Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The 9th Plague of Darkness Comes With a Death Warning -- Exodus 10:21-29


Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt.”  So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days.  They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the sons of Israel had light in their dwellings.  Then Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, “Go, serve the Lord; only let you flocks and your herds be detained.  Even your little ones may go with you.”  But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and bunt offerings, that we may sacrifice them to the Lord our God.  Therefore, our livestock, too, will go with us; not a hoof will be left behind, for we shall take some of them to serve the Lord our God.  And until we arrive there, we ourselves do not know with what we shall serve the Lord.”  But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go.  Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me!  Beware, do not see my face again, for in the day you see my face you shall die!”  And Moses said, “You are right; I shall never see your face again!”
 
So the locusts are gone and because of Pharaoh’s hardened heart, the children of Israel are still in Egypt.  God wastes no time to once again tell Moses what to do – and this time it will bring severe darkness over the entire land, a darkness that the text says, “may be felt.”  For three days it was so dark that people could not see each other.  It was so dark that they did not venture outside their dwellings lest they risked being hurt.
But miraculously God had arranged for regular daylight to shine in the homes of the children of Israel.  This is perhaps one of the most difficult miracles of God to explain, from a scientific perspective.  The good news is that once someone accepts that God is Who He says He is, the rest can be taken by faith, trusting it to be true for then (i.e. after we accept He is Who He says He is) it makes perfect sense.  Alternatively, one can try to explain it, ending up in perhaps doubting God, and missing out on the blessings of a life with Him.
Somehow Pharaoh gets word to Moses and when the Israelite appears before Egypt’s ruler he is told to “Go and serve his Lord.”  But Pharaoh does not stop there; he once again, because his decision was still made with his head and not his heart, goes into a “negotiating” mode and while he makes a big concession to allow the young children to go with their parents to worship God, he demanded the livestock to stay.
Moses is probably thinking to himself, “What part of the word ‘no’ does this man not understand?”  And so once again he holds his ground with confidence and tells Pharaoh, “Absolutely not; everything goes with us.”  And I love this next line, “Not a hoof will be left behind.”  I wonder sometimes if we as Christians today concede too much to the Enemy when going about living for the King and carrying out His business.
We note here an interesting comment by Moses basically implying “we need to take everything because we ourselves really don’t know exactly the manner in which we will be serving God.” That is, they did not know how many sacrifices and what kind of sacrifices would be required and thus “we better have all the animals with us”.  And that may well be true – Moses had learned to take instructions from God on an “obey as you go” basis.  On the other hand, it was an honest enough reason to give to Pharaoh as to why every single animal had to come out of Egypt with the Israelites.
There is much that can be said about this symbolically.  For example, we can see this as an indication of the fact that when we devote ourselves to God, we cannot leave any part of life or experience to remain in the land of bondage from which we were saved.  True enough and something to be mindful of.  Many of us try to do just that.  Also of interest here is the issue of intent and integrity with respect to the request the Israelites, especially Moses and Aaron up to this point, were making of Pharaoh.  Was this ‘exodus’ to be just a temporary leave of absence or was this to be a total escape from Egypt?  The evidence was certainly mounting in favor of the latter and certainly Pharaoh was sensing this possibility.  But we shall return to this point later.
For now, suffice it to say that once again, having just lost his last attempt at negotiating a compromise, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened again, and it was now his turn to be fed up.  It is then he hurls out his last ditch threat just like often the union negotiators I deal with regularly do.  They stand up, they pound their fist on the table, and say, “That’s it.  The next time you see us will be on the picket line.  We’ll be on strike.”  Pharaoh is basically saying the same thing here, “Don’t bother seeing my face again, for if you do, you will die.”  “Talks are over.  No more negotiations.  I’ve had it with you guys.”
And then you have to love the response that a man filled with the wisdom of God can give in such a situation as this.  Moses simply replies, “You’ve got this one right.  I won’t see you again.”  Wow.  Somehow Moses knew this was going to be it.  His God had had enough.  The end was near for the Egyptian ruler and freedom lay just ahead for the children of Israel.  Oh, that God would permit you and I to speak with such authority to His enemies.  I think He wants us to.  Perhaps it is us that do not have our relationship so in tune with Him that prevents us from doing so.
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