At the end of chapter 6, Moses’ bravado and get stuck in attitude has gone. He blew it the first time he went to Pharaoh, not following the Lord’s instructions exactly and he had to leave cowed and the Hebrews became worse off. Now in v6 after meeting with the Lord again we see a remarkable change. We find Moses operating with authority and the quiet confidence of a leader who has the word of God. The experience has brought him back to the Lord. Moses has grown into his role – where is the impulsiveness of 2:11-13? the hesitancy of 3:12-4:13? and the triumphalism of 5:1? Now in v6 and 10, he is doing exactly what God says, with we will see is an unhurried calm 10:29 and a total confidence in the Lord 9:5. Moses has learned faithful and detailed obedience.
Over the next few chapter there are 9 plagues, presented in 3 sets of 3 and pretty grim reading they are too:
|1. Blood 7:14-28||4. Flies (8:20-32)||7. Hail (9:13-35)|
|2. Frogs (8:1-15)||5. Animal diseases (9:1-7)||8. Locusts (10:1-20)|
|3. Lice (8:16-32)||6. Boils (9:8-12)||9. Darkness (10:21-29)|
In the first 3 plagues, the Egyptian magicians vie with Moses, replicating the divine acts and then acknowledging the finger of God in the third. The 4th, 5th and 6th plagues bring a distinction between Israel and Egypt and then Egypt alone is faced with the disasters.
The plagues go from the passing discomfort of water turned into blood, to the revolting mess of a frog invasion, to disease bearing lice and then flies, commercially damaging animal sickness, personally debilitating boils, environmental disasters of hail and locusts, a terrifying darkness and end with the devastating loss of sons. Why? The immediate answer is that in God’s eyes, disobedience is as abhorred as obedience is prized. On a personal level, Moses has learned obedience. God hates disobedience – it was Adam and Eve’s disobedience that caused the fall, death and banishment from Eden. The flood (Gen 9), Sodom (Gen 19) and the striking down of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) are examples of God dealing decisively with disobedience.
We live in days like the Judges (Judges 21:25), where “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes”. Society is a long way from obeying God and His Word. Many deny the Word of God, believing rather the serpent’s “Did God really say?” and in doing so deny the doctrine of judgement. Many have a problem with the wrath of God, judgement, sin and the need for repentance. A long time ago, I had someone describe their habitual sexual immorality as a problem rather than a sin and could he begin preach in the church? Er, no!
So we have a problem with the plagues, because we step back from the truth of the wrath of God against sin and the judgement of sinners. Many would so prefer, as Alex Motyer put it, “The bliss of the kingdom of God without moral absolutes, presided over by a God without wrath and entered through a Christ without a cross.” But God is a holy God and Jesus died for our sins on the cross, because that is what sin needs, saving us from wrath.
The plagues show us that God is the Lord, the only God, omni-present and all powerful. While the hard hearted will receive judgement, those that follow and obey Him are rescued! The same power that brought the plagues on Egypt, is the power that shelters us, protects us and guards us from what we justly deserve.
Chapter 7 then teaches us that we need to be like Moses – doing just as God commands us. What has the Lord being asking you to do?