Memory Verse – Exodus 9:16, “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth”
Our Theme – God is the gracious Redeemer
The English word redemption means “repurchase” or “buy back”, and in the Old Testament referred to the ransom of slaves ( Exodus 21:8). The concept of the redeemer is used in the Book of Ruth to refer to the kinsman-redeemer, and in the Book of Isaiah to refer to God, the “Redeemer of Israel”.
The Ten Plagues of Egypt also known as the Biblical Plagues, are described in our study and recorded for us in Exodus, Chapters 7 through 12. Also, please consider that most of the 10 plagues which God sent upon Egypt have similar counterparts in the book of Revelation.
The plagues were ten disasters sent upon Egypt by God to convince Pharaoh to free the Israelite slaves from their bondage and oppression they had endured in Egypt for 400 years. When God sent Moses to deliver the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt, He promised to show His wonders as confirmation of Moses’ authority (Exodus 3:20). This confirmation was to serve at least two purposes:
(1) to show the Israelites that the God of their fathers was alive and worthy of their worship and
(2) to show the Egyptians that their gods were worthless.
During the 400 years of bondage in Egypt the Israelites had lost faith in the God of their fathers. They believed He existed and worshiped Him, but they doubted that He could, or would, break the yoke of their oppression. The Egyptians, like many pagan cultures, worshiped a wide variety of nature-gods and credited to their powers the natural wonders they saw in the world around them. There was a god of the sun, of the river, of childbirth, of crops, and so forth.
Events like the annual flooding of the Nile, which fertilized their croplands, were evidences of their gods’ powers and good will. When Moses approached Pharaoh, demanding that he let the people go, Pharaoh responded by saying, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). Thus, began the challenge or test to show whose God was more powerful. The first nine plagues are neatly arranged in three sets of triplets. There are three specific things we should observe about the plagues this morning.
First, they were miraculous,
Second, they were meaningful, that is, God had a specific purpose in each plague, and
Third, they were merciful, even in God’s judgment against Pharaoh, we’ll see His mercy displayed.
We must also understand that the plagues were miracles and not natural events. They were miracles performed by God at a specific time, in a specific place, and for a specific purpose. The plagues were also meaningful. God’s purposes in the plagues were multi-layered in that:
(1) They demonstrated the ineffectiveness of worshiping false gods.
(2) God used the plagues to reveal Himself and make Himself known.
(3) Through the plagues, God demonstrates to us that sin have consequences.
The plagues also reveal the mercy of God. The plagues serve as a warning to us this morning, a warning against disobedience, a warning against exerting our will against God’s and a warning that assures us sin has consequences. God has worked miracles in your life and mine. If we cannot recall them it is simply because we have allowed our thoughts and attention to be captured by lesser things.
He has worked His wonders in our lives through His provision, through His presence and through His salvation. And all of these things He has done for a purpose. He works in our lives to show us the futility of serving things which cannot save us. Many people serve money, others serve power, influence or pleasure, but like the false gods of Egypt, they are not worth serving and a waste of our time.
God works in our lives to make Himself known to us, to reveal Himself to us, to receive the glory He is due and to speak to us, telling us what it is He would have us do and how He would have us live. If we listen and obey, things go well, it’s just when we don’t, that He brings things into our lives to get our attention. Has He gotten your attention lately?
(1) What is it that God is telling you this morning?
(2) What decision is there that you need to make that you’ve been putting off?
(3) What will it take to get your attention?
Now, let’s focus our attention and thoughts on the plagues in today’s study.
A. First Triplet of plagues (Exodus 7:14-8:19). The first triplet of plagues brought disruptive irritations to the Egyptians. Normal life was turned upside down (much like today with the virus and how our country is so very divided).
- The purpose.
Moses and Aaron met Pharaoh at the Nile, as God had instructed (Exodus 7:15). Perhaps Pharaoh was at the river to worship Hapi, the Egyptian god of the Nile. The Nile floodwaters brought fertile soil to the farmland that helped sustain life in Egypt. The Egyptians believed that without Hapi their nation would die. Hapi’s responsibility for sustaining life made him one of the most worshipped gods in Egypt, even perhaps more so than Ra, their sun god.
In the setting of the Nile and Egypt’s highly worshipped deity, God revealed His purpose for the first triplet of plagues. He told Pharaoh through Moses and Aaron that the plagues would reveal that He is Yahweh (Exodus 7:17). Pharaoh would begin to learn about God’s character and abilities. Remember that Pharaoh had already admitted that he didn’t know God and therefore would not obey Him (Exodus 5:2).
- The Plagues (7:17-8:19)
First plague – Turning the Nile and other freshwater sources into blood.
Even the water the Egyptians had collected in wooden buckets and stone pitchers turned to blood (Exodus 7:19). As a result of the plague, the fish in the Nile died; their rotting carcasses created a stench in Egypt (Exodus 7:21).
Hapi, the Egyptian god of the Nile, was also called the Lord of the Fishes. Obviously, Pharaoh and the rest of Egypt understood that the plague was an attack on their god. The rotten stench was a testimony to Hapi’s weakness. Yet, Pharaoh’s heart was not moved. His magicians duplicated the plague in some way (Exodus 7:22-23), though they could not turn the blood back into water.
Second Plague – The sudden onslaught of frogs.
They came from the Nile and filled the land (Exodus 8:1-6). As with the Nile, the Egyptians saw frogs as sacred. The frogs were more annoying than they were anything else. Though Pharaoh’s Egyptians imitated the plague, the constant croaking and the inability to escape the frogs drove Pharaoh to admit the power of Yahweh to take away the frogs (Exodus 7, 8). Moses gave Pharaoh the opportunity to name the time that God would kill the frogs.
God responded and killed the frogs the following day as Pharaoh had prescribed (Exodus 8:9-12). The result was again a stench of rotting flesh, throughout the land. But Pharaoh hardened his heart, as the Lord had said he would, and did not let Israel to (Exodus 8:13-15)
Third Plague – Turning dust to lice.
The lice were probably gnats or even mosquitos. The plague came when the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats (Exodus 8:2).
The infestation took over every man and animal around. The Egyptians could not recreate this one with their magic, saying instead, “This is the finger of God.” Essentially, they were admitting that God exists and He has power greater than theirs. But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.
B. Second Triplet of plagues (Exodus 8:20-9:12). The second and third triplets did not fall on the Israelites. God spared them and thereby showed that His people were different from the Egyptians.
- The purpose.
The purpose of the second set of plagues was to reveal God’s providence over the world (Exodus 8:22). God is in the midst of the land of Egypt even though it was not His home turf. His presence and control would be seen as He distinguished between the Israelites and the Egyptians in plagues four through nine. God was with His people. His presence was verified by the absence of the plagues in the land of Goshen, where they lived. The Israelites should have felt privileged as they witnessed the atrocities in the rest of Egypt.
- The Plagues (Exodus 8:20-9:12)
Fourth Plague – The flies.
Moses warned Pharaoh that swarms of flies would overwhelm the land if he did not let God’s people go (Exodus 8:20-21). Moses gave Pharaoh one day to change his mind. Pharaoh did not, so God sent the flies. They came as an oppressive swarm and may have been the type of flies that have a painful bite. If so, this plague was the first one that directly caused physical pain. The flies’ presence would have been maddening to the Egyptians.
In response, Pharaoh told Moses to sacrifice to God in the land of Egypt. But doing so would have brought the Egyptians’ wrath on the Israelites (Exodus 8:25-26). So, Pharaoh said he would allow the Israelites to go, but not far away. He then added that he wanted Moses to intercede for him (Exodus 8:27-28). Moses said he would intercede for Pharaoh but that Pharaoh should not continue to deal deceitfully with him. God answered Moses’ prayer. The flies departed, but Pharaoh hardened his heart again and refused to let God’s people (Exodus 8:29-32).
Fifth Plague – Pestilence on livestock left in the field.
Exodus 9:2-4, “If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, the hand of the LORD will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field – on your horses, donkeys and camels and on your cattle, sheep and goats. But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die”
Again, God kept the Israelites’ livestock safe while also protecting all the livestock the Egyptians brought into shelters (Exodus 9:4). God showed His power by killing every animal left in the field and by sparing every animal in the shelter. The exact nature of the plague could not be explained as a natural phenomenon.
The specific nature in which this plague was carried out should have been a clue that the plague was not normal. But Pharaoh wanted to be sure so he sent messengers to verify that the Israelites didn’t lose any livestock at all (Exodus 9:7). Despite the seriousness of the plagues, Pharaoh again hardened his heart and wouldn’t let the Israelites go.
Sixth Plague – Boils on the Egyptians and their livestock.
Exodus 9:8-10, Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot rom a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on people and animals throughout the land”
The final plague in the second triplet as the worst yet for the Egyptians physically. Standing in front of Pharaoh, Moses threw ashes from a furnace into the air to cause boils on all the Egyptians and on their livestock. The boils were so painful and debilitating that Pharaoh’s magicians were physically unable to stand before him.
The ashes Moses and Aaron threw into the air most likely came from a furnace that the Israelites used to make bricks. Pharaoh would not have missed the connection between the Israelites’ suffering as slaves and the physical suffering brought on by the boils. Yet, Pharaoh hardened his heart just as God had said he would (Exodus 9:11-12).
C. Third Triplet of plagues (Exodus 9:13-10:29)
- The Purpose.
God’s purpose for bringing the third triplet of plagues on Egypt was to demonstrate that His power is far beyond any other power known to man. God was not more powerful than just the gods of Egypt, He was also more powerful than any other god worshiped by anyone on all the earth (Exodus 9:13-14). In sending the full furry of His plagues, God would address Pharaoh at his heart. His rebellious, hardened heart would turn to the point of begging the Israelites to leave his land.
As Moses met with Pharaoh to start the third set of plagues, God reminded Pharaoh that He could have wiped the Egyptians off the face of the earth. But God had tempered His plagues in order to use Pharaoh to display God’s power and to make His reputation and character known worldwide (Exodus 9:15-16). Indeed, when the Children of Israel went to enter the Promised Land forty years later, the accounts of the Exodus were still reverberating around the earth (Joshua 2:1-11).
- The Plagues – (Exodus 9:17-10:29)
Seventh Plague – Large hail, heavy rain & deadly lightning.
Exodus 9:18-19, 26, Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded until now. Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every person and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in field, and they will die. The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were”
Since Pharaoh still exalted himself against God’s people, God would bring three more devastating plagues on Egypt before the final plague. This plague was on all those in Egypt who did not seek shelter. The hail was the most devastating hail Egypt had ever experienced as a nation. Yet, God kept it from destroying the Egyptian houses and shelters. Only those who remained in the field were killed by the storm. And, as in the previous three plagues, God protected the Israelites from the plague (Exodus 9:26). Pharaoh initially responded by telling Moses that the Israelites could leave; however, as in all the previous plagues, he ended up hardening his heart and refusing to let Israel go.
Eighth Plague – The locust.
Exodus 10:3-4, So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow”
The locust will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will finish off the crops that the hail hadn’t destroyed. This plague is so terrible because it will utterly destroy all the food sources of Egypt. The locusts eat everything that is green or growing: plants, crops, trees, fruit, grass, wheat, barley, etc. That means there will be a severe famine in the land that will starve people and livestock.
They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians – something neither your parents nor your ancestors have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now. Pharaoh again hesitated in his decision about letting Israel go. He even said he had sinned (Exodus 10:16-17). But in the end, the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.
Ninth Plague – The oppressive darkness.
Exodus 10:21-23, Then the LORD said the Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt – darkness that can be felt.” So, Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived”
No one in Egypt could see anyone else for three days, but the homes of the Israelites had light. The nature of the darkness is unknown, though it must have been supernatural, for God again spared Goshen from the plague (Exodus 10:22-23). Ra, the Egyptian sun god, would have been humiliated by this plague.
Pharaoh tried to negotiate with Moses but to no avail (Exodus 10:24-26). Moses would not settle for anything but a complete departure of God’s people from the land. Ironically Pharaoh ordered Moses out of his presence, declaring that Moses was to see his face no more. Moses told Pharaoh he would get his wish (Exodus 10:27-29).
So, ended the three triplets of plagues. God had revealed Himself as Yahweh/Jehovah/LORD. His power was evident, as was His mercy. The most severe plagues came with warnings and the means of escaping the consequences of the plagues. A meaningful way of escape came with the tenth plague too.
D. God Provided Redemption (Exodus 11:1-12:42). Having shown His power, God provided the Israelites with redemption.
- Announcement of the final plague (Exodus 11:1-10)
God first announced the tenth plague to Moses, who then proclaimed it to Pharaoh. Every Egyptian firstborn son and firstborn animal would die in the middle of the night as God passed through Egypt (Exodus 11:4-5).The result would be a great cry of grief throughout the land. But the Israelites would be so peaceful that even dogs wouldn’t feel the need to bark. The resultant grief would cause the Egyptians to beg the Israelites to leave their land (Exodus 11:7-8).
While communicating the plague to Pharaoh, Moses grew angry with him. Countless lives would be spared if Pharaoh would simply humble himself before God. But instead, Pharaoh remained as hard hearted as ever.(Much like some of us today).
- Institution of the Passover (Exodus 12:1-29)
God gave specific instructions for the first Passover. On the tenth day of the month of the Abid, each family was to take a year-old, unblemished male lamb and keep it until the fourteenth day. Each family was then supposed to kill their lamb at twilight and to use hyssop to apply their lamb’s blood to the doorway of their house. The family was to roast the lamb and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Each member of the family was to dress as if ready for traveling, even eating with a staff in hand. The uneaten portion of the lamb was to be burned.
When God moved through the land of Egypt, He would kill all the firstborn of all men and beasts that were not under the blood of a Passover lamb. By killing both man and beast, God would demonstrate one final time that He was mightier than any god of Egypt represented by the animals and worshiped by men. The tenth plague was the last in God’s blows against the Egyptian’ deities.
Remember, God protected the Israelites from the effects of plagues four through nine. But with the tenth plague, they needed to carefully follow God’s prescribed steps in order to save their firstborn sons alive. The blood applied to their doorways was the sign for God to pass over their household on the night of the plague. So, the lamb took the place of the firstborn son and was the acceptable substitute for the son.
God did not want Israel to forget their redemption. He instructed them to celebrate Passover every year, repeating some of the elements from the first Passover. God also gave specific instruction about the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a weeklong observance following the annual celebration of Passover. The Feast of Unleavened Bread was to memorialize how hurriedly the Egyptians made Israel leave their land. And God’s emphasis on purity throughout the feast (signified by the absence of leaven in the home) showed the feast’s seriousness. The fest was to encourage God’s people to increase their faith in God and remind them of His redemption of them.
- The deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 12:21-42)
Moses communicated all of God’s instructions to Israel, emphasizing the importance of remembering what God was about to do for them. When the people heard all the instructions and how God would spare their firstborn sons, they bowed their heads and worshiped, the proper response to what God was about to do for them. The Children of Israel then proceeded to do exactly what God had commanded them to dol
God passed through Egypt as He had said He would. Every house in Egypt, including Pharaoh’s house, experienced a death. The cry that went up in Egypt was great. Not one Egyptian escaped the pain of loss that night. Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and told them to leave to worship their God. He added that he wanted Moses to bless him. That was not a signal that Pharaoh had any kind of trust in God, for he later regretted letting the Israelites go and led his army and chased after them.
The rest of Egypt was anxious to get Israel out of their land, fearing they might all die if Israel didn’t leave right away. The Children of Israel left with the riches of Egypt, as God had said they would (Exodus 12:33-36). Apparently, some of the Egyptians went with the Israelites, making the group a mixed multitude. It seems God’s revelation of Himself through the plagues was enough to convince some of the Egyptians that Yahweh was greater than any of their gods.
After 430 years of sojourning, Israel left Egypt on the exact day God had appointed. Psalm 105, most likely written by King David, provides additional insight into the Exodus. The word gladness (Psalm 105:43) means joyful shout. God was thrilled to be able to redeem His people from slavery in Egypt.
Who’s in charge is one of the most important and basic question of all time. Who is in control and in charge today? This is an important question for ordinary organizations, such as a school or business and a very important question for the military. However, it is also a very important question for those big questions, you know, those questions about the universe, the meaning of life, and more importantly our eternal destiny. Or do you think about such important questions?
So, who is in charge of all this? The theological term that we use for this topic is sovereignty. We say that God is completely and entirely sovereign and is reaffirmed over and over again in His Eternal Word. He directs all that comes to pass and nothing comes to pass apart from His divine will. This is absolutely true because He is God, and no one else compares to Him. John 1:1-4 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”
In the beginning, He had no counselors or assistants, and no creature can thwart His will. God is in charge and the truth of His divine sovereignty appears several times throughout the Exodus account of the plagues and Pharaoh. While telling Pharaoh about the plague of hail, God, speaking through Moses and Aaron, says this: “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. 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.”
The plagues demonstrate God’s sovereignty and His mercy. Psalm 136:1 puts it this way, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” If you think about it, more than ever, we live in a disposable culture. Think about some of the items that are made to be thrown away such as; razors, water bottles, lighters, paper plates, plastic eating utensils and so on. I’m sure you can add to the list. Many products are used, tossed, and then replaced.
Moreover, this disposable culture is also reflected in more significant ways. Many times, true commitment in relationships is seen as optional. Marriages struggle to survive. Long-term employees are discharged just before retirement for cheaper options. A highly valued athlete leaves to join another team. It seems as if nothing lasts. However, our unchanging God has promised that His loving mercy endures forever.
In Psalm 136, the singer celebrates this wonderful promise by making statements about God’s wonder, work, and character. He then punctuates each statement about God with the phrase, “For His mercy endures forever.” Whether it is the wonder of His creation(vs. 4-9), the rescue of His people (vs. 10-22), or His tender care for His own (vs. 23-26), we can trust Him because His mercy will never fail. In a temporary and fallen world, the permanence of God’s mercy gives up hope. We can sing with the psalmist, “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever”.
My beloved, God really does have the whole world in His hands. All things are done by His permission, at His command and in order to bring about His purposes. God is far above us. He is the I AM, needing no one to make Him complete, and remaining that way for all eternity. It is both God’s power and His holiness that make Him far about us. To relate to God properly, we must remember that He is transcendent and we should never treat Him as trivial or as just another person.
God’s GRACE is immeasurable; His MERCY inexhaustible; His PEACE inexpressible.