Monday, April 08, 2013

The 6th Plague: Boils -- Exodus 9:8-12

Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take for yourselves handfuls of soot from a kiln, and let Moses throw it toward the sky in the sight of Pharaoh.  And it will become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and will become boils breaking out with sores on man and beast through all the land of Egypt.”  So they took soot from a kiln, and stood before Pharaoh; and Moses threw it toward the sky, and it became boils breaking out with sores on man and beast.  And the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians as well as on all the Egyptians.  And the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the Lord had spoken to Moses.
I find comfort in the fact that once more God takes the initiative and gives further instructions to Moses and Aaron.  It helps me realize that God’s plan for His people (and ultimately mankind) is under His continued care and direction.  He does not just sit by and watch what happens.  He has a timetable that will be followed.  When the enemy does not want to cooperate, God steps in.  He did that for the people of Israel in Egypt.  He did that for the world when He sent His Son to die for our sins.  And He’ll do it again for His Church in the future – when the right time, His time, comes.
So God tells Moses and his brother to grab ‘handfuls of soot’ from a kiln – likely one of those used by the Israelite slaves to make bricks for the Egyptians – and to throw it up in the air making sure that Pharaoh sees them.  Have you ever tried to pick up a handful of ashes from the bottom of a fireplace to clean it out?  From personal experience, I can tell you the dust is not easily contained in one’s hand –it’s that fine already.   Now God told Moses and Aaron to grab handfuls (we do not know how many – but at least two each) and to throw the soot towards the sky – and it would become even finer dust.  And then if that were not enough, that dust would settle on the skin of both man and beast and turn those landing spots into boils and then sores.
So Moses and Aaron did just that.  They grabbed the soot and then “stood before Pharaoh”.  Sometimes we gloss over a phrase like that without thinking much about its significance.  For some time now Moses and Aaron, with God’s help, were making a fool out of Pharaoh.  His people had suffered; his livestock had suffered; and his land had suffered.  Oh how he must have wished he could simply eliminate these two Hebrews.  And here they were once again, having the nerve to stand before him – saying nothing, but simply acting as instruments of his arch-rival, facilitating yet another plague on Pharaoh and his realm.  I do not want to over-focus on Pharaoh here.  For us, it is important to think for a moment on the two men who “stood before Pharaoh”.  Here was commitment to God that few had demonstrated to that point in the history of mankind.  Noah and Abraham come to mind as two other formidable contenders.  One can well ask, “What does it take to be like them?”  I am not an expert on that.   I surmise that one needs to be called – to be chosen by God for a specific purpose.  One needs to believe in God and trust Him completely.  One needs to know that God will be there with him/her.  One needs to be doing God’s work, not his/her own.  And finally, one needs to give all glory to God for any positive outcome and to entrust Him to deal with any negative outcome.
I think of the “Pharaohs” all over the world today – those that keep their people in bondage anywhere from Asia and Africa to our own neighborhoods where human trafficking and child sexual abuse takes place daily; those that are governing in accordance to their own wisdom and desires totally ignoring God and His Word; and those who under the guise of religion and faith and even Christianity are misleading their congregations for their own gain.  And then I ask, “Who are the men and women that God will call, or has called, to ‘stand before the Pharaoh’?”  Is it possible that it may simply be you or me?  Wherever God has placed us, is it possible that we need to stand up to the evil around us, for God and for His people?  I believe it is.  And a careful study of how Moses handled this responsibility will teach us much.
So Pharaoh is ready to call on his magicians again to either replicate the plague or to somehow explain it ‘scientifically’ but this time God has taken care of them as well.  They too are covered with boils and sores from the dust, just like all the other Egyptians, and were incapable of fulfilling their duties to Pharaoh.  One would think that this time, with all his “ace magicians” wiped out, Pharaoh would have agreed to ‘concede’ the battle.  Instead, we see an adamant man at his worst, continuing to have his heart hardened (with God’s permission), ignoring God’s messengers.
Perhaps the only comfort that Moses and Aaron could find in yet another failed attempt to free the children of Israel was that God had told them this would happen.  But how much longer could this go on?  In the meantime, let us ponder a while on whether or not we have an opportunity in our lives to “stand before a Pharaoh” these days.  If so, I pray God will show us how.

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