One of the most famous stories in the Bible is the story of the plagues that God brought upon Egypt. Yesterday was plague #1: turning the Nile into blood. Today we read about a few more plagues.
The plagues were God’s way of showing His power while at the same time debunking the gods of Egypt, which were many. The plagues took place over several months. We know this because because of the descriptions of the environment given with some of the plagues.
Pharaohs in Egypt were considered to be a god. By sending the plagues upon Egypt God was showing the Egyptians that Pharaoh was not a god at all.
Plague #2 was frogs. Egyptian goddess Heqet was the goddess of birth who had a frog head. Egyptians regarded frogs as having divine power, including creation of human life. Therefore frogs were not allowed to be killed. God allows the sorcerers to duplicate this feat, but notice how that only made matters worse! Sometimes we think we are out-witting God but in reality we are really only hurting ourselves more.
Pharaoh initially agreed to let the Israelites go, even recognizing the God of Moses (Exodus 8:8) but reneges on his promise, if he was even being truthful in the first place.
The next plague was gnats and notice that it came without warning. God did not instruct Moses to warn Pharaoh about it. Also note that the Egyptian sorcerers could not duplicate this one.
The fourth plague was flies. Notice that God spares the Israelites in Goshen from this plague. As a result of this plague Pharaoh starts to compromise. He first suggest that the Israelites offer sacrifices to God in Egypt. But Moses points out that this would not be a good idea as the Israelites would be making animal sacrifices including bulls and cows. Egyptians worshipped a bull god and cow goddess (Apis and Hathor, respectively). Making animals sacrifices in front of the Egyptians would have caused all kinds of problems. So Pharaoh agrees to let the Israelites go into the wilderness but “not too far away”. In the end, he breaks his word again.
The fifth plague was a fatal disease on all the livestock of the Egyptians (but not the Israelites). This was clearly an attack on the Egyptian gods and goddesses who were often thought of in terms of animals.
Plague six affected the bodies directly of the Egyptians and their animals. The Egyptians worshipped a few gods that prevented or healed diseases. These gods were powerless to stop the boils.
The next three plagues are more severe than the previous ones and are described in more detail. Plague seven was a hailstorm. At this point some of Pharaoh’s officials have seen enough and are afraid so they bring their servants and livestock in from the fields. But others don’t believe. This is very symbolic of the world from when time began. Some believe and take the appropriate action (e.g. Noah). Others completely dismiss the word of God. This plague was an attack on many Egyptian gods including the god of the weather, who could not stop the hail and the gods of agriculture and animals who could not save their domains.
The plague of hail is one where we can determine the time of year. This plague happened in January because that is when the barley and flax blossom. Every word in the Bible is useful.
After these first seven plagues Pharaoh is still very stubborn and has broken his word a few times. We’ll finish the rest of the plagues tomorrow.
Matthew 19:14 is one of my favorite New Testament passages. I think one of the ways to truly build a better relationship with God is to think of yourself like a child. Although I am an adult in the earthly sense, in God’s eyes I’m just a little boy. If I really think about it, I’d say that my relationship with God suffers when I think of myself as an adult but it grows when I think of myself as a child.
The story of the young man who comes to Jesus today is interesting. This man wants to know what he must “do” to have eternal life (i.e. go to heaven). His belief was that access to heaven was performance-based. But it is not. Eternal life is granted to those who believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments but the man asks “Which ones?”. It seems he wants to know what he can get away with. Perhaps he can still get to heaven even if he breaks some commandments.
Finally Jesus explains that only perfection is allowed in heaven (Matthew 19:21) and to be perfect the man must give up all his wealth as doing such a thing would demonstrate that he cares more about others than himself. But he is unwilling to do that. Jesus got to the heart of the matter: money was this man’s god. He didn’t want a relationship with God at all. He wanted his money more than he wanted God. This is typical of the problem all of us have before coming to Christ – something(s) is more important to us than Jesus. Maybe money, sex, “fun”, power, fame. And even afterwards worldly things can entice us for a while away from God. Its not easy living for Christ on this earth.
Unlike the rich young man, the disciples had given up everything to follow Jesus as Peter notes in verse 27. He’s wondering what they will get in return. Jesus assures them that they will get a very special reward in heaven. Not only that but everyone on earth who has given up what they could have had will get an abundant inheritance in addition to eternal life.
Things in God’s kingdom will be upside down from the way they are on earth. Those with plenty on earth will have little for all of eternity. But those without much on earth will be richly blessed. This is an important lesson for all of us and one that I have been struggling with this very day. Often I see other people with nice houses (I don’t have a house) or new cars (I have a very old car) or fun jobs (mine isn’t so much fun). Today all this was really getting to me. And what do you know…. today is the day that I read this passage. Coincidence? I don’t think so. God always has the right message for us at the right time.
Psalm 24 builds on what we just read in Matthew (isn’t it cool how all these Bible passages relate to one another?). Everything on earth belongs to God anyway. None of it is ours, not even the many possessions of the rich young man. If you think about it even the most “wealthy” person on earth owns nothing.
Great financial advice in Proverbs today. I once read that the Bible talks more about money than any other topic. The Bible is not only useful for eternal things, but it also gives practical advice for living this life. Basically we should not co-sign loans or guarantee the debt of another person. This is so bad that God tells us to get out of this arrangement in a hurry. Otherwise we are like an animal caught in a hunter’s net.