June 8, 2010 David Balzer

Exodus 5-11: Who’s the Boss?

Have you ever made this mistake? Treating someone ONE WAY/ as if they were ONE THING/ but then finding out they were something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT? And you feel like a fool.

Someone I know once watched a rather large lady struggling to climb a step ladder. She was having trouble because her large stomach made it hard to move –like she was pregnant.

And so this person said to the lady, “You shouldn’t be doing that in your condition”.

“And what condition might that be?”

“Well, you’re expecting a baby, aren’t you?”

“No, I’m NOT pregnant!”

“Whoops!”

It’s foolish to treat someone ONE WAY, but then find out they were something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

I heard a story about Craig Tucker. From an eyewitness who promises it’s true. He was in America at a course for assessing church planters. And at the end of the course, one of the American hosts suggested they go ten pin bowling.

They assumed he was a beginner, and so they treated him accordingly.

Craig replied that that sounded like a fun thing to try. His hosts assured him they’d help. After all/ they were getting lessons. And they could teach him the basics. So at least he’d enjoy the experience.

As they drove there, Craig was asking lots of questions. About how you played. How you scored. Who wins.

When they arrived he asked questions about why you had to wear funny shoes. How did you bowl it? Overarm? Two hands?

His hosts patiently revealed all the finer points of bowling. Even when Craig’s first few balls rolled along the gutter- first on one side of the lane, and then the other – their patience didn’t run out. They kept encouraging him. After all – they were getting lessons! And they’d been where Craig was once.

Finally Craig said, “Okay. I think I’ve got it! I  understand the funny shoes. I understand how to bowl. I understand where to aim. And how to score. Let’s see how we go THIS TIME!”

And he proceeded to run in smoothly, and swing the ball through in a graceful, powerful arc. The ball travelled down the middle of the lane, and crashed into the pins. Strike!

And the same the next time. Another strike. And another! “Gee, this isn’t so hard after all!” says Craig.

And at the end of the game, his hosts mumble under their breath, “I’m SURE it’s wrong to lie in Australia, too!”

It’s foolish to treat someone ONE WAY, but then find out they were something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

Question 1: (5:2)

And it’s the same thing with Pharaoh and God. Pharaoh thinks God is just like the other gods of the nations. Powerless. A lump of wood. And so he behaves accordingly. But he’s got God completely wrong. And he’s a fool.

And so God’s about to correct him. That’s the point of the plagues. To show Pharaoh who God really is. To show him who’s the boss. Pharaoh asks the QUESTION, and the plagues are God’s ANSWER.

Look at Ch 5 v2. Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh, just like God says, and they pass on the message. “Let my people go”. But look at Pharaoh’s response. Verse 2. It’s the first of two questions. He’s got no idea WHO they’re talking about!

(Exo 5:2 NIV)  Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.”

He behaves in a certain way because he thinks God is ONE THING, when he’s SOMETHING ELSE ALL TOGETHER.

Verse 6. Look at his reaction. He figures the Israelites must have too much free time on their hands. And so he tells the slave drivers to stop giving them straw to make the bricks.

“Let them find their own straw! THEN we’ll see how much time they’ve got to think about religion”.

Verse 12. The people scatter all over the place looking for straw! But they’ve still got to make just as many bricks as they did before! There’s just not enough hours in the day!

So much for God’s plan! Everything’s just become HARDER!

2. Question 2: (5:22-23)

And so Moses is wondering what’s going on. In v 22 he goes back to God. Another QUESTION. “O Lord, WHY HAVE YOU BROUGHT TROUBLE UPON THIS PEOPLE? Is this why you sent me? {23} Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he’s brought trouble upon this people, and you haven’t rescued your people AT ALL.”

He’s got a pretty short memory, hasn’t he? Because it wasn’t that long ago that God told him exactly what was going to happen. Ch 4 v21.

(Exo 4:21 NIV)  The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.

Everything’s happening just as God said it would. But Moses won’t trust him.

And we’re just like that, aren’t we? Things start to go wrong. Being a Christian isn’t as easy as we thought it would be. Your car gets stolen, or you fail exams, or your chronic illness doesn’t seem to be improving. And you blame God. “O God, why have you brought trouble on this people?”

But God’s already TOLD us why! He’s got it all worked out. James Ch 1 v 2.

(James 1:2-4 NIV)  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, {3} because you know that THE TESTING OF YOUR FAITH DEVELOPS PERSEVERANCE. {4} Perseverance must finish its work SO THAT YOU MAY BE AND COMPLETE, NOT LACKING ANYTHING.

God’s got plans for us, and they rarely turn out the way we imagine. (pause)

So Moses is asking the question. Just like Pharaoh’s asking a question. And God’s about to answer BOTH questions. Pharaoh asks, “Who is the LORD?” God says, “Just watch. I’ll show you!”

Moses says, “Why have you brought trouble upon this people?” God says, “Just watch. I’ll show you!”

3. God’s Answer:

This is who I am. Ch 6 v 1.

(Exo 6:1-8 NIV)  Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”

{2} God also said to Moses, “I AM THE LORD. {3} I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. {4} I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens. {5} Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.

{6} “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I AM THE LORD, and 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. {7} I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. THEN YOU WILL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. {8} And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I AM THE LORD.'”

(pause) This is who I am! This is what I’ve got in store for you!

Surely that’s enough for Moses and the people! Right? … Wrong!! Both Moses and the people aren’t convinced. Verse 9.

(Exo 6:9-12 NIV)  Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel . {10} Then the LORD said to Moses, {11} “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.” {12} But Moses said to the LORD, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?”

Another question from Moses. “If the Israelites won’t listen, why would Pharaoh listen?”

(pause)

And it’s a question that WE’RE meant to keep asking. It keeps ringing in our ears. “If the ISRAELITES won’t listen, why would PHARAOH listen?” If God’s people won’t listen, why would a Gentile?

It keeps ringing, because the story gets put ON HOLD for a bit. There’s a time out. There’s this strange excursion about the family tree of Moses and Aaron. This long list. “These were the names of the sons of so-on-and-so-on”

At first glance it doesn’t seem to fit in. In fact the story flows really well without it! Read Ch 6 v 12, then go straight onto Ch 7 v1.

(Exo 6:12 NIV)  But Moses said to the LORD, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?”

(Exo 7:1 NIV)  Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.

So why’s it there? Is it a mistake? Was the author just clumsy? Or a bad story-teller? (pause)

I’ve come up with two suggestions. I’ll tell you one of them now, and one later. The first purpose of this break is to raise the suspense. To emphasise the question. It’s been left hanging. Why would Pharaoh listen to me?

And the pause in the story makes us KEEP asking the question. Why WOULD Pharaoh listen to Moses? Yeah, I’m with Moses there! How IS God going to work things out?

And by the time we get to ch 7, by the time we’ve read through all the names, we’re hungry for the answer. How WILL Pharaoh listen to Moses.

And then in Ch 7 God gives his answer. It’s only by God’s power and control. Over Pharaoh, over miracles and signs, over Israel. And even over Egypt. Look at Ch 7 v2. Why WOULD Pharaoh listen to Moses? Here’s why!

(Exo 7:2-5 NIV)  You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. {3} But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, {4} he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. {5} AND THE EGYPTIANS WILL KNOW THAT I AM THE LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”

Pharaoh’s asked the question. Who is the LORD? And now God’s ready to give the answer. “I’ll show you who the LORD is!

I’m the God of creation. Who MADE everything. And who CONTROLS it every minute of every day.”

And so he brings the plagues. 10 different plagues. Covering the whole breadth of creation. From water to land. From tiny insects to large beasts. Plants and animals AND mankind. Plagues to do with the weather. And with sickness. And even to do with light and dark.

But Pharaoh takes a lot of convincing. He’s the ultimate slow-learner. He’s blind to who God is!

Flick through the chapters with me.

First the water in the Nile River becomes . Ch 7 v 14. It’s putrid. And no-one can drink it. Then there’s a plague of frogs. Ch 8. They’re everywhere. Even through the palace.

After the frogs, Ch 8 v 16, Aaron strikes the dust, and all the dust in the land becomes gnats. It’s Egypt remember! That’s a lot of dust!

This time the magicians work it out. They know that it’s God behind it. But it makes no difference to Pharaoh. Ch 8 v 18.

(Exo 8:18-19 NIV)  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.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.

And so the plagues continue. Next, it’s flies. Ch 8 v 20. Then a plague that kills all the Egptian cattle. Ch 9.

And then God starts to get personal. Ch 9 v 8. Moses throws soot from the brick kilns into the air. And when it settles on Egypt, both men and animals break out in festering, pus-y, enormous, painful boils. Ch 9 v 11 says the magicians couldn’t stand before Moses because they were covered in boils. I bet they couldn’t SIT DOWN EITHER!

But still Pharaoh refuses to give in.

Then it’s HAIL. All over the land of the Egyptians. Ch 9 v 13. The crops that were just about ready for harvest were destroyed! But not a drop where Israel was! That’s no ORDINARY hail storm. That’s EXTRA- ordinary. SUPER .

Then locusts. Ch 10. So many the air is THICK with them. And they finish off any crops the hail left behind.

God’s running out of things to destroy. What ELSE has he got up his sleeve? How much longer can Pharaoh hold out? How dumb IS he?

You can imagine Pharaoh peering through the curtains. Hardly daring to imagine what’s coming up next. And I’ll bet he never expected what happened. Darkness. Ch 10 v 21. It was so dark, no one could move from his house for three days. It was darkness you could FEEL.

Darkness that was just like Pharaoh. He was in the dark about God. Blinded to who he really was. And so God LEFT him in the dark.

And just to prove that God’s right, Pharaoh STILL wouldn’t let Israel go. Nine plagues. Across the full sweep of creation. God showing Pharaoh the full extent of his power. But he hadn’t quite finished.

I want you to imagine for a moment the scene in Egypt. It HAD been the jewel of Africa. The most powerful country of its time. Lush, fertile, rich.

Wealthy, well-fed, healthy Egyptians walking around – carefree and contented. Plump, good-looking cattle. Fields bulging with grain ready for harvest.

Imagine it now. Not a green plant left standing. Stubble and dusty ground. All the animals by hail or plague. Rotting frogs piled up in heaps. People walking around gingerly – covered in boils, in a state of shock. Squinting in the bright sunlight after 3 days of blackness. Shell-shocked.

Destruction and chaos. A battle-field. Complete DE-creation from the hand of the Creator.

That’s what happens when the Lord of Hosts comes to fight on your side. When someone dares to ask the question, “Who is the LORD?”

Mass destruction. Complete annihilation.

But God’s got one card left. Because his people still aren’t free. And this one is different from all the rest. The first nine are to do with creation. All things that happen LY. But this one is SUPER . ABOVE the ordinary.

The plague on the first-born. When all the first-born sons of Egypt will be killed by the hand of God.

But you’ll have to wait for next week for that one!

Look at the summary table in your outline for a moment. The structure of the plagues.

Series Plague Reference Forewarning Time indication of warning Instruction formula Agent
First 1. 7:14-24 Yes in the morning Wait for Pharaoh Aaron
2. frogs 7:25-8:11 Yes None Go to Pharaoh Aaron
3. gnats 8:12-15 None None None Aaron
Second 4. flies 8:16-28 Yes in the morning Wait for Pharaoh God
5. livestock 9:1-7 Yes None Go to Pharaoh God
6. boils 9:8-12 None None None Moses
Third 7. hail 9:13-35 Yes in the morning Wait for Pharaoh Moses
8. locusts 10:1-20 Yes None Go to Pharaoh Moses
9. darkness 10:21-23 None None None Moses
Climax 10.firstborn 11:4-7; 12:29-30 yes None None God

They’re arranged in three groups of three. With the tenth one a stand out.

The structure is very deliberate. It shows us that the plagues aren’t the result of the chaotic, mechanistic forces of weather and re. The order of the description represents GOD’S order. HIS plan. HIS purpose. HIS sovereign hand’s behind all the events of the plagues.

(pause) And it’s ORDER that reminds us of ANOTHER description in the bible. Sets of three with one left over. Can anyone think what is? … Creation.

Genesis 1 describes the seven days of creation in two sets of three, with one left over. The first three days, the foundations of the world are created. Light on day 1, Sky and water on day 2. Land, and the plants that come from the land on day 3.

Day 1. Light Day 4. lights – sun and moon
Day 2. sky, water Day 5. air and water animals
Day 3. Land, Plants Day 6. land animals, man
Day 7 Rest

And then the second set of three days. Now the foundations are BUILT ON. The skeletons are filled out. The outlines are coloured in. And each of THESE days corresponds to the FIRST set of days. Day 4 the sun and moon that MAKE the light. Day 5 the animals that live in the air and in the water. And day 6 the animals that live on the land – including man.

And finally day 7. The climax. When God rested. Because it was all perfect.

Two sets of three. With one left over. And the order of the description represents the order of the creation. God’s rules over it all. Just like in the plagues.

And that’s the point here in Exodus. God’s in control. Pharaoh’s question was “Who is the LORD?” And God showed him. He’s the God who rules over creation.

But he’s more than that, isn’t he?. Because he showed his sovereignty over creation FOR A PURPOSE. He did it TO SAVE HIS PEOPLE.

As well as the God of creation, He’s also the God of RELATIONSHIPS – who chose Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He’s the God of PROMISE – who promised to make Abraham a great nation and give him a land.

He’s the God the SALVATION. His actions here are all so that he can SAVE HIS PEOPLE. That’s God’s re. He’s promised to be God to his people, and he sees it through. He delivers them . But that’s next week.

Relationships, promise, and salvation.

But as spectacular as this salvation is, God’s only WARMING UP. He rescues his people from Egypt, but he’s got a much GREATER rescue package lined up. Egypt is just a taste of a much greater enemy.

When God sends Jesus, he delivers us/ not from slavery to Pharaoh/ but slavery to sin and .

And as we look at Moses, we catch a GLIMPSE of the way God’s going to work in JESUS. Remember that genealogy? I said I’d come back to it. Turn back to the end of Ch 6 with me for a minute.

You might remember that Jacob had twelve sons. And the oldest three were Reuben, Simeon, and Levi. And they’re the three who get mentioned here. The list stops after that. Because we’re only interested in Moses and Aaron. And it’s Levi who’s Moses’ great-grandfather.

So why would the writer want to emphasise that Moses and Aaron were Levites? (pause)

My theory is that it’s because the Levites would become the PRIESTS. The ones to represent man before God, and represent God before man. The priests were the intermediaries between God and man.

The point is that Moses and Aaron were acting as God’s representatives during the events of the Exodus. God’s ambassadors before Pharaoh, and before the people.

And that’s what the text says in Ch 7 v 1. Moses will be as-good-as-God before Pharaoh.

(Exo 7:1 NIV)  Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.

It’s strange language, isn’t it? “I have made you like God”

We’ve got a priest who’s fully human – we’ve seen his family tree. Yet in some way that’s hard to understand/ he’s like God.

A priest who’s God and man at the same time. A priest who’s God’s agent for salvation for his people. Does it remind you of anyone? Yes, it’s Jesus. Fully God, fully man, the perfect priest. Who rescues his people for his father.

I’m not certain of it, but I think it’s worth considering – that we’re meant to see a glimpse of Jesus here in Moses. A foretaste of God’s ULTIMATE RESCUER.

Because God’s re DOESN’T change, does it? And his method of doing business doesn’t change either. He’s still the God of creation, who promises himself to his people, and who rescues them. The God of Moses and Israel, is the same God of us today.

The God of creation, relationships, promise, and salvation is YOUR God. If you’re one of God’s people, then He’s on YOUR side. (pause)

Let me finish with God’s words to Moses. Ch 6 v 2. I want you to think about them. This is God speaking to you. The one who made you. Who saves you. …… After I read them, there’ll be a few moments for you to meditate on them. To thank and praise God for who he is, and what he’s promised to YOU. After that we’ll sing, then there’ll be time for any questions, or comments.

(Exo 6:2-6 NIV)  God also said to ______, “I am the LORD. {3} I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself known to them. {4} I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens. {5} Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant. {6} “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and 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.

Creation Account (Gen 1 – 2:4)

Day 1. Light Day 4. Lights – sun and moon

Day 2. Sky, water Day 5. Air and water animals

Day 3. Land, Plants Day 6. Land animals, man

Day 7 Rest

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