The Hard Heart: Plagues Six and Seven (Exodus 9:8-35)

In the accounts of plagues six and seven, we find a new development in the saga of Moses v. Pharaoh, God v. the gods.  The development is this: for the first time in the story, the Scriptures record that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.  In every plague up to the fifth, the stories recorded that Pharaoh hardened his heart, or simply that his heart became hardened.  In plague six, though, the plague of boils, the Scripture says, “12 But the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses.(NKJV)”

Just a few thoughts come to mind when I read these two accounts.  First, the plague of boils continues an escalation of sorts, in that it directly attacks the bodies of the Egyptians, while the Israelites were exempt from the plague.  The seventh plague, hail, destroys not only crops, but any and all people who were outside at the time of the storm.  Lightning, thunder, hail, and even fire came down on those outdoors, and the crops were destroyed, and any livestock or humans outside were killed.

It was a strange thing that the story said that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.  Did not God want the children of Israel set free?  Did He not just warn Pharaoh of the impending danger?  Why would He do that if He would not allow Pharaoh to respond appropriately?  Just before the storm, though, the Lord gives the reader an explanation of why He may have hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

Exodus 9:14–16 (NKJV)

14 for at this time I will send all My plagues to your very heart, and on your servants and on your people, that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth. 15 Now if I had stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, then you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.

Pharaoh was being used to bring about the news of the glory of God, and His power and might!  After the hail storm that destroyed so much of Egypt, and killed so many people and livestock, Pharaoh called for Moses and repented, and told him he was sorry.  He asked Moses to intercede on their behalf.  Moses agreed to pray, with the caveat that he knew that Pharaoh would not truly let them go or change his mind.  And, just as he said, Pharaoh backpedaled and hardened his heart again once the hail had stopped.

One last interesting thought:  400 years earlier, a son of Israel–Joseph–had come to Egypt and saved the day, gathering grain for seven years that sustained all of Egypt and the surrounding nations during the next seven years of famine.  Now, 400 years after Joseph, God took away their grain through a hailstorm due to their oppression of Israel.  Do not presume upon the grace or favor of God and forget all the blessings He has given you in the past.  Praise God for the past, the present, and the future.  Live with a healthy reverence for His glory, and a healthy appreciation for His love and provision!

Lord of the Flies: Plagues Four and Five (Exodus 8:20-9:7)

In the story of the fourth plague on Egypt, God threatens to and then does send flies all over Egypt, which contaminates the entire land.  In this case, however, the writer makes it clear that the plague does not touch the land of Goshen, which is the dwelling place of the Israelites.  So not only does God have the ability to call nature into action on His behalf, but was able to do so with a pinpoint-strike capability.  The flies infested Pharaoh’s palace, and avoided the infestation of the land where the childen of Israel dwelled.  So He was Lord of the Jews, Lord of the Egyptians, and Lord of the flies as well.

In the next account of the fifth plague, He threatened the cattle and livestock of the Egyptians, and followed through with the destruction of the livestock of the Egyptians, but the livestock of the Israelites was spared.  After the flies, Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to God, but when the flies relented, he hardened his heart again and changed his mind.  The cattle plague was an escalation of sorts, because it was the first time that direct death occured.  Although the water turning to blood did affect the fish not being able to live in the river, this time God directly killed the cattle and livestock of Egypt.  God is getting more and more extreme in His attacks on Egypt.

What is the moral of the story?  When judgement comes upon sinful or disobedient men, God will reserve a blessing for His righteous children.  We can see judgement falling all around, but He will protect us and make a distinction between the sinful and the redeemed.  We can hide in His hand.  We can be covered by His blood and avoid the plagues if we keep our trust in Him and maintain our relationship with the Most High

The Finger of God: Plague Three (Exodus 8:16-19)

After the first two plagues, God’s superiority was established over the false gods of the Egyptians.  Now, God instructs Aaron to strike the dust of the ground and that all the dust would turn into lice.  He did as God commanded, and then the lice appeared and attached to all the people of Egypt.  Just like the rods turning to snakes (which were also symbolic of Egyptian gods), the Egyptian magicians tried to use their magic to recreate the same action, but were unable to do so.  When they were not able to replicate the action of Aaron, they confessed to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.”  Many scholars believe that this refers to the work of the Holy Spirit, who the Egyptians simply referred to as the finger of God.  When the magicians were unable to do their magic, this confirmed God’s superiority not only over the false gods of the Egyptians, but also over the magic of the wise men of Pharaoh.

When God is working in an individuals life, His Holy Spirit leads, guides, directs, protects, comforts, and helps the Christian individual.  When you are faced with opposition, and you must take a stand against the power of the enemy, believe that the Holy Spirit will go with you.  He will open doors, bring you before kings, elevate you to places of influence, and make your name great.  God has a plan for your life, and the Holy Spirit will lead you along that path.  Trust in Him and he will give you all you need to overcome!

The First Two Plagues: God[Yahweh] v. gods[The Nile and Heqet] (Exodus 7:14-8:15)

God tells Moses how that Pharaoh’s hard was hardened, then proceeded to instruct him on how to inflict the first plague.  Many inanimate objects and animals were regarded as gods in the Egyptian nation.  In the first plague, Moses was sent to turn the Nile River to blood, as well as all the water of the land.  The Nile River was considered a god because it was responsible for the crops yielding a great harvest.  Every year, the Nile would flood its banks and irrigate the fields on either side of the river.  Therefore, they attributed god-like status to it.  When God turned it to blood, he established His authority over the god of the harvest, the Nile River.

The second plague involved frogs.  One of the main gods of Israel was Heqet, a goddess with the head and body of a frog.  The frog symbolized life and fertility.  Then, in the second plague, frogs began to multiply at an alarming rate and infiltrated homes and kitchens, and pots, etc., until they were absolutely everywhere.  The very figure of fertility and life suddenly was a symbol of death, as the frogs died and began to fill all the places of residence in Egypt.  They smelled horrible, and the stench nearly overwhelmed the residents of the country.  The goddess of life has died and brought the smell of death to everyone.

What does all this mean?  God was the true and only God.  The gods of Egypt were false, and had no true power.  The gods of Egypt held sway over Egyptians, but did not even want that sway or even know that it was theirs.  It was the Egyptians who gave them that power.  In the same way, we often give the false gods of this world sway over our lives and surrender our will to their unwitting influence.  However, just as God showed His superiority over the gods of Egypt, we can know that God is truly superior to the gods of this world as well.  Instead of giving our lives and souls to the gods that truly have no power, give your life to the one and only true God, Jehovah, Yahweh, the Creator and Sustainer of the Earth and of our souls!

God Goes With You (Exodus 6:28-7:13)

God reiterated His instructions to Moses to speak to Pharaoh and command him to let the people of God go.  He protested again, and again God said that Aaron would be his prophet.  He also told Moses that he would harden Pharaoh’s heart and prevent him from letting the Israelites go.  He would then force Pharaoh to let them go by showing great signs to Egypt.  So Moses and Aaron obeyed the Lord.  Even as 80-somethings, they obeyed God and fulfilled their destiny.

Moses and Aaron went before Pharaoh, and when he asked for a sign, Aaron threw down his rod and it became a serpent.  When this happened, Pharaoh’s sorcerers did the same thing.  The interesting thing, though, is that Aaron’s rod ate all the other snakes, and it was a miraculous thing.  However, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.

When God sends you to do something, He will equip you and He will accompany you.  You will not go alone!  Trust God in everything, and walk with Him.  Even when hearts are hardened, God can deliver His own!

Promoted From Within (Exodus 6:14-27)

A brief beginning of a genealogy of the children of Israel gets stopped in the middle of listing the descendants of Levi, the priestly clan of the Children of Israel.  You see the immediate descendants of Levi, leading all the way down to Aaron and Moses.  After naming Aaron’s sons, who would also be priests, the writer makes absolutely sure that the reader would recognize that this Moses and Aaron are the same Moses and Aaron who–in the passages before this and the passages after this–have and will address Pharaoh with God’s command to let the people of Israel go!  Why is this lineage and genealogy important as a brief interlude in this spot?

I believe that it is important to understand that we do not need a leader that shows up out of nowhere and blows into town with enticing words of man’s wisdom.  I believe that it is vitally important that we know those who lead.    Leaders are not always the flashy person that wows the crowd with charisma and charm.  Rather, we must needs know the people that we follow.  The people knew Moses and Aaron.  They had seen them grow up among them.  They knew their families.  They knew their lives.  They knew their character.  They were even reluctant to follow Moses and Aaron to begin with, because they did not see the results they hoped for in the beginning of their quest for Jewish freedom.  But because they knew them, they trusted God and eventually saw their deliverance effected in a miraculous way.  

However, knowing someone does not just mean that you have played golf with, eaten a meal with, watched a movie with, or even been on vacation with someone.  It means you have seen that person’s life and can trust that he or she is a person of integrity, a person of faith, a person of holiness.  Choose who you follow carefully, and follow true leaders as they follow Christ!

I do not know the Lord… (Genesis 5:1-6:13)

Moses and Aaron visited Pharaoh to ask for the release of the Israelites to go into the wilderness and worship the Lord.  In reply, he asked who the Lord was, and declared that the knowledge of God was missing in his life, and he would not let the children of Israel go.  In response to their request, Pharaoh continued to oppress Israel, and continued to require the same amount of production of bricks for building, only without the advantage of having the straw, an essential material for the brick-making, provided for them.  They would now have to find their own.  When they complained to Pharaoh, he told them their desire to go and worship brought this punishment on them.  They proceeded to complain to Moses, prompting Him to seek God for further instruction.

The Lord replied to Moses that He would handle Moses, and that Moses would let them go.  He reiterated His commitment to the covenant with Israel, and promised to restore them to Canaan and redeem them from Pharaoh.  When Moses shared this exchange with the people, they did not heed his words because of their anguish.  Yet the Lord told Moses to go back to Pharaoh and demand the release of the Israelites one more time.

Sometimes before you see God’s hand at work on your behalf, you must make a stand and speak in faith before seeing the eventual result.  Even when the anticipated result is a distant dream, God is looking for some people like Moses to stand up and proclaim the truth of God’s prophetic Word in faith.  Too often, we wilt at the first sign of opposition or struggle, but God is faithful.  Stand firm on what God has promised you and do not let the Pharaoh douse your fire!