the LORD to take away the frogs from me and from my people (8:8), Moses invited Pharaoh to set the time that the frogs would be cut off; ‘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’ (8:10). When Egypt’s magicians failed to reproduce the third mighty act, they confessed to Pharaoh ‘this is the finger of God’ (8:19). At the fourth mighty act, God drew a distinction by setting apart the land of Goshen ‘that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth’ (8:22). Pharaoh again called on Moses and Aaron to plead for deliverance, and to bargain on the details of how they were to ‘sacrifice to the LORD your God’ (8:28). Pharaoh was beginning to understand who this YHWH God of the Hebrews is, he was beginning to realize that he is a force to be reckoned with, that he is a God superior to many of his Egyptian gods, but he was not yet ready to acknowledge that YHWH is in a class by himself, and he was not yet willing to surrender to him and obey him. God says the purpose of what’s coming is ‘so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth.’ Our God is absolutely unique. He is incomparably great, incomprehensibly awesome, uncompromisingly sovereign. God says ‘I want you to know that there is none like me in all the earth.’ And one of the ways I will demonstrate that there is none like me, is I will tell you what I could have done but didn’t.

15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth.

What I could have done but didn’t

God says to Pharaoh, I want you to look at the first six of my mighty acts of power in a different way. Instead of looking at them as painful acts of judgment, look at them as merciful acts of longsuffering and patience and kindness. Pharaoh, I could have cut you off from the earth with the first twitch of my little finger. The fact that you are still breathing my air is an undeserved gift and evidence of my great grace toward you. The fact that I have allowed you to survive the first six of my mighty acts after you mistreated my people and rejected my servant and spat in my face is evidence of unfathomable divine restraint, evidence of my great mercy toward you. There is none like me – not only in power, but also in mercy.

But the implicit warning is clear. This time I will. I will strike you and your people. You will be cut off from the earth. That, Pharaoh, is what is coming. That is where we are headed. This will be the first mighty act that directly results in loss of human life. Pharaoh, you still think you are in control. You still feel that it is your right to release or not release the slaves. You are still demanding that my people serve you. Pharaoh, I want to let you in on a little secret. I want you to know that you are really serving me. Listen to what God says to Pharaoh:

16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

This episode with Pharaoh is quoted by Paul in Romans 9 as an illustration of the biblical principle of the rights of the creator over his creation.

Romans 9:21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory–

This is exactly what God is doing with Pharaoh – patiently enduring a dishonorable lump of clay so that he can display to the world his power and just wrath.

Romans 9:17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

Pharaoh irrationally still thinks he is in control and is going to win in this battle for supremacy with YHWH. YHWH says ‘Pharaoh, even in your hard-hearted rebellion, you are serving me. I, who give to all men life and breath and everything, am right now sustaining you alive, enduring with much patience your willful self-centered pride-filled insubordination. I am causing you to continue to stand firm so that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

God’s Global Purpose

God’s purpose in his display of power in Pharaoh is bigger than the Egyptians knowing that YHWH is God. It is bigger than Pharaoh bowing the knee to YHWH. It is even bigger than the people of Israel worshiping their great God who redeemed them out of Egypt. God’s purpose is global – ‘that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ God had promised Abraham that ‘in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed’ (Gen.26:4, cf.18:18; 22:18). That offspring was Jesus, and Jesus told his disciples

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

God’s global purpose is to put the fame of his name on display for all the earth to stand in awe. We are told that name is Jesus.

Philippians 2:9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God’s purpose with the Pharaoh was to put his power on display for the world to see. And see it did. When the Israelites made it to the promised land, the people were terrified because they had heard what Israel’s God did to the Egyptians (Joshua 2:9-10). God’s reputation had preceded them. And here we are, several thousand years later, on the opposite side of the globe, reading these words:

16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go.

Pharaoh was exalting himself. Self-exaltation is never a good thing. If you are exalting yourself, God will grind you down, because ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’. (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5)

So much for the introduction; let’s get to the plague itself.

18 Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. 19 Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them.’”” 20 Then whoever feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, 21 but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the LORD left his slaves and his livestock in the field.

This is amazing! God is warning the Egyptians that his wrath is about to be unleashed and he tells them exactly what will happen and even how to avoid it! Everyone outside will get killed, so bring everyone inside! The first plague that will directly result in human death as God sends missiles from heaven to crush everything, and God tells them exactly how to escape. In fact he commands it. Send – the same word that God is demanding Pharaoh to do with the Hebrews – send them out of Egypt. Now he demands that Pharaoh send and get everything in from the field so that it would be spared. This is a God rich in mercy! Here again a distinction is made, but this time it is among the Egyptians. There is a distinction between those who feared the word of the LORD and those who did not pay attention to the word of the LORD.

Isaiah 66:2 …But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

God speaks, and we must obey. For our own good we must listen to what he says. Notice that those who feared the word of the LORD hurried to respond. There is urgency. We can disregard him to our own everlasting hurt. Even to the Egyptians, God extended a way to be delivered from the coming judgment.

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, so that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on man and beast and every plant of the field, in the land of Egypt.” 23 Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt. 24 There was hail and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. 25 The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field. 26 Only in the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel were, was there no hail.

God promised; God warned; God provided a way of escape, but God’s judgment fell. God delivered on his promise. Everyone and everything left in the fields was bludgeoned to death. Trees were shattered. But God exempted his people from the judgment.

27 Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned; the LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Plead with the LORD, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.”

This is the third time that Pharaoh has called for Moses and Aaron to pray for him. This is also the third time that Pharaoh has promised to let the people go. But this is the first time that Pharaoh admits his own guilt. This is profound in light of what has been said before. When we read that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart and God says to Pharaoh ‘for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth’ , we tend to feel ‘poor little pharaoh, that’s just not fair. God is mistreating one of his creation.’ But these words were spoken to the Pharaoh. And Pharaoh himself says ‘I have sinned. The LORD is in the right and I and my people are in the wrong.’ God is just. His justice is proclaimed even by his fiercest enemies. Pharaoh here confesses to anyone who has ears to hear that YHWH God of the Hebrews is just and right and he is in the wrong.

29 Moses said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the LORD. The thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, so that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s. 30 But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the LORD God.”

Moses agrees to stretch out his hands in prayer for his enemy. His purpose is to further demonstrate that the earth is the LORD’s. But Moses communicates to Pharaoh that he knows they do not yet fear the LORD. Some of Pharaoh’s servants were said to fear the word of the LORD, but they do not yet fear the LORD God. They recognize that his words have power and he follows through with what he says, but they do not yet reverence him as God. They are afraid of his wrath, but they do not gladly submit to his authority. They are afraid of his actions, but they do not yet respect his person.

Moses gives us a clue as to why Pharaoh may have hardened his heart. Two staple crops were destroyed in the hail, but two other staples were later in their growth cycle so they survived. Egypt still had something tangible in which to place its hope.

31 (The flax and the barley were struck down, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. 32 But the wheat and the emmer were not struck down, for they are late in coming up.) 33 So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and stretched out his hands to the LORD, and the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured upon the earth. 34 But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. 35 So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go, just as the LORD had spoken through Moses.

Again we see God’s power in response to prayer, and in the face of undeserved mercy, we see the sinful stubborn heart of Pharaoh in again refusing to let God’s people go. But as we have seen, this hardship for God’s people is for a good purpose.

16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.

God’s name is being proclaimed in all the earth.

Isaiah 12:3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.



Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

November 7, 2010 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , | Leave a comment