Exodus [The Road Out] – The Purpose of Plagues

This verse from The Message Bible impressed itself on me so completely on the last day of 2021 that I made the choice it was going to be the basis of my future posts.  No matter which part of the Bible I might be looking at whether my personal favorites, “everything from the New Testament,” or the “lead up” Scriptures of the Old Testament.  There’s irony involved in how God uses our own words to teach us.  I can imagine that He’s smiling [possibly chuckling] from His throne that the choice for our women’s Bible study at church for the next year is a study of the five Books of Moses to focus [me in particular] on recognizing their “lead up” is really Jesus “leading” from behind the curtain of the Old Testament.  My own words are my gentle, but needed, reminder that my heart is going to be repositioned to experience new “rhythms of grace.”

Exodus 7:2 You shall speak all that I command you; and Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you; then I will lay my hand upon Egypt and bring forth my hosts, my people the sons of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch forth my hand upon Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” RSV

Part 1 of today’s peek behind the curtain: Frogs! It never occurred to me that “the plagues” might have any significance other than being a messengers of destruction until I learned “In ancient Egyptian religion and mythology frogs were a symbol of both childbirth and life after death.”  They actually had a “frog” goddess so “it’s unlikely that the Egyptians were afraid of, or repulsed by, frogs.”

Exodus 8:1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2 But if you refuse to let them go, behold, I will plague all your country with frogs; 3 the Nile shall swarm with frogs which shall come up into your house, and into your bedchamber and on your bed, and into the houses of your servants and of your people, and into your ovens and your kneading bowls; 4 the frogs shall come up on you and on your people and on all your servants.”’” …6 So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.

It’s no coincidence that the Lord uses circumstances of life to become intersections of faith at some point.  Many years ago we lived on a lake.  The highway between towns was the division between the lake and a swamp near us. Twice a year there was a frog migration impacted by some internal need that would drive them from one side of that highway to the other; once to the swamp and once toward the lake. There was a swath of the road that would be covered with hundreds of frogs crossing.  There was no dodging them as you drove.  The road turned into a smelly field of massacre as traffic became part of an unnatural selection process.  There was no way to escape the situation if you needed to get somewhere…and it “stank.”

Exodus 8:7 But the magicians did the same by their secret arts, and brought frogs upon the land of Egypt. 

Part 2 of the Peek:  Pharaoh was obviously a victim of his opportunistic and manipulative nature as he dealt with Moses and Aaron.  He’s an astounding example of mindlessly being driven by his own authority and power.  Repeatedly he called down double the trouble on his own people by asking his magicians to exercise their secret arts to duplicate the same plague on his people simply to prove he could compete with the Lord.  His power was the vehicle he could use do that, but that power couldn’t reposition his heart.

Exodus 8:9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “Be pleased to command me when I am to entreat, for you and for your servants and for your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses and be left only in the Nile.” 10 And he said, “Tomorrow.” Moses said, “Be it as you say, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.

Part 3 of the Peek:.
15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was a respite, he hardened his heart, and would not listen to them; as the Lord had said.

In verse 10 Moses clearly offered Pharaoh the cure for his irregular heart rhythm.  Pharaoh’s heart was hardened against the Lord’s truth but ironically he did still have power over his own truth.  This time “he hardened his [own] heart,” because of his desire to compete with God.  The one choice he could control was the one word spoken by Pharaoh that would unknowingly complete the Lord’s truth for his “tomorrow.”

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