Summary: how God reveals Himself as a God of power, judgment, patience ans Salvation when Pharaoh hardens his heart
July 20, 2003 Exodus 7-10
Sometimes our God loves to reveal Himself in ways that would seem strange to us. The plagues that we are about to witness today reveal some of His power - the thunder and lightning and hail - these are things that we would EXPECT from God. But there are many times in history that God reveals Himself in strange ways. When God revealed Himself to Moses - He did it through a simple burning bush. As Moses headed off to free the Israelites - he told Moses just to bring his staff. Through that lifeless piece of wood God would reveal himself and free His people. When God chose to send His Son into the world to save it from it’s sin - he didn’t choose a palace or the bosom of a princess. Instead He chose the bosom of a poor and lowly maiden named Mary and a cattle stall. Instead of coming in glory and majesty - announced from the rooftops - He came in the dead of night. God revealed Himself in the flesh of a helpless baby. God still reveals Himself today through the water of baptism and the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. Amazing.
Today, what we want to look at - is not just how God revealed Himself through the many plagues that he performed on Egypt - in ways that we would expect. We also want to see how God revealed Himself in one of the strangest places ever - the heart of a heathen king named Pharaoh.
God Reveals Himself Through Pharaoh’s Heart
I. Pharaoh’s hard heart - the process
God said that out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Mt 15:19) Sometimes people are able to cover their hearts up pretty well with their words and actions - so we can’t see what they’re really made of. But today God takes us beyond the clothing and nice words of Pharaoh - opening up the inner recesses of Pharaoh - to his very heart. As we look at Pharaoh with God’s eyes, we will quickly realize what a stinking and rotten cesspool it really was.
Our story continues with Exodus 7. Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. (Exodus 7:10) Now, if someone walked up to you and did this, it would seem obvious that there was something strange about this person - that he had another power working through him. The same would go with the first plagues of turning a river to blood and having frogs show up all over the place. But Pharaoh wasn’t so easily impressed. It says that Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts. Somehow God allowed the Egyptians to also perform similar miracles with the snakes, the blood and the frogs. I would imagine that Pharaoh thought to himself, “that’s no big deal - these are just magic tricks.”
But every time that they were able to somehow imitate the miracles - their miracles were inferior. Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Even though the magicians were able to produce frogs, they weren’t able to take them away. So Pharaoh had to at least acknowledge the LORD. 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.” (Ex 8:7-8) Finally, after being able to imitate the first three miracles, God had Moses produce gnats from the dust of the ground. But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals. 19 The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.”
In spite of all of these miraculous signs and the very testimony of his own magicians, how did Pharaoh continue to respond? Every time the LORD took away the plague, it says that Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen. (Ex 8:16-19) This is repeated several times throughout these first few plagues.
These next plagues would be even more miraculous in that God said - I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This miraculous sign will occur tomorrow.’” (Exodus 8:22) By naming the TIME and PLACE - God showed that these were no mere natural abnormalities - they were signs from God. Every plague from here on in only hit the EGYPTIANS, and miraculously didn’t bother the Israelites. Another point to mention is that these plagues were becoming more and more personal and painful. There’s no way that Pharaoh could just ignore them like he did the Nile turning to blood. The first one was a plague of flies. We don’t know what kind of flies these were. One commentator speculated that they probably were “dog flies - which have special preference for eyes and eyelids inflicted painful bites and severe inflammation”. The second one was a pestilence that God says, All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. Pharaoh sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. (Ex 9:6-7) Every kind of Egyptian animal died - it was a widespread and nearly complete annihilation of their flocks.