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Plagues to Humble

The Gospel According to Exodus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  48:38
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We are turning pages in the book of Exodus—we’re flying through Exodus…only 30 chapters to go after today!
If you have your Bible (and I hope you do), please turn with me to Exodus 9-10 (page 99 in the red pew Bible in front of you). Keep the text open in front of you as we look at these two plagues together this morning.
There is so much similarity in the format of these plagues—Plagues #7 and 8—we’re going to look at them side-by-side, and see what the Lord is doing.
Turns out the Lord is up to something, then and there in Egypt and here and now in our lives.
The Lord is dealing with Pharaoh and the Egyptians with these plagues, striking them with these judgments. He doesn’t stop with one or two. He’s gonna smack them with ten.
These are Plagues 7 & 8. And they are rough: the worst hailstorm in history and a whole mess of locusts.
These are plagues meant to humble.
>As we look at these two plagues side-by-side, we see that they have the same driving force, the same ultimate purpose as one another (and as the other plagues).
The plague of hail:
Exodus 9:13 NIV
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,
The plague of locusts:
Exodus 10:3 NIV
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.
The ultimate purpose, the driving force behind these two plagues is the worship of the Lord. Biblically, one could argue that this is the reason the Lord does everything He does.
The people of the Lord are meant to worship the Lord. And as long as Pharaoh holds onto them, refusing to let them go, the people of the Lord can’t worship as they are meant to worship.
Pharaoh is stubborn. What’s more, Pharaoh thinks himself more persistent, more stubborn than the Lord! That’s hilarious.
Pharaoh thinks he will have his way, no matter what anyone else—including the Lord—wants.
“Whoops-a-daisy, there Pharaoh. You are woefully mistaken.”
The Lord will have His way, always. In this case, He will have nothing less than the unconditional release and freedom of His people so that they can worship Him.
>The Lord makes His purpose very clear. His reason for these plagues is stated at the outset of both:
Exodus 9:16 NIV
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.
Exodus 10:1–2 NIV
1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them 2 that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the Lord.”
Do you see what He’s doing?
He’s doing all this for the praise of His name. He has the end result in mind. He has goals.
These are His goals for the plagues:
That He might show His power
That His name might be proclaimed in all the earth
That His people would tell their children and grandchildren about His power and authority
The Lord has worked miraculously and has (miraculously) not wiped Pharaoh off the face of the earth, so that He might show His power.
Check! Done and done. Well before the plagues of hail or locust, the Lord has shown His power. Water into blood, frogs, gnats, flies, dead livestock, festering boils.
The Lord is using these plagues, using Pharaoh, using the Egyptians so that His name—the name of the Lord Yahweh—would be proclaimed in all the earth.
And boy, if plagues weren’t an effective way to accomplish this!
The Lord wanted to be worshipped around the world. And what better way to make that happen than to send the Egyptians plague after plague, saving His people from and through the plagues?
God’s people never forgot God’s triumph over Pharaoh—how could they? But they weren’t the only ones who would speak down throughout the years, recounting what the Lord had done.
Word of the plagues spread to the surrounding nations.
Later in the history of God’s people, in the book of Joshua, when the Gibeonites meet with Joshua, they will speak of the fame of the Lord your God. They will say that they have heard reports of Him, all that He did in Egypt.
Much later, the Philistines said of the Lord when up against His people: “We’re doomed! Who will deliver us…[Their God] is the one who struck the Egyptians with all kinds of plagues...”
Much, much later, Paul praises God for the plaguing of Pharaoh, using it to highlight God’s Sovereignty.
The plagues made God famous. The plagues were part of God’s missionary purpose to glorify His name in all the earth.
This, why we sing: “Let heaven and nature sing, let heaven and nature sing, let heaven and nature sing.”—that God’s name would be proclaimed in all the earth is the point of the plagues.
That God’s name would be proclaimed in all the earth is our task, our commission, our goal. This is our missionary mandate. This is why we preach, this is why we make disciples, this is why we go and support those who go to the ends of the earth.
The Lord’s third-stated reason for the plagues: that His people would tell [their] children and grandchildren all about Him and what He has done.
What a story to tell your children and grandchildren!
My Grandma Lindy was a nationally-ranked storyteller. When Bethany and I stayed with Grandma she’d tell us stories before nap time and before bedtime. My mom had several siblings, all of whom were great story fodder and occupied the starring roles in Grandma’s stories.
I’d climb into bed, Grandma would come sit on the edge, and I’d make my request: “Uncle Lee!” or “Aunt Sandye!” Grandma would pause for a moment, loading the memory, and regale me with a story the childhood of whichever family member I selected.
Imagine if your mom/dad/grandma/grandpa was among the Israelites who lived through the plagues in Egypt. You’d set up in bed and say: “The one about the frogs!” or “Locusts!” and listen, over and over, as the Lord’s miraculous work in Egypt was recounted to you.
In a way, it’s almost like we’ve been sitting at our Great-Great-Great-Great Grandpa Moses’ feet over the last month, listening to stories about the Lord’s power.
The plagues are meant to lead us to worship; the plagues are meant to humble.
You’d think Pharaoh would understand this, having seen firsthand the power of the Lord. But Pharaoh can’t see this; his heart is hard and exceedingly prideful.
In his mind (and the mind of all the Egyptians), Pharaoh is deity, Pharaoh is supreme, Pharaoh controls all things.
Now that He’s up against the One true and only God, well, Pharaoh’s pride has been taking quite the beating.
>Here again, the Lord says, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me,
Exodus 9:14 NIV
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.
So that you may know there is no one like me in all the earth.
If Pharaoh didn’t know by now that there was no one like the Lord in all the earth, he was about to understand (to some degree) that not even Pharaoh was a match for the Lord Yahweh.
The Lord is doing all of this to humble Pharaoh.

It’s humbling to admit that there is no one like the Lord.

In case you, like me, are tempted to believe that this has no direct application, no bearing on your life—you’d better lookout.
We probably aren’t as brazen or as direct as Pharaoh in asserting our deity, our authority, but in practice, we live as if we are the kings and queens of our lives. When in truth, there is no one like the Lord, not one who can compare.
Or, worse yet, how often do we look to something or someone beside the Lord or in addition to the Lord to do what only He can do, to give what only He can give?
The Lord is about to do something in Egypt before Pharaoh that only the One true God—the One who controls the Universe—is able to do.
This was going to be the hardest strike against Egypt yet—what God called “the full force of my plagues.”
The Lord tells Pharaoh (v. 15):
Exodus 9:15 NIV
15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth.
Pharaoh’s pride gets in the way of him understanding the truth that the Lord held his very life and the lives of all those in Egypt in His mighty hand.

It’s humbling to realize the Lord could wipe us off the face of the earth.

There’s a purpose for the plagues and it’s not to annihilate the Egyptians at the first sign of their resistance.
The Lord who could wipe them off the earth could have snapped His fingers and been done with Pharaoh. With a word, the Lord could have said—“Enough”—and disappeared the Egyptians for good.
The Lord is showing His power over all creation by executing these plagues, though He could have been rid of Pharaoh long ago.
Dr. Gene Cannata, the doctor who delivered me, ended up becoming the step-father of my classmate and good friend, Adam. In grade school and Junior High, I spent a lot of time at Adam’s house and with his family.
On a handful of occasions, Dr. Cannata would borrow a line and tell me, in an effort to get me to behave: “I brought you into this world and I’ll take you out!”
I don’t think he was serious, and I never put much stock in it, but it made me think: “How, exactly, might he take me out of the world?”
Exodus 9:15 NIV
15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth.
This truth should humble Pharaoh, the knowledge that the Lord could, in fact, wipe him and everyone else off the face of the earth. It’s humbling to realize what the Lord can do.
The Lord is awesome in power. And Pharaoh has no real idea; he’s getting glimpses of the Lord’s omnipotence, one snapshot after another of the Almighty’s almighty power. But he doesn’t get it; his prideful, hard heart is preventing him from grasping the power of the Lord.
We, too, often forget Who it is we worship and by Whom we have life and breath.
“There is no power in hell, or any who can stand, before the power and the presence of the great I AM!”

It’s humbling to realize the Lord could wipe us off the face of the earth.

As I was preparing this sermon, a quote popped up on one of the ministry blogs I follow. Kevin DeYoung wrote this:
“A lot of us would be happier in life and we’d be holier in life if we could get in our heads and in our hearts this one, crucial bit of theology—God knows more than us.”
God knows more than us, He is more powerful than us; He is God and we are not.
This takes humility to admit; a humility that Pharaoh and, sadly, many others don’t possess.
>After the Lord expresses His purpose in sending the plagues, after a little understanding of Who He is and what He can do, the Lord announces what the plagues will be.
Exodus 9:17–19 NIV
17 You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. 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 person and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’ ”
Exodus 10:4–6 NIV
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 parents nor your ancestors have ever seen from the day they settled in this land till now.’ ” Then Moses turned and left Pharaoh.
After each plague’s announcement, we see a response:
Exodus 9:20–21 NIV
20 Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. 21 But those who ignored the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the field.
Exodus 10:7–11 NIV
7 Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?” 8 Then Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. “Go, worship the Lord your God,” he said. “But tell me who will be going.” 9 Moses answered, “We will go with our young and our old, with our sons and our daughters, and with our flocks and herds, because we are to celebrate a festival to the Lord.” 10 Pharaoh said, “The Lord be with you—if I let you go, along with your women and children! Clearly you are bent on evil. 11 No! Have only the men go and worship the Lord, since that’s what you have been asking for.” Then Moses and Aaron were driven out of Pharaoh’s presence.
In response to the word of the Lord:
Some people fear and take heed
Others outright ignore
Still others bargain
So it was in Egypt. So it is in the good ol’ U.S. of A. And so it is right here in Rich Hill. Some people fear, some people ignore, others bargain.

It takes humility to fear the word of the Lord and do what it says.

The plagues are working in the lives of some of Pharaoh’s officials. I find this exceedingly interesting. Some of them choose to believe the Lord Yahweh over their Pharaoh.
This is a good start, a good step of faith. This isn’t to say all those who brought their slaves and livestock inside were converted. But some of them probably were.
Fear does not always equate to reverence. Sometimes fear is just fear. They were afraid of what the Lord has already done and believe that He’s going to do what He says.
Sometimes fear is reverence. Sometimes fear/reverence can lead to faith. The Bible tells us that, after the last plague Israel skedaddled out of their slavery and many other people went up [out of Egypt] with [the Israelites]. At least some of these had to have been Egyptians who put their faith in the God of Israel.
It takes humility to fear the word of the Lord and do what it says.
Pride, on the other hand, tells us we don’t need to listen to anything anyone else says, least of all God.
“That’s all old fashioned, out of date, archaic religious stuff.”
“That might be what it meant then, but times have changed.”
“Did God really say?”
Pharaoh, upon hearing about the coming plague of locusts, bargains with Moses.
Instead of fearing the word of the Lord and doing what He says, Pharaoh bargains and compromises.
“How ‘bout just you Israelite men go and worship the Lord, and your women and children stay here?”
This is simply another way to ignore what God has clearly said.
There are two ways to respond to God:
By responding in humility, fearing His word, or by responding in pride, ignoring His word.
Salvation always comes by responding to God’s word by faith; believing the Good news about Jesus and receiving Him as Savior and Lord.
Ignoring God’s word means doing nothing in response to it, doing nothing with Jesus. And that, friends, is a bad move.
>The Lord is gracious in giving to Pharaoh and the Egyptians the opportunity to save their livestock and themselves by coming in before the hailstorm.
He seems to give them a moment to consider letting the Israelites go before He sends the locusts.
But, ultimately, the plagues strike Egypt. And hard.
Exodus 9:22–25 NIV
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that hail will fall all over Egypt—on people and animals and on everything growing in the fields of Egypt.” 23 When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the Lord sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt; 24 hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. 25 Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both people and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree.
Exodus 10:12–15 NIV
12 And the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over Egypt so that locusts swarm over the land and devour everything growing in the fields, everything left by the hail.” 13 So Moses stretched out his staff over Egypt, and the Lord made an east wind blow across the land all that day and all that night. By morning the wind had brought the locusts; 14 they invaded all Egypt and settled down in every area of the country in great numbers. Never before had there been such a plague of locusts, nor will there ever be again. 15 They covered all the ground until it was black. They devoured all that was left after the hail—everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees. Nothing green remained on tree or plant in all the land of Egypt.
The plagues hit, and hit with force and devastation. Only the livestock of those Egyptians who feared the word of the Lord were spared from the hail.
And, as before, all of the Lord’s people were spared.
Exodus 9:26 NIV
26 The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were.
Imagine Gary Lezak’s weather report: “A horrifying hailstorm in Egypt today, but there were clear skies in Goshen—boy, o boy, just a beautiful day!”
After the plague of hail and the plague of locusts, Pharaoh acts rather predictably:
Exodus 9:27–28 NIV
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.”
Exodus 10:16–17 NIV
16 Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the Lord your God and against you. 17 Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the Lord your God to take this deadly plague away from me.”
Pharaoh appears to be confessing his sinfulness and lack of obedience. But, friends, this is not true repentance; there is a huge difference between remorse and repentance.
Pharaoh’s bummed by the circumstance he finds himself in: “We’ve had enough thunder and hail…take this deadly plague away from me!”
This might be the first time Pharaoh has ever admitted he was wrong (9:27) but it doesn’t rise to the level of repentance.
Pharaoh merely regrets the consequences of his sin, not the sin itself. He doesn’t confess his sin to God, only to Moses. He mourns what’s happening to him, but doesn’t mourn the fact that he has sinned.
Even worse, when Moses prays and the Lord takes the plagues away, Pharaoh goes back to his old, prideful, hard-hearted ways.
Exodus 9:29–35 NIV
29 Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. 30 But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.” 31 (The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. 32 The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later.) 33 Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the Lord; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. 34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses.
Exodus 10:18–20 NIV
18 Moses then left Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord. 19 And the Lord changed the wind to a very strong west wind, which caught up the locusts and carried them into the Red Sea. Not a locust was left anywhere in Egypt. 20 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go.
Through Moses, the Lord works miraculously again and takes away the plagues—the hail stops and the locusts head due East.
Pharaoh’s false confession proves itself to be, well, false. Because, you see,

It takes humility to honestly confess our sinfulness.

The humble pray, repentantly, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The humble believe they’ve done wrong and need forgiven, else they perish.
The prideful believe that there’s nothing they need to confess, nothing about themselves they need to change. The prideful believe they’ve done nothing wrong, nothing for which they need to be forgiven.
>When these terrible plagues come, they come, not as random acts of nature, but rather deliberate acts of God’s justice.
God was judging Pharaoh for his sinful pride.
The Lord even asks Pharaoh, almost with a sense of astonishment: “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?”

It takes humility to come before the Lord.

The NT teaches this truth: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.”
With Charles Spurgeon preached on this passage, he said:
“Forget Pharaoh, and only think of yourself; let the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, with the thorn-crowned head and the nail-pierced hand, stand by your pew, looking right down into your soul [ask]: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?’”
>These are plagues to humble, to humble Pharaoh, to humble you and me.
Humility is worship. Worship is humility. We humble ourselves and humbly worship the One who humbled Himself, leaving glory above to dwell among us.
There really is no one in all the earth like our God. The One true God, wrapped in unapproachable light, gave up all that to be wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. The All-Powerful gave up His power in order to save us.
The plagues, the miracles of God, the incarnation—all meant to humble us.
Aren’t you humbled at all He’s done? Our response to Him is just that: humility.
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