Friday, June 07, 2013

God Strikes At Midnight -- Exodus 12:29-32

Now it came about at midnight that the Lord struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of cattle.  Pharaoh arose in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians, and there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was no home where there was not someone dead.  Then he called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the Lord, as you have said.  Take both your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and go, and bless me also.”
When I sit down to study each portion of scripture, I usually have already entered the text in the document and sometimes even given it a title – like the one above, “God Strikes At Midnight”.   I do that after I finish a preceding passage.  I had done it with this passage after I wrote the last blog.  And then the next day, God gave us for just six short hours, and then took to Himself, our darling little grandson, Ronin.  This past week has been, as you might imagine, a whirlwind of activities as we finally laid our grandson to rest and spent time with family and loved ones, and processed what happened.  God is Good and He is taking us through this pain, this dark valley.  He has strengthened us to be of more help to others in the future.  And He has given us a little guy to love forever more, knowing He is taking the best possible care of our baby.

So God struck, perhaps not at midnight for us, and through an old friend and colleague, we too, found comfort in the words of the poem below.  You will note the poet died at just 40 years of age, but it is clear he had experienced calamity:

"Bitter-Sweet" by George Herbert 1593-1633:

Ah my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.
I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve:
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament, and love.

I do not mean to imply that my circumstances these last few days are in any way like those of the Israelites on that night that God struck at midnight; not at all.  But my recent loss has helped me understand what the Egyptians may have gone through.  There really are few words to explain what parents (or grandparents) feel when they lose their child.  But I cannot help but note the difference between a parent who is truly committed to God and one who knows Him not.  For me, solidly in the first category, I can only thank God for allowing us to hold and kiss and love young Ronin for a few hours and then assure us, that for whatever purpose, He wanted him with Him, or He wanted him to be spared life on earth.  Either way, we rest in the fact that he is with his Creator, at peace, and without pain.

On the other end of the spectrum, and yet not so far away, because we all feel the shock of a loss, it just so happened that during these days I have been reading a book which describes in great detail the hate killings that occurred between tribes after the 2007 Kenyan elections in areas and towns where my wife and I had visited twice since then.  At one point, the author, Paul H. Boge, describes the emotion of a young mother who had seen one of her beloved sons killed before her with arrows and another with a machete.  Boge writes, “There were no tears.  Tears come with grief.  And shock is a long way from grief.  Her body was in survival mode, and for a brief moment she hoped that whatever was keeping her going would never leave.  For if she had to process what she just saw, she feared it would be the end of her.” 

For those back in Egypt, God was precisely on time, like clockwork, at midnight.  And there were no exceptions – every single first-born in the land of Egypt, from the household of Pharaoh on the throne, right down to the household of a prisoner in a dungeon, and even of every cattle, the scripture says, was impacted.  The extent and the timing were exactly as promised by God.  When He speaks about the future, one ignores Him at his or her peril.

In the middle of the night, everybody knew that something was wrong and as the tragedy was being discovered household by household, there arose a crescendo of crying in the entire land of Egypt.  That portion of the text bothers me for two reasons.  First, why did people then (Pharaoh, his men of government, others) and why do people now, wait until it is too late to hear the warnings of God the Almighty?  Did they then, and do people now, really think they would or will escape from what is supposed to befall them, if they ignore the Creator?

Second, I feel that this “great cry in Egypt” is indeed symbolic of what is about to arise in the earth when Jesus returns and that Day of Judgment comes upon the earth.  And oh, how I wish people could see that now.  No home will be left untouched one way or another – unto death or unto life.  That is why it is important for us to clearly state what we know to be true, no matter the cost.
Pharaoh called Moses and Aaron and the Scripture tell us he literally sent them out of Egypt with all their belongings.  No more negotiating, no more hesitation, no more changing of his mind, at least for now – the evidence of defeat was all around him in the bodies of the first-borns of every household in Egypt.

But Pharaoh did not stop there.  He asked Moses and Aaron to bless him.  Some commentators translate that as “pray for me”.  Chuck Smith says it is interesting that “no matter how pagan a person is, they sure appreciate prayer when they are in trouble.”  Oh, how we see that over and over today.  People want the blessing without the obedience.  They want to survive without the training.  They want to live ‘for self’ but not die ‘to self’.  Pharaoh is no exception – with all his human power and authority, he had no resources capable of dealing the way he wanted to with the Almighty God.  And neither do our friends and relatives today.  Sadly, mankind in general continues merely existing and never learning the lesson.

Finally, at my grandson’s funeral recently, many unbelievers said to me, “Ken, I just don’t know how you do it?”  My reply was courteous and loving.   I would say, “But I think I told you in my talk how I do it. Did you get that part?”  And they would say, “Yes, I know, but.”  And I would say, “There really is no ‘but’ – it’s true.  And it’s worth considering.  Without God, I cannot have gone through what I and my family just went through.”  Pharaoh found that out the hard way.  You don’t have to.

[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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  1. Anonymous10/6/13 21:10

    thank you for sharing such a meaningful word...even in a time of loss and deepest condolences.

    Michele Hay

    1. Hey Michele: Thank you so much for writing and sharing. I note your name is "Anonymous" but you signed your comment. If that should not be on there, then let me know and resend it without the name and we'll delete this one. Otherwise, God bless you and yours.