Imagine living in a country where your national leader sees himself like a god. He rules in absolute power by brute force. In fact, even after just being inaugurated into office, he arrests and executes many of his political opponents. He even has the gall to ask his ministers for candid advice. When one tells him to step down to promote peace, that minister is delivered to his wife’s doorstep in dismembered pieces. When America attacked Iraq with the “Shock and Awe” military tactic, our ultimate purpose was to dethrone this cruel tyrant – Saddam Hussein. Exodus 5 – 13 describes a more powerful attack on a more evil ruler – Pharaoh of Egypt.
Several weeks ago, we left off the story with God raising up Moses as the leader to rescue His people from the world super-power – the Egyptian empire. When Moses approaches Pharaoh with God’s command to let His people go so that they can worship God in the wilderness, Pharaoh asks: “Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?” Well, God is about to show him who He is! Pharaoh is so insulted by the request that he turns up the heat on the Israelites by making them provide their own straw and make more bricks. When Moses gets back to the people, they are furious at him for causing life to get even worse. Our spiritual situation is similar to the one of Israel. Just like Israel, we can’t worship God fully while we’re enslaved, Satan turns up the heat of temptation when God is calling us into a deeper relationship with Him, and life often gets more difficult when we seek to follow God.
Moses is devastated at the response of Pharaoh (even though God had already warned him), but he was ultimately discouraged at the response of Israel. God encourages Moses. He will deliver His people from Pharaoh, and He will keep His covenant to take them to the Promise Land just like He did it with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This whole story, as well as the entire Bible, is about God being faithful to keeping His covenant. Why? Because His covenant of salvation brings about His highest goal: the glory of Jesus Christ. God is continually keeping His covenant before His people’s eyes just like He does with us and the gospel. We need to be reminded of the gospel of Jesus Christ daily which empowers us to live it continually.
When the Pharaoh declines again to let God’s people go, God begins His war campaign which He calls “Signs and Wonders.” It makes “Shock and Awe” look like little bottle rockets. The 10 plagues were: Nile turned to blood along with all other sources of water which caused all marine life to die and all of Egypt to stink, frogs came up from the Nile and swarmed the people everywhere including their food, Aaron struck the dust of the ground and it became gnats covering people and animals, swarms of flies covered and ruined the land of Egypt, all of the livestock of Egypt died, Moses threw dust in the air which became boils breaking out on all people and animals, heavy hail with thunder and fire rained down upon Egypt killing everything left outside, a swarm of locusts filled Egypt making it dark and ate all remaining food crops, pitch darkness fell over the land of Egypt for three days so that no one could see each other or go anywhere, and lastly the death of the firstborn. This is significant as Pharaoh’s firstborn son was the future Pharaoh and was thought to be a god. God commanded each family of Israel to kill a lamb, and to spread its blood over the family’s doorposts. If lamb’s blood was on the doorposts, the Death Angel of the Lord would Passover in peace. If there was no lamb’s blood, the Death Angel would kill the firstborn – from Pharaoh to slave to animal. Pharaoh finally let Israel go!
Throughout this entire historical drama, God is repeatedly saying that through this the whole earth will know that “I am the Lord, that there is no other like Me.” He wants His people free to serve Him. We must know that God pours out His wrath on all sin. God’s greatest judgment: Jesus Christ, the Firstborn Son of God, hanging on the cross in agony plagued with the penalty of the sin for all humanity. For those who believe in His death for their sin, they will be spared from the judgment of Jesus that is coming with His return (2 Thess 1:5-12 – a must read).