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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson


November 2021

Exodus 9:22-28: Choices

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that hail will fall all over Egypt—on people and animals and on everything growing in the fields of Egypt.” 23 When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the Lord sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt; 24 hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. 25 Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both people and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree. 26 The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were.

27 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Pray to the Lord, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.”

Repentance is a change of mind leading to a change of behaviour. It is a turning – to God and away from sin. Pharaoh did not repent. He used repentant sounding language. But as the rest of the story unfolds we will again see that his heart and conduct remained unchanged. He was still the same Pharaoh. He regretted the consequences of his sin. He didn’t like it hailing and thundering, and wanted it to stop. But he didn’t want to stop sinning. Not really. He just wanted to stop suffering. Pharaoh had regret, but he did not repent.

I’ve started to re-read a book I first worked through many years ago: ‘Revolution of Character’, by Dallas Willard and Don Simpson. It was published in 2006. Today I came across these words, and thought them relevant to our passage:

“In our present thought world, the horror of our ruin is hidden from polite  and enlightened conversation. Sin as a condition of the human self is not available philosophically or ethically to explain why life proceeds as it does. For example, why do around half of American marriages fail, or why do we have massive problems with substance addiction and with the “moral failures” of public leaders? The thinkers who are supposed to know such things are lost in speculation about “causes.” Meanwhile, the real source of our failures lies in our choices and the factors at work in them. Choice is where the potential for sin dwells.”

The weather is going to change, and then Pharaoh is going to continue with choosing badly. It will be his ruin. You can’t resist God and win!

Exodus 9:20,21: At the Cross-roads

Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. 21 But those who ignored the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the field.

This is the story of the progress of the gospel in the world in two verses. There are those who believe and those who don’t; there are those who repent and those who won’t; there are those who turn and those who (seemingly) can’t. Life and death are always in the balance.

Reading verse 21 you might think, ‘Why?’ ‘Why would you do that when you already have such a build up of evidence that the Lord says what He means and means what He says?’ There is always something illogical about the stubborn refusal to believe. But someone observed that the original temptation in the garden of Eden involved doubting the truth of judgment, and we see it played out again in the plague stories. We are seeing it appearing today even among some so-called evangelicals who appear to be losing their nerve around this doctrine.

I seem to remember a couple of quotes from Jim Packer’s excellent book, ‘Knowing God’, which I read in the late 1970’s. As I recall he wrote that Adam and Eve first hid from God before they were removed from the garden. Also, I believe he said that all that God ultimately does in judgment is to underline the choices we have already made.

“My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine. I, the LORD, have spoken! “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2: New Living Translation).

Whenever we hear God’s Word, life and death are in the balance. The highway of obedience is the way of life, and the way of disobedience is the road of death. Life and death are not only eternal destinies, they are routes through the world now.

Exodus 9:13-19: Glorify your Name in all the earth

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, 14 or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. 16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. 18 Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. 19 Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every person and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’”

The plagues started out like a warning shot across Pharaoh’s bows. If he had responded well, there would have been no need for this intensification.

However, ‘God wanted to make Pharaoh a permanent example to all people of the folly of resisting Israel’s God (verse 16). Evil men are sometimes raised…up so that God can demonstrate His justice and power in dealing with them (see Romans 9:17). No ruler – good or evil – sits in power without God having placed him there (Romans 13:1).’ Tom Hale: ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.221.

God is rightly and supremely interested in glorifying His own Name, and He has the right to do it in whatever way He chooses.

‘God is most jealous for his own glory, fame, and honour. He desires above all else that His name be preserved and promoted and He will act quickly and powerfully to vindicate His glory.’ Nigel Lloyd.

Exodus 9:8-12: “Do whatever He tells you”

Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. 9 It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on people and animals throughout the land.”

10 So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on people and animals. 11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. 12 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.

You never know what God is going to use in His purposes. We may be surprised! A car, a home, a ten pound note, a particular personality trait, a book, a possession, an ability…”handfuls of soot from a furnace”. The thing is to stay tuned, try to walk with God, and do what He tells you. Then see what He does with what He’s told you to take hold of.

When a certain boy left home one sunny morning, carrying his picnic of 5 loaves and 2 fishes, I’m sure he had no idea how the Lord He was going to listen to would use it. Surely more than he could have asked or thought.


…the words of Mary to the servants at the wedding in Cana are always pertinent for Christ’s followers:

“Do whatever he tells you.” (John 2:5).

Exodus 9:1-7: We make our choices…

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” 2 If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, 3 the hand of the Lord will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses, donkeys and camels and on your cattle, sheep and goats. 4 But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.’”

5 The Lord set a time and said, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this in the land.” 6 And the next day the Lord did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. 7Pharaoh investigated and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.

I am reminded of a story I read about a lawyer who was confronted with the evidence for the resurrection of Christ. Having examined it he said, ‘The resurrection is established beyond all doubt as fact. But I find I am no nearer to conversion because my problem is not with my head but my heart.’

Whether the story is true or apocryphal, it is certainly true to life. There are none so blind as those who will not see.

We make our choices and then our choices turn around and make us.

Pharaoh was being formed in his repeated rejection of the light.

Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38 This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:

“Lord, who has believed our message

    and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

39 For this reason they could not believe… John 12:37-39

‘True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.’ Karl Popper

Exodus 8:24-32: Don’t go too far

And the Lord did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials; throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies.

25 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land.”

26 But Moses said, “That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the Lord our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us? 27 We must take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, as he commands us.”

28 Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me.”

29 Moses answered, “As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the Lord, and tomorrow the flies will leave Pharaoh and his officials and his people. Only let Pharaoh be sure that he does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.”

30 Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord, 31 and the Lord did what Moses asked. The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not a fly remained. 32 But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.

Someone observed that we see in Moses now, something of a man ‘growing into the job.’ There is such a calm assurance about him, and for all his great power, there is just a sense that Pharaoh cannot win. The transformation is somewhat akin to Peter, pre and post-Pentecost. Moses is a changed man.

In this section of the plague of flies story, I recognise that we can be like Pharaoh in saying to obviously committed people, ‘Steady on now. Don’t go overboard. It’s all well and good to be a disciple, but don’t take it too far.’

Someone said, ‘The devil is always telling us it is dangerous to get too near to God.’ I think that is true, and we can feel threatened by people who have obviously gone further than we have.

“The centre of the fire looked like glowing metal…” (Ezekiel 1:4). This refers to Ezekiel’s vision of God. Could it be we are scared to get too close to the “centre of the fire”? Fearful of what might be burned up?

PRAYER: Lord, please give me a desire to go deeper into you. May nothing hold me back.

Exodus 8:20-23: Distinction

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the river and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 21 If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies; even the ground will be covered with them.

22 “‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. 23 I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.’”

There are two observations I want to make about this plague. Here is the first. The second will come tomorrow:

God will deal differently with His people in judgment. In many ways, the day of judgment will be one of division and distinction. It will clearly and truly be seen who are God’s people and who are not. Before that day, we are not in a position to make such judgments. The Lord knows those who are His and He will make it known.

But even now He makes a distinction between the church and the world. The church is called (and enabled) to be so different, and this difference is meant to be much more than that we go to church while everybody else doesn’t! It is about the lives we lead – being a counter-culture.

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:14-16).

There is a definite distinction in the night sky between the darkness and the shining, luminous planets. So it should be with Christians in the world. Even as I came downstairs on this cold, dark morning, the light from the moon made a difference.

G.Campbell Morgan, in a sermon on the beatitudes, asked, ‘What is the character of the Christian’s influence? It is the influence of the Christian’s character?’

Exodus 8:16-19: The finger of God

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” 17 They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats. 18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not.

Since the gnats were on people and animals everywhere, 19 the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the Lord had said.

In this story the plagues go up a gear, because the Egyptian magicians can’t duplicate this one.

‘…suddenly they realised that they were up against a greater power than their own. They told Pharaoh: “This is the finger of God” (verse 19).

From this point on, Pharaoh’s officials began more and more to understand the power of the God of Israel. But Pharaoh himself, in his pride, determined to oppose God.’ Tom Hale: ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.219.

Hale also includes this footnote:

‘God is so powerful that all He needs is His finger to make things happen. The expression “finger of God” (Luke 11:20) is similar to the expressions “arm of God” or “hand of God” (Exodus 9:3); it simply means “God’s action” or “God’s power.”

Exodus 8:6-12: Spiritual Authority

So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land. 7 But the magicians did the same things by their secret arts; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt.

8 Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people, and I will let your people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.”

9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “I leave to you the honour of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs, except for those that remain in the Nile.”

10 “Tomorrow,” Pharaoh said.

Moses replied, “It will be as you say, so that you may know there is no one like the Lord our God. 11 The frogs will leave you and your houses, your officials and your people; they will remain only in the Nile.”

12 After Moses and Aaron left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the Lord about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. 13 And the Lord did what Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courtyards and in the fields. 14 They were piled into heaps, and the land reeked of them. 15 But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.

She attended a ‘mission’ service, and went forward for prayer. She received healing. Some time later, he ran into her in the town. She was well and had gone back to her old lifestyle. She seemed happy, and showed no intention of following Christ or attending church.

I remember well the bones of this story which was told to me many years ago. It came back to me as I considered Pharaoh who wanted an answer to prayer, but had no intention of repenting. Many belong to his tribe!

Thinking about the second half of this plague story, who is in charge here? Who is running the show (humanly speaking)? It isn’t the powerful king of Egypt, but the formerly reluctant, excuse-making individual we know as Moses. While he shows courtesy towards Pharaoh, he wields great authority. This is just a glimpse of what God can do with weak, ordinary people. The purpose, of course, was not to glorify Moses, but the Lord Himself (10).

PRAYER: Lord God, I sometimes almost despair when I look in the mirror. I am unremarkable in so many ways. But thank you because your Word shows that when the Spirit comes upon someone in power they are transformed. Help me to lean on you and your strength.

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