The Gospel According to Moses
DAILY DEVOTIONAL READINGS BY KIM HARRINGTON
Day 36: Plague #4, Dog-Flies
For if you will not let My people go, behold, I will send swarms of insects on you and on your servants and on your people and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be full of swarms of insects, and also the ground on which they dwell. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where My people are living, so that no swarms of insects will be there, in order that you may know that I, the Lord, am in the midst of the land.
The fourth plague sent upon the land of Egypt consisted of swarms of insects, usually believed to be dog-flies. They were larger and more irritating than the gnats, and Pharaoh quickly requested that Moses remove them, promising to let the people go, but again he did not stay true to his word.
The significance of this plague lies in the separation God put between the Egyptians and the Israelites. You see, the Lord keeps making the lesson more clear with each plague. The first two showed the impotency of Egypt's gods. The gnats showed that this was a power beyond which the magicians could manipulate. But they still weren't convinced that it was the God of the Hebrews behind the plagues until He made a difference between the two peoples. The flies didn't enter into Goshen, the area occupied by the Israelites, and neither did the following plagues. The Lord put a wall of protection around His own people, so the tribulation round about them didn't affect them.
Many believe that the Lord will not allow His own people to go through the Great Tribulation period predicted at the end of the age. They quote various promises to that effect, especially Revelation 3:10, "Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world..." But the Lord could easily keep His people from the hour of testing even while they were in the midst of that very hour of testing the same way He kept the Israelites in Goshen from the plagues of Egypt.
This could very well be a type or shadow of that very hour (at the very least it is a historical precedent illustrating what sort of things God does with His people during times of tribulation). Egypt is the world, and God is finally dealing with her haughtiness. Pharaoh is the antichrist, unflinchingly resisting the God of heaven to the bitter end. The children of Israel are the true church, redeemed by the blood of the Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ.
The Lord allows the first few plagues to test and purify his people, even as the trumpet judgments in the end times are poured seemingly indiscriminately upon the earth (including the waters turning to blood, by the way). But the remaining plagues fall on the Egyptians only; as the final bowls of wrath in Revelation are poured out only on those who have the mark of the Beast, not on the children of God. Finally there is a great deliverance for the redeemed.
Certainly God makes a difference between the righteous and the unrighteous—He always has. But it's not always according to the preconceived notions of the majority.
Day 37: Pharaoh Offers a Compromise
And Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, "Go, sacrifice to your God within the land."
Pharaoh was visibly moved by the plague of the dog-flies; the land was laid waste by them, the Bible records, and everybody in Egypt—except the Israelites—was made totally uncomfortable. He had to do something; the natives were getting restless. So the king offered a compromise to the men of God; perhaps they were willing to come to the bargaining table and work things out... "Okay, I'll let you serve your God, only don't do it out in the wilderness, but do it right here in Egypt."
A lesser man might have accepted the compromise, too. It was an amazing thing to see Pharaoh bend even a little, and this could be seen as a real victory. Sometimes we Christians jump at concessions like this—whether they come from our unrepentant relatives or political parties looking for our vote—declaring a victory for ourselves and the Lord much too prematurely, compromising our own better judgment, and our own best interests, because we're so eager to get some kind of positive response from the world.
Remember, Egypt is a type of the world: not just the physical earth, but the world in the New Testament sense of the word: the domain of the devil, the whole worldly system and its way of doing things. The Christian is to "come out from among them," the Word of God says – not in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense, not compromising at all with the devil and his world (Pharaoh and Egypt). Typically or symbolically speaking, Pharaoh's offer was, "okay, go ahead and name Christ if you like, but don't leave the world, don't rock the boat, don't really take a strong stance for the Lord, but stay here with us and our values."
Moses didn't accept the compromise. In the first place the Israelites wouldn't have been able to do any real worship at all, as the Egyptians worshipped cows, and as soon as they started offering cattle sacrifices they would have been stoned by the masses. Be not mistaken, the world is not going to let you worship in spirit and truth while standing among them. That sort of compromise snuffs out a budding move of God in quick order. Moses wasn't biting.
So Pharaoh bargained a little more. "You can go out in the wilderness then, but not too far out." This is essentially the same offer. Don't get too far away from worldliness in your efforts to be a Christian, don't get too sanctified, too holy. Get excited about the Lord, but keep one foot in Egypt anyway, don't fall out of touch completely... keep up with the latest TV shows and popular songs—you don't want to be some kind of out-dated weirdo in black clothes, black hats, and bonnets. It's basically the same offer: say you're a Christian but don't burn your bridges, don't come out from among them.
It all boils down to not being a Christian at all. A compromised believer is not a believer at all, but rather a worldling with a conscience. And your conscience will never be at ease while that compromise lasts. You can't stay indefinitely with one foot in the boat and one on the dock anyway. Get in the boat with Jesus—today.
Day 38: Plague #5, A Livestock Disease
For if you refuse to let [the Israelites] go, and continue to hold them, behold, the hand of the Lord will come with a very severe pestilence on your livestock which are in the field, on the horses, on the donkeys, on the camels, on the herds, and on the flocks.
Remember from yesterday's lesson that Pharaoh had offered Moses and Aaron a compromise: "Sacrifice within the land instead of going out in the wilderness," he said, knowing that the sacrifice of cattle would bring down the wrath of the Egyptians on the Israelites, and probably quench the whole Israeli uprising. For the Egyptians held the cattle to be holy, and would stone the Israeli slaves as they offered them to the Lord, Pharaoh's permission or not.
God's reply to this sort of intrigue and trickery on Pharaoh's part was quick and to the point, "Okay, if you want to play games, I'll kill all your cattle then—and the horses, donkeys, camels, and flocks, too. In plagues five through seven all the livestock of Egypt were wiped out. God doesn't fool around, and He doesn't tolerate people playing games with Him, trying to con Him or trap Him in a play of words. He looks at the heart and cannot be deceived; and when He acts He goes straight to the heart of the matter.
The sad part of this whole episode is that the innocent animals had to suffer along with their godless masters. You could take it a little further and say that all the innocent Egyptians had to suffer for the rebellion of their godless leader. It doesn't seem fair, but that's the way it is. God delegates authority in the universe, and the authorities have power to bless or curse those under their rule, whether you're talking about fathers and children, kings and subjects, or man and animals.
When the Lord placed Adam and Eve in the Garden He gave them authority and dominion over all the animals. At first it was a happy dominion, and the first humans actually communicated freely with the animals (eg. Eve and the serpent). But after the Fall the sin and death principle entered the whole world system. The animals were innocent, but they suffered, too. In Romans chapter eight, Paul explains that the animals and the rest of creation were subjected to futility and corruption in the fall, and that they are literally groaning and suffering at this time. The good news is that they, too, will be saved, as it were, set free from the present bondage when we are finally glorified in Christ.
It's not exactly fair—in the American justice sense—that the animals should suffer with the people, but it's the way the system operates. And sinful men have a tendency to abuse the system. Nevertheless, both animals and men, and God for that matter, are looking to the day when the system will be set straight again, living in hope of entering into the freedom and liberty promised to the whole creation.
Day 39: Plague #6, Boils
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.
When the plague of boils was poured out on Egypt the Bible takes time to point out that even the magicians were so infected that they could not appear before Moses when he came back to the palace; and as it also says the boils were on all the Egyptians, we can assume even Pharaoh himself was plagued with them.
If we look at Pharaoh as a type of the devil again today, we can learn more about our enemy: he and his servants, the fallen angels and demons, cannot avoid the judgment of God. This, of course, goes without saying, but sometimes we Christians think and act contrary to the revealed Word of God, especially where the enemy of our souls is concerned.
Many think of Satan as the prince of hell. If you're good, you'll go to heaven, the place where God rules; if you're bad you'll go to hell, where the devil controls things. Nothing could be further from the truth. The devil is not now in hell. As we saw a few days ago, according to the book of Job, he is even now roaming about the earth, and he still has access to the throne of God, where he, and the other angelic beings, periodically report. His domain is actually the heavenlies, or high places of the earth, the spiritual atmosphere of the planet. He is the prince of the powers of the air, we're told, and the air spoken of is that same spiritual atmosphere.
Hell was prepared for the devil (Mt.25:41), not as his domain, but as a place of punishment for him and his angels. The eternal fire referred to in that place is Gehenna, or the Lake of Fire. It is the ultimate abode of Satan, but he will not be ruling and reigning, he will be suffering for eternity, just as everyone else there will be. Isaiah says that the rest will marvel at him and say, "You have become like us, your pomp and the music of your harps have been brought down to Sheol; maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you...how you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning [Lucifer], son of the dawn!" (Isaiah 14:10-12). He will be not greatest, but least, in the realm of hell, despised and hated by all the rest, for it was his deception that brought them there.
And there is nothing he can do to avoid it, or to avoid being cast into the bottomless pit for a thousand years prior to that time. He knows it, and the demons know it, too. When Jesus was delivering the Gadarene demoniacs the spirits accused him of tormenting them and throwing them into the abyss (bottomless pit) before the set time. He didn't—and had no intention of doing so—but allowed them to enter a herd of forbidden swine. The point is, they knew their judgment, and that they couldn't get out of it. So does their prince and leader. I have no idea what holds our enemy's ranks together, unless it be mutual desperation, fear of Satan, and hatred for God. For they have no hope of ever winning this spiritual war; the outcome has long since been determined.
The only thing more amazing is that people want to follow them into perdition, especially backsliders who once held to the truth. Let me assure you by the authority of God's Word, if you persist in rebellion against the Lord, your judgment is just as certain and unavoidable.
Day 40: Plague #7, A Giant Hailstorm
"Behold, about this time tomorrow, I will send a very heavy hail, such as has not been seen in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. Now therefore send, bring your livestock and whatever you have in the field to safety. Every man and beast that is found in the field and is not brought home, when the hail comes down of them, will die."
After Pharaoh hardened his heart during the plague of the boils, God decided to really play hardball. The first plagues had shamed the Egyptians and their gods, and caused inconvenience and discomfort. Then he had stretched out his hand against their livestock, had actually taken animal lives in His punishment. From this point forward He starts taking human lives. He pointed out to Pharaoh in verse 15 that He could have done this all along, but He wanted to show His mercy. The Pharaohs had no mercy. They had ordered a mass genocide in the killing of all the Hebrew males. But the Lord is merciful, and desires to put off serious judgment as long as He can.
The earlier judgments, (and the latter ones too, for that matter) were designed to bring about repentance and belief in the true God. God's judgments are not punitive in nature for the most part, but rather redemptive. That is, He's not interested in taking out His frustration by punishing us; He wants to bring us to a place where we'll change our behavior and turn to Him.
This time He offers an out to those Egyptians who are ready to do just that. Anyone who really believed in the God of Israel could avoid this plague simply by sheltering themselves the following day. Thus, even the Egyptians were offered the same privileges that God's people enjoyed—avoiding the wrath of God. The Lord hoped that the preliminary judgments would cause them to believe enough to take heed to themselves now that the serious ones were coming.
What a glorious type of salvation! God offers redemption not only to the Israelites, the natural children of the covenant, but also to any of the Egyptians who want in on it. Remember Egypt is a type of the world, so God makes His offer to the whole world. And the physical death of the hail is a type of eternal spiritual death and hellfire. The basis for avoiding that death is faith: "The servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord made his servants and his livestock flee into the houses."
It's all right here in the Law of Moses, the whole plan of salvation in symbolic form. And it's not so symbolic or deep that only a Bible scholar can understand it, either. The Egyptians understood, and so can anyone who reads the Bible. He that believes on the Lord, and takes a few simple steps of obedience shall be saved. It's as simple as that.
Day 41: Plague #8, Locusts
And Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, "Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, 'How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me? Let my people go, that they may serve Me. For if you refuse to let My people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your territory.'"
One of the most dreaded phenomena of North Africa and certain other parts of the world is a locust plague. These grasshopper-like insects gather in huge swarms that literally blacken the sky, devouring all the crops and fields unfortunate enough to be in their path, totally devastating the farmlands in the districts they pass through. The very mention of locusts struck fear in the hearts of Pharaoh's attendants. "How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the men go that they may serve the Lord their God. Do you not realize that Egypt is destroyed?"
Egypt was nearly destroyed, but Moses was not the man that was a snare to them, Pharaoh himself was. "How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?" the Lord asked him. Can anyone fight God and win? What was Pharaoh thinking? Could he possibly have thought that all the plagues were mere coincidence, as he looked forward to the eighth one? Not hardly. Did he think that Moses would run out of new tricks in his bag? Did he think he could sit it out until it was over? It's hard to say. The Bible just says, "Pharaoh's heart was hardened."
It most likely was not a issue of win or lose, but rather a of pride and hardness of heart. Pharaoh was not about to humble himself before Moses or his God, no matter what happened. He sat on his throne and watched Egypt go down around him. He would not give in. He would not give up the Hebrew slaves; the economy of much of the land was dependant on their labors. He would not bend the knee to some foreign God; he would not bend the knee to anyone or anything; He was Pharaoh. He was a god in his own right as far as the people were concerned, and he probably half believed it himself.
Maybe you've met people like that. They're so proud and stubborn, so convinced of their own opinions about life and truth, that a literal appearance of Jesus couldn't change their minds. There are people who will be ushered off to hell itself, cursing the system and the God who designed it, shaking their fists all the way, refusing to submit. Like Pharaoh it's not a matter of win or lose—he lost and so will they—it’s a matter of not being able to admit when you're wrong, of being self-willed and rebellious. Pharaoh simply would not humble himself before the Lord, no matter what, and there men and women just like him in every age.
We'd all do well to make it a point to stay humble so this doesn't happen to us. Obey the Word, without making excuses for what it says, without trying to reason your way around it if it doesn't seem to agree with your own opinions—just shut up and obey! And listen to those who stand in the place of Moses in your world, your pastor and church leaders. God's put them before you even as He put Moses before Pharaoh. Think of how different it might have been if he had obeyed right away. And think of what could happen to you if you choose to follow in his hard-hearted ways.
Day 42: Plague #9, Thick Darkness
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."
If locusts were a fearful natural plague—only in supernatural magnitude—the plague of darkness was supernatural beyond anything the people had ever seen. All of the plagues were supernatural, you remember—it wasn't coincidence that Moses could lift up his staff and call them on and off. But at the same time they were composed of natural elements: frogs, gnats, locusts, etc. – in supernatural proportions and quantities. But who ever heard of darkness for three days straight? The sun simply did not shine through on Egypt, except in the homes of the Israelites, which made it all the more awesome. This was a true visitation of the supernatural.
And darkness is a scary aspect of the supernatural, too. Children are usually afraid of the dark, and if the truth be told, so are many adults. Most of us, in fact, would be afraid of a deep supernatural darkness such as this... what's causing it, who or what may be lurking in the corners? Why does the darkness even seem to swallow up the light from our lamps? You can imagine the sick, fearful feeling in the pit of the Egyptians' stomachs, the prolonged adrenaline rushes, the screams that were uttered, as they peered into thick blackness day after day.
Darkness hurts you deeply, both emotionally and physically. It has long been used by Communist governments as a form of torture to break down political or religious dissidents. Lock up someone in darkness for a few days, and they'll be putty in your hands. Darkness increases depression. Alaska, with its long arctic winter night, has an extremely high percentage of suicides. I'm told that the body cannot process certain chemicals that help your emotional and physical well-being without light—just as plants need sunlight, so do humans. Women are particularly susceptible to the effects of darkness, suicide figures show, for their menstrual cycle is affected in addition to the other chemical imbalances experienced.
It was a particularly severe judgment, but once again Pharaoh hardened his heart. In fact, he was in a rage, threatening to kill Moses if he dared show himself again. He had lost all reason in his fight against God and the chosen people. But the Lord had one final ace up His sleeve, one that He didn't want to play, but knew all along He'd have to. We'll talk about that tomorrow.
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Version unless marked otherwise.
Copyright © 2005 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.