Becoming God’s Followers and Leaders – A Study of the Life of Moses David Owens
Sermon 7: “Standing in Awe of God” 7.10.11
Text: Sermon Covers Exodus 7:1-10:29; Scripture Reading 9:13-16
A. Today we are going to spend time looking at the plagues that God brought upon Pharaoh and Egypt.
1. I hope we can come to appreciate the impact of these plagues and the awe of God they brought.
B. Although there is nothing funny about the plagues themselves, you know I like to start with a bit of humor, so here goes…
1. Let’s imagine God approaching Moses, saying:: “Moses, I have good news and bad news for you regarding the plagues.”
a. The good news is that Pharaoh will let the people go after I smite the land with ten plagues.
b. Moses replied, “Then what is the bad news, Lord?”
c. The Lord said: “The bad news is you will have to conduct an environmental impact study and get approval from the EPA before we can go forward with the plagues.” (Got to love those government rules and regulations!)
2. I also got a chuckle from this cartoon: “It’s not fair being Moses’ son. If I don’t do my chores, you send a plague.” (Hey Parents, that sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it?)
C. The 10 Plagues of Egypt recorded in the Book of Exodus is one of the most well-known events from the Bible.
1. Some people are familiar with the details of the plagues themselves, but not everyone understands their full impact on Egypt.
2. The plagues not only decimated Egypt both physically and economically, but more importantly they decimated them spiritually.
3. Each of the plagues targeted a specific Egyptian god or goddess, or a combination of them, and God displayed His power over the gods of Egypt.
D. So why did God send the plagues?
1. The plagues were brought upon Egypt so that the Pharaoh and the Egyptians would know that the God of the Jews is “The LORD.”
2. The Bible says: 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” (Exodus 7:3-5)
3. God wanted to prove to Egypt who He was and He wanted to display His power so they would know Him and fear Him and obey Him.
4. And why did God send 10 plagues, rather than 9 or 11?
a. Perhaps because in biblical numeration, “10” represents completion.
I. The Story
A. The Plague of Blood
1. The Bible says: 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the water. Wait on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16 Then say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert. But until now you have not listened. 17 This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.'” (Ex. 7:14-18)
2. This plague targeted the Egyptian god Hapi who was the “god of The Nile” and was also known as the “Spirit of The Nile”.
a. Egyptians worshipped the Nile god as their daily source of life and sustenance since it was the waters of the Nile that watered their crops and gave them water that was necessary for drinking, cleaning, and bathing.
b. But now that life-giving water carried nothing but death.
c. To strike the Nile, also was to impact the heart of their diet of fresh fish.
3. The story continues: 20 Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt. (Ex. 7:20-21)
4. Just imagine how the Egyptian people must have felt – their source of water was gone, as was a main source of their food.
a. Imagine, seven days and seven nights without grocery stores and without your source of water!
5. It is interesting to note that Pharaoh’s priests were able to duplicate this plague, but they were unable to reverse it.
6. This plague affected both Egypt and Israel.
7. How did Pharaoh respond? The Bible says: Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. (Ex. 7:22-23).
B. The Plague of Frogs
1. Seven days later, the Bible says: 1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 2 If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country with frogs. 3 The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. 4 The frogs will go up on you and your people and all your officials.'” (Ex. 8:1-4)
2. Can you imagine this! I like frogs, but not like this!
a. Can you imagine frogs in your cupboards, frogs in your sink, in your closet, even in your bed! Frogs all over you – yuck!
3. This plague targeted the god Heqet.
a. She was a frog headed goddess and represented resurrection of the dead, and fertility.
b. Frogs were also considered a blessing to the Egyptians, because the frogs would eat the flies that often troubled the land, but God turned that “blessing” into a curse.
4. Again, Pharaoh’s priests were able to duplicate this plague, but were unable to reverse it.
5. Pharaoh asked Moses to have God take away the frogs and said he would let the Israelites go.
6. Moses told Pharaoh to set the time for them to be gone. God took away the frogs at the appointed time (the next day) but with the pressure off, Pharaoh changed his mind.
7. Again, this plague affected both Egypt and Israel.
C. The Plague of Gnats
1. Interestingly, this third plague arrived unannounced.
a. The first two plagues were preceded by an announcement from Moses and Aaron, but not this one.
b. Actually, when we look at all the plagues, we notice that every third plague came without warning.
2. The Bible says: 16 Then 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.” 17 They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came upon men and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. (Ex. 8:16-17)
3. “Gnat” is a word that describes a biting, stinging insect that penetrates the nostrils and ears of its victims.
a. They are like our “May Flies” or “black flies” – they can drive you crazy!
4. This plague targeted the god Khepri who was the God of beetles and flies.
5. The Bible tells us that Pharaoh’s priests tried but could not duplicate this plague.
6. They told Pharaoh that this was “the finger of God”, but Pharaoh’s heart remained hard.
7. This plague affected both Egypt and Israel, but every plague after this one would only affect the Egyptians. God would protect His people while He plagued the Egyptians – if that’s not a convincing proof of God’s power, I don’t know what is!
D. The Plague of Flies
1. The Bible says: 20 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the water and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 21 If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, and even the ground where they are.
22 “‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land. 23 I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This miraculous sign will occur tomorrow.'” (Ex. 8:20-23)
2. The Swarm.sounds like a horror movie title!
3. This plague again targeted the god Khepri who was the God of beetles and flies
4. Pharaoh was warned in advance of this plague.
5. As I mentioned, this time, God did not allow Israel to be affected.
6. Pharaoh’s priests didn’t even try to duplicate this plague.
7. Pharaoh told Moses he would let the Israelites go if Moses could get God to take away the flies. 8. But after experiencing relief, Pharaoh changed his mind again.
E. The Plague of Livestock
1. The Bible says: 1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” 2 If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, 3 the hand of the LORD will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field-on your horses and donkeys and camels and on your cattle and sheep and goats. 4 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.'”
5 The LORD set a time and said, “Tomorrow the LORD will do this in the land.” 6 And the next day the LORD did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. 7 Pharaoh sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go. (Ex. 9:1-7)
2. God had already removed the supply of fish, now there would be no red meat or milk.
3. This targeted the god Apis.
a. The Egyptians felt that when Apis was well the livestock was well.
b. This plague affected horses, donkeys, camels, cattle and sheep.
c. All these animals were essential to the life in Egypt. Cattle especially were seen as a symbol of wealth.
4. Miraculously, none of the Hebrew livestock were harmed.
5. Pharaoh even sent men to investigate, but his heart remained hardened.
F. The Plague of Boils
1. The Bible says: 8 Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. 9 It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on men and animals throughout the land.”
10 So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on men and animals. 11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. (Ex. 9:8-11)
2. If you have ever had a boil, then you don’t ever want to have one again.
a. While in college, I had a boil on my thigh, and it was so painful.
b. When the doctor lanced it, there was such a release of pressure that I almost fainted.
3. This plague targeted the god Imhotep who was the physician god.
a. He was also worshiped by the Romans and Greeks as the God of medicine.
4. It is a bit comical to me that the priests could not even heal themselves.
5. Pharaoh’s heart remained hard with God’s assistance.
G. The Plague of Hail
1. The Bible says: 13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, 14 or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.
18 Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. 19 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 man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.'” (Ex. 9:13-14; 18-19)
2. This plague targeted the goddess Nut who was Goddess of the Sky, represented as the vault of the heavens.
3. This plague affected every plant, tree, and living thing in Egypt.
4. Even some of Pharaoh’s officials heeded the warning and brought in their slaves and livestock. 5. This plague finally opened a crack in Pharaoh’s hard shell, but only temporarily.
6. The Bible says: 27 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.” (Ex. 9:27-28)
7. Moses was skeptical, with good reason, and Pharaoh again changed his mind.
H. The Plague of Locusts
1. The Bible says: 3 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. 4 If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow. 5 They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen. They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree that is growing in your fields. 6 They will fill your houses and those of all your officials and all the Egyptians-something neither your fathers nor your forefathers have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now.'” (Ex. 10:3-6)
2. If you are a farmer, then the worst thing you can see is locust invading your fields – they have an insatiable appetite.
3. Notice how that as these plagues progressed, God basically wiped out every part of the Egyptian diet – fish, livestock, and now crops.
4. This plague targeted the god Seth, who was god of the desert, storms, and chaos.
5. Pharoah’s priests begged him to let the Hebrews go.
6. Pharaoh again admitted he was wrong, and agreed to let the Hebrews go, but he changed his mind after the locust left.
I. The Plague of Darkness
1. The Bible says: 21 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt-darkness that can be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. 23 No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived. (Ex. 10:21-23)
2. Can you imagine the oppressive effect this must have had on everyone – especially after all they had been through!
a. This was a darkness that could not be penetrated by a candle or lamp – it was a darkness you could feel against your skin.
3. It is a rare experience to be somewhere that is completely dark. I had that experience once in Howe Caverns when they turned out the lights – it was utter blackness, you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face!
4. It must have felt like blindness or death.
5. This plague targeted many gods: including – Ra the most powerful of the sun gods and Horus who was god of the sky.
6. Pharoah wanted to let them go but changed his mind when Moses demanded to be allowed to take their livestock with them.
a. The livestock was needed not only to sustain life but also for worship.
J. The Bible records the final words that Pharaoh and Moses uttered to each other at this point in the story: 28 Pharaoh said to Moses, “Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.”
29 “Just as you say,” Moses replied, “I will never appear before you again.”
1. And that’s the way it turned out – Moses was summoned once more by Pharaoh after the death of the firstborn sons of Egypt, and Pharaoh begged him to leave and begged him to bless him.
2. Next week, Lord willing, we will look at the final plague.
II. The Application
A. So what can and should we apply to our lives from today’s part of the story of Moses?
1. I believe that there are two major truths that we should take to heart from this part of the story.
2. First, we should take to heart the fact that when God judges, He does a thorough job of it.
a. God knows how and when to judge. He is perfect in His judgment.
3. Second, we should take to heart the fact that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
B. Judgment day is coming for all of us, and we must take that very seriously.
1. Hebrews 9:27 says, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”
2. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
3. Acts 17:31 says, “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
C. God has told us that He is a jealous God. He will not tolerate us putting other gods before Him.
1. As we will see when we get to Exodus 20, the very first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3)
2. Jesus put it like this: 37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Mt. 10:37-39)
D. We are called by God to serve Him, first and foremost, and to not allow anyone or anything to become a rival god.
1. God did not tolerate the idolatry of Egypt, nor the idolatry of Israel, and he won’t tolerate it in us either.
2. Do any of us have an idol in our lives right now?
3. Is there anything that we place on a pedestal that is higher than Jesus Christ or more important than our service to him?
4. If we are not careful, we can be serving the god of recreation and entertainment.
5. If we are not careful, we can be serving the god of family as we put the wishes of parents, mates, or children ahead of God.
6. If we are not careful, we can be serving the god of finances and worldly possessions.
7. If we are not careful, we can be serving the god of pleasure.
8. There are many gods we can be serving, but only one we should be serving.
E. I do not picture God as a dictator, or tyrant, who stands with a whip in his hand ready to lash out against us the first time we sin.
1. God does not take pleasure in correcting his children any more than you or I do when we have to discipline our own children.
2. But God loves us too much to allow us to remain in sin and He will bring judgment whenever necessary to bring us back into obedience to His will while there is still time to repent.
F. The plagues should teach us that God is not someone to be toyed with.
1. The plagues should teach us that it is a fearful thing for God to pour out His wrath on us.
2. God is someone we should stand in awe and fear of.
3. God is someone we should be quick to obey.
G. On the positive side, the plagues teach us that God is also able to bless.
1. As God was pouring out His judgment on Egypt, he was blessing and protecting His people.
2. Things may have been terrible in Egypt, but they were wonderful in Goshen.
3. Nothing is more serious and sobering than the wrath of God.
4. And nothing is more wonderful and joyful than the blessing of God.
5. This is for sure: no one will want to be in hell, and everyone will be thankful to be in heaven.
H. Let me end with two questions:
1. Are you standing in awe of God today?
2. Are you living obediently before your God today?
3. There are no more important questions than those!
Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication, by Charles Swindoll, Word Publishing, 1999
Yahweh Takes On the Gods of Egypt, Sermon by Ed Vasicek, SermonCentral.com
The Plagues of Egypt, Sermon by Brian Menear, SermonCentral.com