Exodus 13 has Moses leading the people out of Egypt. But as he does, God tells him to “Consecrate to me all the firstborn”. Remember that God killed all things firstborn in Egypt – the last plague that caused Pharaoh to set His people free. And now God wants His people to consecrate all the firstborn to Him. God desires the people to never forget He alone has set them free. They are to celebrate this with an annual event and remember the Passover that God provided.
He gives them this instruction. “You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt”. Another of those things we are to remember and never forget. God set the people free. It wasn’t something Moses and Aaron did – it was God. And they are to be sure that they teach it was “with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt”. That same strong hand of God is what works in our lives each and every day. His is able. He is willing. He is doing it all the time.
God already knows that Pharaoh is going to have a change of heart and come after His people. So “God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle”. They take a longer route and go toward the Red Sea because that will be instrumental in God continuing His protection. It didn’t makes sense, but Moses led the people as God instructed and we’ll soon find out just how very important it was for Moses to obey and do exactly what God said.
Timing is everything in this story, so “the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night”. Without God leading the way so they were able to move day and night, the outcome would not have been possible we’ll see soon. God always has a plan. He absolutely knows what is going to occur and orchestrates things so His will is complete. We simply need to trust and obey. There is no other way to walk with Him!
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.