8. PLAGUES 2
What is the theme of the Bible? Do you think the devil is happy about the message of Jesus?
Why does God want us to study the history of ancient Israel and the way He delivered His people?
Let us continue this amazing theme.
But the prince of evil had a still deeper object in manifesting his wonders through the magicians. He well knew that Moses, in breaking the yoke of bondage from off the children of Israel, pre-figured Christ, who was to break the reign of sin over the human family.
He knew that when Christ should appear, mighty miracles would be wrought as an evidence to the world that God had sent Him. Satan trembled for his power.
By counterfeiting the work of God through Moses, he hoped not only to prevent the deliverance of Israel, but to exert an influence through future ages to destroy faith in the miracles of Christ.
Satan is constantly seeking to counterfeit the work of Christ and to establish his own power and claims. He leads men to account for the miracles of Christ by making them appear to be the result of human skill and power.
In many minds he thus destroys faith in Christ as the Son of God, and leads them to reject the gracious offers of mercy through the plan of redemption.
Moses and Aaron were directed to visit the riverside next morning, where the king was accustomed to repair. The overflowing of the Nile being the source of food and wealth for all Egypt, the river was worshiped as a god, and the monarch came thither daily to pay his devotions.
Here the two brothers again repeated the message to him, and then they stretched out the rod and smote upon the water. The sacred stream ran blood, the fish died, and the river became offensive to the smell.
The water in the houses, the supply preserved in cisterns, was likewise changed to blood. But “the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments,” and “Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.” For seven days the plague continued, but without effect.
Again the rod was stretched out over the waters, and frogs came up from the river and spread over the land.
They overran the houses, took possession of the bed chambers, and even the ovens and kneading troughs. The frog was regarded as sacred by the Egyptians, and they would not destroy it; but the slimy pests had now become intolerable.
They swarmed even in the palace of the Pharaohs, and the king was impatient to have them removed. The magicians had appeared to produce frogs, but they could not remove them. Upon seeing this, Pharaoh was somewhat humbled.
He sent for Moses and Aaron, and said, “Entreat the Lord, that He may take away the frogs from me, and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may do sacrifice unto the Lord.”
After reminding the king of his former boasting, they requested him to appoint a time when they should pray for the removal of the plague. He set the next day, secretly hoping that in the interval the frogs might disappear of themselves, and thus save him from the bitter humiliation of submitting to the God of Israel.
The plague, however, continued till the time specified, when throughout all Egypt the frogs died, but their putrid bodies, which remained, polluted the atmosphere.
The Lord could have caused them to return to dust in a moment; but He did not do this lest after their removal the king and his people should pronounce it the result of sorcery or enchantment, like the work of the magicians.
The frogs died, and were then gathered together in heaps. Here the king and all Egypt had evidence which their vain philosophy could not gainsay, that this work was not accomplished by magic, but was a judgment from the God of heaven.
“When Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart.” At the command of God, Aaron stretched out his hand, and the dust of the earth became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. Pharaoh called upon the magicians to do the same, but they could not.
The work of God was thus shown to be superior to that of Satan. The magicians themselves acknowledged, “This is the finger of God.” But the king was still unmoved.
Appeal and warning were ineffectual, and another judgment was inflicted. The time of its occurrence was foretold, that it might not be said to have come by chance. Flies filled the houses and swarmed upon the ground, so that “the land was corrupted by reason of the swarms of flies.”
These flies were large and venomous, and their bite was extremely painful to man and beast. As had been foretold, this visitation did not extend to the land of Goshen.
Pharaoh now offered the Israelites permission to sacrifice in Egypt, but they refused to accept such conditions. “It is not meet,” said Moses; “lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us?”
The animals which the Hebrews would be required to sacrifice were among those regarded as sacred by the Egyptians; and such was the reverence in which these creatures were held, that to slay one, even accidentally, was a crime punishable with death.
It would be impossible for the Hebrews to worship in Egypt without giving offense to their masters. Moses again proposed to go three days’ journey into the wilderness. The monarch consented, and begged the servants of God to entreat that the plague might be removed.
They promised to do this, but warned him against dealing deceitfully with them. The plague was stayed, but the king’s heart had become hardened by persistent rebellion, and he still refused to yield.
A more terrible stroke followed–murrain upon all the Egyptian cattle that were in the field. Both the sacred animals and the beasts of burden–kine and oxen and sheep, horses and camels and asses–were destroyed.
It had been distinctly stated that the Hebrews were to be exempt; and Pharaoh, on sending messengers to the home of the Israelites, proved the truth of this declaration of Moses. “Of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.” Still the king was obstinate.
Moses was next directed to take ashes of the furnace, and “sprinkle it toward heaven in the sight of Pharaoh.” This act was deeply significant.
Four hundred years before, God had shown to Abraham the future oppression of His people, under the figure of a smoking furnace and a burning lamp.
He had declared that He would visit judgments upon their oppressors, and would bring forth the captives with great substance.
In Egypt, Israel had long languished in the furnace of affliction. This act of Moses was an assurance to them that God was mindful of His covenant, and that the time for their deliverance had come.
As the ashes were sprinkled toward heaven, the fine particles spread over all the land of Egypt, and wherever they settled, produced boils “breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast.”
The priests and magicians had hitherto encouraged Pharaoh in his stubbornness, but now a judgment had come that reached even them. Smitten with a loathsome and painful disease, their vaunted power only making them contemptible, they were no longer able to contend against the God of Israel.
The whole nation was made to see the folly of trusting in the magicians, when they were not able to protect even their own persons.
Still the heart of Pharaoh grew harder. And now the Lord sent a message to him, declaring, “I will at this time send all My plagues upon thy heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like Me in all the earth. . . . And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee My power.”
Not that God had given him an existence for this purpose, but His providence had overruled events to place him upon the throne at the very time appointed for Israel’s deliverance.
Though this haughty tyrant had by his crimes forfeited the mercy of God, yet his life had been preserved that through his stubbornness the Lord might manifest His wonders in the land of Egypt.
The disposing of events is of God’s providence. He could have placed upon the throne a more merciful king, who would not have dared to withstand the mighty manifestations of divine power.
But in that case the Lord’s purposes would not have been accomplished. His people were permitted to experience the grinding cruelty of the Egyptians, that they might not be deceived concerning the debasing influence of idolatry.
In His dealing with Pharaoh, the Lord manifested His hatred of idolatry and His determination to punish cruelty and oppression.
God had declared concerning Pharaoh, “I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.” Exodus 4:21. There was no exercise of supernatural power to harden the heart of the king.
God gave to Pharaoh the most striking evidence of divine power, but the monarch stubbornly refused to heed the light. Every display of infinite power rejected by him, rendered him the more determined in his rebellion.
The seeds of rebellion that he sowed when he rejected the first miracle, produced their harvest.
As he continued to venture on in his own course, going from one degree of stubbornness to another, his heart became more and more hardened, until he was called to look upon the cold, dead faces of the first-born.
God speaks to men through His servants, giving cautions and warnings, and rebuking sin. He gives to each an opportunity to correct his errors before they become fixed in the character; but if one refuses to be corrected, divine power does not interpose to counteract the tendency of his own action.
He finds it more easy to repeat the same course. He is hardening the heart against the influence of the Holy Spirit. A further rejection of light places him where a far stronger influence will be ineffectual to make an abiding impression.
He who has once yielded to temptation will yield more readily the second time. Every repetition of the sin lessens his power of resistance, blinds his eyes, and stifles conviction. Every seed of indulgence sown will bear fruit.
God works no miracle to prevent the harvest. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7. He who manifests an infidel hardihood, a stolid indifference to divine truth, is but reaping the harvest of that which he has himself sown.
It is thus that multitudes come to listen with stoical indifference to the truths that once stirred their very souls. They sowed neglect and resistance to the truth, and such is the harvest which they reap.
Those who are quieting a guilty conscience with the thought that they can change a course of evil when they choose, that they can trifle with the invitations of mercy, and yet be again and again impressed, take this course at their peril.
They think that after casting all their influence on the side of the great rebel, in a moment of utmost extremity, when danger compasses them about, they will change leaders. But this is not so easily done.
The experience, the education, the discipline of a life of sinful indulgence, has so thoroughly molded the character that they cannot then receive the image of Jesus. Had no light shone upon their pathway, the case would have been different.
Mercy might interpose, and give them an opportunity to accept her overtures; but after light has been long rejected and despised, it will be finally withdrawn.
After the break we will look at the next plague, that of hail.
May God help us to to be sensitive to the voice of Holy Spirit. May He help us to walk in all the light that He sheds on our way.