Tonight’s passage is filled with disagreement between Pharaoh and Moses when it comes to him letting the people of Israel go. Moses wants his people to be able to leave Egypt with no questions asked and Pharaoh wants to bargain and negotiate their demands. So we see an interesting struggle between God’s will and compromise. But we’re also going to see that along with God’s uncompromising will comes God’s wonderful grace!
Pharaoh tries to get Moses, (and God), to compromise in how and when the people are let go to worship. Its as if Pharaoh thinks he’s negotiating with a fellow god since he believes that he’s a god himself.
But Moses, (and God), reject the idea of compromise and instead offer grace to Pharaoh and to the people of Egypt. There’s no negotiating with God over His will. But He does offer grace even to those who oppose Him – if they’ll stop their opposition and follow Him in faith.
So through the ten plagues brought upon stubborn Pharaoh and Egypt, we see the struggle between compromise and grace.
Last week we looked at the first four plagues that were the bothersome plagues upon the land. The water to blood transformation, the frog mass invasion, the gnat multiplication and the fly infestation made life miserable for the Egyptians.
But Pharaoh continues to harden his own heart even though it was evident to him that it was the Hebrew God that was bringing this wrath upon his land. Now as we discussed before, Pharaoh did have a chance to repent and turn his heart towards the Lord. But over and over again he chose to harden his own heart even when the reality of Jehovah God was right in his face. Pharaoh continues this behavior through the final five plagues as well. He simply will not let the Jews, his slaves, go and he will simply not loose face as the defeated god of Egypt.
[Read Exodus 8:32.]
[Saddam Hussein example.]
So let’s look at the next five plagues which are ironically an extension of the grace of God towards people who stand against Him.
5th Plague: Livestock die
[Read Exodus 9:1-7.]
God gave Pharaoh the warning that if he continued to hold God’s people hostage all the livestock of the Egyptians would die of disease. Up to this point the plagues have made life unpleasant for the Egyptians – but the following plagues would now start to really cost them. The economic impact of losing all the land’s livestock would be devastating! But Pharaoh’s heart is so hard that the Lord needs to up the anty to get his attention and the attention of the people. Remember, these signs showed everyone that the Hebrew God was real!
But even in God’s ultimatum there’s much grace. In verse three God gives Pharaoh a warning that this would happen which is a chance for him to let the people go.
Also in verse three it also says that, “the livestock which are in the field will die”. Meaning, if your livestock are in the barns, or you move them to cover, they will be spared.
And in verse five God gives Pharaoh a countdown, He gives him a day to get things right.
But Pharaoh refuses and all the Egyptian cattle left in the field died. I think it’s interesting that it says Pharaoh went to the land of Goshen to see for himself if the Hebrew cattle were not affected by the pestilence that had taken his cattle. Of course, God had protected them just like He said he would.
So Pharaoh’s got to wonder, where were his gods Apis or Hathor who should have been watching over their sacred animals? Did the Hebrew God overpower them or did they even exist? Another chance for Pharaoh to come to the Truth. But instead he hardened his heart.
6th Plague: Skin disease
[Read Exodus 9:8-12.]
Moses and Aaron took soot from the kilns that were used to make bricks for the Egyptian buildings – bricks that were a symbol of the Jew’s harsh life of oppression and slavery. They threw the soot in the air and all the Egyptians contracted this horrible skin disease. It was obviously an embarrassing disease since the magicians who also had the disease wouldn’t even stand in the courts alongside Pharaoh.
They might have also been embarrassed because their powers and their Egyptian god’s powers couldn’t stop what the Hebrew God was doing. The Egyptians had Selchmet the sun goddess of disease and Isis the goddess of healing to appeal to in their time of trouble. But nothing worked. They became diseased while the Jews stayed healthy.
But even in this very personal plague there was grace.
[Read Exodus 9:13-17.]
When I read this I don’t get the impression that God just wants to prove a point that He’s God. You know, a “I’ll show you who’s boss!” kind of thing.