Thursday, March 21, 2013

The 4th Plague: The Swarms of Insects -- Exodus 8:20-24


Now the Lord said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he comes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.  For if you will not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of insects on you and on your servants and on your people and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of insects, and also the ground on which they dwell. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the Lord, am in the midst of the land.  And I will put a division between My people and your people.  Tomorrow this sign shall occur.”’”  Then the Lord did so.  And there came great swarms of insects into the house of Pharaoh and the houses of this servants and the land was laid waste because of the swarms of insects in all the land of Egypt.

As I read this short passage on the fourth plague, I noted one phrase with interest. “Rise early in the morning” is part of the instructions that God gives to Moses.  Let me share a personal secret with you – I am not a ‘morning person’ by nature.  But I am challenged by this phrase.  I find it difficult to get up early especially to do God’s business.  I will stay up all night praying for you and with you, but if I have to get up early, it will be a struggle.  Not impossible, just a struggle.  Yet somehow I feel there are times when God expects us to do just that.  He did not ask Moses do this with respect to the first three plagues, but only here in this case do we first come across this request.  And Moses, I am sure, did just that.  I think the point for us is that we should be ready to “rise up early” when God needs us to.  Are you there?

And once again Moses gets the instructions from God, “ . . . and say to him…” and God proceeds to tell him exactly what to say.   We are not to go into a difficult situation with our own words, but with His.  And we get those these days from the Holy Spirit and from the Word of God, our Bible.  As some of you know, I am an avid user of social media and I often get into some very emotional discussions with others.  As I respond to their anger and accusations and often name-calling, I try hard to first count to ten, second ask God what I need to say or write back, and then proceed to do so.  I believe that is what God expects from us.  He does not expect us to be silent by our choice, but only in the situations where He has the Holy Spirit tell us to be quiet.   And He has created us in the way that we would know which time is which.  That is what our conscience is for.

The passage relates how God would, when Pharaoh refuses once again to let the people go, send “swarms of insects” on all the Egyptians, and into their houses, and on every spot of ground there was in Egypt.  Now just think how much we hate a single fly in our home.  In North America at least, we do everything in our power to swat it dead and we often do not rest until we do so.  Or think of one mosquito in the bedroom at night.  My wife and I have had the experience of sleeping in Kenya under a mosquito net and hearing a mosquito a little too close for comfort.  There was no sleep for us until we found the mosquito, eliminated it, and found the whole under which it crawled, doing our best to plug it.  As travelers to Africa know, those mosquitos are carriers of malaria and often yellow fever – some things you will want to avoid when visiting there.  Now imagine what God was delivering in this plague.

And yet, He did not forget His own people who had settled in Goshen.  He tells Pharaoh, through Moses, that no swarms of insects will be in Goshen so that Pharaoh will know that He is God when he sees the ‘division’ between God’s people and his own people.  God has, does, and will distinguish His people from those that are not His.  That is a clear theme throughout Scripture.  With that distinction comes protection.  And in this case, His reason for doing so is that Pharaoh can once again get an unequivocal answer to his question and smart retort, “Who is this God?  I don’t know Him” as he had stated earlier in the story.

This time, the only warning God gives Pharaoh is that this sign of His power shall “occur tomorrow”.  And it did.  The swarms of insects arrived everywhere God said they would and they stayed away from the land of Goshen.  One more time, the land was laid waste because of man’s unwillingness to listen to God.

So what are the lessons for us here?  First, if God says, “get up early”, do so.  Second, if He says, “Say x and y to someone”, do so.  And if you do not think that God has, does, and will treat His people differently than those who ignore Him, or deny Him, or disobey Him – well, all I can say is ‘think again’.


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