Exodus 12 has God instructing Moses and Aaron about the coming plague where the firstborn of every family and all livestock would be killed. This is a memo no one can afford to miss. “Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning”. This is very specific instruction, and it has to be delivered to every home of God’s people so they would be spared.
“For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you”. This is God’s way of finally setting His people free. There is no question with this plague that He is in control. And it is the beginning of a celebration that God ordained to remember this night. “It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses”.
So “the people of Israel went and did so”. Pretty amazing really, but Moses and Aaron obviously did a great job of instructing the people. God did exactly what He said He would. “At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock”. Can you imagine that night. Every home was affected. “And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead”.
But this plague worked and Pharaoh “summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, Up, go out from among my people”. No strings this time. Just get out was the message, and not sometime, but right now. “The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste”. They’d had enough pain and suffering by preventing the Israelites from going to worship God as He has asked. This was no small movement as “about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children….nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves”. They left in a rush but it was a big group to move – not only the people but also all their livestock and belongings. But God has done His work and now they are being set free.
Exodus 11 has the Lord deciding it is time to end this game with Pharaoh. He tells Moses “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely”. The previous plagues have been uncomfortable, and costly, but they haven’t directly impacted people in a lasting way. They have come, and then gone as Moses was asked by Pharaoh to pray to God for His mercy.
But this time, God is going to inflict pain like never experienced before. Moses has grown in popularity with the people – becoming some what of a celebrity among the Egyptians. He instructs the Israelites to ask for silver and gold jewelry from their Egyptian neighbors, and they willingly gave it to them. Then Moses announced the next plague. “About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, 5 and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle”.
This plague will strike everyone – even the livestock with loss. But as the plague comes, it will pass by the Israelites and God’s hand will protect them from the destruction. It will be a night filled with weeping and suffering. God makes it clear that this time, Pharaoh will let God’s people go in order to walk with and worship Him. Pharaoh will throw them out of the country. He will be more than ready for the Israelites to go away and leave him alone. But before that happens, this final plague has to come.
Moses and Aaron continue leading God’s people and waiting patiently for Pharaoh to let them go. They have done many signs and miracles, and while Pharaoh has been close before, he has never completely given in to their demands. Now they are preparing their final hurrah through which God will set them free. God reminds them that one more time “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt”. Things are set up for this last plague to demonstrate God’s ultimate control of all things, including life and death.
Exodus 10 has the plagues continuing as Pharaoh hardens his heart toward the Israelites. God tells Moses to keep up the pressure and assures him that He will “show these signs of mine among them….that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson….that you may know that I am the Lord”. This isn’t about Pharaoh at all – it is about the children of Israel seeing the power of God at work on their behalf. Pharaoh plays right into it by refusing to let the people worship God – so this next plague let loose is locusts all across the land.
The locusts “shall cover the face of the land….they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, and they shall fill your houses”. God continues turning up the heat. And now Pharaoh’s servants are starting to ask questions. “How long shall this man be a snare to us….Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined”? They are tired of this stubborn game Pharaoh is playing as it is destroying the entire country. So Pharaoh makes a gesture – he offers to let the men go worship God. But that was not good enough. So the locusts come.
Pharaoh calls for Moses and Aaron and says “Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the Lord your God only to remove this death from me”. He’s used that line before. Moses prays and God drives the locusts away, but Pharaoh does not allow the people to go. So God tells Moses to give him the next plague. “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt”. No one went outside for three days. Pharaoh calls Moses and offers the next step – which was that all the people could go and worship but they had to leave their livestock. Another less than full offer that is rejected.
Pharaoh has a hardened heart yet again, and calls Moses and Aaron in this time threatening them. “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die”. He’s had enough, and is ready to put this game of cat and mouse to an end by killing the pair if it doesn’t change. But once again Pharaoh is playing into God’s hand. And Moses replies “Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again”. This time Pharaoh’s hardened heart is going to push God to a place that will be very costly.
Exodus 9 has the showdown between God and Pharaoh heating up. The message Moses delivers is exactly the same each time. “Let my people go, that they may serve me”. God wants His people free to worship Him. That is the request, or commandment. Pharaoh is all about control and power. So God continues the plagues. Next comes a “very severe plague upon your livestock….a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt”. But God is going to do it differently this time and make it obvious that it is His hand – as nothing will happen to the livestock of His people.
He also tells Pharaoh exactly when it will happen. “And the Lord set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land”. Of course Pharaoh didn’t really believe it, so he “sent, and behold, not one of the livestock of Israel was dead”. But his heart was still hard so God tells Moses to “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw them in the air in the sight of Pharaoh….become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt”. Remember that in the first plagues Pharaoh’s magicians were mimicking the same things. Well this time “the boils came upon the magicians” as God ramps up the pain bit by bit in His plan to be sure everyone knows that He alone is God.
Pharaoh still has a hard heart so God makes the next plague very personal and says He will “send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people”. He also makes it clear why Pharaoh is still alive – and what his life purpose really was – “for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth”. God is about having His rightful place in the hearts of man. He points out the real problem with Pharaoh. “You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go”. Sin is all about me, myself and I. Pharaoh has that down pat. And God is going to break that sinful attitude.
The next plague has God causing “very heavy hail to fall….will die when the hail falls on them…..the Lord rained hail” and it killed everything – plant, tree, livestock or people – that were out in it. That got Pharaoh’s attention. “This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Plead with the Lord, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail”. He admits his sinful attitude but once Moses calls for the hail to stop, Pharaoh goes right back to his sinful place. “But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart”. God will be glorified and will continue the pressure until it happens.
Exodus 8 has the Lord sending Moses to Pharaoh again with a familiar request. “Let my people go, that they may serve me”. And with that request, there was another threat, that God would “plague all your country with frogs”. Pharaoh has seen Moses and God in action before. The first time it was turning water to blood. Impressive, but the magicians had been able to replicate it. Same this time – as Aaron caused the plague by striking the water – the magicians made frogs appear too.
And Pharaoh had the same response – he said no. The frogs came and Pharaoh asks Moses to plead with God to take them away. So Moses does, and “the frogs died out in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields. And they gathered them together in heaps, and the land stank”. Can you imagine this scene? Piles and piles of frogs that had died and had to be cleaned up from all over the place. You’d think Pharaoh might be getting the idea, “But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them”. So it was time for round three.
This time God’s plague is gnats. Aaron struck the ground and the land was filled with them, but this time the magicians could not duplicate the miracle. And “the magicians said to Pharaoh, This is the finger of God”. The proof of God’s power if moving to a new level. But Pharaoh doesn’t concede and let them go, so Moses comes with another plague in his bag of tricks, this time swarms of flies. But again God takes it to a different level and separates the land where His people live from the rest. “But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth”. No flies on His people or their land.
Pharaoh is starting to get the picture. So he offers to let them “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land”. He wasn’t allowing what Moses insisted on – that they “must go three days’ journey into the wilderness” to be able to worship God freely and obey His commands. So they discuss it back and forth and Pharaoh’s heart is again hardened and he refuses to let the people go. Slow learner, this Pharaoh. He has really bought into the idea that he is in control. But the fun has only began to teach him who is really in charge.
Exodus 7 has God setting out the game plan with Moses and Aaron:
- “I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet
- You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land
- I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt
- Pharaoh will not listen to you
- Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment”
It’s quite a plan. God talks to Moses who has Aaron speak the words to Pharaoh. He hears the words, asks for signs and wonders which are provided, but Pharaoh will not listen. And God will turn up the heat and make it even more uncomfortable for him and the people there. The plan seems clear. “Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the Lord commanded them”. They go to Pharaoh and make the demands. Pharaoh summons his magicians and they match the sign that Aaron performed – turning his staff to a serpent.
But then it goes further. “Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs”. They might have been able to make things look the same, but when their signs are put up against God’s, it isn’t par at all. The first of the plagues is assigned. “With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood”. That is pretty serious stuff. Making the water undrinkable would cause everyone to change how they live. But as Pharaoh says no to the demand made, Aaron hits the water in the Nile and it turns to blood.
Of course Pharaoh wants to match the sign again. “The magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts”. They didn’t really do the same, but the appearance was there so Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened. Pharaoh refuses to listen to Aaron and Moses exactly like God had said. His heart was hardened. He is not drinking the koolaid so to speak. But God doesn’t let it stop. “Seven full days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile”. It wasn’t a short show of a sign. It was a long term picture of God’s resolve to set His people free.
Exodus 6 has Moses being reminded of just who he was talking with. After all, it is God Himself, and He has a plan. ”`”. God is not intimidated by Pharaoh. He knows exactly how to put him in his place. And most importantly, we get clarity about why this is so important. God says “I have remembered my covenant”. This isn’t something that has just come up all of a sudden due to some fervent prayers. This is about a covenant God made with Abraham decades ago.
Now it is time for God to act. He tells Moses to “Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment….I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God”. Here is the reminder of why this is happening. God has promised such, and He will do what He says.
So Moses goes to his people and “they did not listen to Moses….because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery”. After all, his track record isn’t too good. He told them they were being set free and next thing you know their workload multiplied. God tells them to go to Pharaoh and give him the message to let His people go. But again, Moses argues with God. He does not believe the message will be well received and has no interest in going back to face Pharaoh once more. But God “gave them a charge” and sends them in anyway.
At least so it seemed. “But Moses said to the Lord, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me”? Moses has no intention of going back in there. He’s seen what happens when you try and throw your weight around with Pharaoh. It wasn’t a good outcome. Being a messenger for God isn’t quite the same as being God. And Pharaoh doesn’t know God anyway, nor care, so this won’t end where God intends. At least from Moses’ perspective. Problem is that Moses only sees a small piece of God’s plan. We never know the whol thing. We just need to obey what we’ve been told.
Exodus 5 has Moses and Aaron going in to give their demand to Pharaoh. “‘Let my people go”. Pretty basic request, or more of a demand I guess. Now God already knew this wasn’t going to work. But He sent Moses and Aaron in so He could begin to show Himself strong to the leaders of Egypt. Pharaoh gives a pretty expected kind of response. “I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go”. I can almost see it. ‘Are you kidding me? I’m in control here. Who are you to come in and demand time off from work?
So Pharaoh orders his foremen to change the requirements of this enslaved workforce. “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves”. Previously God’s people had been provided the raw materials to complete the task they were assigned – creating bricks. But now that is all changing because of the request from Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh decides that if they have time to request three days off to go and worship God, they could get more done. “Let heavier work be laid on the men”.
This is not going well for Moses. He’s gone in and made the request God told him to. But the outcome is far from what was hoped for. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. Pharaoh says no and increases the workload which punishes the people. And the people aren’t happy. They say “you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us”. Not a good place for Moses to be. Now he finally does the right thing. He turned to God.
Moses asks God some important questions. “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people….Why did you ever send me”? It just isn’t making sense. Moses went as God told him and requested freedom for his people. But now, the pain has gone up with the increased work responsibilities and Moses is the bad guy. It isn’t adding up. Moses is frustrated “For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all”. Something seems wrong to him. But God has a plan. God always has a plan, and it is a perfect plan.
Exodus 4 is a chapter of excuses. Moses has been called by God to return to Egypt to lead His people from slavery. It seems a bit strange that Moses would question the call like he does. After all, God just met with Him through a burning bush that didn’t burn – quite a miracle. But how does Moses start the assignment? “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say”? He begins to make excuses. What if can be two words that cause us to miss God’s blessing. We spend far too much time playing theoretical games and far too little just obeying God’s commands.
So God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground. “So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it”. Miracle number one. He then tells him to stick his hand into his bosom and it comes out leprous, and reverses when he sticks it in again. Miracle number two in the bag of tricks. If that isn’t enough, Moses takes some water from the Nile and it turns to blood. Three miracles ready for prime time. Moses response? “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past….for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue”. Moses just can’t accept the fact that God has things ready to go.
God questions him. “Who has made man’s mouth? I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say”. So we’ve got three miracles and the promise of God’s teaching. Moses lays on the next excuse. “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will”. Moses just isn’t going to do what God asks. “Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses”. That is a bad place to be. Even God has a patience limit. God decides that Moses isn’t going to be obedient, so He brings along plan B – which is to use Aaron as the mouthpiece. “I will teach you what you are to do….and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him”. Moses isn’t getting off, but just giving up the speaking piece. He still has the responsibility.
God tells Moses to “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead….When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go”. The orders are clear and Moses is ready to go. God tells Moses that Pharaoh is not going to agree to letting the people go. So Moses will have to deliver God’s harsh news. “You have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn”. Tough news to deliver to the leader of a country holding your brethren captive. But first, it was time to speak to their own people. “Aaron spoke all the words which the LORD had spoken to Moses….He then performed the signs….the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD was concerned about the sons of Israel and that He had seen their affliction, then they bowed low and worshiped”.
Exodus 3 begins with the story of the burning bush. Moses is out pasturing the flock of his father-in-law minding his own business. And then “The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush….yet the bush was not consumed”. That would have caught your attention wouldn’t it? A fire, but the bush is not being burned up. It was like an eternal flame. Moses decides he needs to check it out. “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up”. Seems like a normal response to a miraculous event, doesn’t it?
But God sees it differently. “When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush”. It sounds like God was testing Moses to see if he noticed. I wonder how many times a day God does things around us we are oblivious to. We are so consumed with our own agenda and the details of our own little bubble that we miss what He is doing around us every day. I imagine it is far more than we realize. So Moses stopping his tasks and seeing what was going on is a big deal. We need to learn to do the same every day in our patch.
God calls to Moses and begins the conversation. “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God”. He understands the circumstance he is in. God goes on to tell Moses His mission: “I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians….to a land flowing with milk and honey”. Sounds good so far – God is going to deliver His people from slavery to their own land. But then the bomb gets dropped on Moses. “I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh”? He isn’t buying into this plan.
God goes on to reveal his plan. “Go and gather the elders of Israel together….they will pay heed to what you say”. Sounds simple enough. This sheep herder is going to walk into the presence of the elders and tell them they are to go with him to tell Pharaoh to let them go. Yeah, right. But it gets worse. God says “I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go….so I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles”. He tells Moses that He knows Pharaoh will say no, but that is when God will get involved and take it to the next level. Moses participation is key in setting up the miracles that God will do.