Exodus, 4


Exodus 7:8 – 11:10

Once Moses decided what he had to do and once he understood God would be doing all the work, he knew all he had to do was obey. There was no turning back for Moses and Aaron; no more wavering or insecurity. Finally Moses learned to trust completely in the Lord.  Well, mostly.

A lot of Christians want to be in that position; we want to have total trust and confidence in God, God’s power, and God’s will. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t like that. Most of us are riddled with doubt in God and lack confidence in Him and ourselves. We lack the focus and intensity that Moses had in his work for God. But it all comes down, first of all, to a commitment problem: we just aren’t as committed to God as we ought to be. And secondly, Christians are not disciplined – we don’t live disciplined Christian lives. Think about it: if a believer isn’t disciplined enough to get out of bed on a Sunday morning to go to church (in obedience to New Testament teaching), why in the world would he be disciplined enough to seek God’s will for his life and follow through with being committed to it? Often this type of Christian loves to talk about God and God’s blessings, but it’s all talk; they’re a mile wide and an inch deep.

But Moses wasn’t. God moved on his heart and Moses determined to what God wanted him to do. Regardless.

The confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh represents the continual battle between what God wants for His people and what the world wants for God’s people. God knows who belongs to Him; and He has a special plan for His people and His people alone. Yes, God separates His people from the rest of humanity. In fact, that’s the whole reason for the plagues!

But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. (Exodus 11:7 NIV84)

Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking God treats believers and unbelievers alike. He does not.

Pharaoh resists God’s Power, Exodus 7:8-25

A rod becomes a snake, vs. 8-10

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.” (Exodus 7:8-9 NIV84)

The Lord knew Pharaoh’s heart; He knew that Pharaoh was a man who needed to see – he needed proof; he needed to see Moses’ credentials. If Moses and his brother Aaron were truly on a mission from God, and not merely opportunistic troublemakers as he believed them to me, then he would want to see the evidence. Aaron’s rod was their badge of authority.

It’s particularly interesting that God considered Pharaoh’s demand for proof as reasonable! Yes, God is very patient with unbelievers. Paul understood this, too. He viewed giving Gentiles the Gospel as his “debt” to them” – that is, he owed them a well-reasoned presentation of the Gospel. Whether unbelievers end up believing or not, they are owed a chance to accept or reject God’s Word. Even a man like Pharaoh.

Pharaoh’s magicians respond, vs. 11-13

Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said. (Exodus 7:11-13 NIV84)

Moses and Aaron followed God’s Word to the letter only to discover that Pharaoh’s magicians could do it too! These godless guys imitated the miracle. How they did it, we don’t know. There have been men like this forever – men who come against God with tricks of their own. Paul had a word for them:

Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth–men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. (2 Timothy 3:8 NIV84)

As clever as these magicians were, they were depraved men and God had already rejected them.

Water turned to blood, vs. 14-25

Pharaoh was stubborn and God was about to turn the screws! This miracle struck at the heart of Egyptian worship: the Nile god, Hapi.  Hapi was depicted a rather fat man with the breasts of a woman, indicating the powers of fertility and nourishment. Pharaoh would have a sung this hymn as he went down to the Nile to worship the jolly fat man:

Thou waterest the fields which Ra created;
Thou art the bringer of food; the creator of all good things.
Thou fillest the storehouses;
Thou has care for the poor and needy.

This morning, however, was not a happy time of worship for Pharaoh. This sacred river was turned into blood. It was Egypt’s “life blood,” and it had now become as death to them.

But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. (Exodus 7:22 NIV84)

Before this event, Moses had warned Pharaoh and why it was about to happen.

This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. (Exodus 7:17 NIV84)

Yes, God went to the extreme to get Pharaoh’s attention and to give him every chance to relent and let the Hebrews go. God knew what Pharaoh would do, but He still gave the man opportunities to do the right thing.

God judges Egypt with plagues

Frogs, Ex. 8:5-7

It makes sense that frogs would follow a bloody Nile. Heka was the frog-headed goddess who had a close relationship with Hapi. Hapi and Heka were both fertility deities. Once again, God is striking at the very heart of Egypt’s warped religion.

These frogs were everywhere, and while they wouldn’t have been a direct threat to life, they certainly made life miserable for the people in Egypt. The court magicians could, apparently, duplicate this miracle, too, but they couldn’t reverse it. What good were they?

For the first time, Pharaoh showed some signs of a weakened resolve:

Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.” (Exodus 8:8 NIV84)

Was Pharaoh sincere? Perhaps he was sincere at the moment he promised to let the Hebrews go. Moses gave him the benefit of the doubt because for the first time Pharaoh seemed to credit Yahweh with this plague. Even though Moses knew the Lord would lift the frog plague, he cried out in intercession. God likes it when His children pray earnestly even for that which He has already promised.

In spite of Moses’ sincerity, the Pharaoh was not; his penitence was shallow and short lived. As soon as the threat passed, he changed his mind and hardened his heart. Like so many before and after him, this man broke under an affliction but did not yield his will to God. As soon as he felt safe, he reverted to his old, stubborn self.

Lice and flies, Ex. 8:16-19, 22-24

Without warning and without giving an opportunity for repentance, the Lord sent a horrible plague of lice. Scholars think they may have been gnats or mosquitoes. Whatever they were, there was no place in all of Egypt where people could hide from them.

The magicians could not replicate this miracle. God, as is His way, lets man go only so far but no further. There is a point where He always steps in and puts a stop to man’s games.

The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said. (Exodus 8:19 NIV84)

The magicians were not giving God the glory, simply acknowledging that the lice or gnats were of supernatural origin. For Pharaoh’s part, he crossed the point of no return.

Meanwhile, another plague followed on the heals of the lice: flies. These would have been either the sacred beetle or scarab, sacred to the sun god, Ra. The scarab symbolized eternal life in Egypt and now this very sacred creature turning against the people and becoming a curse. This plague was so severe, Pharaoh appeared to recognize that Moses was right, and so he was willing to let Israel go a short distance to worship. In the end, though, Pharaoh ended up shaking his fists at God once again and set his will against God’s. Spurgeon comments:

There is nothing into which the heart of man so easily falls as pride, and yet there is no more vice which is more frequently, more emphatically, and more eloquently condemned in Scripture.

Two more plagues, Ex. 9:6-11

And the next day the Lord did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. (Exodus 9:6 NIV84)

With extraordinary patience, God continued to demand that Pharaoh let His people go. And He continued to give Pharaoh fair warning of what would happen if he didn’t.

This time, the cattle of the Egyptians died but not those of the Israelites. How this galled Pharaoh. He allowed jealousy and anger to continue to harden his heart.

Losing cattle was bad, but things were about to get even worse: boils on the Egyptians.

But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses. (Exodus 9:12 NIV84)

Hail, locusts, and darkness, Ex. 9:23-24; 10:13-15; 10:22-23

In spite of the terrible storm, Pharaoh refused to acknowledge the superiority of God’s power.

Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.” (Exodus 9:29-30 NIV84)

And of course they didn’t fear the Lord.

A plague of locusts and darkness followed and Pharaoh made an offer:

Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and said, “Go, worship the Lord. Even your women and children may go with you; only leave your flocks and herds behind.” (Exodus 10:24 NIV84)

Some would have taken this offer, but not Moses. Christians will never live in victory, enjoying the full blessing of the Lord’s presence as long as they give Satan a place in their lives. There are those who think “a little sin” is harmless, but God’s Word makes it clear:

…and do not give the devil a foothold. (Ephesians 4:27 NIV84)

The final straw

Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. (Exodus 11:5 NIV84)

Fair is fair. And the irony is sad and painful. As Pharaoh had tried to do to the Hebrews decades earlier, so the Lord will now do to the Egyptians. This was final straw.

The Lord had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you–so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country. (Exodus 11:9-10 NIV84)

The exodus was about to take place.  Egypt paid dearly for the arrogance of a man who thought he could stand against God’s will for His people.


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