Wednesday, October 13, 2021

2021.10.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 7:14–25

Read Exodus 7:14–25

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Yahweh tell Moses in Exodus 7:14? To whom is Moses to go (Exodus 7:15)? When? Where? What should he take? Whom should he say sent him (Exodus 7:16)? What reason is he to give for letting the people go? Of what are they to accuse/charge him? In whose behalf is he supposed to speak again (Exodus 7:17)? What is He going to teach Pharaoh? How? What will happen to the fish (Exodus 7:18)? And the river? And the Egyptians? What does Yahweh tell Moses to do in Exodus 7:19? What is Aaron to do? Over what four things? What will happen to them? Where else will there be blood? How does Exodus 7:20 at first describe Moses’s and Aaron’s response? What detailed actions and what results? What happened to the fish (Exodus 7:21)? And to the river? And to the Egyptians? And to the land? Who else did similar (Exodus 7:22a)? With what results (verse 22b)? Why (verse 22c)? So how did Pharaoh ultimately respond (Exodus 7:23)? And what did the people have to do (Exodus 7:24)? For how long (Exodus 7:25)?

God is infinitely powerful and perfectly just. He displays that here by doing to Pharaoh and the Egyptians according to what Pharaoh had done in response to the initial demand to let them go to worship Yahweh. Pharaoh had refused to acknowledge Yahweh obediently (cf. Exodus 5:2), and had forced the Hebrews to make bricks without straw (cf. Exodus 5:6), which resulted in a mad scramble to gather stubble wherever they could (cf. Exodus 5:13). Now in our passage, Yahweh reverses this onto Pharaoh’s head, because Pharaoh has refused to hear the demand (Exodus 7:16). So Yahweh forces the Egyptians to make life without water (Exodus 7:19), which results in a mad scramble to gather up whatever however they can (Exodus 7:24). In fact, even the mechanism by which Pharaoh’s heart is hardened in Exodus 7:22 has a symmetry with chapter 5; there, Israelite taskmasters were forced to make things harder on the Israelites (cf. Exodus 5:15). And here, Egyptian magicians take from what little water Aaron hadn’t stretched his hand toward, and in order to confirm Pharaoh in his rebellion, proceed to foul up that good water themselves, denying it to the Egyptians (Exodus 7:22). The symmetry declares not only the power, but the justness of Yahweh’s sign.

God is making Himself known as the only true God. Various ancient texts even beyond the Bible attest that the Nile was viewed not only as the god Hapi, but as the one who gave birth to Egypt and nursed Egypt. By attacking the Nile, Yahweh is immediately humiliating Egypt at its (literal and metaphorical) core. Furthermore the “wood” and “stone” of Exodus 7:19 does not actually indicate buckets and pitchers as our English translation supplies; in Scripture (and in ancient Egypt), the combination of “wood and stone” is most often applied to idol images. According to one Jewish commentator, every morning the Egyptian priests washed the images of their gods; if so, the humiliation of Hapi had turned their ritual purification into humiliation and desecration (exactly the opposite, in this first plague, of when Jesus in His first miracle turns ritual purification into a covenantal substance of joy and blessing, cf. John 2:6–10). Pharaoh had refused to acknowledge Yahweh (Exodus 5:2); now Yahweh is making Himself to be known (Exodus 7:17a).

God is showing us our need of His grace. The language used of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus 7:14 also attacks Egypt at is core. In Exodus 7:13, “hard” means “tough,” the way we usually think of hardness. The word in Exodus 7:14 literally means “heavy”—probably an allusion to the Egyptian idea that when they died, their heart would be weighed against a mythological feather of truth and righteousness to see if they would go to the Egyptian afterlife or else be condemned and consumed by a devouring monster. This wicked superstition corresponds to a kernel of truth: it is appointed to man to die once and then after that the judgment (cf. Hebrews 9:27). But Pharaoh has no hope before the justice of God; his heart was already full of sin, and now God is giving him over to it and making it even heavier. This statement in Exodus 7:14 is not merely a description but a judgment. Let sinners know that left to themselves, their hearts will only become heavier with sin. If they are to find safety at the judgement, they must have atoning, regenerating, redeeming grace!

Exodus 7:20 is a reminder that Moses and Aaron are receiving that grace. They deserved to be given over to their sin, but instead they “did so, just as Yahweh had commanded.” We continue to hear this refrain, in direct contrast to how Moses had begun in unbelief and resistance. God’s grace had delivered them from the wrath they well deserved, and now God’s power is bent not on destroying them but delivering them from their enemies. Such is true with all whom God saves by undeserved (anti-deserved) grace. Revelation 16:3–4 describes the general wrath of God in images borrowed from this first plague. For all who are brought by grace into belonging to Yahweh and submitting to Him are delivered from His wrath and find that He exercises it not against us but on our behalf.

What oppression do you see that God will surely repay with complete and perfect justice? How does it help you respond rightly to remember that He will respond that way? Who will be made to acknowledge that Yahweh is God, and that Jesus is Yahweh? What will happen to all other “gods”? In what growing obedience in your own life can you see displayed the conquering power of God’s grace?

Sample prayer:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are the one, true, and living God. We adore Your infinite power, and the wisdom in which You choose when and how to display it. Truly, Your justice is perfect, and every evil will be exactly answered. Forgive us for when we are hard-hearted toward You, or when we feel that evil is too powerful or allowed to go unanswered. Grant, by Your grace, that we would do just as You have told us, with confidence that You will make Your glory known, which we ask in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH385 “The Lord Will Come and Not Be Slow”

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