Gnats and Flies

Exodus 8:16-32

We can easily get sidetracked, think big deal in this part of Exodus is that Pharaoh is bad guy and Hebrew children the victims. Then do victory dance when Pharaoh and henchmen get comeuppance. There, that’ll show them, go God!! But that wasn’t God’s way of thinking at all… purpose not to show up Pharaoh, humiliate in front of watching world. Same holds for other confrontations between sinful people and God. God had much bigger things in mind – remember, He knows the end from the beginning:

Isa. 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,”

Is God’s pleasure to be glorified in the redemption of his people, judgment of his enemies. In process of redeeming people from slavery, Pharaoh and magicians and people would all pay heavy price for unbelief and opposition ot God’s pleasure. Yet at same time, God demonstrated unbelievable mercy and grace… even to his enemies. Each plague an opportunity for Hebrew and Egyptian alike to acknowledge superiority of YHWH over all others, renounce worship of false gods and worship YHWH alone. Especially true since seems each plague ended before next began – imagine if not like that! plague upon plague until Egyptians were completely destroyed!

Instead, God used “the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” (1 Cor. 1:27) All the while, God unswervingly pursued his plan of redemption with cross of Christ in view. Proved with each plague that only in YHWH and his son Jesus Christ is there any hope for fallen sinners.

a. Introduction

no warning before plague of lice (16)

last plague of each triplet just came as God instructed Moses and Aaron, no warning or explanation to Pharaoh first

not certain what exactly they were – noseeums, midgies, lice, gnats, ticks, flies, fleas, or mosquitoes – small pests, probably biting, itching, annoying

brought about by God through Aaron’s rod (17)

like first two plagues, God used visible instrumental means to bring on the plague – pleased God to work that way

another warning before flies (20-21)

again, Pharaoh and Egyptians reminded of what YHWH expected – Pharaoh should have no question about why things were happening

brought about directly (24)

based on plain reading of text, no intermediate means identified, simply told “the LORD did so” – just as at creation, God issued command and creatures obeyed

God isn’t done yet but some things pretty clear already: God has shown he does as he pleases… with what he chooses… on his timetable – iow, God is sovereign over all his creation

A. God’s finger (16-19)

finger of God made a man out of dust (Gen. 2:7)

right from beginning, Creator God demonstrated his personal freedom – not the kind of Being locked into one way of doing things

to bring things into existence, God spoke word of command and they appeared out of nothing – “Let there be.. and there was”

then came to mankind, man and woman – distinct from all other creative acts, God started with raw material rather than creating from nothing

further distinction in how God made woman – rib from man built up into a woman vs. dust from the ground formed into man

God, as he pleases, chooses what if any materials to use in creative process, designs outcome according to his divine plan

same finger can make lice from dust (16-17)

no problem at all, with or without Aaron’s rod, for God to make annoying little insects from dust, send them to harass people and animals

is important for us to note: only man of all God’s creation fails to obey his commands; everything else from smallest particle to largest structure in all the universe does as God commands without question or resistance

impotent magicians, made so by same finger of God (18-19a)

lice were troublesome to all Egyptians, esp. magicians/priests – matter of ritual cleanliness; some went to extreme lengths to stay rid of “walking dandruff” or equiv.

this is final showdown for magicians – by God’s design, same finger that made them in first place put end to ability to copy

was God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob who put limits on what Satan and agents could achieve – same God doing same today

may seem like God has given Satan too much rope – can take this to the bank: God never drops the rope

no matter how much gov’t tries to replace God, are fixed limits God puts in place – true for both “good” ones, evil ones

good ones sincerely believe they can help, encourage trust in system/services provided, can easily divert what belongs to God

evil ones believe they are good as God, maybe better, if he even exists, try their best to take God’s in lives of citizens

in both cases God often overrules intentions/plans that would cause great harm, frustrating evildoers and using their actions for good of his people

same is true for scientists who try to explain away need for God

are limitations on what God reveals – hasn’t given away all his secrets, don’t believe he ever will so can’t explain everything

God also places limits on what science can achieve through experimentation – in process keeps them and us safe from harm

Pharaoh resists the truth (19b)

whether magicians were making connection between plague of lice and God of the Bible is unknown; at least understood Moses and Aaron’s god more powerful than anything at their disposal

for magicians to say this, putting lives in danger – an insult to Pharaoh, representative of gods on earth, and gods they worshiped

rather than cause Pharaoh to question what he believed, instead became more adamant he was right… no longer listening to advisors, becoming more unreasonable

B. God’s distinguishing grace (20-24)

lice are aggravating, flies are dangerous (20-21)

carry more than 100 pathogens – even today, more temperate places, flies often source of sickness and disease esp. the poor

flies don’t wash mouth after eating, don’t wash feet after stepping in something, just carry it along from one victim to next

now add to that – are absolutely everywhere, swarms in houses, underfoot, both on and around – be careful how you breathe!

and incessant buzzing… incredible annoyance of lice – no escape day or night from “thick swarms” of flies that ruined the land

believed by some that many people died from effect of flies – from their bites/stings or diseases they carried

Goshen set apart (22)

beginning now to see how God deals with his people particularly – showing the Hebrew children mercy, Egyptians not so much

God promised beforehand the primary area in which they lived, Goshen, what we think of as Nile Delta, would be free of flies

no natural explanation for such to happen, strong evidence of God’s power and sovereignty – this far and no more

difference between people (23-24)

God deals with people in community, also as individuals – Christ died for his church, the community of saints, he redeems individuals one by one

similar discriminating treatment from the fourth plague onward thru ninth – God brought judgment on his enemies, showed favor to his particular people

had Egyptians, even including Pharaoh, turned from sinful ways and sought after true God, and done what he commanded, YHWH would have relented

Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.

Exod.34:6 “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth”

no intermediate agency here – “the Lord did so” (24)

was God himself who without outside means commanded swarms of flies to invade Egypt according to limits he set

flies obeyed precisely, bringing aggravation and disease and humiliation on those who worshiped the fly god, another of the pantheon of gods Egyptians revered and feared

C. God shines more brightly (25-32)

Pharaoh’s insufficient solution (25)

getting frustrated, magicians no longer any consolation – willing to make concession or two if would bring some relief

or maybe Pharaoh’s plan really more despicable at root – appearing to concede: “go sacrifice to your God” but note key condition: “in the land”

perhaps hoping Moses would agree to terms, worship however they wanted… while staying in the land as Pharaoh’s slaves

Moses plays hardball (26-29)

if was a ruse, Moses saw through it – do you think we’re foolish? simple-minded enough to sacrifice in a way that would cause great offense to Egyptians?

sacrificing cows and bulls in Egypt no less offensive than in India, perhaps with similar consequences; sacrificing sheep in presence of Egyptians who thought they were disgusting – Hebrews taking their lives in their hands to do that

so, Moses went back to original request, this time making it a statement rather than question – “we will go and do as God commands”

so far in negotiations, Pharaoh is only party who has blinked, given at least token lip service to meeting their demands

Moses continues acting/speaking as superior to his inferior – Pharaoh requests, Moses declares, even telling him to stop acting deceitfully… further evidence of God working his plan: making Moses as God to Pharaoh (7:1)

contrast grows (30-32)

after each encounter, true God YHWH shown to be more and more different from Egyptian gods including Pharaoh

gods of Egypt further humiliated, shown in their true light… powerless to do anything by themselves apart from Satan

Pharaoh’s character as powerless as the rest, and increasingly determined to resist true God, prevail over him if possible

every time Pharaoh breaks his word, every time God does exactly as he said he would… his holiness and purity and glory more in evidence with each plague

Many people today not so unlike Egyptians – ascribe power and effectiveness to things no more useful than lice and flies. They seek cleansing from that which has no ability to purify, whether river or ritual. Saddest of all, millions staking the safety of their eternal soul on these things. Some will hear truth and respond as God enables them. The rest, like Pharaoh, will harden their hearts to truth and eventually die in their sins.

Truth is only blood of Christ has power to cleanse from sin and free from slavery to Satan. Our task – pray, meet people, tell them about Jesus. Tell them how he loves sinners, how he died to save the lost, how he will save to uttermost all who come to him by faith.



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