So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.
If you read the story of the plagues carefully and attentively you can’t help but feel moved: the devastation, the loss of life, the pain and grief, the heartbreak of bereavement. We would have to be very hard-hearted to not be touched by this. In this passage we are witnessing the death of children. They would not all be children, but many would be. That is hard to cope with emotionally.
The doctrine of God’s judgment is not popular, and even for those who hold to it as a tenet of faith, we sometimes struggle with certain parts of the Bible, even as we believe them. But how can we discard them? If we are going to remove the ideas of God’s wrath and judgment from the Scriptures we will have to disembowel the Book.
Further, here are some points to keep in mind:
- The Lord who gives life has the right to take it back again;
- God’s judgment fell after a long time of forbearance, and He gave many opportunities for repentance. God is not only holy and just, He is also long-suffering (patient);
- God can, and does, work out His judgments in history now;
- But of all of this is but a prelude to the final judgment. As we saw yesterday, we can’t resist God’s Word for ever. Ultimately we must come face to face with Him.
Alec Motyer again writes helpfully about how serious disobedience is in the eyes of God;
‘On this point, by facing us with the horrific reality of the plagues, the book of Exodus speaks with unmistakable clarity to us as individuals and to the whole church. The great flood (Gen.9), the destruction of Sodom (Gen.19) and in the New Testament, the striking down of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) are all examples of the fact that the Lord sometimes gives a signal demonstration of how he feels and reacts. This is not because he intends on every occasion to act in the same way, but so that we may see into his mind, and fashion ourselves according to his serious concerns. The plagues reveal his love of obedience and his revulsion from disobedience.’ ‘The message of Exodus’, p.115.
It is only if we fail to grasp the ‘exceeding sinfulness of sin’ that we will find ourselves with an insoluble intellectual problem in reading ‘Exodus’ – and, indeed, this applies to the entire Bible.