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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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.

Exodus 8:5,6: Stretch out your hand

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your hand with your staff over the streams and canals and ponds, and make frogs come up on the land of Egypt.’”

6 So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land.

Note well:

  • God is able to perform signs and wonders wherever (and through whomever) He chooses. Egypt was a dark and dangerous place, full of idolatry, superstition and occultism. But God’s light broke through again and again;
  • Also, if God tells you do something you will be able to do it. His power accompanies His commands. He will do far more than you can ask or imagine. When you and I do, by God’s enabling, what we are so obviously unable to do in our own strength, He gets the praise. That is only right.

Consider:

  • Who is God telling you to stretch out your hand to? May be it will be an outstretched hand in prayer, or practical help? Perhaps both?
  • What is God telling you to reach out your hand in order to receive? What have you been asking for? It is so true, I believe, that the Lord is more willing to give than we are to receive.
  • What is God telling you to stretch out your hand over in faith, prayer and the authority of God’s Word? As Dave Green said repeatedly at our first church house party many years ago: ‘Things can change!’

Thoughts:

“Pray as you can, not as you can’t.”

– Dom Chapman

“Whether we realise it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him.”

– St. Augustine

Exodus 8:1-5a: Hearing from God

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. 2 If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country. 3 The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. 4 The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials.’”

5 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron…

First of all, a general comment from Tom Hale which I found helpful:

‘The Egyptians believed in a goddess pictured as a frog’s head, who assisted in childbirth. Therefore frogs were reverenced in Egypt. But the Egyptians were soon to think less of their frogs after this second plague! The ten plagues were in one sense an assault on the gods of Egypt. Egyptians worshiped the Nile River as the source of life; but the God of Israel turned it to blood. The chief god of Egypt was the sun, but the God of Israel would soon blot out the sun for three days (Exodus 10:21-23). Yet as long as Pharaoh’s magicians were able to duplicate Moses’ plagues (verse 7), the Egyptians remained unconvinced that Israel’s God was more powerful than theirs.’ ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.219.

That provides an excellent insight for our overall understanding of the plagues, but the particular thought I want to share today concerns hearing from God. Notice the interaction with the Lord throughout the entire passage (1-15), with Moses hearing from God, and speaking to God in prayer.

Most people tend to hear God in the realm of thought. One man said, ‘A thought punched me in the brain!’ God may speak with an audible voice, but it is often internally, with a strong, insistent conviction, that we hear Him.

As my wife Jilly said to me a moment or two ago, with regard to something she did yesterday, ‘It is so important to follow those promptings.’ It surely is.

“Individually the disciple and friend of Jesus who has learned to work shoulder to shoulder with his or her Lord stands in this world as a point of contact between heaven and earth, a kind of Jacob’s ladder by which the angels of God may ascend from and descend into human life. Thus the disciple stands as an envoy or a receiver by which the kingdom of God is conveyed into every quarter of human affairs.”

― Dallas Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God

Exodus 7:25-8:1: Repetition

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me (1).

Sometimes sermons need repetition. Now there’s a radical thought!

Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:12-15: So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

An Argentinian pastor, Juan Carlos Ortiz, wrote a book entitled, ‘Disciple’. I seem to remember him saying that in his church they repeat the same sermon until they see the congregation doing it! I’m not saying this approach should be copied by everyone. By no means. But I do get the principle. In the great commission, Jesus said to teach people to do everything He commanded. For that to happen, there will be an inevitable degree of repetition through the years. We may find new and fresh ways to express the same things. But there are some ‘same things’ which will require repetition.

I was thinking also, how good of God to keep speaking to us about important issues where we need to change. He comes to us again and again to call us to do his will. But let us learn from Pharaoh that there can come a day where we have gone too far in our resistance, and our hearts are hardened beyond any possibility of responding positively.

If we hear His voice ‘Today’ let’s not be deliberately stubborn (See Hebrews 3,4). We could fail to enter in to all God has for us.

Exodus 7:8-24: What will it take?

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the river. Confront him on the bank of the Nile, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16 Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened. 17 This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’”

19 The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.”

20 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.

22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.

There is a long way to go in this story before Pharaoh will finally let the people go. There are many more plagues to come; there is much more suffering to be endured.

I caught up with an old friend the other day, a fellow-church leader. He is by no means a gloomy, pessimistic personality. But we were having a frank conversation about the seriousness of the situation facing us, with the gradual drifting away from God in our nation, and the apparent movement away from robust discipleship in many parts of the church. There is much to be concerned about. I commented that we had come through the pandemic without any obvious large-scale turning towards God, and we wondered, ‘What will it take?’ ‘What will it have to take to being us back?’

This is not a time for Christians to be sleep-walking. We need to firmly take hold of the staff of prayer, and use the authority God has given us to intercede…while we still have time.

PRAYER: Lord, rouse your church from her dozy slumbers. Pour upon us the Spirit of prayer. Open our eyes to see the seriousness of the times, and may we each rise up to make a difference.

Exodus 7:8-13: Greater is He

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.”

10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. 11 Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: 12 Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.

I once heard about a lady who became a Christian because of her involvement with spiritism. She recognised that she was coming into contact with a very real power on the dark side of things, and decided there must be also a very real power on the light side.

What we need to always remember is that God’s power is greater. Although the gifts of the Spirit are regularly counterfeited by occult practitioners, ‘Aaron’s staff’ will always swallow up the staffs of the ‘Egyptian magicians’, if you see what I mean.

“But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over these people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world”  (1 John 4:4: ‘New Living Translation’).

However, as important as signs and wonders, miracles, spiritual gifts are, they are no guarantee that everyone who experiences them will bow to God (13).

Exodus 7:1-7: A good old age.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. 2 You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, 4 he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. 5 And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”

6 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded them. 7 Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.

God dealt with Moses’ further protestations about his lack of ability as a speaker (1,2).

But the thing that leaps out of the page at me today is the reference to the ages of Moses and Aaron: 80 and 83 respectively. Your best years may be ahead of you. Age need not be a hindrance to serving God. In the words of a book title (a book by Derek Prime), it is possible to have ‘a good old age.’ Your life is not over because you’re on the pension.

“Old age is just as important and meaningful a part of God’s perfect will as is youth. God is every bit as interested in the old as the young.” J.O. Sanders.

Tom Hale also makes this point:

‘It took that long for God to prepare them for the work He had given them to do.

Are any of us tired of our training, impatient to “get on with the job”? Let us remember Moses. It is dangerous to go into the Lord’s work with poor preparation – especially poor spiritual preparation (1 Timothy 3:16). The Lord will let us know when we are ready.’ ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.217.

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