Exodus 9:13-35 ~ 20101107 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
God's name is being proclaimed in all the earth.