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Exodus 9:13–14 CSB
13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh. Tell him: This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 14 For this time I am about to send all my plagues against you, your officials, and your people. Then you will know there is no one like me on the whole earth.
Pray
Memorable story
Not just fantastical story, there is a tremendous amount of meaning and purpose in this account. I want to unpack for you today.

1) The Purpose of the Plagues

God brought the plagues upon Egypt to humiliate the false Egyptian gods and bring glory to himself amongst the Egyptians, the Israelites and the whole world.

A) God’s glory amongst the Egyptians...

i) in His supremacy

Exodus 7:5 CSB
5 The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the Israelites from among them.”
Prologue to the plagues
Exodus 7:12 CSB
12 Each one threw down his staff, and it became a serpent. But Aaron’s staff swallowed their staffs.
Before the first plague, the Lord tells Moses to tell Pharaoh...
Exodus 7:17 CSB
17 This is what the Lord says: Here is how you will know that I am the Lord. Watch. I am about to strike the water in the Nile with the staff in my hand, and it will turn to blood.
When Moses let’s Pharaoh choose when the frogs will be taken away...
Exodus 8:10 CSB
10 “Tomorrow,” he answered. Moses replied, “As you have said, so that you may know there is no one like the Lord our God,
When God sends flies but they won’t be in Goshen, he says:
Exodus 8:22 CSB
22 But on that day I will give special treatment to the land of Goshen, where my people are living; no flies will be there. This way you will know that I, the Lord, am in the land.
Before the 7th plague of hail, when Moses speaks to Pharaoh he says:
Exodus 9:14 CSB
14 For this time I am about to send all my plagues against you, your officials, and your people. Then you will know there is no one like me on the whole earth.
And as Moses predicted the final plague to Pharaoh, he leaves his presence and the Lord tells Moses
Exodus 11:9 CSB
9 The Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”
It is obvious from our text that God was very interested in showing his supremacy in Egypt. But specifically how do the plagues do that?
Numbers 33:4 tells us that through the plagues God was executing judgment on the Egyptian gods
Indebted to good commentaries, especially Philip Ryken’s “Saved for God’s glory” / forgive my pronunciations
Nile - Hapi, Khnum, and Osiris, the gods of the Nile
Frogs - Heqet, the goddess of fertility
Gnats - earth-god Geb (By turning the dust into bugs, God was claiming authority over the very soil of Egypt and thus over the god of the ground). Plus as an interesting note, the Bible doesn’t tell us when this plague ended so one funny commentator said it could have BUGGED the Egyptians for a while...
Flies – Uatchit, Khepher or Beelzebub
Livestock – Buchis, Ptah, Ra, Apis, Isis, Hathor // like so many modern Hindus, the Egyptians loved their sacred cows. In fact, they seem to have worshiped the entire bovine family! Thus it is not surprising that when the Israelites later decided to rebel against the God of their salvation and return to the gods of Egypt, they made a golden calf (Exod. 32).
Boils - Sekhmet, a lion-headed goddess, was supposed to have had the power of both creating epidemics and bringing them to an end // much like our obsession with modern medicine, this plague reminds us that medicine makes a wonderful tool but a poor deity.
Hail - Shu, the god of the atmosphere, Nut, the sky goddess, Tefnut, god of moisture, or Seth who ruled the wind and storms.
Locusts - Isis (the goddess of life, who prepared flax for clothing), Nepri (the god of grain), Anubis (the guardian of the fields), and Senehem (the divine protector against pests)
Darkness - Amon-Re. Sunset represented death and the underworld, but the rise of Amon-Re offered the hope of resurrection. For the Egyptians, it was a matter of faith that the eternally rising sun could never be destroyed. Pharaoh was a sun worshiper. More than that, he was regarded as the Son of Re, the personal embodiment of the solar deity. When the Egyptians identified Pharaoh as the son of Amon-Re, they were worshiping a mortal man as the eternal god. For his part, Pharaoh was claiming attributes and prerogatives that belong to God alone. He was an anti-Christ, a blasphemous impostor claiming to be the Son of God
You might say all this sounds so foreign to today’s secular society...
The New York Times reported that on November 14 of this year, Emperor Naruhito [of Japan] will take part in a secret Shinto ritual where some experts in Shintoism say the emperor lies down with his ancestors and enters into spiritual communion with the gods. Others say he actually becomes a god, while another theory holds that he has a conjugal visit with the sun goddess.
Friends, this only proves that throughout history people have turned away from their knowledge of the creator God and worshiped the creation itself.
Romans 1:22–25 ESV
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
But there was one more plague that YAHWEH would perform to show his supremacy over the Egyptian gods:
Death - The god of the dead was Osiris, whose name meant “the Mighty One; or, he who has sovereign power.” His assistant was Anubis, the god of the underworld. Anubis supervised the embalming process and guided the dead during their passage to the afterlife. Anubis came in canine form, which may partly explain the reference to dogs in verse 7 of chapter 11
Exodus 11:7 CSB
7 But against all the Israelites, whether people or animals, not even a dog will snarl, so that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.
The Israelites would remain untouched by death, thus proving that Anubis held no power over them. Meanwhile, the death of Egypt’s sons would prove that Israel’s God was the Lord of life and death.
This was a thorough humiliation of the pantheon of the Egyptians. But it was also a demonstration of God’s divine justice over the evil oppression his people had faced.

ii) in His justice

In his effort to exterminate the Israelites, Pharaoh commanded the Hebrew midwives to kill Israel’s baby boys
When his evil plan failed, he ordered the infants to be thrown into the Nile
Punishment fits the crime - Nile gods & Heqet
When the plague of boils was brought to bear, God told Moses & Aaron
Exodus 9:8–10 CSB
8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of furnace soot, and Moses is to throw it toward heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. 9 It will become fine dust over the entire land of Egypt. It will become festering boils on people and animals throughout the land of Egypt.” 10 So they took furnace soot and stood before Pharaoh. Moses threw it toward heaven, and it became festering boils on people and animals.
John Currid writes, “The type of furnace spoken of here was probably a kiln for burning bricks. The furnace, then, was a symbol of the oppression of the Hebrews, the sweat and tears they were shedding to make bricks for the Egyptians. Thus the very soot made by the enslaved people was now to inflict punishment on their oppressors.”
Without a doubt, God was just and would be just to destroy every one of us for our sinful rebellion against him. It is only by his grace that any of us can be shielded from the terror of his swift judgment.
But in spite of his terrible judgment on Egypt, God also demonstrated his glory through his love for them.

iii) in His love

God graciously gave the Egyptians numerous warnings with increasing severity of his judgment. We’re going to see later that a “mixed company” of people (that included Egyptians) were delivered along with the Israelites and that some of the officials in Pharaoh’s court would begin to acknowledge God’s power and even fear His name and His word.
The Bible teaches us that God had a plan for the nation of Egypt too:
Jeremiah prophesied Egypt’s return to favor
Ezekiel promised Egypt’s return from their own exile
Isaiah wrote this in Isaiah 19...
Isaiah 19:19–20 ESV
19 In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. 20 It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt. When they cry to the Lord because of oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and deliver them.
In verse 25, God would even call Egypt “my people.”
Of course, all of these promises were fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the church, and Egyptians were among those that heard the apostles declare “the wonders of God” in their own language.
Although God displayed his glory in the Exodus plagues primarily through power and justice, he also demonstrated his the glory of his love and mercy to Egyptians at that time and throughout history.
But now secondly, let’s see how the purpose of the plagues was also to show

B) God ‘s glory amongst the Israelites...

In Ex. 8:1, 8:20, 9:1, 9:13, 10:3 God says to tell Pharaoh to let my people go that they may worship or serve me.
As many times as God said that the plagues were so that Egyptians would know that he is the LORD, he would repeatedly say that the plagues were so that the people of ISRAEL would worship him. So we say first that God’s glory was manifested amongst the Israelites was

i) for their worship/service

Exodus 8:1 CSB
1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh and tell him: This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.
The ESV says “so that they may serve me.”
These are both good translations of the Hebrew word “abad.” Interestingly, it’s the same word that is used in
Exodus 1:14 CSB
14 and made their lives bitter with difficult labor in brick and mortar and in all kinds of fieldwork. They ruthlessly imposed all this work on them.
CSB calls it labor and work, ESV calls it service and work
So the same root is translated, serve, work, labor and worship.
Ryken writes, “God was claiming his right to both their work and their worship. This is our purpose as well—to give God the glory. And as Christians today, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ has set us free from sin and death so that we can serve the living God. He is both our Savior and our Lord. We turn to him not only to deliver us from our slavery to sin, but also for everything that follows—a whole life of fruitful work and worship for God.
Israel was saved to WORSHIP/SERVE/WORK for God. So are we.
Luke 10:27 ESV
27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
But not only was Israel shown God’s glory in order that they might serve him, God’s glorious display was...

ii) for their families

Exodus 10:1–2 CSB
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 do these miraculous signs of mine among them, 2 and so that you may tell your son and grandson how severely I dealt with the Egyptians and performed miraculous signs among them, and you will know that I am the Lord.”
Ryken writes:
By sending his plagues against Pharaoh, God was giving his people a true story that answered all of life’s big questions:
who they were: the people of God
who God was: the Lord God of Israel, the God of all power and glory
where they came from: out of Egypt
where they were going: into the land of promise
what their purpose was: to bring God glory
We have a story to tell too - it is our greatest story - we were once enslaved, but the God of all glory delivered us from bondage to sin has given us everlasting life and the promise of heaven for eternity and joyful service in everything we do here on earth because we do it to bring glory and honor to Jesus.
So the plagues had a purpose for God’s glory amongst the Egyptians and amongst the Israelites. But I want us to see thirdly, that God’s glory would redound to the whole world.

C) God’s glory in the whole world...

First let’s see how God’s glory is made known in all the earth in his power.

i) in His power

Exodus 9:16 CSB
16 However, I have let you live for this purpose: to show you my power and to make my name known on the whole earth.
The Egyptians weren’t the only ones who were going to get a glimpse of God’s power. Word of the plagues spread to the surrounding nations. Moses writes:
Exodus 15:14–15 ESV
14 The peoples have heard; they tremble; pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia. 15 Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed; trembling seizes the leaders of Moab; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
Later in the Old Testament, when the Gibeonites met with Joshua
Joshua 9:9 ESV
9 They said to him, “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt,
And as some of you may already know from your studies in the book of Romans, Paul made it a point to remind the world of God’s sovereign power over Pharaoh. In fact, that is the second way that God’s glory is made known in all the earth in Exodus 9 - through his freedom in choosing to show grace to the Israelites and not to Pharaoh.

ii) in His freedom

In four weeks I’m going to preach a sermon about HOPE, and the HOPE we have in our Evangelistic efforts. It will be called “The Seeds are Protected - Hope in God's Sovereignty - Matthew 2:1-15 & Hosea 11:1 /
Friend, God has a people. You and I do not know who they are. Don’t try and play God and figure it out. Instead, why don’t we do what we’re told - which is to go into all the world and preach the good news that if you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection YOU WILL BE SAVED - aka YOU ARE ONE of GOD’s CHOSEN PEOPLE. God will take care of getting his seed out of Egypt. WE must be faithful to use the God-ordained means for making that happen - THE TELLING OF THE GOOD NEWS TO EVERYONE.
And when we do, Scripture tells us there will be one of four responses.
Jesus says that sharing the good news about the kingdom is like when a farmer scatters seed (indiscriminately - EVERYWHERE). Then he explains the parable like this.
Matthew 13:18–23 ESV
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Let’s take a look now very briefly at four responses to the plagues from Exodus.

2) Four Responses to the Plagues

A) Pharaoh (the path)

When the seventh plague of hail comes, Pharaoh makes a sort of false confession acknowledging sin (but just this one time) and saying he’d the Israelites go. But then notice how Satan snatches up any semblance of repentance:
Exodus 9:34–35 CSB
34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail, and thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his officials. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard, and he did not let the Israelites go, as the Lord had said through Moses.
Pharaoh’s heart was as hard as the well-worn path on which the seed falls.
Secondly, there are the Israelites who respond well when God saves them, bu then grumble in the wilderness.

B) Israelites who grumbled in the wilderness (the rocks)

Exodus 15:1–2 CSB
1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord. They said: I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted; he has thrown the horse and its rider into the sea. 2 The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
But just a couple chapters later, the Israelites quarrel against God...
Exodus 17:7 ESV
7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”
The writer of Hebrews says that many of the Israelites who started off praising God, ended up hardening their hearts and they ultimately were not allowed to enter the promised land because their faith was not genuine:
Hebrews 4:2 ESV
2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.
They sprung up quickly but did not have a genuine faith that lasted. But then a third response to the Plagues was the majority of the Egyptian People...

C) The Majority of the Egyptian People (the thorns)

The Egyptians had been shown over and over again that YAHWEH was more powerful than their false gods, and although some of the Egyptians did go with the Israelites to worship the true God (as we’ll see next), the majority did not. They would KNOW YAHWEH in the sense that they would know his power and wrath, and would be humbled by him, but they did not respond to God in faith. Perhaps they were like the thorny ground where the cares of this world choked out the truth of who God is. They would not humble themselves to join the faith of people who were their slaves. Oh they may have parted with some of their silver and gold, but they would not part with EGYPT. Somehow they mistakenly believed that it was because of their national identity or faithful allegiance to Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt that they had all the wealth in the known world. They probably thought it would be no big deal to give some of their wealth away because they saw the source of their great wealth and happiness as Egypt and not YAHWEH himself.
But the people who responded in faith and were like the good soil in the parable of the sower were...

D) Israelites who believed God’s promises, and “the EX.12:38 Egyptians” (the good soil)

Exodus 12:37–38 ESV
37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds.
This mixed multitude included Egyptians, maybe like the ones who feared the word of the Lord and brought their livestock into shelter. They had seen enough to know the true God, and they took him at his WORD. They experienced God’s deliverance from the hail and certain death. And you can experience God’s deliverance by faith today too.
Friend, we began today looking at God’s glorious supremacy. And if you recall we said that the prelude to the plagues was when Aaron’s staff swallowed up the other staffs. Swallowed up gets used again in Exodus 15 for describing what the Red Sea did to God’s enemies. But it’s also used in the New Testament to what God’s victory through Jesus did to our greatest enemy - death.
1 Corinthians 15:54–57 ESV
54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Will you believe God today and be saved from certain death and delivered to eternal life?
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