Death of the Firstborn Forewarned – Exodus 11

In Exodus 11, God speaks to Moses regarding the death of the firstborn. It catches me interesting that Moses speaks this plague to Pharaoh, and doesn’t even allow Pharaoh to respond this time. He leaves in anger before he even gets to hear what Pharaoh might say. Why the anger, and why does this chapter have the sole purpose of warning Pharaoh, but nothing else? Previously, we’ve experienced that there is warning, and then the plague. But here, we find warning, and then with chapter 12, there is an interlude before the plague. This distinction that God is going to make is much different than the distinction between the Egyptian cattle and the Israelite cattle, or the fields, or the darkness.

This chapter consists of three declarations. The first and last are by God to Moses, and the middle declaration is Moses’ word unto Pharaoh. God’s speaking are no longer to Pharaoh – only indirectly. He now is addressing Moses on behalf of the Israelites. Everything is focused upon Israel being exodused, and upon the Israelites having favor enough to “despoil” the Egyptians. Moses’ words are charged with intensity, as if with every word attempting an offense.

Whereas it would seem logical that the Israelites were to leave Egypt in haste, being cast out from the face of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, it seems like God has another plan. They aren’t to leave as fugitives, but as kings and queens. Pharaoh will do what he has to do, and God will harden his heart to ensure it, but the Egyptians themselves give silver and gold unto the Israelites, almost in a begging attempt to have them leave. It is interesting to note this, because God seems to use this as the paradigm for the end times as well. Over and over again in the prophets, it is declared that when Israel returns to the Land of Israel the final time, after being sifted through the nations according to God’s judgment, they are brought back by kings and queens (Isa 49:22), and riches will be given them from even the most prestigious of the nations (Isa 60:5, 61:6).

Moses speaks unto Pharaoh the total judgment. No one will be exempt, for all have participated in Israel’s suffering. This is an utter devastation to the psyche of the Egyptians. In Exodus 2, the Israelites raised “a loud cry” unto God. Now, it is through Moses that God is saying unto Pharaoh that the Egyptians shall raise “a loud cry”. When the LORD heard the cry of His people, and came to rescue them from their oppression, and remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Egyptian gods do not hear the cry of the Egyptians, and they have no power to rescue them. This is a calculated offense.

The choosing of midnight is significant. It is often associated within Christendom with the return of Christ. Jesus returns at “midnight”, according to the parable of the 10 virgins. Here it is at midnight, while everyone would be at home, that this plague is to commence. Why not in the middle of the day, when people would be dropping in the fields, or the infants would be dying while sucking their mother’s breast? Why wait until midnight, when there is high likelihood that the Egyptians will be asleep? This is an affront to the mindset of the world, that looks for drastic measures in obvious places. God performs this at midnight, when those who do not keep watch will be sleeping. For this reason, we can parallel the words of Jesus with Passover. In Matthew 24, when He is warning His disciples to “keep watch”.

It was Moses who killed the Egyptian for being the “wicked servant” who beat the Israelites. And, it was Moses who stopped the Israelite, questioning why he beat his brother… Then you move to Jesus in Matthew 24 saying the “wicked servant” who beats his fellow servants shall be found not watching and taken by surprise. You have in Exodus the pattern that the Israelites must eat in haste with their sandals on and staff in hand. Then, Jesus speaks of the faithful servants who “keep watch”, and in Matthew 25, you have the wise and foolish virgins. Some of them had extra oil, and others had to ‘go to the merchants’. In this, some were prepared with sandals on and staff in hand, and others were unprepared.

In Moses’ words, we even have the servants of Pharaoh coming and bowing down to Moses. The declaration is made that they shall come down, and actually bow, in order to demand that the Israelites leave. Can you comprehend why this is such an offense? You mean these Israelites, who are but slaves and shamefully mistreated, shall have the Egyptians bow down to them? The people who are the least of all people shall have the greatest super-power bow down before them? There is not a chance. It is only possible when God has revealed His glory, and when the nations themselves, even while they have maintained a disbelief and utter rejection of God up to this point, acknowledge that the God of Israel is the true God, and that no other name under heaven or on earth is truly Lord.

Once again, as with in Moses’ generation, so with the end of the age. Do you comprehend what I’m getting at? It isn’t like Israel is deserving of this. The only reason that they shall have such treatment is because God has chosen them. If we balk against that, then we miss the genius of God. It is the scandal of specificity. To reject Israel as God’s chosen is to reject God Himself, because it refuses Him the privilege to choose whom He shall choose. Who are you, o man of little faith, to tell the potter that He is  not allowed to choose that people, because they have been wayward since their inception? Doesn’t God know that the Church is where it is at, and that we have slaved for Him all these years, but that He hasn’t even given us so much as a goat?! Why the celebration and the grand fattened calf? Why does God cherish them so much more?

And here is the revelation of the heart. To carry on like that is to show that you have altogether rejected God. It is not up to you to decide who is truly God’s people, and who is actually just claiming it in name only. That is God’s prerogative, and to refuse Him that prerogative refuses Him as being God. The nations shall bow down to that people, and as Jesus says to the churches in Revelation, it shall be no different to we who have been grafted in. Don’t balk against the roots, for they are the very support by which you stand.

Here it is. We have finally seen the paradigm of God. This is what He effectually works toward for all generations. In Moses’ day, it was a display against Egypt and the principalities that ruled Egypt. In Jesus’ day, it was a display against Herod, the religious leaders, and Rome, and against the principalities that ruled and governed those systems of government and religion. In our own day, and in the future, it is a display unto the whole world, and the usurping powers of darkness that cannot comprehend the wisdom of God. He comes at midnight, because they think that they are the crafty ones, and yet they who walk in darkness shall not comprehend when the Master shall come. But you, oh children of God, are not in darkness, but walk according to the light, so that that Day shall not come like a thief to you. You have been warned, and told to keep watch, just as the Israelites in Exodus 12, and to you it is given the privilege of coming out from all nations to be established as God’s nation, through great miracles, signs, and wonders.

Darkness You Can Feel – Exodus 10:21-29

For three days there is darkness in the land of Egypt, even a darkness that can be felt. This corresponds to the “three day journey” that Israel requests to make into the wilderness to sacrifice to the LORD their God. The Egyptians god Ammun Ra was the highest of all the gods. This plague would have been more than devastating to the religious system.

The word for “felt” in Hebrew is more than just a darkness that affects the inward man and hope. This kind of “felt” is the Hebrew word that signifies touch. There is a darkness over the land of Israel that can somehow be touched, and in that manner be felt. The Jewish commentary has somewhat dropped the ball on this, as with most all of the plagues. It attempts with all of its might to push away the emphasis of these plagues. It reasons them out, saying that the plague of darkness was the result of a massive sandstorm that comes every March. Because of the former devastations, this one would have been peculiarly intense.

My contention here is that these plagues are given by God, and even if God uses the natural elements around, that doesn’t then give us the right to word it away as “natural phenomenon”. This isn’t just something that takes place every March. This was a calculated affront to everything the Egypt represents. For this reason, the words of Pharaoh are harsh and direct toward Moses, that if Pharaoh sees Moses’ face again, Moses shall die.

At the beginning of the Bible, there is darkness upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovers over the waters. From that point onward, God seems to have a positive relationship with darkness. While we know that God is light, and that His Kingdom is the Kingdom of Light, and that Jesus is the Light of the World, and anyone who walks according to the darkness is not truly a follower of God, still we find somehow that God isn’t embarrassed or afraid of the darkness. There is a personification happening here, and darkness itself is an embodiment of something quite tangible.

When we go to Exodus 10:22, we read of this “thick darkness” that covers the land of Egypt. Then, a few chapters later (20:21), we find that God is dwelling in “thick darkness”. It’s the exact same phrase. How is it that the Spirit of God hovers over the darkened waters? How is it that God dwells in the “thick darkness”? How is it that God makes darkness canopies around Him, dark waters and thick clouds of the skies (2 Sam 22:12)?

Darkness itself is a representation of mystery. What I mean is that the power of darkness is found in that it conceals, or hides. God did not eliminate the darkness at the beginning, because God uses the darkness to “hide” Himself in order to fellowship with humanity and His creation. There is a certain sense in which God cannot fellowship with us without this cloaking of darkness, because to see God face-to-face would kill us in our mortality.

But the serpent, who was craftier than any other beast of the field, usurped the darkness, manipulating it into something it was never intended to be. The darkness was simply meant to be a means by which God could fellowship. Satan used it to hide information from the woman, thus deceiving her. There is a manipulation happening here, and therefore our thoughts of darkness have become negative. The original intention of darkness was not something negative at all, though it was separated from light, and though it was kept guarded by “rulers” (Gen 1:16-18).

When we come unto Exodus 10:21, the darkness that can be felt is something altogether an anomaly. It is as though God is taking off the ruse, allowing for Egypt to experience – tangibly enough to even be felt – the exact spiritual state that they are in. They believe themselves to be following the gods of these phenomenon, keeping them satisfied, but ultimately they are worshiping demons. It’s a sad testimony to perceive.

I heard a story of a man who is within a prominent ministry. He had a dream that this ministry was hosting some sort of end-times teaching seminar at the fairgrounds. There were tons of people there, and they were having a great time discussing the subject matter. The people were breaking off after the messages and asking questions, and ultimately it seemed like everything was perfect. It was precisely at this point, during one of the messages, that serpents started raining from the sky and biting people. There was blood and death everywhere. The serpents were consuming the people, and pandemonium ensued. No matter how much the teachers or listeners tried, they could not command in the name of Jesus to get the snakes to cease. They had no authority over these serpents. The speaker then talked about how this dream shows him that he needs to begin to pray that God gives them authority over the serpents for when this happens.

I’m sad to be the one to bear bad news, but the reality is that this dream was not a “future” dream, but a “now” dream. This ministry, with all of its hype, and all of its impressive stature is currently at a place where people think that they are the pinnacle of Charismatic belief. If you want to know what ministry really has it all together, you point to this one. Even those outside of the Charismatic movement find it to be quite impressive. Yet, the truth is, the serpents didn’t “suddenly” start devouring people. The truth is, their eyes were “suddenly” opened, and they saw what was happening. The serpents have been devouring the people for quite some time, which I suppose is why I’ve never been impressed, though it is all the rage and hype within the denomination I was saved in.

The same is true here in Egypt. Yes, this was a physical judgment. Yet, please realize that the judgment was equally an unveiling of the reality that they were in. Egypt was already in this kind of darkness before the physical darkness ever was shown. This is the danger of what we can become. We can be a people who think ourselves to be shining with radiance unto the nations, and thinking that we’re the “light of the world”, and yet ultimately be the very land that dwells in darkness. How is it that you can know whether you are or are not in this kind of state?

I believe the answer to that question lies within something very simple. Pharaoh continues to harden his heart, and continues to refuse to consider what God is demanding. It comes down to this final time, when God Himself hardens the heart of Pharaoh. I think one simple question will answer for me whether you are in this place or whether you are a child of light. Are you willing to read all of the words of Scripture, seeking to understand what it is that God commands, and to simply obey what it says? As soon as your mind jumps to various passages that you think  don’t apply anymore (*cough – Leviticus – cough*), you have forfeited any possibility of not being in this kind of darkness. To refuse to even consider a large portion of God’s word because it is “law”, or it is difficult to understand, or it is boring, or it makes demands that no one can live up to, the game is up, and you are ultimately left without any hope of freedom from this darkness.

I’ve written before somewhat extensively on law and whether we’re supposed to obey it. The lack of our willingness to even consider it, which ultimately leads to the fact that so few even know what Leviticus or Deuteronomy actually says, only shows that we are precisely within the same haze that Egypt was. We have a god named Jesus, who we claim to be the God of the Bible, and yet we care very little about what this god says or requires. It’s a religious idolatry, relinquishing us from responsibility and from psychological condemnation, but it doesn’t actually bring us the freedom from law and sin that we claim to have. It might psychologically relieve our conscience, but that in no way demands that we have truly died with Christ and been raised in power.

The children of Israel were in Goshen, where there was light. Are you?

Birth of Jesus – Matthew 1:18-25

Within the context of Matthew’s Gospel, we have information that we don’t find anywhere else. Luke focuses around Mary’s story, and so here I won’t look at putting the pieces together. Others have, but I haven’t really seen much of a simple expounding of what is found here in Matthew for the sake of understanding Matthew. Overall, the passage itself is pretty simple and straight to the point. Mary was impregnated, and Joseph didn’t do it. Like all men, Joseph would expect that she must have cheated on him, but because he was righteous, he didn’t want to disgrace her. Therefore, he decided to divorce her quietly. Instead, an angel tells Joseph that the child was given of the Holy Spirit, and to take it as his own. Joseph does so, and proves in this action that it is true: he was a righteous man.

To get into the more specific parts of the passage, we can begin with verse 18. The word “genesis” is used for Jesus’ birth. While it can mean birth, the more common word to choose would have been “gennasis”. Why would Matthew choose this word instead of that one? The whole point of Matthew’s Gospel revolves around kingdom. He just finished the genealogy, laying out how Jesus is connected to David and Abraham. David represents the messianic King that was promised. Abraham was called out of all nations to be established as God’s nation. In both of these men, there was a “genesis” that took place. There was a beginning of God’s Kingdom through Abraham, and a beginning of God’s theocratic rule through David. It isn’t as though these things were absent before Abraham and David, but that through them it was manifest incarnate.

And here we have the point. Jesus is God incarnate, bringing forth the flesh and blood Kingdom of God with Him, ruling that Kingdom as the son of David. The reason this is “genesis” instead of “gennasis” is because Matthew is perceiving something new transacting here. It is more than a birth. It is more than even the promised messiah, as many Jews would have been hoping and expecting. Matthew deliberately quotes the Old Testament verses that he does, at the times that he does. So, when we read later from Isaiah (Mat 1:23), “Behold, the virgin shall be with child”, we can be assured that it is here for a reason. And, again, in Mat 2:6, when Micah 5:2 is quoted, we can know that this also revolves around the point.

Isaiah 7:14 has a context. When you go back to the passage, you find that the king of Syria and the king of Israel (northern country) came against Judah (southern country) in attack. God speaks to Isaiah, and tells him to prophesy to the king. God begins to say that this plot will be fruitless. God then asks the king what he desires as a sign for evidence that this will take place, but the king says, “I shall not test the LORD”. This is pious, but a false righteousness at best. God then speaks to the king what sign He will give, saying that there will be a child born unto a bethoolah (young woman), and his name shall be Emmanuel.

When you continue the passage, it goes on for another few chapters. In chapter 8, Isaiah has a son, which some have considered that this is the “sign” unto Ahaz. God speaks about how the armies will not invade, only to then talk about how Rezin (king of Syria) will invade, and will “fill the breadth of your land, O Emmanuel”. We then come to chapter 9 when Isaiah beings to prophesy of this kingdom that will be established, and how there will be “a child born to us”, obviously continuing the Emmanuel prophecy, but showing that it couldn’t be Isaiah’s son.

Within this whole passage, when we’re dealing specifically with Isaiah 7:14 as quoted by Matthew, the whole point is that this child is a sign that pertains to end time significance. There is something happening here. Matthew is hinting at the establishment of a kingdom, which is altogether the same as what God established through Abraham and David, and yet at the same time altogether different. The two manifestations through Abraham and David are only reflections – unable to compare with the reality. What Abraham signifies, and all of the glory that we can express through this great call to be a nation that will bless all nations falls flat on its face when the reality comes forth in this male child. All of what David signifies, and the beautiful rule by which David is known, to rule in righteousness, justice, and equity, which all of our hearts pant and yearn for, is anemic in comparison to what Jesus represents.

This is a hard thing. If the first came with glory, then how much more glorious must this be? Does it cause for you to rejoice? Does it bring a tear to your eye?

The significance of Isaiah 7:14, and the significance of Matthew 1:18 stems from Genesis 3:15. The seed of the woman is at enmity with the seed of the serpent, and yet it isn’t said that this “seed” shall crush that “seed”. No, the woman’s seed shall crush the head of the serpent itself. The serpent’s seed shall be destroyed along with the serpent itself. This is altogether important, because it says that Joseph did not daigmatisai Mary. Daigmatisai is used only one other time in the New Testament. We find it in Colossians 2:15, that Jesus made of the principalities and powers a “public spectacle”, or a “public disgrace”, or a “public shame”. What Joseph did not do unto Mary, Jesus does unto “the principalities and powers” – those demonic unseen forces that usurp and rule the peoples, societies, and nations.

I also find it interesting that the word “onar” (dream) occurs five times in these first couple chapters of Matthew, but never again until Matthew 27:19 when Pilate’s wife sends council to her husband to have nothing to do with Jesus. I’m not sure what to do with that, but it seems there is some sort of significance, both in the amount of times Matthew uses the word, who it is that has these dreams (Joseph and Pilate’s wife), and that it occurs nowhere else in the New Testament…

The name Jesus even signifies this. Jesus is the English transliteration of the Latin transliteration of the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Yehoshua or Yeshua. Confused? Let’s break it down… We read in our English Bibles “Joshua”. The actual name from the Hebrew was “Yehoshua” or “Yoshua/Yeshua” (I’ve heard some claim either of these). When you transliterate, you take the letters and their sounds, and you just use the English letter equivalent. So, they used the yod to begin with, and the Latin equivalent was J. When you go from the Latin into English, the J no longer has the Y sound. In our text, Iesous was the Greek form of Yeshua, which in Latin is Jesus (pronounced Yesus).

Back to the point, the name of Jesus is the name of God. Matthew tells us what Jesus means – Jehovah is salvation – “for He will save His people from their sins.” For this reason, Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14, and tells us that Emmanuel means “God with us”. Do you get it? Matthew is telling us that this man is named Jesus, which means “Jehovah is salvation”, because He (Jesus/Jehovah) shall save us from our sins. Jesus and God/Jehovah are being paralleled here. Matthew is claiming that Jesus is God with us, Yahweh.

It is with this statement, concluding that Joseph woke up and did as the angel told him, that we conclude our first chapter of Matthew. Next we will begin with the scene at Herod’s palace. What is interesting is that when we compare the sweep of Isaiah 7-9 with Micah 5:1-3, we find that Matthew is putting pieces together for us. As I showed, we have Rezin, the King of Syria, being prophesied that he shall not enter Israel. Then, Isaiah talks about he will enter Israel. Did God change His mind? No, there is a separate event at the end of the age, where this “king of Syria” – a pattern of the Antichrist – will come in and devastate Israel. There is a mention of this “child” Emmanuel in chapter 7, and then after his birth in chapter 8 there is prophecy of an invasion. Then, in chapter 9, there is the “child born to us” who has the government of God upon his shoulders. In Micah 5:2-3, we have the messiah born, and then part of Israel being cast off temporarily, until “she who has travailed gives birth”, and then all of Israel’s brothers will come back to knowing God, being a part of Israel again, and being under their messiah and shepherd. Do you see how these are parallel statements being said, but yet hidden within the references of Matthew? It’s interesting to say the least….

 

Boils – Exodus 9:8-12

This is another plague that we find featured later in the book of Revelation. To help give some reasoning to why these Egyptian plagues continue to recur, I think that what we need to understand is that the plagues of Egypt were not singular, isolated events. What I mean by this is that God speaks to Israel in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 that He shall send these selfsame plagues upon Israel if they are disobedient. So, for example, when you read in Deuteronomy 28:27 that God will sent this exact same plague (boils) upon disobedient Israel, we shouldn’t be surprised.

These are the judgments of God. Upon the false gods of Egypt does God send judgment, but let us not forget that over and over again Israel’s disobedience is due to their forsaking God. It isn’t simply that Israel is disobedient because they don’t keep the kosher diet. Throughout the whole of the Old Testament we have cycle after cycle of Israel casting aside their LORD to embrace other foreign deities. These plagues against Egypt were to speak against the gods of Egypt. The plagues against Israel were to speak against the gods of Israel.

Thus, when we come to Revelation, we need to have this sort of comprehension. Why do we find replicas of the Egyptian plagues in the book of Revelation? It is because Revelation revolves around Israel, not just the land, but the people. Israel is being judged, and specifically the Jerusalem that will embrace an antichrist figure (namely, the beast) over and above her true King.

We’re stuck between the rock and hard place. On one side we see the Egyptian plagues being for the sake of Israel’s deliverance. On the other side, we see the Egyptian plagues repeated in Israel’s history, and even prophesied as coming upon them at the end of the age. If we take this too far, we are liable to expecting that the Jew is simply cursed, and that there is no means of salvation upon them. If we don’t take it seriously enough, we will embrace the modern state of Israel in a manner that the Jew and Israel can do no wrong.

Let us be clear: God has bigger plans than simply plaguing the Egyptians within these passages. Let also be clearer: God has bigger plans than sending judgment upon disobedient Israel. There is never a mention of God desiring to destroy Egypt within the book of Exodus. Instead, there are statements of the Egyptians coming to know Him, Pharaoh coming to know Him, and judgment being sent upon the gods of Egypt. Similarly, the prophets never prophesied destruction of Israel. Instead, they prophesied of a remnant to survive, and that remnant coming to know the LORD their God.

With these boils, we need to be careful how we treat the text. If we simply clap our hands at how far God will go to deliver His people, we do much damage. If it is only analogy, only a spiritual assuaging of the kingdom of darkness, then what significance is there at all? We often place ourselves in the text far too quickly. Israel itself is in the midst of this, watching as the Egyptians are receiving these plagues. At the same time, there is indeed a spiritual phenomenon taking place, and it does indeed have application to us in our present day.

Boils themselves are mentioned as coming upon Job as well. This man was not being judged, and yet Satan buffeted him. Are the boils themselves something that only God sends? No. These boils are so crippling that the magicians can’t even show their faces before Moses. Job despised them and their torment so much that he literally scraped them off of his skin with broken glass and pottery.

What might it be that you and I can find within this? Is there hope? Do you feel sympathy for the Egyptians? Are they mere innocent victims? Why would God say that He is sending judgment upon their gods, and then so ruthlessly affect the people themselves?

It is precisely here that we have a question worth an answer. Why would God inflict the Egyptians if His desire is to inflict the gods of Egypt? When you examine the cultures around the world, the culture is influenced and manipulated by the demonic forces at play behind them. There is an unseen realm, what Paul calls the principalities and powers. To what degree are people given over to those demonic powers, and to what degree are they acting of their own volition? That itself is the question of the mystery of iniquity. Just as the incarnation of Jesus revealed to us the freedom of God to reveal Himself to humanity, and the freedom of humanity to receive that revelation, so it shall be revealed at the end of the age just how manipulated humanity is by those demonic powers, and how much humanity itself has been “depraved”.

These aren’t happy thoughts, but they’re necessary. I’m not sure I have sufficient answers to the questions raised. I only have my own intuition, which is questionable to say the least.

I Will Make A Ransom – Exodus 8:20-32

Within the fourth plague, it begins again with Moses meeting Pharaoh at the river. This is how the first plague commences. Here God begins something new. Now the children of Israel are being distinguished from the Egyptians. The Hebrew wording here is not “to make a distinction”, at least not in the strict English connotation of those words, but rather, “to make a ransom”. God tells Pharaoh that He shall “make a ransom” of Israel, and within that “ransom” is the distinction and deliverance of Israel from this plague. The obvious connotation from this is that if they’re delivered from the plague, they will also be delivered from Egypt.

It is here that we have a quite interesting dialogue. Pharaoh doesn’t seem to assert his authority over God this time. Outside of the fact that Pharaoh is the one who declares, “I will let them go”, you can’t seem to make out much of any notion that Pharaoh is denouncing God’s power, or yawning at such a thing. Whereas from the miracles performed before the first plague unto the previous plague, every time Pharaoh as been unimpressed and unburdened. Previously, the magicians claimed it was the finger of God to perform the third plague. Pharaoh wasn’t phased.

There is the reasoning back and forth, almost like a bartering. Pharaoh tells Moses to sacrifice in the land of Egypt, but Moses says that this will result in Israel being stoned. Many commentaries express that they don’t know why this would be the case. If we simply look at ancient Egyptian religion, we find that the lamb was a sacred animal. Moses knew that God required the lamb to be slaughtered, just like Abel knew before there was the giving of the Law. In the relationship of faith with God, there is something intuited and communicated to the inner man that allows one to know that it requires the sacrifice of the lamb, and not simply of a chicken, pig, or some other animal. Abraham told Isaac that God would provide the LAMB, and not the goat, bull, or deer.

This was a sacred animal to the Egyptians. Therefore, Moses knew they must leave to sacrifice it. I find it interesting, though, that later God will demand of Israel to sacrifice the Passover lamb in Egypt before they leave. Not only does He require this, but then also demands they put the blood on their doorposts for all of Egypt to see!

What begins as Pharaoh attempting to keep Israel within Egypt turns into him suggesting that they can leave, but not very far… Don’t venture three days out; just stay here in the region. This is not what God has said, and therefore there is no deal. The devil does this with us too. You can be a Christian; there is no problem with that. Just don’t start living in a righteous manner. Keep your drinking, your promiscuity, and other acts of the flesh, and you can call yourself whatever you want. When we refuse this, it turns into not going too far. Sure, live righteously. Tell people that sin is wrong, and don’t mince your words. Just don’t start to tell people that the mindsets that they have are wrong. Don’t start living by a different wisdom. Make sure that you keep your job and live by the conventional wisdom of the age. Go into debt, enslave yourself to your occupation and the bank, fill your life with so much that you have no time for prayer or Scripture reading, and then among all the piles of laundry and household chores, you can remind yourself that you’re doing fine because you’re going to church every Sunday and not doing the despicable things.

I just described to you the majority of conventional Christianity in the West.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because Pharaoh will harden his heart and not let you go. You have an advocate with the Father, who is not simply the one who cleanses you from sin and your sacrifice of atonement, but is your Moses who stretches forth His rod and declares, “Let my people go!” It is the rod of iron that Jesus holds. To His people, it is the rod of God, the very rod that brings comfort to the sheep. To Satan and his darkened kingdom, it is the rod of God, the very rod that shall smash in pieces all of his kingdom and all of the nations he has deceived.

This plague is significant because of the discourse that we find here. It’s significance is found in the reality of knowing that God is on our side, and as long as we won’t give up, neither will He. He will plague the darkened kingdom, even sending it into darkness, in order to bring you out into deliverance. To exodus Egypt in this kind of “spiritual” sense is to come out of sin, come out of the false mindsets and attitudes of the world, and to come face-to-face with the living God. It is in that wilderness that Israel heard the voice of God and received the marriage covenant. It is there that we hear our hearts being beckoned, and if you won’t harden your hearts today, as you did in the rebellion, you can enter into that rest.

 

Finger of God – Exodus 8:16-19

Within this passage, Aaron stretches out his rod over the dust of the earth, and the dust becomes lice. For the first two plagues, the magicians could replicate it. Yet, this time, they are without power to do the same miracle. This third plague comes without warrant, that is, without warning. It is because of this that the magicians declare, “This is the finger of God!”

When we turn the Gospel of Luke, we have the exact same phrase repeated. It is the finger of God that the psalmist declares created the heavens and the earth (Ps 8:3). Now this very finger is producing a plague against the Egyptians that is most likely unbearable. Whether we see these insects as gnats, mosquitos, or lice, all three are pests that we all can’t imagine the severity of what it must be to have them swarming in terrifying masses.

In Luke 11, Jesus is being questioned by the Pharisees. They claim that He casts out demons by the prince of demons. Jesus responds by claiming that you must bind the strongman in order to dispossess him. He asks by what means the Pharisees and their sons cast demons out. In between those two statements are the words, “But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

What is Jesus saying?

He is pointing back to this event, specifically this statement of the magicians, and making the connection that God revealed to the Egyptians that their gods are not gods. It is the God of Israel who is God, and their gods are unable to stand before Him. This statement is more than just to admit that God is real, or that God has worked this. It is an acknowledgement that the gods of Egypt have not been able to do these mighty acts, and that next to this plague, it is obvious that Israel’s God is truly a God indeed.

The demons cannot stand against the power of God. It is through the Spirit of God, according to Matthew 12:28, that Jesus does this. Here it is that we have the finger of God, the Spirit of God, and the Kingdom of God being paralleled with one another. The act that was taking place in Exodus was the establishment of the Kingdom. The act that Jesus is performing is equally an establishing of the Kingdom. To then equate that with the kingdom of darkness is to blaspheme the Spirit, which shall not be forgiven (Matt 12:31-32).

I find this text incredibly interesting. It has a lot of concepts strung together, which makes it difficult to perceive all of the layers. However, there is a lot that is easy to perceive. We see meat to the mature, and milk to the babes.

The First Plague – Exodus 7:14-25

I have only a couple things to mention regarding this plague. It strikes me incredible that even the buckets of water were affected and turned into blood. Egypt had no water to drink, and it says at the end of chapter 7 that it lasted for seven days. The magicians were able to conjure the same feat, but then why couldn’t they turn the blood back into water? Wouldn’t that have been beneficial for the Egyptians?

This first plague begins the long prose of what we refer to as the “Ten Plagues”. Psalm 78:43-51 also reiterates these plagues, leaving out live, boils, and darkness. Psalm 105:27-36 also reiterates these plagues, leaving out boils and pestilence. As an overview, the Ten Plagues are grouped into three classes, each class with three plagues, and the tenth plague having a character all its own. The first two plagues are always forewarned in every class, and the last happens suddenly. Also, in the case of the first, fourth, and seventh plague, Pharaoh was informed in the morning of what it to happen. Such is the pattern that seems to be laid out.

Within the first plague, we have an attack on the deities of Egypt. Hapi was the deified Nile river, and the Egyptians offered sacrifices to this ‘god’. The Nile was also considered the lifeblood of Osiris. It’s interesting that Pharaoh had thrown all of the male children into the Nile, attempting to kill the hope of the Israelites, and now God is turning the Nile into blood. It makes me to think of the passage much later in Scripture (Revelation 16:3-7) where the creation and the angels cry out that God is just in His action of causing the water in the Antichrist’s kingdom to become blood. Just as the Antichrist has slain all of the saints, so too is God giving the beasts kingdom blood to drink. Just as Pharaoh has spilled the innocent blood of the Hebrews, so now is God giving the Egyptians blood to drink.

It’s interesting to me that seven days pass at the end of the chapter. Some Jewish commentaries have suggested that this implies a week before the second plague. Others have suggested that the plague simply lasted for seven days. Either way, I think we often forget that time does elapse in the Bible. We can sit down and read through all ten plagues in one sitting, but we don’t realize that months have probably passed in that duration. Imagine the intensity of not having water for seven days. No wonder the Egyptians were digging around the Nile to try to find water. After three days, as the saying goes, you’re dead. There is no water, no fish, and with no water there is soon to be bigger problems.

Day after day would have gone on, and these people would have been without an answer. It mentions that Pharaoh hardened his heart, and that the magicians performed the same miracle, and that the Egyptians attempted to find water by digging wells, but this has to effect the psyche. You don’t go through daily inconvenience without some sort of response. It eats away at you. This is the first plague, the introduction to God’s judgments upon the gods of Egypt, and God’s revealing of Himself to the Israelites and to the Egyptians.

The Covenant Reaffirmed – Exodus 6:1-13

In Exodus 5, we left off with Pharaoh tormenting the Israelites, and Moses lamenting before God. Here in chapter 6, God is beginning to respond. He affirms to Moses that He shall indeed redeem and give inheritance. In verses 2-3, God even says, “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name YHWH I was not known to them.” I have heard it said, and seen it written, that this verse is often interpreted that the patriarchs didn’t know the name YHWH.

Here is my contention with that: in Genesis, they address God as “YHWH”. Even within Genesis 2, we find LORD God, YHWH Elohim, and this is only in verse 4. So, if from the very start of human history recorded in Scripture, YHWH is being used, then how can we claim that the patriarchs didn’t know this name? To claim Moses wrote these books doesn’t cut it for me. Instead, I would like to suggest something else.

Associated with the names of deity are their power and character. We have something similar today. When you give someone your word, you are putting forth your reputation and everything that people know of you on that promise. We can even think of sayings like, “smeared his name through the mud”. To smear someone’s name is to smear their reputation, their esteem, through the mud. It isn’t about making their “name” ignominious, but but rather the very person and character.

What I want to posit is that this promise to the patriarchs was based utterly upon God’s character. God promised to Adam and Eve a deliverer (Gen 3:15), He promised to Abram a son who would inherit the land of Canaan (Gen 15:4, 7, 18-21), but He didn’t show them the fulfillment of that promise. In fact, when you get to the book of Hebrews, you find the author saying, “having obtained a good testimony through faith, all these did not receive the promise”. The next verse does not say, “But you…” Instead, it says something  better is presented to us, that together with us they might be made complete.

Unto the patriarchs, God has promised the inheritance of Canaan, which is seen in the Hebraic mind as being the very place where heaven and earth meet. This is the very place where God dwells – a Garden of Eden restored. But, the patriarchs didn’t receive the inheritance. Moses is being told here that God had given them the promise, but didn’t give them inheritance. Therefore, the patriarchs did not experientially know the power and glory of the name of YHWH like God will reveal to Moses and his generation. It is about God’s name, His honor, His power, and His character. It is about an experiential knowledge of that Name.

To trace this thought forward in the narrative, not just unto Sinai, but beyond Sinai, we find that God’s name is repeated throughout Scripture. For example, you have God revealing Himself through His name quite directly to the Hebrew children. They experience His power and majesty in the wilderness, and eventually in the Land itself. Joshua leads Israel to inheriting the Promise. Yet, we then find later that the psalmist declares, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’.” (Psalm 95:7-11)

Let us think this through. The psalmist is not writing about this “today” in the generation of Joshua, who was promised to inherit that rest, but rather centuries after Joshua. The psalmist is writing this while in the land. Somehow, Israel is in the land, inherited the promise, and yet there is a promised rest that if that generation, paralleled with the generation that was killed in the wilderness, will hear God’s voice, they can enter into that promised rest.

It is then the whole point for the rest of the book of Hebrews to show how it is that we haven’t come to the physical promises, but the eternal, which are not separate from the physical, but are interwoven. It is the physical promise that reflects the eternal and heavenly. We have not come unto Sinai, the physical mountain upon which God came down, but unto Zion, the New Jerusalem, which is the throne of God, revealed to us in explicit detail in Revelation 4. It is not Sinai that the prophets envisioned with theophany, in places such as Isaiah 6 or Ezekiel 1-3, but the heavenly Zion.

And so, we see the “better” inheritance that we have, not exclusively as the Church, but together with “them” who are mentioned in Hebrews 11, the saints eternal, they who are called “Israel” by most theologians. There is an connection, then, that cannot (and certainly should not) be severed. It has always been that the prophets perceive beyond the physical and tangible into the spiritual and equally tangible. That is our inheritance as the saints. And, there is an eternal “today”, that if you are willing to humble yourself, ceasing from your own works (namely, righteousness through our own efforts), we can enter into that rest, which from the beginning has been established for all who by faith will enter.

Yet, we cannot conclude that this is the fulfillment. Remember that God put His name upon the physical inheritance – not the spiritual. There must be a physical that is coupled with the spiritual. It is for this reason that we read various texts in the New Testament about the “inheritance” at the end of the age. Jesus promises that His disciples will rule over all Israel upon twelve thrones (Matthew 19:28-29). Paul speaks about we, as Gentile believers even, who shall receive an inheritance with the “redemption of the purchased possession” (Ephesians 1:14). He then further explains what this means in Ephesians 3:1-6, in which he makes the statement that “Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel…”

What is this “body” that is spoken of? It cannot be the Church exclusive, for that would demand a “new” body. The context of Ephesians 3:6 is that this body apparently is already in existence, and hence “same body” instead of “new body”. Don’t quote to me Ephesians 2:14-15, that Christ has made “of the two” “one new man”, and therefore the Church is new and distinct. That isn’t what Paul is saying at all, for only if you skip Ephesians 2:12 can you come to that conclusion. It is because we, even we Gentiles who were aliens and at enmity with God, have been brought near, and made to be partakers of the promise and covenants, being grafted in (to use the language of Romans 11) to the already existent House of Israel. We are not the elite, but the remnant.

Therefore, we know that we have received a spiritual inheritance, even being sealed by the Holy Spirit according to Ephesians 1:13, but that isn’t the fulfillment. It is only the guarantee of the future inheritance at the end of the age, which is not ours exclusively, but unto the whole House of Israel – both the natural and the wild branches. Interestingly to this study, one of the promises to the seven churches in Revelation is that “I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, And I will write on Him My new name.” (Revelation 3:12)

That promise, in the context of what is written to the rest of the seven churches, cannot be understood as the New Heaven and New Earth, but at Jesus’ return. There might be legitimacy to saying that it is fulfilled to the uttermost in the New Heaven and New Earth, but don’t squash the beauty that is presented in that we rule with Christ for 1000 years. When you parallel the statements of Revelation 2-3 and Revelation 20, you find that there are certain things that are doubled.

Notice again Revelation 22:4. Here it is that having the name of God written upon our foreheads is coupled with seeing God face-to-face. There is a revealing of God intimately that cannot take place apart from the judgment that we experience during Tribulation (not judgment as in condemnation, but judgment as being within the nations who are being judged, and within Israel [the people] who are under judgment). Just as Elijah endured the judgment alongside of his fellow Israelites, and just as Joshua and Caleb had to endure forty years before being permitted to enter the land again, so too must we wait for the second coming – after seven years of Tribulation – before we shall see the fulness of our inheritance in Christ.

The blessed hope of Titus 2:13 is not rapture, as I’ve heard so many say. It is the coming of the King, and with Him the Kingdom of God. It is the redemption of Israel, and with them all the nations. It is worldwide peace. It is the obliteration of the kingdom of darkness. It is the inheritance of promise – heaven and earth becoming one. It is the climax of the covenant, the culmination of the ages, unto which we’ve been progressing since “God separated the light from the darkness”. The blessed hope is the longing of every heart, whether we know how to intuit it or not, whether we’re believers or not. It is a Kingdom that is ruled in justice, equity, and righteousness, instead of bureaucracy, greed, and patriotism. To then take that verse out of context completely, simply to hold that we’re not supposed to endure “wrath” (as if that is even what 1 Thess 5:9 means), is to cast down all hope and all eternal weight of glory that might make out suffering and affliction momentary and light.

 

We’re progressing to a climax. The age is crescendoing. It is our opportunity to work with God or to do our own thing. We can either play church, play Christianity, or we can be the saints in our own generation. The hope that God is giving to Moses in this passage is the very blessed hope that is to give us satisfaction and perseverance unto the end.

Let My People Go – Exodus 5

I find it interesting that the chapter opens to Moses and Aaron going to Pharaoh, inquiring that he let the people of Israel go three days journey into the wilderness to have a feast. What is interesting about this is that there God tells Moses that He will deliver Israel, and they shall come back to Sinai and worship the Lord there. When we read later of that journey, it takes 50 days to get there. It causes me to wonder what a three day journey into the wilderness meant.

What I find equally interesting is that Pharaoh’s response  invokes the reaction that God has visited the Israelites, and that they want to harken unto His voice, lest He bring forth curses and plagues upon them. Once again, when we look at what God has said, He has decreed plagues upon Egypt – even declaring that He would take Pharaoh’s firstborn. So, I wonder where this comes from. Why are they appealing to Pharaoh in this manner?

The Pharaoh then responds by enforcing a harsher slavery upon the people. He claims that the reason these people are crying out to their God is because they are idle without anything to do. How ludicrous does this sound to you? They’re in such terrible oppression they can’t do anything but cry out to the Lord, the Lord hears their cry, and now Pharaoh thinks that they’re just lazy. It’s so obviously a mock that it’s almost humorous. Pharaoh can’t be that ignorant.

What happened to the original plan? Wasn’t the plan to go to Pharaoh and show forth the signs, and let him know that God means business? Yet, there is no mention of this, and even with the end of the chapter, you find Moses crying out to God because all that has taken place is worse bondage than before. It is precisely here that my mind questions where the steadfast Moses is that we will come to know and love later? Why is he so manipulated by the people’s jaunts and complaints, and why is he so quick to doubt what the Lord has told him?

I admit that I see this passage as having end time significance. It is a pattern. The people Israel are held in bondage by a Pharaoh that is not simply “pharaoh”. Just as I discussed last time that the political infrastructure called “Egypt” was ruled by the principalities and powers, so too do I claim that the Jerusalem that we currently see, which represents rabbinic Judaism to the uttermost, is a Jerusalem of bondage. The law, as it is so called, is an object of oppression, seizing the one who attempts to live according to it through the flesh, salvation by works.

Yet, it is to that Israel, the one in bondage, the one who doesn’t yet obey the Lord, the one who grumbles and declares, “The Lord judge between us”, that God has called “my people”. He goes to the Moses, who is the deliverer, and He tells this Moses to go unto Pharaoh. Now, here is where we have a bit of a double meaning. The deliverer is Christ Jesus, who made a public spectacle of the principalities and powers through triumphing over them by the cross. Yet, it is not to Jesus alone that this call goes, but to all who hold to the testimony of Jesus, and who obey the commands of God. Who could that be but we Christians? We are the deliverer unto Israel.

It is our mandate to go unto the pharaoh of this world, wrestling with the principalities and powers, declaring to them boldly in the authority of our God, “Let my people go!” Yet, if we don’t really believe them to be His people, then how can we make such a demand? And, if we don’t really believe that we have the authority, then how can we say such things with confidence? To this we find Moses, who questions the Lord here, as he has done time and again in the past up to this point. It is like the prophet Ezekiel who looks at the valley of dry bones, and God asks, “Can these bones live?” The prophet doesn’t say, “Yes”, but “you know, Lord”. The question demands a faith beyond the prophet, and yet it is the prophet who is told to prophesy.

Why is it that when we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, anything but the peace of Jerusalem comes? Are we not praying hard enough? It isn’t understood by most that there must be hard times. It must happen that Pharaoh reacts the way he does. It is for this reason that we read in Exodus, as well as in the prophets, that Israel “scatters” (Ex 5:12). In Exodus 5, they scatter throughout Egypt. In the last days, they shall scatter through the whole world. Jesus has predicted it, that when  you see the abomination of desolation that they in Judea shall flee to the mountains. Why? Because when the armies surround Jerusalem, its desolation is near.

There is a parallel happening here. The prophets used a language that suggests a last days exodus for the people Israel. They are sifted (scattered) through the wilderness of the nations, completely groping as one who walks in the darkness, while God has declared that He has prepared a place for them in that selfsame wilderness (Revelation 12:6). That preparation is His Church, for it is written, “and they shall take care of her 1,260 days” (Revelation 12:6). Who is the “they” if not the church? For this reason, the result is that the dragon turns his focus upon “her other children”, who are they that hold to the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 12:17).

The plagues of Revelation parallel the plagues of Egypt (at least some of them). It is a reiteration of this same story. In Exodus, it leads to the redemption of Israel from Egypt, and it continues unto Joshua where they inherit the land. All things in their time: first the natural, and then the spiritual – just like Adam came before the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:42-49). First it was Israel to be redeemed from the physical Egypt and into the physical land, but at the end of the age it shall be from the spiritual “Egypt” and “Pharaoh”, who are Satan and the kingdom of darkness, to come unto the spiritual “land”, which is Zion.  That doesn’t discredit the actual physical land and sifting, but all the more heightens it. There is deeper spiritual significance here, and that spiritual significance doesn’t get annulled simply because Israel shall be redeemed spiritually at the end of the age. Indeed, just as the prophets have spoken, they shall be redeemed, and shall return unto the land of Israel, unto their messiah, and shall dwell with Him as His people forever.

The Plagues Overview – Exodus 5-12

This section of Exodus begins with Moses and Aaron going before Pharaoh, and ends with the Passover and the declaration to leave Egypt. It progresses from confrontation to freedom. In this section, the significance for you and I is to recognize the plagues as more than plaguing Egypt, Pharaoh, or the Egyptians. Here is where the rubber meets the road in Christianity.

We cannot believe in systems, whether governments, religious, or academic. A system is an institution, a machine established to produce a certain result. For businesses, the machine is worked through marketing, management, and “customer service”. The workers themselves are merely numbers, and expendable at that. The workers are simply means to the end – growth in the company as well as wealth. For government, a system is even easier to recognize. For we Americans, we just have to look at Washington D.C. and how far outside of actual American culture it is. The famous quote by George W. Bush makes it clear, “Not everyone would pick lettuce for $50/hour.”

Over these systems, the principalities and powers rage. What the secular/pagans don’t know is that they aren’t simply devoting their attention to science. It isn’t about saying that science proves truth, but about devoting your entire existence to demons. They who are so naive to think that if you can’t test it, it isn’t real only show forth blindness that goes beyond human capacity.

Organisms are not this way. The Body of Christ is exactly that – a body. A body is not something that is mechanical. Our church services might be, but the Church itself is not. If we are indeed connected to the Head, who is the creator of the universe, then we should not find the boring and mundane repetition that characterizes our services. Truly, the problem is that our buildings and programs are not run out of the authenticity of the life of God, but rather from the expectancy that the “show must go on”. There is an agenda. The people come for a certain kind of biblical teaching, they want to hear some sort of moving music that they can sing along with (and they want to either know the words, or learn the words quickly), and maybe they want to then know that there are certain programs or events in place that “benefit the community”.

That kind of Christianity is Egypt.

Egypt is the definition of system. It builds an empire for itself, amassing great wealth and prestige among the other nations, and yet builds this empire upon the backs of slaves. Modern Evangelical Christianity has enslaved the pastor, which is why the pastor has to pay so much in insurance, is stressed almost daily, many pastors have been divorced at least once, and they are financially almost unable to stay afloat. We have erected a Christianity that is based upon self. I can prove this by the question you ask when you leave the meeting: “What did you think of the sermon? What did you think of the worship? What would you like to eat?”

Over Egypt are gods, which are not truly gods, but demons. It is these unseen powers that pervade our societies and cultures – including the Christian society and culture if we’re not careful. Whereas I thought for a long time that the principalities and powers was a subject exclusive to the New Testament, I am beginning to see it everywhere. Our understanding of what Paul is expressing as “the principalities and powers” cannot come from Ephesians alone, or from the handful of other passages that mention them either directly or indirectly. Where does Paul get his understanding? Is it strictly from the Holy Spirit, or is there a reference in the Old Testament that he would have been able to provide?

I think one of the places that Paul would have used is this very passage. In Exodus 5-12, we have the plagues of Egypt, but they are not sent in judgment upon the Egyptians, nor Pharaoh, for enslaving God’s people. Rather, these plagues are sent in judgment upon “the gods of Egypt” (Ex 12:12). Now, either the gods of Egypt are just wooden or stone carvings, not really anything at all, or they are indeed something. If they are nothing, which is certainly attested to in the Old Testament, then why would God send judgment upon them?

What is happening here we find explained in Deuteronomy 32:16-17. The idol itself is nothing. As Isaiah mocks, with half of the log they keep themselves warm, but with the other half they carve their idol. How can you be so ignorant to bow down to an idol that you yourself carved, even knowing that the other half of the log was used for firewood? What significance could your idol possibly have? Yet, what Moses is saying, and it’s ultimately God saying it here, is that the idol itself is only a representation of a demon that is truly being worshiped. That demon has the power to cause for titillations and “feelings” so that the worshiper will continue to bow down, completely convinced that they are indeed worshiping gods, because they can feel it.

Science is no different. Think of the many atheist scientists who are not willing to simply do their jobs. They have an agenda, and if you start to disagree with their beliefs, they must rise up in furor to defend “science”. That kind of zeal does not come from simply being devoted to your job, nor does it come from a love of your study. That kind of zeal only comes from a devotion to something beyond the physical world.

The Egyptians plagues are plagues against the demonic realm. We find this significance in multiple ways, not the least of which being that the plagues of Revelation mirror many of the plagues of Exodus. This is a pattern. God doesn’t combat the principalities by us “casting down strongholds” or claiming “in the name of Jesus”. This kind of dethroning only comes through plagues, which is attested to in 1 Kings 17-18 as well. For they who are desiring to overthrow the rule of the demonic forces at work in our nations, states, cities, or churches, we must understand that what we are asking for is a plague that neuters any possibility of that god being considered as having power.