Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Moses Delivers God’s Warning of the 8th Plague – the Locusts -- Exodus 10:3-6

And Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?  Let My people go, that they may serve Me.  For if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory.  And they shall cover the surface of the land, so that no one shall be able to see the land.  They shall also eat the rest of what has escaped – what is left to you from the hail – and they shall eat every tree which sprouts for you out of the field.  Then your houses shall be filled, and the houses of your servants and the houses of all the Egyptians, something which neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day that they came upon the earth until this day.’”  And he turned and went out from Pharaoh.
As we study these four verses in which Moses and Aaron deliver God’s warning to Pharaoh of the eighth plague about to hit him, the plague of locusts, we get more insight into Who God is and how He operates.  To begin with God shows both His heart and His patience towards those that spurn Him when He asks Pharaoh, “How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?  I do not believe that was asked of Pharaoh this time simply to have him admit ‘who’s in charge’ here.  I believe in that question, God was hoping for Pharaoh’s sake that He would not have to act decisively against him.  God desires that we should obey and worship Him not only because He is God but also because doing so is for our own good – doing so gives us purpose, happiness, and a desirable eternity.  God’s great plan of Exodus for the Hebrew children had two sides to it.  Yes, it was on the one hand all about getting Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, to give them their freedom from bondage, and to protect the people through which eventually the Messiah would come.  But at the same time, it was about the sinful spiritual condition of the tyrant and his servants and the opportunity they had to get on God’s side.  We need to remember that as we work through our own struggles or as we help rescue those that are under the bondage of others.  God loves the perpetrators just as much as He loves the victims and wants them redeemed as well.  That is often a hard thing for us to accept or even think about, as many of us would just rather see those folks be condemned now to an eternity without God.
So Moses and Aaron tell Pharaoh that if he does not let the people go, ‘tomorrow’ his land would be covered with locusts and he would not be able to see the ground.  Where I live, we had a very long winter this year and only recently were we able to see the ground that was, for many months, covered with snow.  In fact, in some western parts of our great land, they are still waiting for that day to come this year.  Just as snow covered our grass this year, so locusts were going to cover the land of Egypt if Pharaoh did not let the people go.  Sometimes, I wonder what our decisions of disobedience delay in our lives, in the lives of our families, in our communities, or in our land itself.  Maybe it is the collective disobedience of so many of us, including and especially God’s children, that delay the blessings that God otherwise wants to pour down on us.
And then the content of the text seems to switch from ‘what’ would happen and why, to make reference to the ‘boundless extent’ to which it would happen.  It seems as if God was saying, “Do you remember the last plague, the plague of hail?  Well, in that one, I saved you from starvation this year by saving the wheat and spelt (see Exodus 9:32) so you would have food.  Well, this time, I’ll see to it that the locusts eat everything that escaped or was spared last time.  I had left it for you, so you would not starve, but not this time.  Enough is enough.”
Then God warns that the locusts will fill every Egyptian’s house in the land – not just Pharaoh’s, not just the houses of his servants, but also the houses of “all the Egyptians”.  Here God makes a point, clearly distinguishing among the three groups.  When we sin against God, we do not sin in isolation – there is always a consequence to others.  There is a consequence to our immediate family or to perhaps to our employees.  And ultimately the consequence may impact many more – as in the case of rulers sinning against God.  That is what Pharaoh was up against.  But we too, in our own sins need to consider the impact on others, some of whom we may love very much.
And then God says, “This will be big!”  It would be like nothing Pharaoh had seen before – in fact, nothing his fathers or grandfathers (previous two generations or more before) had seen.  It would essentially change the legacy of ancient Egypt forever.  As we have been studying this for some time now, I cannot help but see the parallelism between the story of Exodus and the story of God’s true Church today being finally freed one day from an oppressive sinful world.  And God is warning the powers that be today, “Repent and bow the knee to me, because if you don’t, you will see the action I will take against you and it will be big!  Like nothing you’ve seen before.  I pray that each of you will be part of the Church and not part of those God is addressing in that way.
The last sentence of this portion of Scripture is surprising to me.  Moses and Aaron say their piece and then they turn around and walk out.  No waiting for a response; no begging his permission to leave; no “We’ll be back.”  At the begin of the text we note that two went in, and the implication is that one spoke and he turned around and went out, assumingly followed by the other.  There was no need to wait for a response – Moses had already figured out this plague too had to happen before the people would be released.  And likely Pharaoh was too stunned by what he had just heard to be in a position to give them permission to leave.  Their point was made and as we’ll see soon, Pharaoh was ready to negotiate.

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