Summary: With the First Plague God demonstrates his power AND his grace.
Crime scene investigation shows must be popular. There’s CSI: Miami, CSI: Las Vegas, CSI: NY (New York). I think viewers are intrigued with the idea that, if handled and analyzed correctly, even a single drop of blood is enough to expose a criminal and solve a case. This morning I want you to join me for an episode of CSI: Egypt. I actually want you to assume the role of a crime scene investigator and come with me to ancient Egypt to a time when the Nile bled. There is no question about who was responsible for bloodying the Nile River – God was. But why? And so what? Those are two questions worth answering if we want to better understand the one true God and his relationship to sinners like us.
This bizarre but true case takes places about 3,500 years ago during the time of Moses. God had called this former shepherd to lead the two million or so Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land in Canaan. The Pharaoh of Egypt of that time, however, had no intention of letting his slaves go. And so when Moses, together with his brother Aaron, demanded their release, Pharaoh responded by making life more difficult for the Israelite slaves.
When God told the brothers to go back and confront Pharaoh again, they did. They would make numerous such trips to Pharaoh. In that way Moses and Aaron serve as good witnessing models for us. They were persistent and bold. They didn’t soft-pedal the message saying, “We see that you’re quite spiritual, Pharaoh. The number of gods you worship is impressive. We just wish you would pay a bit more attention to the God of Israel.” No. Moses and Aaron were convinced: there is only one true God – the God of the Bible. Pharaoh needed to hear and believe that if he too wanted to be saved. Are we as persistent and bold in our witnessing? I know I’m often not. So let’s discover the secret to Moses’ and Aaron’s courage.
One reason they were so bold is that Moses and Aaron were convinced of God’s superiority. When God had told Aaron to throw his staff down in front of Pharaoh the next time they met and promised that it would turn into a snake, Aaron believed and obeyed. Not to be outdone, however, the Egyptian court magicians copied the miracle. They too threw down their staffs and one by one they became living snakes. Only Aaron’s snake proceeded to swallow the other snakes. Clearly, Moses’ and Aaron’s God was stronger than anything the Egyptian magicians worshipped.
Pharaoh was still unimpressed and tossed Moses and Aaron out of his palace. But God was just getting warmed up. He was going to perform other miraculous signs and wonders so that every Egyptian would know that he, the God of the Israelites, was the only true God (Exodus 9:14). God then began targeting Egyptian objects of worship starting with the Nile River. The ancient Egyptians were so dependent on the Nile that they had even composed hymns of praise to the world’s longest river. The poor Nile, however, was about to be assaulted with a deadly weapon.
God told Moses and Aaron to confront Pharaoh when he was out for his morning walk along the river. They were to take with them the staff which had turned into a snake and with it strike the Nile. God promised that this would cause the river water to turn into blood. When Pharaoh saw Moses and Aaron approaching with the special staff, he should have been nervous – the way storm troopers would be tense if they saw Luke Skywalker coming their way with light saber in hand. Pharaoh’s fear would have been justified, for when Aaron struck the Nile with his staff and then waved it over the land, the river turned to blood as did the streams and ponds connected to the Nile. There was even blood in the containers that held water from the Nile River! Fish died and the river wreaked. With one flick of the wrist God had bludgeoned to death one of the Egyptian gods proving how superior he was.
Do you suppose Pharaoh’s jaw dropped at the spectacle? I doubt it. He probably just smirked before snapping his fingers for his magicians who proceeded to turn water into blood just as Moses and Aaron had done. It must have been with Satan’s help that they were able to do this. But if these magicians were so great, and if Pharaoh really cared about his people, why didn’t he instead command the magicians to turn the blood back into water? As it was, for the next seven days the Egyptians were forced to dig new wells to find water they could drink.