Mercy in the Midst of Judgment

Exodus 9:8-35

People are funny… and inconsistent. They want justice for others, mercy for themselves. Black and white for others, gray for themselves. Simple yes or no relationships in complex world. Categories to put others into while declaring “don’t fence me in”. In situations like what we find in Exodus, want to make it contest between good guys / bad guys – Pharaoh / magicians / Egyptians all bad guys, Moses / Aaron / Hebrews good guys. Like nothing better than turn Pharaoh’s palace into smoking cellar hole, drive Egyptians off cliff into Mediterranean, give spoils to children of Israel and move on.

Huge problem with that – not how God viewed the situation, so… not how we should either. Same applies to other similar situations – time after time God patiently endured rebellion, rejection, shameful sinful treatment. Time after time God provided tailor-made opportunities for repentance and reconciliation between rebellious wicked sinners and himself. Result – at various points along way, while God brings waves of just punishment on his enemies, shows mercy to them and some respond. See that take place in present text – plague of boils followed by lesson break, God displays both mercy and judgment, and Pharaoh’s heart gets harder.

A. boils v.8-11

unannounced… yet public (8)

Moses and Aaron given instructions – no warning for Pharaoh/Egyptians before this plague, just told what to do and how

includes “in the sight of Pharaoh” – unlike opponents (Satan and agents) no skulking around in dark, secret incantations, simple act done in broad daylight according to God’s instructions

God intends Pharaoh have no illusions – regardless of outcome… Pharaoh’s response, would know for certain who made wonders occur, who would make them come to end

increased intensity and danger

boils on both man and beast (9-10)

don’t know exactly what specific affliction was – do know was potentially more dangerous than previous plagues

risk of infection or worse – hindrance to productivity for both man and animal, probably no known treatment or cure

hope for best, use whatever remedies they thought best, try to tough it out even though crippling or even deadly

same word used for Job’s affliction, also Hezekiah when was sick unto death – Job wished could die, God told Hezekiah he would die, then relented and healed him

a big deal given Deut. 28:27 “The LORD will strike you with the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with the scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed.”

that Egyptians and animals survived demonstrates God used restraint, kept plague from being as bad as might have been

humiliates magicians along with everyone else (11)

previously magicians failed to duplicate God’s wonders, now they are personally afflicted, unable to stand in public

God’s hand of judgment even closer to Pharaoh… and Satan – among Satan’s most powerful henchmen sidelined

B. lesson break v.13-19

command (13)

get up early – slothfulness not to be found among God’s servants; are to put forth effort working out our salvation, make every moment count for something useful to God

stand – don’t always get to serve God from sidelines: this a time when God speaking thru Moses confronts enemy directly

say – Moses/Aaron simply mouthpiece, not making news, simply reporting as God instructed “thus says the Lord God of the Hebrews”

no ambiguity there, no question who originated message; also no question about God’s redemptive purpose

was going to deliver his people so they could serve / worship him – strongly implied that Pharaoh and his people should worship true God, not idols

God’s mercy on display – young sibling watch older receive consequences, modify own behavior – God giving Pharaoh another opportunity to repent, avoid further judgment

consequences (14-15)

plagues will get personal – no escape for Pharaoh from this point on: privilege that came with position and power no longer helpful to avoid full weight of God’s anger

same purpose – God had redemptive plan for Hebrew children in view, at same time God had all aspects of our redemption in mind… along with millions of others

God intended story of deliverance of Hebrews to be vehicle that carries Gospel far beyond borders of Egypt or Palestine

God graciously continuously provides ways and means for lost people to see the unseen – to come to knowledge of God through biblical record… including this book

God holding back – not boasting, stating simple truth: had he brought full weight of righteous judgment against sin of Egyptians, they would have perished

doesn’t mean they escaped, does mean God mercifully gave reprieve… breathing room for repentance and obedience

cause (16-17)

show My power – twelve specific occasions throughout first 14 chapters of Exodus when God demonstrated his power

initial encounter with Pharaoh (rod to serpent), subsequent 10 plagues, overthrow of Egyptian army in Red Sea

declare My name – taking away excuses for unbelief, giving opportunities / incentives for repentance, warning to people of all kinds from around the world

submit to My authority – really the bottom line for everyone: when confronted with truth of who God is, what God has done, how do you respond?

Pharaoh continued to rebel, daily growing more stubborn in opposition – knew truth but refused to bow the knee to YHWH

caution (18-19)

tomorrow – another merciful delay coupled with instructive warning: what will happen, how to escape, window of opportunity

hail like never before – will be supernatural natural occurrence: rain and hail and lightning not unknown, but… no precedent for this kind of event; clearly hand of God

take shelter or die – gracious and clear communication from true God, unlike false gods who never speak; another witness to fact God’s purpose not to destroy but to deliver

C. mercy and judgment v.19-26, 31-32

responses (20-21)

those who feared the word of the Lord – not all among Egyptians determined to rebel against true God like Pharaoh

were at least to point of taking YHWH and his word seriously – were they converts? don’t know, but did heed and obey God to some extent

God didn’t write them off, neither should we – should not treat people according to particular label: homosexual, adulteress, alcoholic, Muslim, Mexican

need to see as God does – lost sinners headed for eternity without Christ who need to hear Gospel, see it lived out

those who despised the word of the Lord – treated warning as of no consequence, not worth listening to, sort of like how listened to own gods… who never spoke

devastation (22-25, 31-32)

supernatural weather event – this one a true “act of God” no insurance could cover… just as God had warned

destructive of man, beast, plant

kind of storm that destroys everything – took life of man and animal, destroyed trees and plants, consequences far beyond current growing season

food for man and beast, clothing, commerce – flax for making clothing, barley for feed, contributing to national economy

mercy shown – not all the food, not those who heeded God

kinds of wheat crops not damaged by hail – plague could have been severe enough to prevent wheat crop from maturing

not told specifically yet we know God keeps his word – those who feared God and his word spared effects of hail and fire

another way God showed he was indeed holding back, was being merciful at same time as bringing down judgment

providence (26)

God caring for his own – as before, land of Goshen, children of Israel spared effects of the plague, further evidence of God’s power and sovereignty

not because they earned it – make no mistake, were spared because God committed to caring for them in spite of sinfulness

D. heart of stone gets harder v.12, 27-35

false repentance (27-28)

said the right things – “I have sinned, YHWH is righteous, we are wicked” – all true, yet not spoken sincerely, instead saying what he thought God wanted to hear

betrayed by actions – promised to do right thing if hail stopped, then when it did Pharaoh refused to follow through

merciful honesty (29-30, 33)

end to devastation… to demonstrate God’s supremacy and authority – shown just as much in making it stop as in starting it, confining it to all but Goshen

as God said earlier, could have struck them so they died, chose to show mercy instead… setting model for us

you are not sincere – confident Pharaoh did not intend to keep his word, was not ready to submit to God’s authority

reminder – God doesn’t play games, wants sincere heart: obedience better than disobedience, joyful obedience better still

more sin (34-35)

pressure relief leads to more sin – as soon as hail stopped, went right back to former behavior: wanted relief from affliction, not relationship with YHWH

behavior modification only temporary – works as long as incentive is enough to govern behavior; as soon as constraints removed or self-discipline weakens, old behavior returns

Pharaoh/servants heard same message as other Egyptians, experienced same hardship – different response due solely to work of God in hearts

not because some smarter, more easily persuaded or intimidated – was work of Spirit of God that enabled some to respond to truth

Same is true for all present here – those who have responded to Gospel call were graciously enabled to do so by power of God. Same commands of God hardened Pharaoh and softened some of countrymen. Same Gospel hardens some, drives them further into Satan’s camp, draws others into saving faith in Jesus. How have you responded?

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