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For 400 years Egypt had ‘humbled’ Israel (Gen 15:13) – ie they had afflicted and impoverished them.  Moses, at the head of this afflicted people became the most humble man on earth (Num 12:3).  He is therefore the polar opposite of Pharaoh – one raised up before all the earth (Ex 9:16) and who “refuses to humble himself before the LORD.” (Ex 10:3)

This is what the plagues are for - humbling.

In Amos 4 we see plagues falling on Israel (in fulfilment of the warnings against covenant breaking in Deut 28:59) and the constant refrain is - "yet you have not returned to me."

"I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt… yet you have not returned to me," declares the LORD. (Amos 4:10)

Again when the plagues fall on the whole earth in Revelation 15&16 (which I take to be the time between ascension and second coming, i.e. now) the Holy Spirit laments "but they refused to repent and glorify God." (Rev 16:9)

You are either humbled or hardened by these plagues (see here for how Pharaoh's hardening develops).  First in the land of Egypt, next with the nation of Israel - summed up in the true Son who was humbled at Calvary, then (judgement beginning from the house of God, 1 Pet 4:17)  it flows out to the whole world.  The very same plagues fall and for some they humble, for others they harden.

And we definitely want to be on the humble side. (Ps 25:9; 37:11; 76:9; Isaiah 11:4; 61:1):

“He mocks proud mockers, but gives grace to the humble” (Prov 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5)

“The LORD lifts up the humble, He casts the wicked to the ground” (Ps 147:6)

“For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation.” (Psalm 149:4)

“Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the LORD's anger.” (Zephaniah 2:3)

In Exodus, the humbling plagues increase until the climax where it requires a literal sheltering under the blood of the lamb.

For Israel, the plagues that fell on Egypt will judge the people of God (Amos 4-5) and there can be no escape.  (That should really shock us - Israel becomes Egypt!).  There will be a top-down judgement that begins with the true Son, the true Priest, the true King and Most Humble of Men (Dan 4:17).  Christ will be eaten up by ravenous enemies (Ps 22:13) and 'perish' in the darkness (Luke 23:44f).  This is most shocking of all - Jesus, the Son of God becomes like the son of Pharaoh - slaughtered, devoured, perishing in the darkness.

For us, plagues are falling on Babylon which affect the whole world (Rev 15-16).  And the only place of shelter is under the altar (Rev 6).  In this way we become the humble, taking refuge in the Son (Ps 2:10-12).

In Exodus 10, the locusts are described simply as "this death" by Pharaoh.  They devour (v5,12) - like hostile armies (Deut 28:52f; Joel 2:25; Nahum 3:15f), like the sword (Deut 32:42) like Satan (1 Pet 5:8), and like the grave itself (e.g. Num 16:32).

Egypt perishes (v7) at the hand of the LORD.

Without warning the darkness follows hard on the heels of the locusts.  This is the first time this kind of darkness has been mentioned since Genesis 1.  There we encountered the primeval darkness associated with "the deep" and "the waters".  Only by the power of the Word is light separated from darkness.  Again in Exodus 14:20 we will see the Word - the Mighty Angel - separating light from darkness.

But without this great Light of the world, there is only darkness. "Felt darkness" (10:21) which might simply mean darkness that makes you grope.  And calamitous darkness (10:22) which is so much associated with the day of the LORD.

The hardness and madness of Pharaoh is seen in his driving Moses away (v28) - btw does anyone have any thoughts on the parallel between 10:28 and 33:20?

Pharaoh rejects the Priest who has been praying for him, forgiving him and standing between him and the judgements of God.  He wants to be left alone in the darkness.  This is such a powerful picture of humanity opposing Christ.  Even in calamitous darkness we drive Christ away to be left alone in our sin (John 3:19f).  And God always gives people what they most want.  Even in judgement, He only hands people over to what their hearts actually desire.  And so with his priest and intercessor rejected, Pharaoh and his people await their fearful and certain judgement.

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Nick continues his commentary from yesterday.

Read Exodus 9:8-35 - Plagues of Boils and Hail

Following on from yesterday, in the fourth pair of signs that God presents to Egypt, Moses stands and sprinkles two handfuls of soot from a furnace towards heaven; it comes down as dust becoming crippling ‘boils breaking forth blains’ on all who are made from the dust of Egypt.

God calls Egypt the ‘iron furnace’ (Deuteronomy 4, 1 Kings 8).  Furnaces are where substances are ‘tested’ and ‘proved’ by intense heat in the process of purification (interesting side point: the English words ‘pyro-‘ and ‘pure’ are related to the Biblical Greek for ‘fire’).  Heat symbolises suffering; furnaces burn to destruction the impurities, leaving only that which withstands the heat of suffering … they are the places where suffering produces ‘endurance’, ‘character’, and ‘hope’ (Romans 5).

Soot results from incomplete burning (as opposed to ash, which results from complete burning) – incomplete burning implies an impure end result.

Suffering and blessing are given, hand-in-hand in this generation, to believer and non-believer alike, to different degrees in different seasons.  God does so because He  is ‘not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9).  Blessings are given so that we can ‘taste’ what God’s being ‘good’ and ‘love’ means.  Sufferings are given on the one hand so that we can ‘taste’ what the alternative is (so that with eyes opened by the Spirit, we can choose life instead of death, we can surrender to Christ rather than kicking against the word, and so that, having tasted, we may eat of him).  On the other hand sufferings come so that we can grow in the intimacy with God that comes with living and walking in the Spirit, leaning on the Spirit and sharing with him our joys and our pains.

Moses casts the impure product of the ‘iron furnace’ of Egypt towards the heavens, and they are rejected as unclean (Leviticus 13).  Moses (given to be ‘god to Pharaoh’) alone stands; the scribes are unable to stand before him.

Jesus is really cranking up the delineation between him and his people and the Pharaoh and his people.

The false god of Egypt exalts himself (v17)

But (v16) Pharaoh is raised up so that the God of the Hebrews might show His power and Name.

Aaron’s rod heralded most of the first signs.  Most of the second half are heralded by the rod, hand, or hands of Moses.  But, here, Jesus has identified his own hand as having been ‘put forth’ in all of the signs so far.

The second half of this pair of signs is unprecedented: ‘voices and … hail and fire catching itself in the midst of the hail, very grievous’ … lethal, in fact.

Psalm 78:49 (YLT) – “He sendeth on them the fury of His anger, Wrath, and indignation, and distress -- A discharge of evil messengers”

Voices, hail, and fire seem to herald God’s judgement on the nations (e.g. Revelation 8:7, 11:18-19, and 16:21-17:1)

Meaning?

Egypt has been tested and found to be impure (remember Daniel 5:27?) – the judgement begins.

And yet, throughout God’s signs, each Egyptian witness to Jesus’ signs has been offered another opportunity to repent (literally ‘re-weigh’ the evidence before them) and join the God of the Hebrews.  Here, in the plague of hail, we see two different responses from the Egyptians.  Some among the servants of the Pharaoh ‘fear the word of God’ (v20), whilst some have not ‘set their heart unto the word of God’ (v21). This is the choice set before all who would endure the signs/judgements of God.  The signs are joined to words and the great desire of the LORD is for everyone to heed the word.

God is patient and merciful and we see, from Exodus 12:38, that, despite all their previous unfaithfulness, every servant of the Pharaoh who feared the word of God and put their trust in him was saved ‘as a native’.

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Nick Martin-Smith loves Jesus.  He's a teacher and if you talk to him for longer than 30 seconds he'll get you playing touch rugby. Ask him about starting sports outreach ministries in your church.  He the man.

We are in the midst of a dramatisation of Jesus’ Gospel of Salvation (the version ‘starring’ the Pharaoh, with God’s words being spoken by Moses and Aaron).  We’re at the bit in the story where God is showing his enemy and the watching world the wonders of his power, his righteous judgements, his grace, and his steadfast love.

Moses has already received three signs in chapter 4 to authenticate his ministry.  Then in chapter 7:8-13 Aaron seems to sum up these authenticating signs into the one sign of his serpentine staff.  Traditionally people then say that 10 signs follow.  Yet if we simply read the flow of the narrative from when they are enslaved without hope to when they are free (i.e. chapter 7-15) then actually we have twelve signs.  And the 12th - the Red Sea - is crucial to their deliverance and has massive significance in the bible.

Perhaps then it's useful to think of the 12 signs against Egypt and it might be helpful to think of them as six pairs of signs.  They develop from signs to Pharaoh, then to Egypt and then to the whole world (see Exodus 15:14; Joshua 2:10 etc, etc).

Each pair shows ‘faithless sin’ followed by ‘fatal judgement’.  And in each pair we have the death of innocents rather than the guilty (think of how God’s prophets die in pursuit of the lost) and we have the symbolic death of ‘sin’ rather than the sinner (think of the substitutionary sacrificial system).

In the LORD's grace, this pattern of innocents dying for the guilty is repeated again and again until we get a final judgement.  At the Red Sea we finally have the death of the guilty and life for those whose guilt has been taken by their Lamb, the LORD Jesus.

It's an interesting question to ask who was affected by these signs.  As far as I can tell the effects of at least five (if not nine … if not all) of God’s signs fell on Egypt alone.

Let's examine them individually.

The first pair:

First, Aaron’s rod becomes a serpent (symbolising ‘sin’). The scribes and magi do likewise but their rods (i.e. what they lean on - and therefore their labours and hopes) are entirely consumed … yet the scribes and magi themselves are not consumed in this spectacle of flying fangs and venom!

Next, Aaron’s serpentine rod smites the waters (symbolising the Holy Spirit’s work in creation) of Egypt to produce blood (symbolising ‘life’ and ‘soul’ in the body, or ‘death’ out of the body).  When sin blemishes the work of the Spirit, death results.   Again, the scribes can also replicate this act, but are unable to reverse it.

Meaning?

The witness of this initial sign ‘pair’ appears to be that the one upon whom Aaron depends to stand is made sin in order to destroy the wages of sin for his people, but sin in the face of God results in death.

Then Aaron’s stretched out rod brings frogs out from the river; when God's angels (‘messengers’) intercede, they die and their 'stink' is revealed. ‘Frogs’ symbolise the spirits of demons: 'false gods' who go to the kings of the earth to unite them against Jesus; a 'stink' is symbolic of the death that is the result of Man's works in unity with false gods, rather than with God's word (John 11:39, Isaiah 50:2, Joel 2:19-22, Ecclesiastes 10:1, Exodus 16:20).

So the work of the Holy Spirit in Egypt is to reveal the hordes of false gods 'watering' Egypt.  At God's hand there will be an ultimate death, both for them and for all who drink in their lies. Again, the scribes seem to be able to replicate this, bringing yet more 'unclean spirits' onto the land (crazy!), but they are not able to rid themselves of them.

The second pair:

Aaron's rod then strikes the land, the dust of which becomes gnats.  The scribes cannot replicate this sign, and confess God. 'Dust' is the frame of Man, to which our soul cleaves and the spirit is given (Psalm 103:14, 119:25, Ecclesiastes 12:7).  It symbolises mortality.

Having tried to devour the Man of the dust, the serpent is cursed to ‘go’ on his belly and devour the dust of the earth: dust is the tiny, insignificant, broken end-result of God’s destructive work of judgement (Deuteronomy 9:21). Gnats also symbolise mortality, as well as a perverse focus on the less 'weighty' things of God’s Law (Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 23:23-24). So the one on whom Aaron leans originally brought life up from the dust but, if that life’s subsequent means are false, its end is death.

Meaning?

The Holy Spirit's work among the wicked is to reveal the false teaching that the wicked live by, Jesus’ authorship of life, and the ultimate death of false spirits and false men alike.

The third pair:

Here God uses Aaron and Moses to speak but not to signal - there’s no casting, smiting, or stretching of any rods: God sends and God is.

And God separates: briefly, first there’s the ‘grievous’ beetles (Youngs Literal Translation) sent to consume and corrupt the land of Egypt, but not Goshen.  Goshen is ‘separated’ and ‘divided’ from Egypt.

Then God’s hand is ‘a pestilence very grievous’ that consumes the land-creatures of Egypt, whilst the ‘cattle’ of the sons of Israel are ‘separated’.

Meaning?

Up until now, God’s prophet has spoken and shown signs of death - this time God speaks and shows actual death.

Each pair of signs symbolically shows ‘faithless sin’ followed by ‘fatal judgement’.  ‘The wages of sin is death’ … but Romans 6 goes on: ‘the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus’.

Through judgements Jesus divides and separates ‘His People’ from ‘Not His People’, protecting us from true spiritual death. This is what these signs were pointing to.

Tomorrow, we’ll start to look at the second half of the six pairs of signs.

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Paul Huxley should blog more (as I'm sure you'll agree when you read this).  You can read more of his stuff at his blog: Theologymnasium.
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God's covenant people, from whom will eventually come the serpent crusher, who will bless all nations, are in Egypt. Like Abram, their father, they entered Egypt due to famine (Genesis 12:10), they are brought out through great plagues (Gen 12:17), and they will plunder the Egyptians (Gen 12:16, 20).

But right now, the situation's not looking good for the Israelites. They are slaves, being treated 'ruthlessly' (Ex 1:14). Although Pharaoh's initial attempt at Eugenics failed (Ex 1:17), the blood of Israelite boys was surely spilled in the Nile, after Pharoah commanded 'all his people' to murder the young Hebrew males (Ex 1:22). They have been crying out for 80 years (2 x 40, 2 periods of testing), and now God answers definitively.

So Moses and Aaron bring about the first plague; the water of the Nile, and then the rest of the land is turned into blood. As we've seen, there was no shortage of blood for the LORD to use, but the sheer quantity is remarkable. Whose blood is it? It seems to be the LORD Jesus creating blood cells ex nihilo (out of nothing). And as the Egyptians take this ex-water in their wooden and stone vessels (v19) they find that it stinks, and they cannot drink. This is a cup of judgement.

Contrast this with Jesus much later, at the Wedding in Cana (John 2). That time, he created grape cells out of nothing, and it tasted like fine wine. That was a cup of blessing. Later still, Jesus' blood would be poured out like wine, and to those who received it in faith would receive blessing, and those who profaned it drunk judgement on themselves (1 Cor 11:29).

Back with Moses, and despite seven days of foul stench across Egypt, Pharaoh's heart remains hard (Ex 1:22). A week passes, and the day of the LORD comes again (you can call it the LORD's day if you like). Pharaoh has failed to respond to the word he received last week, and it's time for another cup of judgement.

This time, the curse comes up from the water in the form of frogs. Frogs are 'creeping things' if you use Biblical categories. Like the serpent who was made to crawl on his belly (Gen 3:14) the frog is unclean. My wife has a minor obsession with frogs, thinking that they are green and cute, which is why we have a frog-shaped CD rack. But frogs in the Bible are always associated with judgement.

That's certainly how Egypt took them. Although Pharaoh was impressed when his magicians replicated the water into blood routine, when his magicians filled the land with even more frogs (Ex 8:7), Pharaoh starts to repent (v8). He sets a deal up with Moses. Make the frogs go, and I will let your people go. But when the LORD took the plague away, and everything settled down, Pharaoh once again, hardened his heart, changed his mind, and kept the Israelites as slaves, just 'as the LORD had said (v15).

All that the LORD has said through his prophet Moses, is coming true. His mighty hand is being stretched out across Egypt to rescue his people. Although Pharaoh seems to have outsmarted the LORD, and got away with breaking his promise, there is yet more judgement to come.

Pharaohs, MPs, vicars, husbands, parents make promises to us; very often that under their leadership, we will receive great blessing. But the LORD is the only one who can promise blessing, in the full knowledge that He will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5v24).

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Paul Blackham writes here and you can find his All Souls sermons here and Farm Fellowship sermons here.

Exodus 7:14 - 10:29

Most people remember the story of the plagues from their childhood.  We are allowed to enjoy so many of these great Hebrew stories when we are young before we ‘learn’ not to spend so much time in the Scriptures.

Naturally we won’t waste any time on the bizarre attempts to tie the plagues together into a set of meteorological co-incidences!  [The flooding of the Nile plain stirring up red silt [which would have stunned the ignorant Egyptians who had never seen red silt before!], which encouraged the frogs to leave the river and invade the houses… the dead frogs decay and produce gnats… and… I forget how this is supposed to continue.  I can’t remember how the boils produced the hail and the locusts… but I’ll remember in a minute.  This proposal is supposed to make the Bible easier to believe for outsiders so I’m sure there is a really good explanation of the boils, hail and locust… and why the Egyptians didn’t understand about red silt… ? ..! …?  If only the BBC would produce one of those excellent TV series at Easter…. They always get ‘Bible experts’ to explain all these things.]

The general truth in these plagues is clear enough: The Angel of the LORD is more powerful than Pharaoh, his mighty magicians and the various gods of Egypt.  Yet, each of the plagues displays a different facet of the fact that Jesus is LORD.  The plagues have a progression as they circle in around the first born humans.  They begin at arms length and then get closer and closer.  Plenty of warning is thereby given… yet the terrible and suicidal nature of our selfish hearts is revealed by the fact that we insist on going on to the bitter end in our rebellion.

The plagues serve as an important demonstration of the great and terrible judgements the Lord must exercise in order to redeem us from slavery.  It would be so ‘pleasant’ to imagine that salvation and renewal could be achieved from the comfort of an armchair or in that lovely, gentle spirituality of self-improvement and meditation on how divinely glorious we all really are.  Yet, the shadow of the Cross falls across redemption, from start to finish.  Salvation comes after judgement; glory after suffering.

We are not the desperately grateful victims of a tragedy who cheer the arrival of the emergency services.  No, we are the hardened criminals holed up in the building, shooting at any emergency services that try to get near.  When we are saved, so many of us are kicking and screaming as we spit in the face of Jesus.  Until we see Him as He is and our old humanity is finally destroyed, this is always in us, always making our rescue messy and painful and full of judgement.

The empire of Egypt was comfortable and successful.  The Nile made them the breadbasket of the Mediterranean world.  Even hundreds of years later when the apostle Paul is sailing to Rome we read that he caught a lift on a boat full of Egyptian grain.  Egypt had fabulous wealth and stunning treasures which still capture popular imagination even today.  The gigantic tombs and embalming practices of that ancient past [given to Joseph at the end of Genesis] presumably made them imagine that even death was under their control.

Turning from the Divine Angel who Joseph and his family had worshipped, who had brought such wealth and power to Egypt, they plunged into the sewage of these ‘gods’ who had forsaken their proper habitation.  Far from ordering the nations to the worship of the LORD God through whom all had come to be, they had enthroned themselves as the masters of the universe.  Sin in the heavenlies always looks just the same as sin in the earthlies!

This comfortable and prosperous Egypt has no fear of the Living God!  They had no time for these ancient superstitions from the uncivilised slaves!  They could chart the stars and build the pyramids; they could feed the world and conquer the nations; they could deal with the gods and defy death itself.  Why would they need to listen to a Word that would turn all their security upside down, who would force them to choose between their luxuries and Him?

Into that self-assured arrogance, shown so graphically in Pharaoh as the embodiment of it all, the real world of the Most High God comes crashing down.  Onto the playground of the Egyptian gods, the meteorite of reality explodes – revealing their impotence, judging their rebellion, dethroning their power.

We are told that the Lord is making His Name known to the Israelites (6:7), to Pharaoh (7:17), to all the earth (9:16), and to the Israelite descendants to come (10:2).  This of course includes us.  We too come to know the Name of the LORD Jesus through these plagues, though these judgements.  We learn that Jesus does not issue empty threats.  When He tells us of a coming judgement, it will certainly come to pass.  When He tells us how to escape that coming judgement, His words must be followed to the letter.

How have we accepted certain limits on the power of Jesus?  In that day we assume that the Egyptians took it for granted that Jesus could not control the Nile – and yet He did!  Perhaps they assumed that the demonic frogs or flies were beyond His power – but they were not! The blood of judgement over the Nile; the demonic revelation of the frogs; the creation of new life from the very dust; the proof that Baalzebub is not the true LORD over the flies; the taking of the breath of life from animals; the diseases of the human body; the destruction of human society and production… until finally the light itself goes out.

Think of all the stories in the Bible where the power of Jesus is shown in impossible ways.  Do we really believe that He is capable of acting in that way right now?  Do we honestly believe that He could judge the empires of this day and age in that way?

I always fear that I have mentally so domesticated the LORD Jesus that I don’t really think of Him as the Angel of Death and Judgement who brought these plagues of judgement upon ancient Egypt.  It is not that I don’t know the right words to say [I have all too many of them].  Rather, when I look at the way that I live… is the fear of the LORD Jesus the beginning of my life?  Is the fear and trembling present, the terror of the LORD that drives me to prayer and action, to sacrifice and engagement?

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Jacky has his christological commentary of the whole bible here.  He's up to to 2 Samuel at the moment.  His collected posts on the Pentateuch are here.

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Read the verses here

"Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?"

Moses’ words ring true of his temporary role as the mediator on behalf of Israel.  He is a man of uncircumcised speech (v.30).  Some have taken the liberty to interpret this as if Moses had a physical speech impediment, but the LORD’s response in chapter 7 which reveals Moses’ true concern – that he is unable to speak words which will convince the Pharoah to bring the people out of Egypt (v.26-27).

This is the reason why the LORD replies by ordaining Moses as like elohim to Pharoah, just as Aaron is made Moses’ prophet.  Notice how in chapter 7v.2 the LORD states that both Moses and Aaron will be speaking to the Pharoah, ignoring the interpretation that Moses is worried about his speech impediment, or that Aaron is a more “suitable” choice as a speaker before Pharoah.  Rather, the LORD’s choice is for the purpose of showing to Pharoah the dynamic between God and His prophet – through Moses and Aaron respectively.  Where Moses speaks, Aaron repeats Moses’ words and acts in execution: a pattern which re-occurs throughout the plagues.  The Word of God, once spoken, evokes immediate response and action: and the one Word which the Father wishes to speak of concerns the Son.  The Father’s Word is Jesus Christ.  In his framework series, Paul Blackham says,

“…the Word of God confronts us with the plain fact that our minds are as deeply fallen and wicked as our feelings, our bodies and our wills. In fact Colossians 1:21 tell us that because of our sinful behavior, our enmity against God, resides in our minds. However brilliant our reasoning may be, until we have been reconciled to God, our thinking always militates against the gospel. It will always rebel against the truth.”

Such a fundamental truth should not escape the purpose behind the LORD establishing an elohim-prophet dynamic before Pharoah to present to him in clarity the intercessory nature of salvation:  the procession of the Spirit from the Father to the Son; from the Son to men; from men to other men; and the glory ascending through the Son and back to the Father.  For what is a prophetes, a nabiy, other than (literally defined as) a Spirit-inspired man?  And what Word does the Triune God wish to speak in the Third Person?

Yet, before we move onto describing this ‘word’ which the LORD wishes Moses to speak and Aaron to act upon, the LORD immediately reveals the conclusion in vv.3-4:

Exo 7:3-4  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 on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.

It is easy to immediately assume that we are handling a case of double predestination – of predestined reprobation of the Pharoah.  Yet, let us be mindful of the greater analogy of the history of Pharoah versus the Angel of the LORD; the story of Exodus is not merely dealing with the salvation of an individual Egyptian king.  It is displaying the grander scheme of the LORD’s salvation through The Prophet, whose uncircumcised lips meant that no word is uttered other than the Word from the Father:

Deu 18:15-20  "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers--it is to him you shall listen--  (16)  just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, 'Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.'  (17)  And the LORD said to me, 'They are right in what they have spoken.  (18)  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.  (19)  And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.  (20)  But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.'

Here, we should notice two things:

  • Though Moses is seen as a ‘god’ before Pharoah and Aaron is his prophet, this is to display the dynamic of elohim and His prophet before the pagan king
  • Furthermore, Moses is seen in Deuteronomy 18 as referring to himself as a prophet – and that a ‘prophet like [him]’ will be raised who will speak the words of the Father.  Aaron is no longer in the picture as a ‘prophet’, but his role becomes that of the first priest of the tabernacle (Exodus 31:10).

This Prophet is the One Sent (John 7:18, ch.8) from the Father to speak of the Father’s glory (c.f. Matthew 11).  Moses is not the prophet; neither is Aaron; yet through the arrangement laid out in Exodus 7, we see the Father speaking and the Son acting; and this is placed before the Pharoah to display him as something more than a mere individual pagan king, the same way that Ezekiel looks at the king of Tyre.  This king is no mere ruler of foreign lands – but he is taken to be the anointed guardian cherub in Eden, destroyed for his pride (Ezekiel 28:13-19).  Only by seeing this greater picture in Exodus 7 can we then come to understand how Pharoah’s heart comes to be hardened, and the picture of the serpent-staff seen already in Exodus 4 as the first thing witnessed of the LORD’s power which granted Moses confidence, and re-iterated once more in chapter 7 as the first thing witnessed by the Pharoah which further hardened him.

At this point, it is important we take a step back to consider the greater picture of what is being said concerning the Pharoah’s relationship with Moses and Aaron; concerning Satan’s relationship (or lack of) with the Triune God.

Allow me to make a lengthy quotation of Karl Barth in his Church Dogmatics.  Its relevance will be seen shortly:

“At any rate as they are systematised in Leviticus 14 and 16 it is obvious that the following form is common to both.  Two creatures which are exactly alike in species and value are dealt with in completely different ways.  The selection of the one for this and of the other for that treatment, seems to be a matter for the priest in Leviticus 14:15f, while lots are cast in Leviticus 16:8.  In both cases it is obvious that the selection is inscrutable, and that it is really made by God Himself.  It is also obvious with what special purpose and meaning these two acts accompany the history of Israel, and to which special moment of this history they refer as sign and testimony of the divine intention.  We obviously face the special aspect of this history according to which it is the history of the divisive divine election of this and of that man.  What these choices mean, or what it is to which the whole history of Israel points as a history of such choices, is attested by these particular rites, the witness being given a fixed and permanent form by the detailed legal regulations.

…Yet we must observe that the second goat is also ‘placed before the Lord’, that the treatment meted out to him and the tragic record of his unusability also form an integral part of the sign and testimony set up on the Day of Atonement.  Cain is just as indispensable as Abel, and Ishmael as Isaac.  For the grace which makes an elect man of the first can be seen only from the second, because the first, the elect, must see in the second, the non-elect, as in a mirror, that from which he was taken, and who and what the God is who was delivered from it.  It is only as one who properly belongs to that place that God has transferred him from it.  Because election is grace, the unused belonged to the used, the sacrificed goat to the goat driven into the wilderness, the non-elect to the elect…

…The ceremony described in Leviticus 14 obviously runs in exactly the opposite direction… The treatment of the first bird speaks of this necessary presupposition of his purification.  The bird is slain, its blood is shed and then made ready for what follows, as in the case of the first goat in Leviticus 16.  But this time everything really depends on what follows… The healed leper is sprinkled seven times with this blood, while simultaneously the second bird is allowed to fly away ‘into the open field’… to freedom… The purpose, and the only purpose, in the death of the one bird, the separation and reservation of the one man, is that the other may live.  But how comforting it is for all who are separated and reserved that, according to Leviticus 14, it is to the second bird, which has no part in the accomplishment of the decisive action, and which is unusable in the sense of Leviticus 16, that the benefit of the sacrifice of the first and usable bird accrues.  That which was done to the first turns to the advantage of the second… The recipient of the fruit of election is obviously for the non-elect.  How can we fail to see that Cain and Ishmael and Esau are now given yet another right than that which is remotely visible in Leviticus 16?  They are witnesses to the resurrection reflected in Leviticus 14.  The promise addressed to the men on the right hand is manifestly fulfilled in those on the left.”

The explanation of the picture of Satan and Christ in Exodus 7 should not end with Barth’s lengthy quote, for the narrative is designed to explain the dichotomy of the Angel of the LORD and the rebellious anointed cherub through the battle of the serpents:

Exo 7:10-12  So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent.  (11)  Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts.  (12)  For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs.

Yet, why is the imagery of the serpent, such a wicked imagery (Revelation 20:2), used to defeat the other serpents?  This recalls the same imagery of the brazen fiery serpent set on the pole (Numbers 21:5-9; John 3:12-15) which can heal those who see it despite being bitten by other serpents.  Such a peculiar picture of serpents against serpent repeated in the story of Moses can be explained in Barth’s observation of the sacrifices in Leviticus 14 and 16 – the dichotomy of Christ and Satan, the dichotomy of the Elected Head and the Rejected Head.  The raising of the brazen serpent equivalent to the ascension of the Sent One (c.f. John 3:12-15).  This is sweetly summed up in the words of Habbakuk:

Hab 3:13-14  You went out for the salvation of your people, for the salvation of your anointed. You crushed the head of the house of the wicked, laying him bare from thigh to neck. Selah  (14)  You pierced with his own arrows the heads of his warriors, who came like a whirlwind to scatter me, rejoicing as if to devour the poor in secret.

Exodus 7:1-13 lays up the scenario for Pharoah’s destruction, which in turn leads to Egypt becoming an increasingly threat-less kingdom throughout the rest of history.  A once prosperous nation benefiting from the mediation of the Christ-like Joseph falls in the hands of Pharoah, Herod, Cain, Ishmael, Esau, all types of he who is the ‘head of the house of the wicked’ (Habbakuk 3:13).  Yet, it is by the serpent that the serpents are crushed; it is by the sting of death that death is defeated; it is by the wicked capital punishment of the cross that the wickedness of death is eradicated – and so the arrows of Satan piercing Christ’s side did not leave Christ dead; but from His side birthed the church (c.f. Genesis 2:21) born-again from the victorious blood and water which in turn defeated the bites of the fiery serpent, swallowing up the serpent-ry of ‘wise men’ (c.f. 1 Corinthians 1:19) and ascending once again as the beautiful staff of Aaron:

Num 17:5-8  And the staff of the man whom I choose shall sprout. Thus I will make to cease from me the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against you."  (6)  Moses spoke to the people of Israel. And all their chiefs gave him staffs, one for each chief, according to their fathers' houses, twelve staffs. And the staff of Aaron was among their staffs.  (7)  And Moses deposited the staffs before the LORD in the tent of the testimony.  (8)  On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.

What a beautiful picture of Christ’s death in becoming the rejected serpent by taking upon the sins of mankind, yet through his death on the cross he had swallowed up the death of men to bring about new creation birth!  Yet, the glory does not cease with the staff restoring to its original form – but that upon the Israelites’ salvation from Egypt, the same serpent-staff sprouts and puts forth buds and produces blossoms, bearing ripe almonds.  Upon the taste of this new creation life far greater than a mere restoration to the Garden of Eden, still (v.13) the Pharoah’s heart was hardened.  The outstretched arms of the Son on the cross has not led Pharoah to repentance (Romans 2:4), prompting the necessary salvation from Egypt.

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Read the verses here.

When do people tend to make promises - when they are in power or out of power?

Usually we make promises when we're out of power.  We may beg for money, drugs, sex, our lives, re-election by making endless promises.  But for us, the promise is a substitute for power.  Give us power, and the promises dry up.

Not so with the LORD Jesus.  He is God Almighty (Ex 6:2) and yet He is the One who makes endless promises to the powerless.

They are promises that define and fill out what it means for Him to be "LORD" - 'I am the LORD' begins and ends them (v2,8).

They are promises grounded in indicatives - "I am the LORD", "I established my covenant", "I have heard", "I have remembered."  (v2-5)

They are promises grounded in actual history (v13-27).  Looking back on their fulfilment to date will give great confidence for the future.

They are promises that are, at times, too much for His people to absorb in their discouragement (Ex 6:9).  Yet nonetheless they are to be proclaimed over them.

They are too much for the preacher as well given the "uncircumcision" of his lips (Ex 6:12).  Yet nonetheless the power is not in the preacher but in the promise.

They are promises that prove a watershed - to one side they fall as blessings, to the other as curses.  For the Egyptians these very same promises are in fact their judgement (Ex 6:11).  Those who are not aligned with the promise find themselves enemies of the God of promise.

And what are these promises?  Today, no matter what your discouragement, your burdens, your feelings of slavery to sin - hear the sevenfold promise of the LORD:

"I am the LORD

and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians

I will free you from being slaves to them,

and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.

I will take you as my own people,

and I will be your God.

Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.

And I will lead you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob.

I will give it to you as a possession.

I am the LORD"  (Exodus 6:6-8)

Glory!

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Read Exodus 5 here.

And so Moses and Aaron, fearing the weakening of the modern family, the slow but steady erosion of Israelite values in public life and their worsening working conditions decided to do the only thing upstanding, God-fearing folk can do - they formed a political pressure group.  They called it CHANGE:  Campaigning Hebrews for A Nicer Gentler Egypt.

They got the best legal advice, produced petitions by the armful and exploited every political contact they knew.  In time they broadened their support base and went 'co-belligerent' with several other non-Israelite lobbies.  Out of this was birthed the Campaigning Religious Interest-groups for a Nicer Gentler Egypt.

Some claimed that this rainbow coalition weakened their position but others insisted that CRINGE struck exactly the right note for the multicultural sensibilities of modern Egypt.

The combination of Moses' wisdom, his knowledge of Egyptian philosophy, his family connections and his brother's gift of the gab, make for a considerable force in Egyptian politics.  Maybe this way Egypt will be straightened out a little and God's people will not suffer so much.

But no.  As we saw in chapter 2 - the LORD rejects the way of earthly power, whether that be political or military.  Instead Moses and Aaron (aged 80 and 83 respectively!) are to stand in front of the world's most powerful man and to simply speak the word of the LORD.

They don't make arguments from the common good, from common sense, from common commitments.  They say to Pharaoh, 'Yahweh - the scandalously particular God of Israel - demands you let us go.'

Pharaoh says, "Who's this Yahweh?  Never heard of him!"

If ever there was a time for Moses and Aaron to do some consensus building it was now.  Something like: "Oh, right, umm.  Well, you know Osiris?  Well Yahweh is kinda like Osiris.  But bigger and less green."

Or: "You know that funny feeling in your stomach after a beautiful sunset?  That's Yahweh."

Or: "Right sorry, let's forget about Yahweh for now.  Instead let's agree that there's a Higher Power and work from that."

Moses and Aaron do none of this.  Instead the one thing they agree on is that Pharaoh does not in fact know the LORD.

Verse 3: the LORD is "The God of the Hebrews."  'Hebrew' is usually the description a foreigner uses of an Israelite. (eg Gen 39:14; Ex 2:6; 1 Sam 4:6).   Literally it means 'one from beyond'.  So it could mean 'one from beyond the river' as a foreigner would view it.  But there's also a big sense in which even the Hebrews in their midst are 'from beyond'.  And their God is the God of those from beyond.  He cannot be reduced to a familiar object of knowledge.  Instead He must be declared as 'One from beyond' by His people who are similarly strange and 'from beyond'.

And if they don't know the One of Whom we speak - they will come to know Him as the Word is declared with accompanying signs.

The drum beat of the plagues will be: "Then the Egyptians (and Israelites!) will know that I am the LORD."  (Ex 6:7; 7:5,17; 8:10,22; 9:29; 10:2; 11:7; 14:4,18).  And afterwards in the wilderness 'knowing the LORD' seems to be the goal for all His words and works: 16:6,8,12; 18:11; 29:46; 31:13.

But Christ's strategy has always been for weak people to proclaim a weak message, but to do so on His authority.  We are not to bolster it with anything except the signs the LORD Jesus has given to accompany it.  Wherever His redemption occurs it's clear that human wisdom and power has played no part whatsoever.

Of course this strategy won't bring earthly security.  If we want a nicer, gentler Egypt then we should join the lobby groups and the unions.  Christ's way - declaring His word on His authority - will often make things worse (from the viewpoint of worldly comfort). 

That's what the rest of the chapter documents.  And the suffering of the Israelites is documented in detail here.

Pharaoh has only work for the Israelites and burdens and labour and taskmasters and beatings and unyielding and ever-increasing targets.  All the while he accuses them "You are idle! You are idle!"  (v17)

Why are these terrible conditions emphasized here?  Well one reason might be because later on the Israelites will absurdly use some rose-tinted glasses on their time in Egypt.  When facing the deprivations of the wilderness they'd look back longingly on the "flesh pots" of Egypt (Ex 16:3), the free fish and cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic of their slavery (Num 11:5).  They'd even describe the country carrying out a genocide on their people as as a land flowing with milk and honey (Num 16:13).

In a sense Exodus 5 is telling believers of every age - No matter how hard life is in the wilderness with the LORD Jesus, do not be tempted to re-imagine your slavery.  Egypt is not the land of milk and honey.  Egypt is the place where harsh taskmasters make you work harder and harder for less and less.  And even as you do more and more, they brand you as idle.  Our bondage to sin and Satan is just like this.  We chase after moving targets and never get the verdict we're looking for.

So however much you're tempted to re-imagine life in sin - realize it's not milk and honey, it's slavery.

Hear the word of Pharaoh:

Get back to your burdens... the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!  (v4-5)

And now hear the word of the LORD:

Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness. (v1)

Satan is a murderous slave-master.  And all the while the LORD Jesus calls you to rest (v5) at the place of sacrifice (v3) and feasting (v1).  Give up on Egypt.  Give up on trying to make it nicer.  Give up on compromises with this old order.  Leave behind your burdens and join Jesus in the wilderness.  He'll take you to the true land of promise.

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Read the verses here

"Let me go", says Moses.

Jethro, the shepherd-priest, gives a very different answer to the one Pharaoh will give: "Go, and I wish you well!" (v18)  If only Pharaoh had the Spirit of Jethro!

Pharoah will not let them go and the LORD knows it.  In chapter 3:19 He says:

But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.

Literally this is a "hand of strength" or a "hard hand".

In Exodus 4, the hand of Moses has been made strong/hard - see the three signs he was given earlier in the chapter and the staff that he now carries in his hand (v20).  And so the hardness of the LORD's hand (through Moses) will prove stronger than the hardness of Pharaoh's heart (v21).

It's a battle of between two kinds of strength (hardness).  The strong/hard hand of the LORD (probably a title for the Spirit) working through His humble servant (Moses) versus the strong/hard heart of Pharaoh and his mighty host.

But this is not a fair fight.  Viewed from the flesh it looks like its unfairly stacked against Moses and the Israelites.  But seen from the perspective of the Mighty Spirit of the LORD, Pharaoh is shown to have no power of his own.  Even the strength of Pharaoh is a derived strength.

Verse 21 is emphatic: the LORD says "I, even I will harden/strengthen Pharaoh's heart."  Even the strength of the LORD's opposition comes ultimately from the LORD Himself!  The pretensions of the world's mightiest man are only a parasitic perversion of Christ's own power.  And the strengthening that happens is only the handing over of Pharaoh to his own much-desired self-will (cf 3:19).

Exodus 4:21 is the first mention of the hardness of Pharaoh's heart.  As events unfold the hardening is spoken of as follows:

Pharaoh's heart was hard/strong (7:13)

Pharaoh's heart was heavy / unyielding (this is also the word for 'glory') (7:14)

Pharaoh's heart was hard/strong (7:22)

Pharaoh made heavy his heart (8:15)

Pharaoh's heart was hard/strong (8:19)

Pharaoh made heavy his heart (8:32)

Pharaoh's heart was heavy (9:7)

The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh (9:12)

Pharaoh made heavy his heart (9:34)

Pharaoh's heart was hard/strong (9:35)

The LORD made heavy Pharaoh's heart (10:1)

The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh (10:20)

The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh (10:27)

The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh (11:20)

There is an interplay of Pharaoh's hardening and the LORD's but again we must be clear that the LORD does not hand Pharaoh over to anything which he does not actually want himself. (cf. Rom 1:24,26,28)

And all of this reaches a climax in 14:16-18 where "hand", "harden" and "heavy/glory" are combined:

16 Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen."

The strengthening of the heart in opposition to the LORD emboldens them to pursue their own glory.  But the strength of the LORD's hand is proved when this very thing is turned to the LORD's glory - the salvation of His people.

Here is the power of the cross.

26 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'  27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy Servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:26-28)

It is the glory of the LORD to make His enemies serve His saving purposes.   The ultimate show of this is the cross, but Pharaoh is a powerful foretaste.

Verses 22 and 23 reveal what's at stake in the battle of these two kinds of strength:

`This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, "Let my son go, so that he may worship me." But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.'

It's a battle of the sons.  One is set to inherit the throne of the world's greatest super-power, the other is a down-trodden slave.  But because of the LORD's mighty hand, God's son will inherit all the promises and Pharaoh's son will die under divine judgement.

Of course the very Speaker of these words is the True Son (who is also the Avenging Angel!) and He will die as a Lamb under the divine judgement.  God's Son, the LORD Jesus, will suffer as Pharaoh's son so that God's son, Israel will be saved.  But one way or another there will be blood.  Which is what the next section is about.

In v24-26 we see that Moses has been careless with the bloody sacrament of circumcision.  And this matters a great deal to the Lord!   He would be the Son - the Seed - cut off as a Lamb under divine judgement.  And the people were meant to cut this covenanted promise of salvation into their bodies - to very nearly cut off their own seed in this bloody sign.

Well Moses is about to go and enact this great Old Testament foreshadowing of the cross to save God's son Israel - and he hasn't even put the Old Testament sign of the cross on his own son.   The Lord is angry.  He will not have Moses enact these gospel prophecies without taking the gospel promises seriously.  These signs matter to the Lord and He's angry enough to kill the man He's just commissioned to lead the people!

Thank God for his Midianite wife who performs the emergency procedure and touches his feet with it.  And surely the "his" refers to the Lord's feet.  The Lord is the great Bridegroom of Blood.  He cuts the marriage covenant with His people in His own blood.  That's what these signs point towards - the Lord's own blood.  It's His bloody death that wins a bride.  When Moses and Zipporah own this truth in the sacrament, the Lord lets them alone.

In v27 we see the fulfilment of 4:16, "you shall be as God to him."  Moses is God, Aaron is his prophet.  And all of Moses' words and deeds will be spoken and performed by his prophet.  (Of course this sets us up for Deuteronomy 18:18f).

And so naturally - just as the God of Abraham met Moses on Sinai, now Moses (as God) meets Aaron on Sinai.

They go to the people and pass on the good news:

when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them (lit. "had visited them") and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshipped.

Isn't that wonderful?  The LORD Jesus doesn't just visit us - He sees our misery.  This reminds us of those wonderful verbs in chapter 2 - God heard, God remembered, God saw, God knew. (v24-25)

He looks on His people as the son He loves, as the bride He bleeds for.   He will use all His might to crush our oppressor, to remove our shackles and lead us to a spacious place.  When we hear about the compassion of our redeeming Lord Jesus then we really bow down and worship.

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Paul's wonderful sermons can be heard from All Souls, Langham Place and from Tarleton Farm Fellowship where he currently ministers.

Exodus 4:1-17 - Paul Blackham

How does the Living God identify Himself to us?

What are the unmistakable signs of the LORD Jesus, sent from the Father in the power of the Spirit?

I remember years ago when I was in a bank and my identity needed to be confirmed.  They rang the branch in my home village and asked them to describe me.  They referred to the scars on my head and then I was told to speak down the phone so that they could confirm my voice… and my identity was confirmed.

How would your own identity be confirmed?  What is unmistakable about you?  Are there things you might do that would conclusively prove your identity to anyone who really knew you?

Moses was faced with a problem.  There are always plenty of people who claim to speak in the name of ‘God’.  History is littered with such claims.  Even throughout the Christian church there are more ‘prophets’ than ever who claim to have been told things by the LORD God.  Others simply claim to have been given messages from this Living God and expect us to receive them as if we were being addressed by the LORD Jesus Himself.

Moses realises that not all the saints in the Egyptian church would be ready to listen to his claims to speak for the LORD Jesus.  Why should they?  What distinguishing signs or actions could he present that would unmistakably identify the One who had sent him?

The LORD Jesus saw an immediate solution.  Moses was carrying a wooden pole, designed to support him.  As the LORD Jesus saw this anointed man leaning onto this wooden pole, He could see a strong way to reveal His own identity to the Egyptian church.  Just as He Himself would one day be supported on the wood, lifted up in order to crush the Serpent… so Moses could be given the profound privilege of enacting that future victory before the very eyes of the ancient church.

Verse 3 shows us the profoundly godly reactions of the great apostle Moses.  The very sight of the snake causes him to recoil in horror.  He knew what happened when Eve got drawn into a conversation with such a creature [whether Moses was skilled in parsiltongue we may well doubt].  Better to run from such a confrontation… or so he thought.  Rather than run from the devil, giving him the power of fear over us, the LORD Jesus shows Moses that in His Name the saints may have victory over that ancient dragon.

Rather than teaching Moses special snake catching techniques, rather Moses is commanded to treat the power of the snake with disdain.  Rather than catch it around the head, to prevent it from striking, Moses is to calmly take it by the tail, allowing it to bite and threaten all it can!  Yet, when grasped by this servant of Jesus, the snake is transformed back into the wooden staff.

This reminds us so much of Acts 28 when that much later apostle, Paul, also showed how the snake is crushed by Jesus.  The snake lashed out and pumped out its poison into Paul’s veins.  Holding it up, without fear, for all to see, the great apostle calmly passed judgement upon it casing it into the fires of destruction.  It is no wonder that the islanders were utterly amazed, assured of a divine presence among them!

The same moment of recognition was predicted by Jesus for Moses when he would perform this sign:

“This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob — has appeared to you.”

My favourite sign is the second one.  Moses is to put his hand over his heart and draw it out.  The diagnosis is serious indeed – a heart diseased and desperately wicked.  Surely such a holistically corrupted heart is beyond cure!  Surely nobody can cure a heart whose putrefaction extends out to the whole body, spirit and mind!

Yet, when Moses puts his hand back over his heart, as instructed by the Divine Physician, the disease is impossibly healed.  Throughout the Scriptures the unmistakable proof of the divine identity is His ability to save.  Only one of the ‘gods’ is able to bring new birth and new creation.  When the saints in Egyptian captivity saw this sign, they would have fallen on their knees with shouts of praise and worship to the Divine Angel – the very One who was on His way to deliver them.

The final sign is solemn and fearful.

The Nile was [and still is] the great river of life, making Egypt into the great bread basket of North Africa.  If the Egyptian gods needed to exercise their power over anything at all then it had to be over the Nile.  Surely this was the very heart and soul of the Egyptian Empire.

Yet, even here they could not withstand the Living God.  His total power over His creation is demonstrated in His ability to turn the river of life into the river of death.  Blood flowing through our veins is our life, but when we see the blood before us, poured out, then it is the sign of death.

It hardly need be said that we must laugh at or be enraged at the ludicrously offensive suggestions that the blood is nothing more than the stirring up of red silt.  To those who have lived with and worked with the Nile, viewing all its colours and silts throughout the seasons, it would hardly have caused any alarm to see some water poured onto red coloured silt.  Anybody who would have been deceived by such a simple ‘conjuring trick’ would hardly be worth convincing of anything at all.

No, in turning the water into blood the LORD Jesus was pronouncing a judgement on the empire of the Nile.  Before this story had finished, the land of the Nile would feel the fatal judging hand of the Divine Angel Himself.

Moses was richly equipped to bear witness to the unmistakable identity of the LORD Jesus – the sign of the snake, the leprous heart and the blood would all reveal His identity in wonderful ways.

Yet, Moses was still full of nervous fear.  As an 80 year old man he was looking forward to retirement on a Mediterranean island, with his yacht and villa.  He had tried to offer redemption to the ancient church 40 years before and they had not been ready to receive it – Acts 7:24-25.  Now it was time for others to speak up and take responsibility.  Moses had spent 40 years [the symbolic time of testing] far from the civilised and cultured realms of human society.  He had spent his time at the Mountain of God, leading Jethro’s sheep to safe pasture.

How could this have prepared him in any way for this impossible challenge of leading his Father’s flock to safe pasture in a promised land!?

No, as far as Moses was concerned, he was not, and never had been, capable of doing this.  To speak to the leader of the world’s super power, it was clearly necessary to have strategic connections, academic qualifications, rhetorical training!  How could one man, trusting only in the power of the Almighty Spirit, be able to make any difference?

Verse 11:

The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

What is striking about this rebuke to Moses is not only that the Cosmic Christ is clearly the source of all human ability, but that He is also the one who makes us deaf, mute and blind.  Yes, even our lack of ability is also under His control.  This could open up a whole Pandora’s Box of pointless questions if we allowed it to go in a useless direction, but rather we should see the point He is making to Moses.  Even if it were true that Moses had little ability, even this is entirely under the control of the LORD Jesus.  In fact, the very lack of power in the flesh may be a necessary precondition for the power of Jesus to be displayed.  Could we really see His identity and glory if a brilliant and renowned speaker were to deliver His mighty message?  Do we not see and hear Him so much more when the clueless, mumbling saint speaks nothing but the pure Word of God?

Not many with degrees, still less with PhD’s; not many rich, still less ‘successful’; not many gifted and strategic, still less admired and loved…

Those of us who have read or listened to someone like Joni Eareckson Tada can see this so well.  How could it possibly be an occasion for divine glory for her to be denied so much physical ability?  Yet, how many thousands of people have been drawn to Jesus’ glory precisely because His own power and majesty have been able to shine through her unhindered by the thick clouds of human ability?

Natural ability can be given or withheld by Jesus, the LORD over the whole creation.  Do we trust Him when He denies us the abilities we wish we had?  Are we ready to do what He asks us especially when we are convinced we do not have the ability to do what He asks us to do?

The LORD Jesus sends Moses away.  Aaron has plenty of natural ability and would be eager to use it in this opportunity.  Yet, with hindsight, as we review their two careers – who was most useful?  Who brought most glory to Jesus?  Were the leadership gifts and eloquence of Aaron well-used in Exodus 32:1-6?

Moses would have to train this apprentice – verse 15.  This was a ticking timebomb.  The fire and passion of Jesus’ glory was filling Moses’ heart and mind – Hebrews 11:26.  As soon as Moses began to instruct Aaron on what he had to say, Moses would be overcome with zeal for Jesus.  We see this happen so that it is not long before Moses pushes Aaron aside and takes up the responsibilities that Jesus had given him to do.

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