In the previous message we read that Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh and asked him to let God’s people go. The king denied their request and instead increased the labor of the Hebrew slaves. He withheld their straw, but still required the same production of bricks. As such, the children of Israel despised Moses and Aaron for aggravating their already stressful position. They had made a bad situation even worse. Still, the LORD continued to promise Moses that He would compel Pharaoh into letting Israel go.
As we continue our sermon series this morning, we find that Moses and Aaron have returned a second time to speak with Pharaoh. In the first 13 verses of chapter 7, we read that the brothers have come again to demand that the king allow the children of God to go and worship Him. This time Aaron throws down his staff before the king and it becomes a snake. When the Egyptian magicians are able to do the same thing, Aaron’s snake devours all of their snakes. Despite this wonderful sign, Pharaoh still refuses to let the people go.
Moses had already been forewarned that Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened and that God would enact several severe judgments upon the nation as punishment for their treatment of His people. Because of Pharaoh’s stubbornness, the 10 plagues of Egypt begin. In this morning’s message we will briefly examine the first 9 of these horrifying catastrophes.
I. BLOOD - Exodus 7:14-25
One morning Moses and Aaron meet Pharaoh on the bank of the Nile River again demanding that he let the people go. In a show of His great power, God used Moses and Aaron to turn the Nile and much of the other waters in Egypt into blood. Accordingly, the fish in the river died and there was little available to drink. However when the king’s magicians were able to perform a similar feat,Pharoah was convinced that this was some sort of trick. Therefore, he arrogantly refused to let the children of Israel go.
II. FROGS - Exodus 8:1-15
The brothers again came to Pharaoh with their demand. When Pharaoh refused, God sent swarms of frogs that spread all over the land of Egypt. They were everywhere - in people's homes, ovens, bowls, and even beds. The Egyptians magicians were able to mimic this plague to some degree, but the conditions were so severe that Pharaoh initially agreed to allow Israel to go worship. Believing that they had finally achieved success, Moses prayed and all the frogs died. They were gathered into large, stinking piles. When Pharaoh saw that the plight had passed, he changed his mind and would not release the people as he’d promised.
III. GNATS/LICE - Exodus 8:16-19
Scripture is silent as to whether or not Moses and Aaron actually went to see Pharaoh before inflicting the third plague upon the land. God sent multitudes of gnats (some interpreters say lice) which infested both man and beast. For the first time, the magicians were unable to copy this miracle at all and they acknowledged that it must be the work of God. But Pharaoh himself remained unconvinced and still refused to let the Hebrew children go.
IV. FLIES/INSECTS - Exodus 8:20-32
Again Moses and Aaron go and meet Pharaoh at the Nile River. This time the LORD sends swarms of flies that cover and lay waste to the land of Egypt. However, none are present in the area of Goshen where God’s children live. As such, there is a clear distinction made between the Egyptians and the Hebrews. Seeing the widespread devastation, Pharaoh agrees to allow Israel to go worship somewhere in the land of Egypt or places nearby. But when the plague ends, he again changes his mind.
V. LIVESTOCK - Exodus 9:1-7
The brothers come again before Pharaoh with the same message. They warn him that if he will not release the slaves, God will strike the livestock of the Egyptians. Sure enough, the next day God unleashes pestilence upon the animals of the field - cattle, horses, camels, sheep, and so on. Thousands of them die, of all different breeds. Yet among the livestock of Israel not a single animal is killed. Again God makes a distinction between His people and the Egyptians. Still, Pharaoh remains obstinate.
VI. BOILS - Exodus 9:8-17
Moses and Aaron appear before the king and throw soot from a kiln into the sky. As it scatters and blows away, boils break out upon Pharaoh, the Egyptians, and their remaining animals. So hideous and painful are the sores that the magicians are unable to stand. However, Pharaoh will not listen. Moses tells him that the only reason that God has not completely destroyed Egypt already is because He is declaring His power throughout the earth.
VII. HAIL - Exodus 9:18-35
Moses warns Pharaoh that God intends to send a hail storm that will be worse than any other before it. He tells him to bring everything out of the field and into shelter. Stubbornly, the king refuses to believe him. The next day the severe storm comes, striking the outdoor laborers and remaining livestock, and utterly destroying the trees and agricultural crops. Seeing the devastation, Pharaoh agrees to let the Hebrews go on the condition that the hail storm ceases. But when it does, once again he changes his mind and refuses to let Israel go.
VIII. LOCUSTS - Exodus 10:1-20
As they had done numerous times before, Moses and Aaron come again before Pharaoh telling him that if he will not consent to their demand God will send swarms of locusts upon Egypt. Terrified, the Pharaoh’s own servants beg him to release Israel in order to prevent this coming catastrophe. He agrees to let only the men go - not the women and children. This arrangement is not acceptable, and so the next day an east wind brings locusts which cover the land devouring what little remains of the plants, fruit, and grain. Pharaoh quickly calls for Moses and promises to let all the people go. But when a west wind carries all the locusts away, he has a change of heart… again.
IX. DARKNESS - Exodus 10:21-29
The Bible is unclear as to whether Moses goes to Pharaoh before the ninth plague occurs. Nevertheless, Moses stretches his hands to the sky and darkness falls over the land of Egypt for 3 full days. So thick is the darkness that the Egyptians could not see one another and were forced to stay in their houses - yet the children of Israel had light. Pharaoh summons Moses and tells him that the Hebrews can go and worship God, but they may not take their animals with them. Again the terms are unacceptable, and Moses refuses to abide by them.
There are several lessons that we can learn from these tragedies that befell Egypt.
At first Pharaoh outright refused to submit to God’s will. When pressure began to mount he would consent until he got what he wanted and then not follow through on his promises. As the plagues became even more intense, he tried negotiating the terms of God’s command. “If you will stay in Egypt…”, “If you will worship nearby…”, “If you take the men only…”, and “If you leave the livestock…”, he said, “then I will let you go.” But in every instance, the force of God’s will was stronger than Pharaoh’s rebuttal. We must learn that the commands of God are not up for debate, and we are fools if we think we can disobey them or modify them without suffering the consequences.
The magicians were able to duplicate or “explain away” the first few plagues. As such, they sought to deny the existence of God. As the judgments became worse, however, they were unable to mimic them. Eventually these men were forced to concede that the miracles must be acts of God, yet they still remained defiant. Finally, after much suffering, they recognized their futility before God and began begging Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go. It had taken some time, but the plagues actually led these servants to the realization that the LORD is the Almighty God, supreme and sovereign over all creation. If necessary, God will use judgment as a means to make Himself known whether in an individual’s life or throughout the entire earth.
The pride and arrogance of Pharaoh is astounding. His unwillingness to consent to the demands of God led to the destruction of his entire nation. Though he was given numerous opportunities to humble himself before God, Pharaoh’s heart became harder and his attitude more haughty with each new tragedy. Even as Egypt was collapsing around him, Pharaoh’s stubbornness prevented him from repenting of his sin and submitting to God. Truly pride comes before a fall…
The plagues that were unleashed upon Egypt were the direct result of their mistreatment of God’s people and their blatant disregard for His commands. As Americans today, we have invited the judgment of God upon our country through our own similar behavior. We need to fervently pray for the leaders and people of the United States - that they would acknowledge the reality and authority of the LORD and respect those who follow Him.