Pastor Rick Duncan
God’s people had been in Egypt for 400 years. At first they were welcomed, but then they became slaves. God promised to rescue them and take them to their Promised Land. He sent a deliverer, Moses. But instead of letting the people go, Egypt’s king, Pharoah, made things more difficult than ever for the slaves to do their work.
Why does God send troubles and hardships and difficulties and trials and plagues?
A long time ago, I learned that God uses troubles…
- to direct us.
- to inspect us.
- to perfect us.
- to correct us.
- to connect us.
Here’s a summary of the first 9 plagues. Next week, Pastor Joe will dive into these with more detail.
The pattern is basically the same.
- Moses confronts Pharoah and quotes the LORD, “Let My people go that they may serve Me.”
- Pharoah says, “No!”
- Moses says, “Here’s the plague that’s coming then! And it’s going to happen so you will know that the LORD is the LORD!”
- Here comes the plague.
- The Egyptian people suffer, while the Jews are spared.
- Moses visits Pharoah afterward and says, “Now will you let the people go?”
- Pharoah’s heart is hardened.
With some variations, this happens 9 times!
Plague #1. Water turns to blood.
Plague #2. Frogs cover the land.
Plague #3. Gnats cover the land.
Plague #4. Flies swarm across the land.
Plague #5. Livestock dies in Egypt.
Plague #6. Boils break out in sores on man and beast.
Plague #7. Hail falls and kills men, animals, trees, and plants in the fields.
Plague #8. Locusts eat everything.
Plague #9. Darkness covers the land.
A friend of mine is Jonathan Parnell, Pastor of Cities Church in Minneapolis. He says, “[The LORD] is intervening into the natural world; He is reaching into space and time; and He is causing each of these things to happen with scrupulous intention: Here, not there. Those, not these. Tomorrow, not today.”
Some scholars see these first 9 plagues as groups of 3: 1-3, 4-6, 7-9.
In the first plague in each set – 1, 4, and 7 – Moses goes to the river early in the morning to warn Pharoah about what’s coming. In the second plague in each set – 2, 5, and 8 – Moses goes to warn Pharoah in the palace. In the last plague in each set – 3, 6, and 9 – there’s no warning. The plagues just come.
My dad had a commentary on Exodus that I’ve been using for my study. It was written by A.W. Pink. It’s so cool to see what my dad underlined and to read the notes he made in the margin. About the 3 sets of the first 9 plagues, my dad wrote 3 words in the margin of his book: Comfort, Possessions, Health.
Pink wrote, “The progressive nature of these plagues is easily perceived… The first three interfered merely with the comfort of the Egyptians… In the second three, the Lord’s hand was laid on their possessions… The last three brought desolation and death” (Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in Exodus, p. 60).
Biblical scholars have identified three major time periods in the Bible when clusters of miracles occurred:
- Moses and the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan,
- the ministries of the prophets, especially Elijah and Elisha, and
- the ministries of Jesus, the disciples, and the establishment of the Church.
God’s normal way of working is through natural causes. But at certain pivotal, strategic times in redemptive history, God works in miraculous ways. That’s what’s happening here.
In his book “The Everlasting Man,” G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The belief in miracles is the belief not in what is beyond [natural law] but in what is behind natural law.” And what is behind natural law? The LORD!
Seven times in chapters 7-10 we are given God’s reason for the 10 plagues.
“By this you shall know that I am the LORD…” (Exodus 7:17).
“… so that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God” (Exodus 8:10).
“… that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth” (Exodus 8:22).
“… so that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth” (Exodus 9:14).
“… so that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16).
“… so that you may know that the earth is the LORD’s” (Exodus 9:29).
“… that you may know that I am the LORD” (Exodus 10:2).
These 10 plagues reveal the LORD – YHWH – as self-existent, all-sufficient, Sovereign, accountable to no one except Himself! We see here His holiness, His authority, His power, and His might. It’s not just Pharoah who needs to know the LORD. All men, women, girls, and boys everywhere need to know Him.
Many pastors over the years have made the point that each individual plague is a challenge to a specific Egyptian god. For example, the LORD turning the Nile River into blood showed that the LORD was the true God as opposed to the Egyptian god, Hapi, who was the god of the Nile – the supposed lord of the river who made things fertile. The LORD defeats Hopi!
But the text itself makes no mention of any particular god being defeated by individual judgment. Dr. Gary E. Schnittjer, professor of the Old Testament at Cairn University reminds us that we have no “license to read into the narrative a specific blow-by-blow list of the supposed deities whom [the LORD] defeated.”
Now, while we can’t make a one-to-one correlation between a every plague and an Egyptian god, the plagues do show that the LORD is greater than the gods of this world.
The LORD Himself explains what He’s doing in chapter 12: “… and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD” (Exodus 12:12). YHWH – the LORD – is greater than Egypt’s gods.Moses’ father-in-law makes an observation about the plagues and the Exodus in chapter 18: “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods…” (Exodus 18:11). YHWH – the LORD – is greater than Egypt’s gods.And later in Numbers 33, we read, “On their gods also the LORD executed judgments” (Numbers 33:4).
So, the plagues and the entire Exodus event demonstrate that the LORD is greater than any false god that man might be tempted to trust.
When Moses confronts Pharoah, 6 out of 9 times he relays to Pharoah the LORD’s message. We read it in chapters, 7, 8, 9, and 10.
“Let My people go, that they may serve Me…”
Exodus 7:16, 8:1, 8:20, 9:1, 9:13, 10:3
Serve. In the Hebrew language, it’s a root word – a broad word! “Pharoah, you’re not the master. The LORD is! You must let the people go so they can live for Him, not for you – so they can serve Him, not you!
Serving is worshipping – putting the LORD first, offering sacrifices, observing the holy days, rededicating themselves to the LORD. Service is obedience – observing the LORD’s commands, being holy, living righteously. Serving is bringing justice – caring for the poor, the widows, the orphans, the refugees; showing compassion.
After the Exodus, just before the people went into the Promised Land they were challenged. “Put away the gods that your fathers served in Egypt! Choose this day whom you will serve… As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:14-15).