PART 4: Judgements in Exodus & Leviticus (5 studies)
Meditating on the Judgements of God:
4.1 The Exodus
Ex 4:21-23 The LORD said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, `This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your first-born son.’ “
The Exodus is both one major judgment and a number of lesser judgments all at the same time. To get the full picture you need to read chapters 5 & 6 for preliminaries and then 7 to 12 for the actual plagues. Let’s simply observe them and then make comment:
- The First Plague – Blood – Ex 7:14-18
- The Second Plague – Frogs – Ex 8:1-3
- The Third Plague – Gnats – Ex 8:16
- The Fourth Plague – Flies – Ex 8:20-23
- The Fifth Plague – Livestock – Ex 9:1-6
- The Sixth Plague – Boils – Ex 9:8-12
- The Seventh Plague – Hailstones – Ex 9:18-21
- The Eighth Plague – Locusts – Ex 10:1,2
- The Ninth Plague – Darkness – Ex 10:21-23
- The Tenth Plague – First born – Ex 11:1-5
Now first, the cause. At first sight it is simply a judgment on a despot who refuses to heed God’s call to let His people go, to let Israel go. It is that simple and that call comes again and again and Pharaoh’s refusal is a demonstration of a hard heart and a pride that goes with it. However, when one considers the state of Egypt we find that not only was it ruled over by an all-powerful despot, but it was incredibly superstitious, worshipping ‘gods’ of all kinds and some suggest that the plagues attack the fundamental believe in the (occult) powers of these ‘gods’ and included in that might be the belief in the deity of the Pharaoh.
We may be able to suggest, therefore, that the Lord was bringing judgment on each of these things and specifically used the presence of His people in Egypt as the stumbling block over which Pharaoh would fall. In that case it was a plan that had been made known over four hundred years earlier when the Lord spoke to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.” (Gen 15:13,14) This was no accident, something that caught the Lord by surprise. The Lord never made Israel stay in Egypt and in their early years there they could have easily returned to Canaan but perhaps their prosperity and well-being in Egypt kept them there psychologically.
The biggest two things to note about these plagues is that a) they were clearly spelt out to Pharaoh and his people and b) there is a gradual intensity in the power and effect of each developing ‘plague’. This has got to be the greatest example in history of God giving opportunity after opportunity to a people to repent. It is probably also, therefore, the greatest example in history of the crass stupidity of the despot and his people and may speak to the slave mentality that occultic activity and sin produces.
It underlines the Lord’s heart revealed through Ezekiel, “Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezek 18:23) and “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezek 18:32) and “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezek 33;11) A threefold declaration through the prophet! The plagues of the Exodus reveal a God who holds back and holds back destruction. He could have given one warning and then killed Pharaoh and then sent a plague to wipe out the rest of the country, but instead He chose to give them opportunity after opportunity to repent and be saved while Israel left them.
Listen to God’s intent: “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.” (Ex 6:6,7) Note the words, “Then you will know”. At the end of this there will be no grounds for doubt. God wants His people to know! (also 7:17, 10:2)
But there is more: “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, 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. 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.” (Ex 7:3-5) By the end of all of this the remnant that is Egypt will also KNOW! (see also 8:10,22, 9:14,29, 14:4,18)
Again and again in Scripture we see that the Lord’s intent is to reveal Himself through these things, so that people will know and turn to Him. His desire is to draw all men to himself in order that they may receive all of His blessings.