Exodus 10:21-29 ~ 20101121 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
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
Now God gives his final warning.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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
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?
Jesus experienced for us the darkness of divine displeasure. Why is darkness the manifestation of God's judgment?
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:
John who baptized was sent to:
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:
We see in coming kingdom, that Jesus will be our light.
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
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.
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.