Sunday’s Text ~ Exodus 14:19-22, 27a, 29-30a.
This week we study (what I think) is one of the most well known stories in Scripture – the Exodus – where the Hebrews get the heck outta…Egypt.
The main character of the Exodus story is
With Moses as a close second.
Tangent – one Sunday morning I was teaching the story of Moses and the burning bush during the children’s moment in the worship service. I asked the children what was so special about the burning bush, and one of my favorite kids – a boy (now highschooler!) named Larry – said, “Miss Sarah, the bush was on fire!” “And…” I said with much anticipation, “And,” Larry said, “it was blue!” The bush. Was blue. Thank you, Prince of Egypt.
Okay – end of tangent. Back on track.
A central scene in the Exodus narrative is the plagues. The Egyptian countryside – people, animals, terrain – experienced the full force of God’s strength, power, and presence through the plagues.
Did you know there are multiple recordings in Scripture of the plagues that ravaged Egypt? 10 plagues are reported in Exodus while Psalm 78 and Psalm 105 both report 7 plagues…but not the same 7 plagues (check it out!). Old Testament theologian (and one of my favorite seminary professors!) Dr. David Petersen believes the plagues listed in the Psalms are earlier traditions. There was a time of great fluidity in the traditions of the Exodus story as they were shared (and modified) through oral tradition (telling the stories over and over again before they were written down) and that the plague story’s “final draft” is what appears as an account of 10 plagues in Exodus.
The 10 Exodus plagues increase in horror as they play out:
1. Plague of blood – a nuisance rather than a threat to life.
2. Frogs – the smell of dead frogs remains in the land.
3. Gnats – at this point Pharaoh’s magicians could no longer reproduce the plagues proving that God’s plagues trump their magic.
4. Flies – the Land of Goshen, another name for Israel, is spared from the plagues.
5. Animal pestilence and disease – food supply and ability to work the land is severely compromised.
6. Skin boils – makes the courtiers unable to appear before Pharaoh.
7. Hail – this is the worst storm that God could have sent and it could have wiped Egypt off the earth, but God let them live.
8. Locusts – the Scripture reveals no one had ever seen anything like this.
9. Darkness – it is a darkness that is tangible; it can be felt.
10. Death of the first born – this is not limited to human offspring, but animal offspring are also taken; this plague is a response to the death of Israelite babes at the hand of Pharaoh.
Can you imagine being a witness to these events? God told Moses that Egypt would see God’s wonders and surely all of Egypt – even proud Pharaoh – saw them. The plagues got Pharaoh’s attention and at the conclusion of the 10th plague, he told Moses to take God’s people and go.
Reflection: If God reached out today in a grand scale akin to the plagues (and I think I am not alone in hoping this display would not be so horrific) or even as God did with Moses and that “blue bush,” would we pay attention? Would we respond to God’s call? In the case of the call of Moses at the burning bush, would we submit to be led, go, and lead as God calls us? In the case of the God calling Pharaoh to release the Hebrews through the words of Moses and the display of the plagues, would we hear God’s words and respond to God’s signs or ignore it all?
For me the plagues display that God will go to great lengths to get our attention and draw out God’s desired response…but even though God will go to great lengths, God should not have to go to great lengths. Moses and Pharaoh eventually paid attention. We need to pay attention…but not eventually. We need to pay attention immediately.
O God, enhance and keen our awareness of you that we may respond quickly and in manners, behaviors, and actions becoming of your will. Amen.