Living By Faith
Last time, we began to look at the judgment of Egypt. We said that God used ten plagues to judge the nation of Egypt. These plagues are but a shadow of the judgment to come in the book of Revelation, but they are bad enough.
Nine of the plagues were ineffectual but necessary, because they demonstrate that God is sovereign by showing His superiority over the Egyptians' false gods. The nine are divided into three series of three plagues each. Each series begins with the phrase “in the morning” (Exodus 7:15; 8:20; and 9:13). The first series affects both Israel and Egypt as God wanted His people to understand the horrible nature of idolatry. The first judgment is disgusting (water turned to blood); the second, laughable (frogs cover the land); and the third, painful (dust turned to a stinging beetle). That pretty well sums up idolatry. It is disgusting, laughable, and painful.
So why is it that we still struggle with idols? An idol is anything that comes between us and God. We have many things that we allow into our lives that are just as disgusting, laughable, and painful as the gods worshiped by the Egyptians. They do not profit us. Yet we allow them to rule over us.
The Second Series (Exodus 8:20):
The second series of plagues began early in the morning at the water’s edge.
Plague 4—Swarms of flies:
Scripture: Exodus 8:21
Notice that the words “of flies” are italicized, indicating that they have been added for clarification. The Hebrew word used here refers to swarms of insects. The Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament that was in common usage at the time of Christ, very specifically renders this as swarms of dogflies. This is a particularly mean sort of fly that loves to bite.
Most of us have no concept of the extent of this plague. We know what it is like to be bitten by a fly on occasion, but this plague is not one or two flies. It consisted of great swarms that filled the houses of the Egyptians and even entered into the palace of Pharaoh (Exodus 8:24).
Illustration: Perhaps 25 or so years ago, my wife and I took the Algoma Central Railway out of Souix St. Marie, Canada. Traveling 114 miles into the wilderness, we stopped at Agawa Canyon National Park. The ride was spectacular and the park beautiful. But the stop consisted of hundreds of tourists wearing jackets and trying to cover all exposed skin while they scurried about photographing the sites before rushing back to the train. Swarms of tiny biting black flies dogged our every step.
Now imagine that there was no escape. Whether you go indoors or out, the flies are there, constantly, irritating and tormenting both man and beast. This is what happened to the Egyptians, but not Israel.
Scripture: Exodus 8:22-23
And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms of flies shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. 23 And I will put a division between my people and thy people: to morrow shall this sign be.
God made a distinction between His people and those of the world. God wants His people to live like there is a distinction. He wants us to live separated lives. There is coming a day when God will separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:32-46). Those of us who know Christ will inherit the kingdom, but those who do not will face everlasting punishment. The plague began and the land was corrupted by reason of the swarms of flies (Exodus 8:24). Then Pharaoh offered the first of four compromises. The devil does not want us to live separated lives.
Scripture: Exodus 8:25
Observe the compromise. “Sacrifice to your God in the land.” In other words, be saved but do not separate. Be like the world so that you can reach the world. That is the devil’s lie, but it is very effective. Christians live and worship like the world thinking that this is the way to reach the lost. Unfortunately, the lost see this as just another therapy session or fun thing to do. They do not see the need to lay hold on Christ. (Matthew 26:26) They merely want to receive all of the good things He offers without any real commitment. In the end, they are brainwashed into believing they have salvation when they do not.
The first compromise was too obvious for Moses. So Pharaoh offered a second one.
Scripture: Exodus 8:28
This time it is “go, but not very far.” In other words, be a Christian, separate, but do not be fanatical about it.
If Satan cannot get us to live entirely like the world, this is the next best thing. Sadly, it is very effective with so-called Bible believers who separate by not doing this or that, but who fail to consecrate their whole mind, soul, and body to God. They can get radical about sports or hobbies, but not God.
Illustration: This past week God showed me a gemstone in His Word. It was a nugget of truth waiting to be discovered, and I got excited. I could not wait to share it with someone. I became vocal. I could not sit still. It was amazing! Do you find that a little too fanatical? It is certain that the devil does. “Go, but not far.”
Moses apparently accepted this half-way demonic offer by telling Pharaoh that he would ask God to remove the flies (Exodus 8:29). God did so (Exodus 8:31), but Pharaoh broke his word again (Exodus 8:32). Christians who fall for this lie thinking that they can be saved without being fanatical or radical fail to comprehend who their adversary is. The devil is the father of lies. If we think we can get by without total commitment, we are seriously deluded.
Plague 5—Livestock stricken:
Scripture: Exodus 9:1-6
1 Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2 For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still, 3 Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain. 4 And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children's of Israel. 5 And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land. 6 And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.
The fifth judgment consisted of an infectious and fatal disease that struck at additional creatures worshiped by the Egyptians. One deity was represented by a bull, and another by a cow or calf. God again demonstrated His power over these false gods by destroying them.
Unbelievably, Israel learned very little from this demonstration. Just one year later they made a golden calf and bowed down to it. Many Christians do the same. Over the years we have witnessed many start the race strong, only to be turned aside from evangelistic zeal to get-rich-quick zeal. Instead of telling people about Christ, they start selling soap, vitamins, etc. These enterprises always seem to start with the same seductive line: “This business is founded on Christian principles.” Since when is greed a Christian principle? We cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24).
Scripture: Matthew 6:19-20
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
We need to serve God and God alone. Any other god will let us down. The Egyptian gods could not even preserve their own kind. Our gods are no better.
God is very specific about this judgment. It would only affect Egyptian cattle, and only those in the field (Exodus 9:3). Furthermore, He set an appointed time for the sentence to be carried out.
God wanted Pharaoh to know that He did the deed. Pharaoh even proved it by sending men to check on the cattle of Israel (Exodus 9:7), but he hardened his heart still more and refused to let Israel go.
Plague 6—Boils afflict man and beast:
Scripture: Exodus 9:8-12
8 And the LORD said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. 9 And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt. 10 And they took ashes of the furnace, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses sprinkled it up toward heaven; and it became a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast. 11 And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils; for the boil was upon the magicians, and upon all the Egyptians. 12 And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses.
Imagine for a moment what this plague was like. To have a single boil is bad. What would it be like to be covered with boils that break out into open sores? Consider that the animals are covered, too.
Illustration: Many years ago, our daughter visited friends who had a German Shepherd dog that was normally very docile. This particular day was very hot and humid. The dog had recently been tormented by neighbor children and apparently snapped—quite literally. He narrowly missed her eye and left a large gash requiring stitches.
Now picture man and beast covered by boils and ulcerated sores. Tempers become short. Man’s best friend bites and snarls. Bulls charge, and docile cattle develop a mean streak. The deity becomes the instrument of God’s just judgment.
Verse 11 reads, “And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils.” This is the last reference to these practitioners of evil who began so mighty in duplicating the first judgments. They were no longer able to even stand in the presence of God’s servant. So it will be in the new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21:7-8).
The devil has many schemes. If he cannot keep us from salvation, he tries to diminish our effectiveness by using various compromises. Today we saw two:
1.) Sacrifice in the land—don’t lead a separated life
2.) Go, but not far—separate but don’t get too fanatical
Truthfully, God expects us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. That is radical and fanatical, but that is what He expects.
Next time: The Judgment of Egypt—Part III