Living By Faith
In ancient times, masses of humanity would gather at great arenas, not unlike today, to witness the spectacle of men performing in athletic events. In the midst of this teeming throng, the ruler would announce, “Let the games begin!” In Exodus 6, God let Moses know that it was time to begin the contest.
On the surface, this appeared to be a conflict between Moses and Pharaoh. In reality, it was a spiritual battle between God and Satan (Ephesians 6:12). God would free His people from slavery, moving them to the abundant life in Christ. Satan would bring condemnation and everlasting judgment, taking as many with him to hell as possible.
As part of the contest, God poured out His just judgment on Egypt in the form of ten plagues which picture the coming judgment of this world system prophesied in Revelation. The chief difference being that the coming judgments will be far more intense, so that the past will be but a shadow of what is to come. That truth ought to make each of us reach out to others with the good news about Christ.
Nine of these plagues were ineffectual, but necessary. God wanted to make a point. He wanted to demonstrate His sovereign power over the false gods and goddesses of the Egyptians and, by extension, of the world. He is Lord of all.
We will begin our study with the nine ineffectual plagues, saving the tenth for last, because it is especially important. There are three details to note before we begin:
1.) The nine are divided into three series of three plagues each (Exodus 7:15; 8:20; and 9:13).
2.) The first series affects both Israel and Egypt.
The division does not occur until the start of the second series (Exodus 8:22). These awful plagues were to teach Israel the horrible nature of idolatry. In spite of that, they soon made the golden calf.
3.) The judgments became more severe as they proceeded.
God is merciful and longsuffering (II Peter 3:9). He is not willing that any should perish. He gives numerous opportunities to repent. Unfortunately, many like Pharaoh resist and reject until they face the judgment. Today is the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:2).
The First Series (Exodus 7:15):
Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river's brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand.
Plague 1—Water turned to blood:
Scripture: Exodus 7:17-18
Thus saith the LORD, In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. 18 And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall lothe to drink of the water of the river.
God wanted to demonstrate His power but to understand this plague we must know something about Egyptian religion. Besides worshiping many gods, they actually deified the Nile River and worshiped it as a god.
Certainly, the river carried the sediment that made the valley fertile. Certainly, it provided the water that made the crops grow, but it was not the source of life. There are two lessons here:
1.) God is sovereign over the river.
By turning the water to blood, God demonstrated that He is the Lord of the river. He, also, proved the futility of this god by causing fish to die and the river to stink. How would you like to worship a god that stinks? Many people worship gods that are no better.
2.) Life is in the blood.
The real source of life is blood not water. The Egyptians were confused like many today. We have life because we have blood in our bodies (Genesis 9:4). We have eternal life because Christ shed His blood for us (Hebrews 9:22). Water never saved anyone!!!
Those who preach baptismal regeneration argue that water baptism is necessary to salvation and fondly quote I Peter 3:21 as proof.
Scripture: I Peter 3:21
Notice the phrase in the parentheses which refutes this error. The text specifically says that water baptism does not save. Rather it says, “The answer of a good conscience saves.” So how do we get that?
Scripture: Hebrews 9:14
The blood of Christ purges our conscience from dead works such as baptism or circumcision or any other effort of man to obtain his own salvation. We get a good conscience through the purifying blood of Jesus Christ. The blood saves, not water.
Plague 2—Frogs cover the land:
Scripture: Exodus 8:3-4
And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneadingtroughs: 4 And the frogs shall come up both on thee, and upon thy people, and upon all thy servants.
The second plague reveals the humor of God. In Isaiah 44:10, God questions the sanity of those who worship idols. He asks, “Who hath formed a god, or melted and cast an image that is profitable for nothing?” He then tells of the carpenter who cuts a tree, uses part for a god and burns the rest. In Isaiah 40:19, He speaks of the goldsmith who casts silver chains to keep the idol from toppling over. These are gods that cannot even help themselves. How can they help us?
One of the gods worshiped by the Egyptians had the head of a frog. In effect, God said, “If you want frogs, I will give you frogs.” Suddenly, frogs covered the whole land. Imagine laying down on your bed and finding a frog on the pillow. Think of trying to knead a loaf of bread and a green, slimy frog hops into the batter. Ponder the strange odor of a live frog baking with your cake. The very thought is disgusting!
To make matters even more interesting, the sorcerers and magicians of Pharaoh were actually able to duplicate the first two plagues (Exodus 7:22 and 8:7). Think of this! You are sitting in your house with a frog perched on your shoulder, others on your lap, and still more at your feet. In runs a man shouting, “Eureka, I just found a way to get frogs to come up out of the river.”
There is a truth here that is very important. Satan is a powerful foe indeed. Through demonic power these sorcerers could duplicate the first two plagues and could make their staves turn to serpents (Exodus 7:11). The antichrist will one day be revealed with signs and lying wonders (II Thessalonians 2:9).
Young people sometimes hear of this power and are lured into the occult. They think that they can have this power. What they fail to realize is that the magicians could only add to the misery. They could not remove the plague. God is sovereign. Satan can only go as far as God allows.
There is one final thought. Moses cried unto God and the plague ended. The frogs died.
Scripture: Exodus 8:12-14
And Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh: and Moses cried unto the LORD because of the frogs which he had brought against Pharaoh. 13 And the LORD did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields. 14 And they gathered them together upon heaps: and the land stank.
Notice the last three words: “the land stank.” The gods of men always leave a stench in the land. Only the God of the Bible can make a sweet odor.
Plague 3—Dust turned to lice:
Scripture: Exodus 8:16
The third plague closes the first series. The King James says that dust became lice. The Hebrew indicates that it was a stinging insect. The Egyptians worshiped a nasty stinging beetle that was painful to man. The nature of the judgments would point to this creature. In addition, the Egyptians worshiped another god—the earth itself. Hence this judgment was a two-fold assault on the false deities of Egypt.
On the one hand the earth god gave rise to the horrible insect god. On the other, that god tormented the people. God showed His superiority. He used their own gods to judge and show how repulsive idolatry is.
Can you imagine the awful predicament of the Egyptians? Here they were covered (Exodus 8:17) with abominable stinging bugs. Yet they dare not step on one, because it is sacred. In effect, God says, “If you want this god, you can have it.” But, do you really want that idol in your life? Do you really understand what it is doing to you?
Remarkably, the sorcerers actually tried to duplicate this judgment (Exodus 8:18). How foolish (Psalm 14:1)! Thankfully, God in His mercy did not allow them to succeed. Many brilliant men have made themselves fools by rejecting the God of the Bible and, in their foolishness, have done incredibly ignorant deeds. Because God did not allow them to succeed, the magicians wisely confessed that this was the doing of God (Exodus 8:19).
This completes the first series of three plagues. They began as inconvenient and even humorous, but rapidly turned painful. This is just the beginning.
We need to understand that anything which comes between us and God is an idol. What idols do we have in our lives? Are we prepared to give them up and serve Christ? Or must God use our idols to judge us?
I Corinthians 10:22 asks two very thought provoking questions concerning idols:
1.) Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?
2.) Are we stronger than He?
We need to think long and hard about these questions before we pursue our idols. God has a much better plan for our lives than any idol.
Next: The Judgment of Egypt—Part II