Exodus 10:1-20 ~ 20101114 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
11/14 Exodus 10:1-20 Teach Your Children About Bugs (Mighty Act 8)
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:
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
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:
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:
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
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:
Divine Show and Tell – Teach Your Children
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.
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:
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:
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
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.
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:
Pharaoh at least bows to the pressure of his counselors and before the plague recalls Moses and Aaron.
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.
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.
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