Thursday, May 02, 2013

Moses Warns Pharaoh of the 10th Plague – the Death of the First-borns -- Exodus 11:4-10

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And Moses said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt, and all the first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of the Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the first-born of the slave girl who is behind the millstones; all the first-born of the cattle as well.  Moreover, there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has not been before and such as shall never be again.  But against any of the sons of Israel a dog shall not even bark, whether against man or beast, that you may understand how the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.  And all these your servants will come down to me and bow themselves before me, saying, ‘Go out, you and all the people who follow you,’ and after that I will go out.”  And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger.  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that My wonders will be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”  And Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; yet the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.
 
Clearly when God was instructing Moses about how the people should prepare for their trip out of Egypt, He had also told him what to tell Pharaoh regarding what was about to happen.  And Moses again does just that.  God was to go throughout the land of Egypt at midnight and literally cause the death of all the first-borns in the land – from the Pharaoh right to the lowest Egyptian slave girl.  [It appears that not only did the Egyptians have the Israelites for slaves, but also they must have had some slaves prior to this and continuing from among their own people.]
The exact timing of events in Exodus 11 and Exodus 12 is difficult to understand.  First we have a point in time when God is speaking to Moses (Exodus 11:1-3).  Here we have a time when Moses is speaking to Pharaoh (Exodus 11:4-8).  Then God speaks to Moses again (Exodus 11:9) and then we learn that Pharaoh still will not do anything to prevent the calamity that is to come (Exodus 11:10).  In Exodus 12, we will hear about the Passover and all that the Israelites had to do before God was to slay the first-borns of the Egyptians.  And it is not until Exodus 12:29 that this actually happened.  All this to say that when Moses tells Pharaoh that God said, “About midnight I am going out into the midst of Egypt,” God did not mean that very night.
We also note the God said “all first-borns”.  Status in life, or wealth, or profession, or heritage, would make no difference.  No one was exempt.  In fact, even the cattle of the Egyptians would lose their first-born.  God is no respecter of persons we often here and perhaps this is a place where He demonstrates it.  And it appears He is no respecter of animals either when it comes to His judgment.  And this will be true for all of us on that final Day of Judgment we all have to go through.
Through Moses, God tells Pharaoh that during that night of woe, his people will cry out like never before and never again.  I think in light of what we read elsewhere in Scripture about the crying and the wailing and gnashing of teeth during the end times, this reference here must be either one applying locally to Egypt, or applying generally to mankind but limited to the period prior to the end times.  I leave that for the reader to ponder.  Of course, Pharaoh would be familiar with the loud wailing of mourners that often accompanies death in the east. One can easily imagine what it would be like if the deceased were every first-born in the land.  And it would start with Pharaoh’s house.
But here is the good news for the Israelites in Egypt, and by extrapolation, for those who know God intimately in the end times.  The text tells us that there would be total peace in the houses of the Israelites.  In fact, that night not even a dog would bark to disturb that peace.  Those of us who have travelled in some parts of Europe and elsewhere in the world are familiar with all the dogs that roam the streets at night and start to bark just when you have fallen asleep.  Not a great experience.  But as I discovered in my trips to Africa, you are glad for them, as they seem to give you an early warning of something going on outside your compound that just may not be right.  Well, that night the Israelites would not even have to listen to the barking of dogs.  But what is also interesting here is that God so ordains it in order that Pharaoh may know He (God) “makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel”.  He wants Pharaoh to know that God can and does protect those that bow their knee to Him in humility and sincerity.  And the whole world will one day know it as well in the end days when Christians will have total peace and the world is loudly wailing.  The distinction exists now and will exist – there will be a spiritual Israel (God’s people) and a carnal Egypt (those that have rejected his gift of salvation) in the end.  We can only belong to one of those camps.  The choice is ours, but we need to know the world will know that distinction in the end.
Then God tells Pharaoh (through Moses) that at that time his own servants will beg for God to lead all His people from Egypt.  And then God said, “I will do that and I will go out with them.”  So in this statement we have Pharaoh being forewarned that things will be so bad that his own people, in fact his own governors, will beg God to take the Israelites away from Egypt.  And God will do so.  But here’s the catch – He will leave with them.  As long as the Israelites were in Egypt, God was there.  There was still hope for the land and the people.  But once they leave, and God leaves with them – all hope is gone.  There will be no other chances to survive.  No other hope of living eternally with God.  Can you see the parallel between the story of the Exodus and the story of you and I with regard to our eternity?  And as Christians, can you see how you and I are the “children” that God has in this world, to still make a difference through prayer and word and action?
Is it any wonder that Moses leaves Pharaoh in “hot anger”?  Moses is angry that Pharaoh has driven the matter to this point.  I can identify with that.  I have had to deal with individuals that have been so stubborn and have shown no desire to accept the life line thrown to them -- sometimes in matters of salvation, but also in an effort to save their reputation, their position, or to prevent an entire organization going on strike and possibly folding.  In cases like that I too am easily led to feel “hot anger”.  I understand how Moses felt as the bearer of this news.  Why oh why do things have to get to that point?
It is a terrible thing for God to turn His back on you.  But Pharaoh had been warned many, many times, and even now he was getting another warning.  But what about us?  Have we heeded the warnings of God in our lives?  Have we hardened our hearts towards Him and His people?  Are we missing out on an incredible relationship with Him?  It is a terrible thing for God to turn His back on us.  Do not bring Him to that point.  For sure, if we die without His gift of salvation, we have waited too long.
And then God tells Moses that once again Pharaoh will not listen so that God may perform wonders.  Lesser judgments (the nine earlier plagues) had not worked.  God was and is slow to anger, slow to thrust His wrath upon us, but eventually He does and will.  And notice also that this is not a plague that God will use Moses or Aaron for.  There will be no need for Moses to raise the rod in his hand towards the skies for this.  No, this will be God Himself implementing the punishment He has reserved in the end for the wicked that reject Him.  Let us not think for a moment that this suggests that God made Pharaoh reject the threat just so that He could work wonders.  That is not the case at all.  In the language of the day, we have here a statement that really implies, “since he won’t, I can do wonders and they will truly be a sign to all generations”.  Let us not blame God for man’s rejection of His salvation – not then, not now, and not in the future.
As Pharaoh decides not to let the people go, we can be sure of one thing – the last plague will hit Egypt.   And it will hit the world in due course.
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