Thursday, 23 January 2014

(24) January 24: Exodus 7-8 & Matthew 17

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note the different ways God’s supremacy is displayed.

To ponder:
Again, we see we can never be too old to be used. Both in their eighties, Moses is like God in bearing his word and authority, mediated through Aaron (7v1). His stretching out of his hand and use of the staff emphasize God’s power is with them. God’s word is stressed too. Everything is done “as the LORD said,” and Moses and Aaron always act “as the LORD commanded.” By contrast, again and again Pharoah “would not listen” and “hardened his heart.” This would be a pertinent reminder to later Israel, when called to obey God’s commands. Not to, could mean God’s anger and even plague too (5v3, Num 14v36-37). We then should ponder whether we are hardening our own hearts by refusing to obey God’s commands on some matter (Heb 3v12-13)?
            God’s purpose in the plagues and in hardening Pharoah’s heart is a merciful one. As always, he is seeking to bless the nations. The Egyptians believed Pharoah was an incarnate god who kept nature in harmony. God shows Pharoah’s impotence by bringing chaos to nature. His concern was that Egypt would know that he is the true creator God (7v5, 8v22). Christ’s nature miracles surely do the same, keeping us humbly aware of the limits even of medicine and technology.
            The first (Nile into blood) and tenth (dead firstborn sons) plagues reflect Pharoah’s earlier atrocity of seeking to kill Israel’s sons in the Nile. Plagues 1-9 come in triplets. The blood, frogs and lice show God’s superiority over the court magicians. They may have matched two plagues, but Aaron’s snake eats theirs, and the gnats cause them to accept “this is the finger of God” (8v19). Moreover, whereas Pharoah’s hardness is seen each time he almost relents but then refuses, the supremacy of God’s power and mercy is seen in relenting from sending the plagues, and just when Moses prays (8v12-13, 30-32). More than that, his answer is absolute: “Not a fly remained” (8v32).
Sceptics don’t need much alternative explanation to discount God’s works as Pharoah did. But God’s works prove him supreme nevertheless. Whether it is political, military, or demonic powers, Christ is exalted “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion” (Eph 1v21). What encouragement that he is for us, and that he hears our prayers.
Praying it home:
Thank God for how he has displayed in answering your prayers. Pray that you would not forget the limits of all human power, and his absolute supremacy.

Thinking further:
We do not know how the magicians copied God’s acts; although snakes can be paralyzed to be stiff like a staff. However, as the magicians acknowledged in the end, God’s acts were truly miraculous. Of course it is possible the plagues had natural explanations, with the miracle being their timing, exact geography, and their cessation when Moses prayed. The Nile turning to blood could refer to it just becoming red as when Joel talks of the moon “turning to blood” (Joel 3v4). However, the sceptical magicians would have been quick to point out if the plagues had natural explanations, and the fact that water even in pools and buckets turned to blood suggests they didn’t.

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