SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 14 May 2023
Sermon Text: Exodus 7:14-10:29
Sermon Series: “Exodus” (#12)
Sermon Video: Click this LINK to watch
I. The nine plagues
II. The two statements
III. The single objective
This morning, we’re going to cover several chapters of Exodus, starting from 7:14, and consider the nine out of ten plagues of Exodus. This is because looking at the forest instead of individual trees sometimes gives us a better understanding of the message.
We’ll begin from having an overview of the nine plagues and then steer our attention through them onto grasping God’s ultimate message for us, that is, in a word, His calling and saving His own people from their slavery to sin.
I. THE NINE PLAGUES
The beginning of the nine plagues is blood in the Nile River. The water in the Nile turned into blood – not only the water in the River but also that of every canal and pool and even vessels at people’s homes turned into blood. For seven full days, Egyptians had to bear stink from the river, having no drinkable water.
The next two were frogs and gnats that plagued the whole Egypt. Saying, gnats, it might mean either mosquitos or tiny two-winged blood-sucking flies or both because the Hebrew word for this indicates one or all of these kinds of blood-sucking insects. These first three plagues were all related to the water of the Nile. The first two – that is, blood and frog epidemic – the Egyptian magicians could perform the same although their works were counterfeits. But the third one – that is, gnats – they could not do the same. So they advised Pharaoh, saying, “This is the finger of God.”
Things were getting worse with the following plagues. The fourth was swarms of flies. Being Australians, we know how much flies could cause nuisance. But this plague of flies was not like what we’d experience in our backyard – they were billions and billions in number, filling people’s houses. Ex. 8:24 says that the land of Egypt was ruined by the swarms of flies.
But from this fourth plague, God separated Israel from Egyptians, keeping the place of Goshen where the Israelites lived clear of flies. This seems to be the beginning of excluding Goshen from the rest of the plagues.
Then, death of livestock hit the land and that was the fifth one. While all livestock in Goshen were safe, the livestock in the field that belonged to Pharaoh and Egyptians died. This was the first plague that brought death in Egypt. Up until the fourth, those plagues were harsh and severe in degree, but mainly caused nuisance. We can guess that some could’ve died, it was rather local and individual than national. But from this fifth one, the situation was different – lives were taken from all over the land.
Then, another fell on Egypt and at this time, it was boiling. Egyptians were covered with boils all over their bodies. Because of this, Pharaoh’s magicians could no longer stand before Moses. And from now and on, they disappeared from this Book of Exodus completely.
The next is a dreadful one – it was hail from heaven, the seventh plague. Once again, the region Israel dwelt was free from it, but the rest of Egypt was severely damaged. It was not just thunder and hail but also fire ran down to the earth. Both livestock and people in the field were killed. Plants and trees were also destroyed and nothing in the open field was spared from this terrifying punishment from heaven.
Then came locusts. They devoured everything that was left from the destructive hails and fire. After this, darkness swallowed up all of Egypt. But once again, light was shone on Goshen! This darkness was truly supernatural because what we read from Ex. 10:22 sounds literally impossible even to imagine. It was complete darkness and people could not see each other nor could anyone rise from his place. For three days, this continued. I heard that yesterday, a new lava cave was accidentally discovered in South Korea. It was said that the cave was about 4 meter wide, 2-3 meter high and about 400 metre-long. We don’t agree with the secular, evolutionist scientists’ claim of several million years for the age of that cave, but it must’ve been formed ages ago and the space in the cave remained in complete darkness for many thousands of years. I guess that sort of darkness would be what Egyptians experienced for three days.
It seems that these nine plagues are three sets of three plagues – from the first up to the third, one group; the fourth to the sixth, the second; and the seventh up to the nineth, the third group. The first group was from the water of the Nile while the second group moved onto land. Then, the last group was from heaven. Each group of three begins with Moses getting up early in the morning to confront Pharaoh.
This is an overview of the nine plagues of Exodus.
II. THE TWO STATEMENTS
Having said, let me tell you that there’s one thread that penetrates all nine plagues – and even including the tenth one – and this thread links them all as one unit rather than nine separate, unrelated disasters. By this link, all nine plagues speak of one message. If you fail to recognise this link or fail to keep this link in mind while reading the accounts of these plagues, then, you’d fail to see an overarching message of these judgments of God upon Egypt.
This link is a set of two statements. I mean, God’s constant demand of Israel’s freedom and Pharaoh’s constant rejection by hardening of his heart. God asks Pharaoh to let Israel go, and Pharaoh refuses God’s demand, and that’s the beginning of each affliction. Then, Pharaoh promises release but soon goes back to his pride in his hardened heart. And that causes the outpouring of another deadly calamity. As more plagues come upon Egypt, these two statements stand out more, becoming louder and clearer to our eyes and ears.
Then, it makes us wonder, ‘Why did Pharaoh so consistently refuse to hear God’s voice?’ Its answer is that he represents each man and woman in this world. Pharaoh is not a specially and extraordinarily stubborn man or eviler than others. That’s not the point Exodus brings to our attention. Instead, he is as ordinary as anyone gathered here this morning, and as ordinary as anyone outside of these walls. If you were there in that Egyptian palace and sat on the Pharaoh’s throne, you would’ve been exactly the same as this Pharaoh we have in our text passage. I would be exactly the same, unless God mightily intervenes!
The point is that all men and women are, by nature, rejectors of God. All of us have rejected Him constantly. Not just nine times but hundreds and thousands of times have we rejected Him. He has announced numerous times to all people to come to Him for peace and rest of their heavy hearts. But not many have responded. In fact, none has been able to respond to His call because everyone is so bound to sin and has no ears to hear that invitation. So, God has given some His gift of faith. And by and through this faith, you and I could respond and come to Him, and still many others respond to God in the same way and receive His rest in heart and soul.
III. THE SINGLE OBJECTIVE
Having said, another question arises, and the question is, ‘Why such a variety of plagues?’ Why did God have to bring these many plagues to Egypt? Any one of these nine would’ve destroyed all of Egypt, wouldn’t it? Recently we have survived from a virus pandemic, and we remember clearly how devastating it has been. Its effect hasn’t been over yet. The whole world suffers from its negative impacts on health, economy, international relationship and so on. Based on this experience, we know that any of the nine plagues could’ve ended everything of Pharaoh and Egypt. Then, why did God bring nine times more troubles to those people?
The answer is to display to the eyes of the whole world God’s single objective, and God’s single objective is to display His glory. According to these chapters of Exodus we’ve been reading and contemplating, this single objective is described as letting all people know that God alone is God. Hear the words of vs. 15-16 of Ex. 9 as God says this in these verses, “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. 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.” Revealing His glory is God’s single objective. We’ve been reading this objective many times in this story of plagues from ch. 7. God says it in vs. 14, 16 of ch. 9 and repeats it in v. 29. but also in vs. 14 did God say it. God’s single objective is to show His glory to all of Israel and Egypt in Moses’ time. But that’s not all – He wants all generations to see His glory.
What is, then, God’s glory? What of God must all people of all generations see in order to know Him as the only true living God? The answer is the grandeur of His mercy upon sinners. His compassion on people is so deep and wide, so incomprehensibly high and persistent.
These plagues in Egypt prove that grace. These plagues tell us how persistently God visits His people and calls them to Himself while breaking every stronghold that keeps them under the bondage to sin and death. As I mentioned in the sermons preached earlier, the ultimate purpose of these plagues of Exodus is not to punish rebellious Pharaoh and Egyptians – that’s its secondary effect. The main concern of God is to call His people from the world and save them from their bondage to slavery. Israel was not the only people His eyes were on; He sought many others from among Egyptians, Ethiopians and more to be His own. He sent plague after plague to let those whom He sought know Him and come and be saved.
Truth is that every plague was to break the resistance in the hearts of God’s elect. Through each plague, God demonstrated the impotence of the gods they had put their trust. By each plague, God vividly displayed to their eyes those gods they had worshipped were false ones, worthless idols. God was proving that on their own terms, destroying their gods through each plague. He did it not once or twice, but persistently until the final stronghold was broken down and His elect were released from their slavery!
Hear what God said in, for example, 9:18 when He announced a plague of severe hail. He said, “About this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall.” And He continued in v. 19, “Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter.” What is the result of this? We read this in vs. 20 and 21, “Then whoever feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the LORD left his slaves and his livestock in the field” and they were killed, of course. I believe those who feared the LORD at this warning joined Israelites and came out of Egypt later.
The same takes place even at this very moment. God’s act of breaking sin’s stronghold in the heart and life of His elect continues even now. He will never stop it until we submit our all to Him. He has been doing the same in your life and mine, as in the lives of His elect in the time of Moses and Aaron. In fact, each of us have been passing through the same kind of troubles as the plagues of Exodus. For those elect of God in Moses’ time, it had to be extraordinary in power and nationwide in effect because God was calling His own people from all over Egypt in such a short period of time. But for us, the same has been taking place in personal level according to the timing God has set for each one. But one thing is always the same, that is, God’s single objective! He intends to bring each of us, His elect, to Himself and make us His own.
This is why we have various troubles in this life. Through every hardship, our sinful pride is broken one by one and we know our Heavenly Father better and His grace deeper. So, our praise to Him through Jesus becomes deeper. In this way, God carries us on to fully receive the benefit of His single objective. God does it for each and every elect from every generation, including the generation of Moses. The OT describes this uniform desire as ‘the zeal of the LORD.’ The NT reminds us of this zeal in terms of ‘the new covenant’ in the name and blood of Jesus Christ.
Isn’t this glorious? Isn’t God’s single mindedness strikingly magnificent? Of course, it is! Since the fall of Adam, God’s divine heart has focused on saving His own – that is, you and me – and He has never stopped from carrying this out. Although none of us can fully apprehend the depth and height of this mercy, we can see its glory! This draws us to bow to Him in praise and worship.
The culmination of our thanks and praise and worship to God’s grace and mercy will be the final exodus that is coming. When the Jesus returns to us, we’ll behold the full measure of God’s glory in Jesus, and that will make our joy complete.
Until then, let us rejoice continually despite pandemics or troubles or hardships because God is carrying us in His hands, breaking every stronghold of sin that stands in us. ***