That You May Know

Exodus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  37:29
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Returning to Exodus…where we left off...
So I want to introduce the next 2 plagues and the threat of the last…then we will go over some themes that come out of this passage.

The Eighth Plague

The second in the last set of 3…it comes with a warning as has been the pattern. God, through Moses commands Pharaoh to repent and let the people go.
The threat given is for locusts to come into the land and devour everything left. Remember, Egypt was already decimated by the previous 7 plagues…but what little was left would now be gone.
Locust swarms are not uncommon in desert areas…we even get them here in the SW US. But, the emphasis here is that this will be unlike any swarm ever seen or imagined. They will cover the face of the earth. There will not be one spot on the ground not covered in these locusts.
Understand what this meant for Egypt…death. No society can survive without food. Their crops are gone…and whatever might have been spared will now be consumed by the locusts. The livestock, while some are still alive many were killed in the hail and lightening.
At this time Egypt controlled a large portion of the land of Canaan as well, so there was an opportunity to import food…but realize this…the Nile river area…the great Empire the Egyptians had built was their pride and joy…
the land of Egypt was in many ways a god to them. So, not only would it be a blow to their pride to have to import food…it is also a major hit to their religious system.
Pharaoh is hardened, Pharaoh is rebellious…but his servants see what’s going on. They speak up and council him to let the men go.
So they bring Moses and Aaron back and agree to let the men of Israel leave, but the women and children must stay back. Pharaoh wanted a security deposit.
So again he tries to negotiate. He’s done this before. When we looked at it we saw the reality that this is what sin does…it tries to broker with God…but what is it really saying? It is saying I only want obedience on my terms.
Moses refuses and eventually God instructs him to stretch out his hand and the locusts come.
Now, I find it interesting that in this plague there is no mention of the land of Goshen where the people of Israel live being spared. Instead, it says the locusts covered the whole country…nothing was spared. Why would this be? Why would God not protect his people from this?
Well, think about it. What does a famine in the land of Israel have to do with the Israelites? Nothing! They’re leaving! In short order the Israelites will be gone.
Why do the locusts not pose a threat to Israel? Because they are leaving!
As he has done before, Pharaoh calls Moses back and expresses remorse. When we saw this a few chapters ago, we noted this was false repentence. Pharaoh is reacting to the circumstances, not his sin against a holy God. Pharaoh wants the consequences to be removed without first understanding why it came about in the first place.
Remember, Moses knows this isn’t real repentence. He trusts what God said when he said he will bring about all the plagues. But, he goes and prays…pleading with the Lord to remove the locusts and God does so.
But then, we see the familiar words: But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.

Ninth Plague

So, then we come to the 9th plague.
As is the pattern, the third in a series of three comes without warning.
God speaks to Moses and tells him to stretch out his hand that there would be darkness over the land.
God says a darkness to be felt. It is an interesting description. The word means to grope at…to touch…to grasp. It doesn’t seem causal…as in the darkness will cause people to grasp…but more describing the darkness itself…something so dark you can feel it…the darkness becomes an object to be felt. Strange and eery.
What is the text saying about this darkness…is it celescial darkness or something else? Is it perpetually night for 3 days, or is this something more? I want to suggest this is the absence of all light in the land of Egypt…no torches…no moonlight…no stars…just jet-black darkness all around.
I remember as a kid going to many of those cavern tours. There’s the one out near lancaster…some up in NY and elsewhere. A feature of many of them is the point where they tell you “ok, we’re going to turn off the lights for a moment. You will experience total darkness” What they mean by that is the complete absence of ambient light and light detectable to our eyes.
Some really really smart person might say well there are still photons present there, so there’s still light we just can’t see it…ok yeah, but as far as humanly possible that is total darkness.
It is strange, disorienting…altogether uncomfortable. Our brains have a hard time processessing it.
This is the type of darkness being described here…why do I say that?
First, they did not see one another. Even in the darkness of night our eyes adjust to the point where we can make out shapes and images.
Second, no one rose from his place. Everyone just stayed where they were.
Third, verse 23 also tells us the people of Israel had light where they lived. It actually says in their dwellings. Now, we do know the Israelites lived among the Egyptians in Goshen…so it seems to indicate there was a sharp divide in this light among Israelite and Egyptian homes. How? Well, its God’s mighty acts. God who created light can do whatever he wants with it…even defy the natural order.
Not only is this terrifying…disorienting…debilitating…it is also another direct attack on Egyptian religion. Light, the stars and especially the sun were a major focal point of their religion.
The god Ra was one of the most important dieties to them…he was the sun god. Think about it…the pyramids, many of the tombs and monuments have been found to all align with celestial objects…the sun, moon, and stars. Light was essential not only to their natural life, but their spiritual life as well.
So Pharaoh negotiates again. Now he agrees to let all the people go worship, but they have to leave their livestock behind. This is a problem, because Moses knows their destination…God told him. He knew they would return to Horeb to worship him…and that worship will require sacrifice.
Moses is not exaggerating here…he does not know what the Lord will require.
Pharaoh is furious and threatens that if he ever sees Moses again, he will kill him.
Moses knows this is the last time he will see him, so he departs.

The Tenth Plague Threatened

Chapter 11 consists entirely of the promise of God to bring one more plague against Egypt. This is the one that all the others have been leading to. This is the one that will cause Pharaoh to drive the people of Israel out of Egypt.
God said back in Exodus 4:21-23
Exodus 4:21–23 ESV
21 And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’ ”
we saw then how He warns in verses 22 and 23 that the last plague will be the worst.
He introduced this principle: a son for a son.
Notice He says, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” See that? Freedom for God’s people isn’t just being release to do whatever they want…it is freedom to then serve God. The exchange is great and meaningful…God’s children stop serving Pharoah and then serve God.
Egypt will, in some sense, never be the same again. God has been demonstrating his almighty power and has removed the hand of restraint from them. He has let Pharaoh’s sin plow Egypt into the ground.
But this being the final plague isn’t the only unique thing about it…all the previous 9 involved Moses and Aaron lifting their staffs or stretching out their hands. God was working these mighty acts through his servants.
The 10th plague is different…look at verse 4…God says I will go out in the midst...
This is the first and only plague where God himself acts without an intermediary.
First, this displays the seriousness of this plague and its uniqueness.
But, it also highlights another important distinction. This plague of death to which Israel will be spared…shows how even Moses and Aaron needed to be protected from the curse of death. The doorposts of Moses and Aaron also needed to be covered by the blood of the sacrifice.
So, what are some themes that come out of this passage?
At the beginning of Chapter 10 and at the end of Chapter 11 we see the same phrase repeated. God says “that you may know.”
In the first context, it has to do with the plagues as a testimony to Israel about his mighty works and his humiliation of Egypt. It is to be a testimony for generations. This is the story they would tell their children and grandchildren and on and on into the future.
The second context is God demonstrating to Pharaoh his favor toward Israel that Pharaoh might know he has made a distinction between Egypt and Israel.
These two statements act like bookends to these two chapters…the mighty works God is accomplishing are so that He would be known…to Israel as a redeemer…to Pharaoh as a righteous judge.
So, let’s look a bit deeper into the context here to understand a bit more about what God is saying.

He is the LORD

Remember back in Ex. 3 we saw Israel’s God is unlike any other…but they really don’t know much about him. He hasn’t spoken in some time…the patriarchs of their family are long dead. Further, they’re living in a polytheistic society…they have gods for all sorts of things…and they all have names.
Though it may not be apparent at first, the name Yahweh tells us many important things about God’s identity.
In the first place, it indicates that the Lord’s character does not change. We can say of ourselves, “I was x yesterday, but today I am y, and maybe tomorrow I will be z,” but our Creator cannot do the same. Yesterday He says, “I Am,” today He says, “I Am,” and tomorrow He says, “I Am.”
He does not grow in knowledge or holiness. God cannot gain or lose any perfections. His very character is unalterable. He is the one for whom there is no shadow of change (James 1:17).
Importantly, Jesus takes this same name for Himself (John 8:58), thereby showing His claim to be one with the Father and therefore worthy of our worship.
Yahweh also points out a vital distinction between our essence and God’s essence. Both humans and the Almighty possess the attribute of “beingness,” that is, we both exist.
However, our being is derivative, for there was a time when we did not exist. But God is self-existent: He has always been and can never cease to be (Ps. 90:2).
We saw how central to Exodus…and honestly central to the OT and the NT for that matter is the restoration of proper worship. Worship is important to God…and God expects and demands to be worshipped how he desires.
God demands to be worshipped…he created human beings for that purpose…to bring him glory.
God’s desire to be worshipped is pure…in fact the demands God makes to be worshipped by his creation is the most pure of all demands…it speaks to the very relationship between creature and creator.
God alone is deserving of worship because he alone is self-existant.
God demands worship…and God delivers people in order to make that happen. That is what salvation is ultimately about…its not ultimately about you…its about God…its about His demand to be worshipped and he has delivered a people that they might give him praise and glory.

Righteous Condemnation

There are a number of different ways this is expressed in Exodus. Sometimes it says, “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Sometimes Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Sometimes it simply says, “His heart was hardened.”
All of these are ways of showing that Pharaoh is responsible for the sin that he commits and for the hardness of his heart, and at the same time is under the authority and sovereignty of God, who purposes to harden Pharaoh’s heart in order to show His own glory.
The point is, Pharaoh is not calling the shots.
We’ve already seen that in Exodus 4 earlier
So, Pharaoh is hardened throughout these plagues so that God would bring about the ultimate punishment of killing his son.
Is that uncomfortable? Do we struggle to understand how God can and does ordain the slaughter of firstborn children throughout Egypt. How do we reconcile that with a loving gracious God?
A son for a son…that may come across as petty and vindictive. Isn’t God better than that? So many times we recoil at passages like this because we just really don’t understand why God does what he does.
Part of our problem is that we are predisposed to assuming moral neutrality
We think of people as being basically in neutral…neither good nor bad by default…only our actions and character decide whether we’re good or bad. But, that’s a lie…we are all sinners…we all fall short of the glory of God…we all miss the mark. We are all born in sin
We, perhaps unknowingly put Pharaoh and God on the same moral plane. But, what have we already been reminded of this morning? God is altogether different, self-existing…almighty. He has no peers. He is the creator…everything other than Him is created…including Pharaoh.
We get bent out of shape because so often we miss just how serious sin is. If we find ourselves feeling bad for Pharaoh…feeling like he’s getting the short end of the stick here…then we’ve missed the point entirely. God is displaying His character, His power…His judgment against sin…AND His grace and mercy toward his people.
But, we want to minimize sin…we want to shave the edges down and make it easier to handle.
I love this illustration Dodd shared on one of our Weds. night studies...
Car scratch…junkyard, SUV in a parking lot, mazaradi
Its not just the reality of sin…but also who we are sinning against that matters.
So it is completely within God’s perogative to do whatever he pleases with Pharaoh..for whatever purposes he decides. After all it says in the Scripture “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated”
A woman once came up to Spurgeon asking him how could God say such a thing…how could God say he hated Esau?
Spurgeon answered…that’s not the problem I have…my problem is understanding how God could love Jacob.
Still not convinced? Paul provides even more clarity in Romans 9:14-24
Romans 9:14–24 ESV
14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
God will later tell Moses on Mt. Sinai…I will have mercy on whom I have mercy…in other words, God is free to show grace and mercy to whomever he pleases…but absolutely no one is deserving of it.

Unconditional Redemption

The seven “I wills” 6:6-8 (read with emphasis) we looked at these before
Exodus 6:6–8
Exodus 6:6–8 ESV
6 Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’ ”
We saw Four Promises
Promise of Liberation
Promise of Redemption
Promise of Adoption
Promise of Possession
The point in all this: From beginning to end, every aspect of the exodus was accomplished by God, and by God alone.
Israel is just a recipient of grace. Israel isn’t any better than the Egyptians. They are not morally superior. At this point, they don’t have the law…they have very limited revelation from God. They contribute nothing to the Exodus…it is entirely a work of God from which they benefit by his grace and mercy.
God makes a distinction…he says it in Ch. 11…that you may know I make a distinction!
God is Sovereign in Salvation
God determines
God acts
Israel receives
God has made a distinction!
God responded to the cries of the Israelites in his love and hatred for injustice. God, as we see here…is defending his son (he calls Israel his firstborn).
But over it all and under it all, the Exodus was God’s plan to make His glory known to the nations, and that meant a grand unveiling of divine power.
If you remember back to the very beginning of our study in Exodus we asked a question that we would spend the rest of the book answering...
Here’s the question again…how can people bear the presence of a holy God?
If your answer is anything other than “they cannot” then you do not have a biblical understanding of human sinfulness and God’s holiness.
The truth is, God’s holiness and purity is so great that we as sinners would be instantly detroyed in his presence.
So then, how does it work for God to come and dwell with his people as he does at the end of Exodus?
Like we said earlier, only if God condescends in grace…only if God acts in grace and mercy to meet us in forgiveness.
What we found back then is that Exodus has a simple message: God must act or else we die. Remember that?
God must act or else we die
So let’s tie this all together.
The bookends of our passage this morning are God’s self-revelation…a major theme in Exodus…he makes himself known to the people of Israel as their redeemer who they will tell generation after generation about.
He makes himself known to Pharaoh as the righteous judge who punishes Pharaoh’s disobedience.
We’ve seen how God is just, because he is holy, pure, righteous in both showing mercy and withholding mercy to whomever he wants…any problems we have with that stem from a distorted view of sin…or a narrow view of God…a god of our own making.
We’ve also seen how God unconditionally chooses to show mercy and grace to Israel…he does it all…Israel receives.
God makes Himself known in the condemnation of evil and the unconditional redemption of His people
So what does this have to do with you?
Well, God has made a distinction…he’s drawn a line…a line that extends past this episode in history down through the ages. So, which side of the line are you on?
Are you on the side of condemnation or the side of redemption?
Because the Exodus was never the end of the story. It won’t take long for the story to unfold reminding us that though Israel had been released from slavery in Egypt, she was still a slave to her own sin.
As we continue to walk through this wonderful book we are going to keep coming back to that reality…everything recorded for us in this book points to something greater to come.
The exodus is a shadow of a much greater act of redemption…the cross of Jesus Christ.
In the Exodus, God makes himself known…he judges the sin of Egypt…and he shows unconditional mercy and grace to Israel. At the cross he fulfills the typology with the real thing. What the exodus pointed to was accomplished at Calvary.
Remember…God must act or else we die? Well, he acted. He came in the flesh…the 2nd person of the trinity took on flesh and became one of us…dying sacrifically to bear the penalty of our sin and exchange our sin for his righteousness.
At the cross God again bekons to the world who he is…the Great I AM is not only the judge who has come to condemn sin…but also the sacrifical lamb that covers the doorposts....nowhere do we see that better than at the cross.
So this morning, what are you trusting in? Is it your own righteousness…your own ways…your own confidence in yourself…or are you trusting in Jesus Christ? What side of history are you on?
Look, in studying Exodus it is really easy to focus only on the fire and brimstone attributes of God…to focus on the plagues and the thundering from the mountain…the God of lightening and fire.
But, let’s not forget the same God we looked at two weeks ago who compassionately and lovingly came to minister to Elijah is the same God of the Exodus. He has not changed.
The Exodus story is saturated with a loving and merciful God.
Look at all he is doing that Israel might know him…to be treasured by Him…to be brought into fellowship with Him…to be called his son.
And he still wants that for His people…for the church made up of Jew and Gentile alike…the story of the Exodus that finds its fulfillment in Jesus is the story of God’s pursuit of us.
If God doesn’t act, we die…and in love he acts…he redeems…he shows mercy and grace to the undeserving…that’s you and me.
Trust in Jesus today and be driven out of the bondage of your sin.
God makes Himself known in the condemnation of evil and the unconditional redemption of His people by the blood of Jesus.
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