Good morning. Welcome to the Broward Church Sunday Service through Livestream. My name is Joe Stearnes. I serve as one of the elders and one of the ministers on the staff of the Broward Church. I wanted to let you know that our hope and our prayer for you is for your physical well-being and… See more
Good morning. Welcome to the Broward Church Sunday Service through Livestream. My name is Joe Stearnes. I serve as one of the elders and one of the ministers on the staff of the Broward Church. I wanted to let you know that our hope and our prayer for you is for your physical well-being and for your spiritual strength. Last week we stepped away from the Exodus story and we celebrated Easter together. Tony Fernandez gave a great message on the raising of Lazarus from the dead. And today, we return to the Exodus story and we return to a pitched battle between good and evil. A real historical account of God going to war against evil in the story of the ten plagues. Well, we’re going to see is that God is going to force an oppressor who is enslaved some people to let go of his grip of the oppressed. And God is going to punish that nation for enslaving people, for human abuse and for murder. And we’re going to see God free people so they can return to the promised land. So what we’re going to do today is we’re going to set up the story briefly and then we’re going to listen to the story of the ten plagues and then we’re going to learn from that story. Now, today, we’re going to do more reading than we usually do. The message will be about the same time. But I would encourage you to get your own Bible, turn on your Bible or grab a Bible, because we’re going to look at a lot of scripture.
We’re not going to read all five chapters. We’re going to take excerpts out. We are going to touch on and read some of every one of the ten plagues. Now, as we read it, there are lessons to be learned from the ten plagues that we will not be able to fully unpack. And so as we read it, I want you to meditate for yourself. But when we come to the end of the story, we’re going to take a couple of key points from learned from it. And then on your own, you can study this story because it’s a very, very rich story. So to begin to set up the story, I wanted to let you know that Exodus is not just the name of a book in the Bible. It’s an English word that means a mass departure of people, especially especially immigrants. And obviously, what we’re talking about is Moses leading the Hebrew people in a mass exodus out of slavery to the Promised Land. The story begins 600 years before Moses comes, when God speaks to Abraham. And this is what he says. “Then the Lord said to him, know for certain your descendants will be strangers in a country, not their own. And they will be enslaved and mistreated 400 years.
But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.” Abraham had left a land, called Herr, and he had travelled by the command of God to this land up here where it says the Jordan River and below it says Canon. That is what we call today, the Promised Land. It’s also called Palestine. That’s the area that God told Abraham, I’m going to give this, actually not to you, but to your descendants and those descendants. We’re going to come back to this land after they had gone to Egypt. So what happened is during a famine, Abram’s family has to leave this area, go across this desert, which is about 250 miles, and they come into the land of of Egypt because of a famine. And so about 2,200 years before Christ, God spoke to Abraham in the scripture. We just read Abraham have children, Isaac, his son, Jacob, his grandson, and Joseph, one of his 12 grandsons who facilitated their family being saved from a famine and moving to Egypt. About 1850 B.C. And then for 400 years, they were in slavery and under Moses. We now have the account of the ten plagues and the exodus and the last scripture we want to look out before we actually listen to the story.
Is God telling Moses what he had told Abraham? 600 years before. He says, “Therefore, say to the Israelites, I am the Lord. I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them. And I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.”
So we’re now going to read through different accounts of the ten plagues. I’m going to make some brief comments on it. And then when we finish, we’ll draw some conclusions from this. Turn to Exodus Chapter 7. This will be a longest reading. Let’s begin to look at this story. I want to ask you to give your attention and give your heart to this powerful account in the scriptures.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding. He refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the water. Wait on the Bank of the Nile to meet him and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. Then say to him, ‘the Lord, the God of the Hebrews has sent me to say to you. Let my people go so that they may worship me in the desert.’
But until now, you have not listened. This is what the Lord says. ‘By this you will know that I am the Lord, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink. The Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron, take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over the streams and canals, over the ponds and the reservoirs. They will turn into blood. Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in the wooden buckets, in the stone jars.’ Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile. And all the water was changed into blood. The fish in the Nile died. The river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink it. Blood was everywhere in Egypt. But the Egyptian magicians did the same thing by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard. He would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. Instead, he turned and went into his palace and did not even take this to heart. And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water because they could not drink the water of the river.”
So it has begun. So God has turned what the Egyptians worshipped, the Nile River, that had a Nile River God, and God exerts his force over the Nile River and turns it to blood. And a couple of points I wanted to show from this first reading is that the Lord said to Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding. He refuses to let the people go.
Now, some of you are familiar with the fact that for part of the story of the 10 plagues, it says Pharaoh hardened his own heart. And part of the time it says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart. I believe what we’re seeing here at the beginning of this account is that God has diagnosed Pharaoh’s character and he says this man’s heart is unyielding. He refuses to let the people go. And as we read through this account, what you’re going to see is you’re going to see God take a stubborn, prideful man and used his stubbornness for God to accomplish his will.
And the next thing I wanted to get out of this first reading is that it says that seven days passed. After the Lord struck the Nile, I just think God’s being patient with them, he changes the water into blood in the Nile and then he gives them a week to think about it.
Let’s read on. We’re going to read Exodus Chapter 8 now versus one through eight. It says “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘this is what the Lord says:
Let my people go so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs. Then I will team with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials. And on the people and into your ovens and your kneading troughs. The frogs will go up on you and your people and all your officials.’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron, stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’ So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. But the magicians did the same thing by their secret arts. They also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt. 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.'”
Then it continues, it says, “Moses said to Pharaoh, ‘Be pleased to command me when I am to plead for you and for your servants and for your people. That the frogs may be cut off from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.’ And he said. ‘Tomorrow, be it, as you say, so that you may know that there is no one like the Lord, your God.'”
This is humorous. This is also a lesson to be learned. Moses gives Pharaoh the option to determine when the frogs are gonna be taken away. And Pharaoh, in his arrogance, says, “OK, then let’s do it tomorrow.” I don’t know, Pharaoh is married. I don’t know if his wife could speak plainly to him, but I can just imagine the potential conversation there like “Honey, the palace is filled with frogs and you want to wait 24 more hours?” I just think it’s kind of humorous, but I think the lesson to be learned is the only control Pharaoh had was granted to him by God. He had the illusion of control, but he did not have any control other than what God gave him. I believe that there’s a lesson for us in that today. And we’re going to come back and touch on this when we finish up the lesson.
But how much control do you and I have over our lives? We didn’t determine the day we were born. We didn’t determine our family, where we are born, what ethnic group we’re from. The only degree of control we have is granted to us by God. Let’s continue the story in Exodus Chapter 8. In verse sixteen, it says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, Tell Aaron to stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground. And throughout the land of Egypt, the dust will become gnats.”
I should let you know that we’re not sure what the Hebrew word means. And some translators translate this word not as gnats, but as lice, as mosquitoes, as sand fleas. But as the story continues, it says they did this. “And when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came upon men and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. But when the magicians tried to produce gnat’s by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals. The magician said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’ But Pharaoh’s heart was hard. And he would not listen. Just as the Lord has said.”
What I see here is that there are men who don’t believe in the God of the Bible. They don’t believe in Jehovah in your way, but they’re coming to faith by the mighty work of God that they are witnessing. Except for the most prideful guy in the room. Pharaoh could not see the finger of hand, the finger of God working, the hand of God working because of his pride and because of the hardness of his heart, but his staff around him, they’re beginning to get the picture here. To continue on, it says, “if you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses, the houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, even the ground where they are.
But on that day, I will deal differently with the land of Goshen where my people live. No swarms of flies will be there so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This miraculous sign will occur tomorrow. And the Lord did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials and throughout Egypt. The land was ruined by flies.”
I don’t even know how flies can run a land. I’m used to house flies, and I don’t think much about house flies except that my wife and I own a couple of horses and we have become familiar with them horseflies in Florida. And if you’ve ever been around a horsefly, it’s actually kind of a terrifying event. I don’t know what kind of flies would run the land, but God is making these plagues more intense so that even with flies, he ruined the land. Let’s continue. Exodus 9, it says, “The Lord set a time and said tomorrow the Lord will do this in the land. And the next day the Lord did it. 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. Yet his heart was unyielding, and he would not let the people go.”
Now we’re halfway through. But I just want to point out something here. The beginning of these plagues is irritation, it’s inconvenience, but no land is getting ruined and no one is dying. But God is ratcheting up his punishment. So when it starts with the water and the blood and the frogs and the gnats, it’s gravely inconvenient to people. But now now it’s starting to get real battle, real warfare, and we have the death of the livestock. And guess what happens when it begins to become genuinely dangerous? God makes a distinction between his people and the people who are are not his people.
And one of the things that I get out of this is that I face the inconveniences of so many other people in this life. But I do know that I’m part of God’s people. And I find great comfort and strength in the fact that, as they say, God’s got my back. That he cares about me is his people. And then he does make a distinction in ways between me and others. I want everyone I know to become part of the people of God so that God can have their back, too. As he makes a distinction between his people and the people of the world, there’s something else that I see here, and that is that God is being patient with a nation that deserves punishment.
These people are guilty of enslaving a nation that was free of abuse and murder, and yet God is punishing them in a progressive fashion, giving them the opportunity to repent. And as they harden up, he meets them with harder and harder punishment.
Let’s continue the story in Exodus 9 verse ten, it says, “So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air and festering boils broke out on men and animals. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on the Egyptians.”
So now is getting personal. First, God has attacked the livestock and now he’s he’s causing physical harm, but not yet death on the people. Once again, patiently but progressively calling them to repent and calling them to release God’s people into freedom. Continuing in Exodus, Chapter 9 versus 13. It says, “then God said to Moses, ‘Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘this is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews says. Let my people go so that they may worship me. Or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people so that you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.
For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would wipe you off the face of the earth. But I’ve raised you up for this very purpose that I might show my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the Earth. You still set yourself up against my people and will not let them go. Therefore, this time tomorrow I will send the worst hail storm that has ever fallen on Egypt from the day it was founded. Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field. And they will die.'”
I think of this scripture that it’s first found in Proverbs Chapter 3, it’s where it’s repeated twice in the New Testament and James Ford and first Peter 5, it says that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I found myself when I was a younger man, not wanting to obey God, feeling at odds with God, perhaps almost every human has felt that way where they didn’t want to obey God. They did not want to submit to God. But a lesson we can learn from is this God is patient, but you’re not going to win this war. You’re not going to win this war.
If you want to go toe to toe with God, that’s your choice and God will let you do that. But in the end, it is God who will prevail. I believe what we can learn from the Exodus story is that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God, the Father. He’s going to win this one. I suggest we get on the winning side.
And Exodus Chapter 10, it says, “then the Lord said to Moses, ‘go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them. To me that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I perform my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord.'”
Perhaps you think that you have now caught God in wrongdoing. How could it be that that God would harden Pharaoh’s heart? How could it be that God would treat anybody with harshness? It makes me think of a song, but I think helping us helps explain this in Pslams chapter 18 it says, “To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure, you show yourself pure. But to the crooked you show yourself shrewd. You save the humble, but you bring low those whose eyes are haughty.”
I simply believe that as we saw earlier, that God had diagnosed the character of Pharaoh, and now he was going to use Pharaoh’s unyielding heart to finish and accomplish freeing the oppressed and that God does punish those who deserve punishment. And he often does not treat us as our sins deserve. And he’s often very, very patient with us. But there’s a time and a place for him to punish harshly. We just never want to find ourselves in that position.
And then in Exodus, Chapter 10, it says in verse 21, “then the Lord said to Moses, ‘stretch out your hand toward the sky. So the darkness will spread over over Egypt — darkness that can be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all of Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.”
There’s something about this plague that I don’t fully understand, but this brought everything to a head. After this, Pharaoh gets so angry that he tells Moses he’s not going to talk to him anymore and Moses gets angry. This is the ninth. The second to the last plague. And it brings everything to a head. I think perhaps it might be because the greatest false god of the Egyptians was Ra, the sun God, and he was being shut down.
But for whatever reason, this is it. Verse 28, “Pharaoh said to Moses, ‘Get out of my sight. Make sure you do not appear before me again. The day you see my face, you will die.’ ‘Just as you say, Moses replied, I will never appear before you again.'”
Now, no, Moses hasn’t left the room yet. We’re going to read his parting shot before he goes. But I just wanted to point out that the Sun God, Ra, was very important to the Egyptian people. And the Egyptian people not only worship Ra, they had a huge amount of gods. They had a God for the Nile. And they had a God for all different aspects of their life. One of the things that God is accomplishing before the Egyptians and before the Hebrews is he’s showing them actually there’s only one true God that has any real power. And it’s not the God you worship. It is the great I am. So here’s Moses’s parting comments to Pharaoh.
Exodus 11, verse 4 says, “This is what the Lord says, ‘about midnight I will go throughout Egypt, every firstborn son in Egypt wil die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the first born of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt. Worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites, not a dog will bark at any man or animal. Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.'”
So now God has brought the plague, the tenth plague to its conclusion, and it says here, “all these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘go you and all the people who follow you!’ After that, I will leave. Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.”
I think that Moses’s anger, is something we can learn from. Is there ever a time that you’ve been deeply distressed by the evil that you see around you? You see, it’s reached a point with Moses that he’s feeling what God is feeling. He has an indignation and an anger about evil. I’m not encouraging us to be self-righteous. I’m not encouraging us to think that we’re better than other people. We are only rescued from the world as God is rescuing the Hebrews. But I have felt, and I hope that you have felt, indignation and anger and deep emotion and deeply disturbed sometimes by your own son and by the wrongdoing in the scene that you see all around you. I think it’s something we can imitate in him, because what he sees in Pharaoh is this, that many people will not come to God even when their lives are in utter ruin.
S,o as we’ve set up and as we’ve listened to the story, let’s learn from the story. What I’d like to get is one point out of this story, but it has four threads from the story of the plagues that come into this one issue. And that issue is how will you respond to the work of God in your life? Because what we’re witnessing in the account of the Ten Plagues is people responding to the powerful, miraculous work of God.
So the first thing that I would encourage you on the first of these four threads that comes back to this issue is this: You can claim your freedom. You see, the story of exodus is a true historical narrative, but it has symbolism that we are supposed to learn from that echoes into the 21st century. As God freed the Hebrews from the slavery that they were in, so God frees us from this type of slavery.
We read about it in the New Testament in John Chapter 8. Jesus explains it this way, he says, “I tell you the truth. Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.” And you and I have been given an opportunity, if we will take God up on it, to be freed from slavery as God offered it to the Hebrews.
The second thread that I see in responding to the work of God is that you can be ruined by stubborn pride. We have talked about that earlier, but I hope your response to the work of God is not rebellion. It’s not disobedience, but it’s willing to come on the side of love, the side of freedom. And on the winning side of how things are going to play out in your life and in the lives of everyone else.
The third response that I see in this: you can have an illusion of control, but only God is in control. You may feel that you are in charge of your own destiny. But really, the one thing that God has put you in charge of is whether you will get right with him or not. He did give you that amount of control, but it does teach in the New Testament and Second Corinthians 5 that all of us will appear before the judgment seat of Christ. We will have to give the answer to God for the things that we’ve done in our life. God is in control and he will give you some control, but only as he grants it. Let us not have the illusion that we have all the control and that God has none.
And the last thread that I think weaves into the story of our response to the work of God is trusting in gods that cannot rescue us. I don’t know anybody who worships the God of Ra. I don’t know anybody who worships the God of the Nile. I know a lot of people who worship money. I know a lot of people who worship pleasure, who worship prestige. Who worship fame. Who worship popularity. These are gods they cannot rescue. The good things that are promised by these false gods are actually found in the true God. And so what we see is the seeds of the Gospel story and the account of the ten plagues and then the account of the Passover, which we’ll look at in the future.
And I just wanted to let you know, at this time we are suffering from our own plague, a plague that I do not understand like I understand the ten plagues. I wanted to let you know that the gospel has not been stopped in the COVID pandemic. This plague has not stopped the gospel and nothing can stop the great God that we serve.
Ask this question, how powerfully has God worked to bring freedom to us all? Because what I see is that the power that he worked in the ten plagues, mirrors and foreshadows the power that he worked on the Cross of Christ as he obtained our freedom by his powerful work and also in raising Jesus from the dead.