IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




The Lord Teaches Who He Is

Date: Jul. 25, 2021

Author: Bob Henkins

Exodus 7:8-8:19

Key Verse: Exodus 7:17

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.

Good morning and welcome back to our study of Exodus. This is our seventh message on the book with the theme of “Getting to know God.” Exodus tracks the life of Moses as God calls, and trains, him to be the leader of his people. So far in the book, we’ve seen how God's love for his people is not dependent on our love for him. In the first chapter, we find that God is with his people even though they don’t know much about him. And in chapter two, we meet Moses who was born into one of the most hostile and deadly times for baby boys. However, he is saved by the grace of God and even Moses' name reminds him of his salvation, as it means “drawn out of the water” as he is rescued from his basket floating on the Nile by an Egyptian princess and raised in the palace. And then in chapter three, we get the great introduction as God personally introduces himself to Moses through the burning bush. In chapter four we see Moses’ reluctance to obey God as he calls him into service to rescue his people from Pharaoh’s bondage. And yet God was full of grace toward Moses even when the Lord was angry with him. Then in chapters five and six, we see Moses and Aaron confront Pharaoh for the first time, demanding that the king let God’s people go. Pharaoh refuses and intensifies the slavery. The Israelites cry out, but God's plan to free and redeem His people has finally been set into motion. And then at the end of chapter six and the beginning of seven, we see God tirelessly, but patiently, carrying out his plans and fulfilling his promises as he begins to reveal himself to all people. We learn that God is working all the time, everywhere and weaving it into his story. That’s a short recap to get us to the point where we are in the story this morning. We’re going to cover the last part of chapter seven and the beginning of eight where we going to see how the Lord teaches Pharoah, and all people, who he is. 

If I may be so bold, I think everyone likes a good magic trick, well at least I do. I love to watch guys like David Copperfield, David Blaine, Chris Angel, Penn and Teller, Houdini, and the list goes on and on. Some of their tricks are just mind blowing that leave you wondering how’d they, do it? Like when David Copperfield (11 Guinness world records) made the Statue of Liberty disappear (made half of himself invisible) or Penn & Teller’s bullet catch. [google them, they will blow your mind] So, it got me wondering “what is the oldest trick in the book?” One might think, the oldest trick in the book is more like the oldest trick on the wall. And it interestingly connects to our passage today because evidence of it was found in a painting on the wall inside an Egyptian burial chamber. The picture, dated as early as 2500 B.C., appears to show two men performing what’s known as “the cups and balls” trick and may be the earliest record of a magic performance. However, that is not the oldest trick in the book. What is even more interesting because it connects even more to our passage today, according to magician/historian Bill Spooner, the “lota bowl trick” is the oldest known prop trick which dates back to around 3000 B.C. Maybe you’ve seen it before, this trick involves a bowl or pitcher that can magically refill itself over and over after being emptied. [And since the Exodus happened around the mid 1400’s - 1446 B.C. I’m just sayin …] Anyway, I’m talking about magicians because there are a couple of them that appear in the text. And they are going to do battle with Moses and Aaron for the heart and mind of Pharaoh. [pray]

This next section of Exodus is arguably one of the most famous stories in the Bible. We are going to cover the first three of the ten plagues God will pour out on the nation of Egypt to convince their king, Pharaoh, to let God’s people go. It is one of the most epic battles ever fought. And through it, God is going to teach, with hands on lessons, exactly who he is. This is God’s coming out party to Pharaoh, the Egyptians, the Israelites, and to the whole world. Moses, as we know, was a reluctant man, he had no idea what God was planning to do. And he would soon find himself in the middle of some of the craziest experiences in history. Let’s see how it all begins.

Part 1 - Aaron’s Staff Becomes a Snake

Let’s take a look at verses 8-13. “8 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: 12 Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.” Its interesting to note that God knew that Pharoah was going to ask for a miracle. Moses’ first visit to the palace was free, most common people wouldn’t even get that much, but to see Pharaoh again it was going to cost him. Moses was going to have to prove what he was saying was true. And that is exactly what God was counting on. You see, Pharoah was the kind of person that needed proof of God. [maybe he was from Missouri the show me state] He wasn’t going to simply take Moses’ word for it. For many people worshiped Pharoah as a god himself, and so if he was going to listen to Moses, then Moses is going to have to prove that his god is greater than the gods Pharoah knows. But the problem with people who demand some kind of sign or proof, is that even if you show them, they still usually don’t accept it. Basically, they’re not REALLY interested in finding out the TRUTH, they’re using it as an excuse not to believe.

In these verses we see a contrast between Moses and Pharaoh. Moses does everything “just as the Lord commanded” and Pharaoh hardens his heart and refuses to listen. This is one of the basic differences between them. So, Moses has a steep hill to climb to change Pharaoh’s attitude. Not only that, but Pharaoh also has some pretty influential people on his side. It’s here we’re introduced to the Egyptian magicians. [I like the sound of that] Paul recorded for us the names of the magicians that opposed Moses. He described them as “7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected.” (2 Tim 3:7-8) So we can already see that Pharaoh, Jannes, and Jambres are on the same team, and they’re pretty powerful. I’ve read that they either used illusion, like the ones I mentioned earlier, which was basically like a magic show with sleight of hand, where they were good at fooling people. Or they could have been into the occult and tapped into demonic power. Or a combo of both, but whatever the source of their power, they were good enough to convince Pharaoh.

In this incident, Aaron and the Magicians both turn their staffs into snakes. Or at least there is the illusion that it is done. Moses, from his account, God told him that he would do it and it happened. As far as what I’ve read, is that it is possible for snake charmer, Cobras especially, which were represented in Egypt’s history, they have very ancient methods to rub a certain spot on the neck that would put the snake into a state called catalepsis where it would become as stiff as a staff. This state could last as long as a day. So, it would have been possible for them to imitate Aaron but then something happened that they didn’t account for, Aaron’s snake was more powerful and ate theirs up. How did this affect Pharaoh? It’s in verse 13 that we see the first incident of Pharaoh hardening his heart. God had mentioned 2 times earlier that he was going to harden Pharaoh’s heart (4:21, 7:3). My study bible has an interesting note on this: In Exodus, nine times it says that God would harden Pharaoh’s heart and another nine times Pharoah hardens his own heart. In the first 5 plagues, it says Pharoah hardened his own heart, but on the 6th plague it says that God hardened Pharoah’s heart.

Part 2 - The Plague of Blood

The first plague to occur was the plague of blood. Let’s take a look at verses 14 to 24. “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 river. Confront him on the bank of the Nile, 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 wilderness. 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.’” 19 The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.” 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. 22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and 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. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.” The Egyptians depended upon the Nile. It was everything to them, even life itself.  Soon God would take away what they depended on. As Pharaoh went down to the river for his morning bath he was confronted by Moses. With the tap of Aaron’s staff, blood would be everywhere in Egypt. The sensible thing to do would have the magicians change the blood back into water but the magicians couldn’t do it. They could make more blood, but not get rid of it which was not very helpful.

Some think that each plague was loosely an attack against some Egyptian god. For example, Hapi- Egyptian god of the Nile (was a water bearer). Heket- Egyptian goddess of Fertility, Water, Renewal (had the head of a frog). Geb- Egyptian god of the Earth (was over the dust of the earth), Khepri- Egyptian god of creation, movement of the Sun, rebirth (had the head of a fly), Ra- The Sun god. etc. I’m not sure if this was so but it’s interesting to think about. Remember in the beginning I mentioned the “lota bowl trick” I think I know how they pulled it off. The way the lota bowl works is that it is like a thermos. In a thermos there is an inner sleeve that is a vacuum to keep things cold/hot. But the lota bowl’s vacuum can be filled with liquid. Then there is a hole poked inside so that the liquid can leak into the bowl. That way when you pour it out, it will fill up slowly again. So, all they would have to do is fill that space with blood and then fill up the bowl with water. And then after they pour out the water, the bowl would fill up with blood and (boom) you have water to blood. Since the Egyptians didn’t have water to drink, they had to did channels along side the Nile so that they could get some water to drink.

Part 3 - The Plague of Frogs

After the bloody incident, the Lord ups the ante and sends another plague. Take a look at verses 25 to 15. “25 Seven days passed after the Lord struck the Nile.  8 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 send a plague of frogs on your whole country. 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 come up on you and your people and all your officials.’” 5 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’” 6 So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. 7 But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt. 8 Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.” 9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honor of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.” 10 “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said. Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the Lord our God. 11 The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.” 12 After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the Lord about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. 13 And the Lord did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. 14 They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.” I took a look at some of the frogs native to the Nile delta and some of them could get pretty big. Imagine what it must have been like for all those frogs everywhere you were, in your house, your bed, your oven and even where you prepare your food. Just getting out of bed could be an adventure not knowing if you were going to squish one as you put your foot on the floor. And once again, the magicians could make more frogs, but not get rid of them. Not the best scenario. You’d hope that they could remove them, but they couldn’t. Often, people are open to what you say, until there is a change in the situation. God gives us messages during our life, but often we don’t always listen until we have some sort of problem that we cry out to God for help. It is interesting that when Moses asked Pharoah when he wanted to remove the frogs, he said tomorrow. Why? Why not now? Was this delayed repentance? Did he want to spend more time with the frogs? Delayed repentance reveals how strong of a grip sin has upon us. (P. Jeff Gospel City Church) When they finally got rid of all the frogs, yet the land still reeked of them. (v8:14) Sin is very much like this. When we repent of our sin, God forgives us. All is forgiven, but we still have to deal with the natural consequences of our sin. And the longer we wait to deal with our sin, the worse the natural consequences will be. We need to think about the long-term consequences of our actions.

Those who cry out to God in times of need and forget about him as soon as the emergency passes are taking advantage of God’s mercy. God’s kindness is intended to lead us to repentance. “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.” 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Rom 2:4) Maybe because Pharaoh took advantage of God’s mercy, is the reason that God doesn’t warn Pharaoh about the next plague, he just sent it.

Part 4 - The Plague of Gnats

This leads us to the next plague, the plague of gnats. Let’s take a look a look at verses 16 to 19.

“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 on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. 18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. Since the gnats were on people and animals everywhere, 19 the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said.” The bottom line is that gnats are annoying. And there isn’t a whole lot that you can do about them. You can swat at them but that doesn’t do much. I know in Florida they have what they call “Noseeums”, tiny flying insects so small that you can’t see them, hence the name. They can go right through screens, so they are hard to keep out. And they bite, so they are really annoying. The best you can hope for is a slight breeze that way they are blown away. If you notice, each plague is increasing in intensity. There was one snake, then blood everywhere but it wasn’t moving (that would be terrifying), then frogs but at least they would only be on the ground, and now gnats which were as numerous as the dust of the ground. Through this plague God is showing them that there’s no magic that can equal God’s power. This was the first plague the magicians could do nothing about.  We never hear from them again. They realize that they can’t compete with Moses.

It’s interesting that they are the ones to say that this is the finger of God. Pharaoh’s own people see this as a serious problem. If gnats were the finger of God, I wonder his whole hand looks like. The magicians acknowledge this plague as a supernatural event, beyond their human control. They don’t even try to rationalize it away with some natural event, like the gnats came from the rotting frog carcasses. And how does Pharaoh react? At the end of verse 19, Pharaoh’s hard heart is on display again. The magician’s warning don’t phase him. It only prompts him to harden his already stubborn heart. Pharaoh’s problem is not that he doesn’t have enough evidence. Pharaoh’s problem is not that he doesn’t have enough knowledge. Pharaoh’s problem is a corrupt heart. Notice the phrase, “as the Lord had said”. That phrase is used to accompany an affirmation of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart so that the reader will know that things are happening just as the Lord said it would happen.

We might wonder, why did God choose his first two plagues or miracles, knowing that the Egyptian magicians could replicate them? Again, I’m not really sure, but some theories that I’ve read about are: Maybe God wanted to give the Egyptians a false sense of security and at the same time boost the morale of the Israelites with his victories. Or maybe, when God defeated the false miracles of the Egyptians with his real miracles, they would stand out more and shine brighter. Or maybe God wanted to confront and defeat various Egyptian gods on their home turf thus proving he was greater than all of them.

While all these could be true, I think that God was teaching Pharoah, the Egyptians and the Israelites about his existence and who he is. You can know OF someone and not really know them personally. In verse 7:17 we see that it says, “by this you will know that I am the Lord.” In Genesis, we come to know God as the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and everything in them. He is sovereign over all creation, and he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. But he is the god of one person Abraham, and then it expands to one family. In Exodus, he expands further, and we come to know God as the god of one nation and especially through our series theme “Getting to know God” we are seeing different facets of him. And through his each of the plagues/miracles we see God exerting his power over various things, water, insects, reptiles. 

While all these could be true, I think that God was teaching Pharoah, the Egyptians and the Israelites about his existence and who he is. You can know OF someone and not really know them personally. In verse 7:17 we see that it says, “by this you will know that I am the Lord.” In Genesis, we come to know God as the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth and everything in them. He is sovereign over all creation, and he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. But he is the god of one person Abraham, and then it expands to one family. In Exodus, he expands further, and we come to know God as the god of one nation and especially through our series theme “Getting to know God” we are seeing different facets of him. And through his each of the plagues/miracles we see God exerting his power over various things, water, insects, reptiles.

Evidence of God’s existence is out there, if you want to see it. God says throughout the Bible, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut 4:29) The problem is, people know God is there, but they reject him for a myriad of reasons, but maybe because they don’t want to be accountable to anyone. And God gives us free will, he’s not going to push himself on us so it’s up to us to accept him into our lives. We see this playing out in our passage. God used Moses to introduce God to Pharaoh, but Pharaoh hardened his heart towards God. Pharaoh goes back and forth a little, in the beginning there might be a little hope, but as things progress, he continues to harden his heart more and more until we see a shift and then God begins to harden Pharaoh’s heart. But what does it really mean that God hardened Pharoah’s heart? Is God forcing the situation? We might be tempted to think, “God is like a dictator forcing us to do things.” While God does have the power to do that, he doesn’t. Remember, God gives us free will to choose, but once we choose, he could strengthen us in our choice. And that’s what’s happening here to Pharaoh. Since he time after time hardens his heart against God, God begins to confirm and strengthen Pharoah’s willful action. And that what Paul meant by “God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts.” God’s like, “You want that, ok you got it. Here it is, but be careful what you ask for.” And Pharoah will learn how dangerous his choice was because when we follow our sinful desires, they lead to destruction and eventually death. In the end, whether we accept God or reject him, Pharaoh, the Egyptians, all people will come to know who God is, for every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. (Php 2:10-11) Just as God used signs and wonders to bring the slaves out of Egypt and save the Israelites, God will use signs and wonders to bring sinners (slaves to sin/death/Satan) out of bondage and save his children and give them eternal life through his so Jesus.

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