Pulling Down Strongholds

Exodus 9:1-7

So far, God has made powerful statements by actions through the plagues – declaring by deed his superiority over forces lined up against YHWH and his people. But daily life has at worst been awkward, aggravating – greatest cost to Pharaoh and his people been that of comfort and convenience. Beginning with this plague, that changes – God’s enemies will experience economic and physical pain. Even death not out of the picture, depending on how well they heed God’s warnings and instructions.

Here we see again that our big God who does big things is also attentive to details. Just as redemption is perfectly tailored to meet needs of God’s elect, so his acts of judgment precisely fit those God singles out for special attention.

“We may observe a particular scope and meaning in this calamity, if we consider it in regard to the Egyptians, which would not have existed in respect to any other people. They held in idolatrous reverence almost every animal, but some they held in particular veneration; as the ox, cow, and ram.” TSK

On grand scale, plagues represent forces of heaven arrayed against forces of hell… God against Satan. In waging war God singles out the particular tools Satan used to enslave the Egyptian people. And YHWH demonstrates his power and superiority over them. That is vitally important for this reason – had Egyptian people, few or many, seen futility of idol worship and turned to true God for deliverance, he would have brought them out of slavery just as quickly as Hebrew children. God was particularly focused on the Hebrews but not exclusively so. His intent was that before this battle was over, Hebrew and Egyptian alike would know who true God is, know why hope should be in YHWH and not idols.

Next God shows in small way temporal cost of trusting in false gods – when what trust in to meet daily physical needs not only fails to come through, is taken away. Both Hebrews and Egyptians had precedent from their combined history – widespread famine during time of Jacob. Was YHWH who put Joseph in position, gave him understanding of Pharaoh’s dream, provided Joseph with wisdom to know what to do. Was YHWH who kept Egyptians and Jacob’s children from experiencing great hardship.

In our text – God turns up the volume; he discriminates between peoples; God alone brings this plague on the Egyptians; once again we’re left in awe of what true God accomplished.

A. God turns up the volume

prophetic preface (1b)

when instructing Moses, uses way of speaking first appeared in Ex. 4 – appears more than 400x in remainder of OT

becomes standard preface for God’s prophets – making clear to hearers / readers where following message originated

true prophet of God makes no personal claim to origin message, intends others to know he is merely messenger, repeating what God said

full identity (1b)

this time added detail to identity: “the God of the Hebrews” – not just further describing his identity, YHWH here identifies with his people; does so twice more, 9:13 and 10:3

think about what that means: God of universe declares to leader of world superpower – those are my people, I am their God

clear expectation (1c)

also makes plain to Pharaoh… and everyone else what is his first priority – God’s people free to worship true God according to his terms and expectations

will become more clear as we progress through Exodus – service to God, worship of God to be central to life for God’s people

is God who establishes conditions for what is acceptable – yes, God graciously welcomes his people… on his terms

fist, not finger (2-3)

third plague described by magicians as finger of God, probably accurate; now God declares will use his fist, his hand will come down on enemies of his people

will be dramatic action by God in direct response to Pharaoh’s rebellious refusal to obey YHWH’s command to let people go

sound harsh? think about what Pharaoh / Egyptian people were doing – openly defying direct command from Creator God… and remember what just penalty for that rebellion is

these plagues intended to teach multiple lessons / principles:

who is God of gods and Lord of lords; YHWH will have total victory over all powers of darkness

just as sacrifices picture cost of sin and its penalty, so plagues gave small temporary intro experience to judgment for sin

B. God discriminates

discriminate – not PC, first and basic meaning: to distinguish carefully between things; whenever make choice between 2 or more things, requires discrimination

between Israel and Egypt (4)

YHWH declares his intent to make a difference / distinction between children of Israel and Egyptians in how livestock treated

God does not treat all people the same – not popular idea, but true…be thankful he treats his children different from the rest

he shows far more mercy to some than to others – mercifully spared Hebrews much of hardship and suffering; at same time, mercifully spared Egyptians all they deserved

notice: children of Israel did not escape unscathed – they were still slaves dwelling in land under God’s righteous judgment

God showed them special and undeserved favor in midst of hardship, protecting from the worst their enemies desired

betewen today and tomorrow (5)

God set an appointed time for next wave of judgment on Egypt – tomorrow; could just as easily carried out immediately… why not? why make everyone wait another day?

“now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2) – gracious gift to Egyptians… every last one who repented of sin against God and cried out to him would be delivered

God did not take pleasure in judging Egyptians, would have taken pleasure in delivering them – bear in mind… all who persist in rebellion against just and holy God face same fate as Pharaoh

between Himself and all other gods (6)

as judgments on Egypt and their sin plays out, YHWH repeatedly shows his superiority, authority, power over all other gods

likewise shows over and over just how futile trusting in anything other than true God is – really are only two religions: worship of Bible’s God, worship of idols… wood, stone, ideas, self, even nature / created order

by time Hebrews left Egypt, no Egyptian from Pharaoh to bottom of social scale could honestly say did not know YHWH

no Egyptian had any excuse for failure to escape condemnation other than willful unbelief, same is true for all sorts today

what about those who haven’t heard Gospel? don’t know about Jesus? – are w/o excuse because have refused to worship God according to light they do have – Rom 1.18-21

we’re not off hook to tell them about Jesus – it’s a command, not suggestion, from Jesus himself who had been given all authority in heaven and earth

C. God does it

when he said (6a)

this time was God who performed his mighty act unaccompanied by any word or act from his servants

God is never early, never late, is always on time – with judgment for his enemies, with provision for his children

is why Peter could say: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise”; “is longsuffering… not willing any should perish that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9)

as he said (6b)

a devastating and deadly pestilence on Egyptian livestock – would have been considered total loss though some escaped

all of various kinds of livestock – donkeys, camels, oxen, sheep – were decimated, perhaps not enough breeding stock left to rebuild herds and flocks

pestilence afflicted only Egyptian livestock, all of Hebrews’ herds / flocks spared any casualties – clearly divinely caused

with the results he said (7)

evidence there in black and white for Pharaoh and all others to observe, yet insufficient to bring them to repentance

how much plainer did it need to be? how much more evidence did Egyptians need before they understood were worshiping the wrong god? — no amount would be enough

even though God has done countless acts of power and might just as he said he would, unbelievers persist in unbelief

conversion not result of sufficient evidence, irrefutable logical arguments, irresistible persuasion from truly gifted evangelist

Jonah got it right: Salvation is of the Lord. — Spurgeon’s testimony

D. what He really did

humiliated more gods

ox, cow, ram among likenesses Egyptians had ascribed to gods and goddesses, all fell under God’s fist

iow, there is no other God

none else worthy of worship; none else that can help in time of need; none else that can provide safety for eternal soul

there is none who can oppose God

many try, Devil and his agents still trying – God alone determines boundaries within which they are allowed to operate

proven decisively at Calvary

Lord Jesus crushed serpent’s head, dealing death blow by his paying penalty for sin and having victory over death

because of what Lord Jesus did in place of his people, no one including Satan can bring charge against God’s elect

God intends the world to know not only his name but who he really is – the one God who is absolutely sovereign over all of his creation, providentially governing affairs of men and nations, the only one who can give a hope and a future to lost sinners.

Remember, brothers and sisters, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Cor. 10:3-5

 

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