Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Exodus 9:13-35

13Then the LORD said to Moses, "Get up early in the morning. Go to Pharaoh and tell him, `The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. 14If you don't, I will send a plague that will really speak to you and your officials and all the Egyptian people. I will prove to you that there is no other God like me in all the earth. 15I could have killed you all by now. I could have attacked you with a plague that would have wiped you from the face of the earth. 16But I have let you live for this reason--that you might see my power and that my fame might spread throughout the earth. 17But you are still lording it over my people, and you refuse to let them go. 18So tomorrow at this time I will send a hailstorm worse than any in all of Egypt's history. 19Quick! Order your livestock and servants to come in from the fields. Every person or animal left outside will die beneath the hail.' "
 20Some of Pharaoh's officials believed what the LORD said. They immediately brought their livestock and servants in from the fields. 21But those who had no respect for the word of the LORD left them out in the open.
 22Then the LORD said to Moses, "Lift your hand toward the sky, and cause the hail to fall throughout Egypt, on the people, the animals, and the crops."
 23So Moses lifted his staff toward the sky, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and lightning struck the earth. The LORD sent a tremendous hailstorm against all the land of Egypt. 24Never in all the history of Egypt had there been a storm like that, with such severe hail and continuous lightning. 25It left all of Egypt in ruins. Everything left in the fields was destroyed--people, animals, and crops alike. Even all the trees were destroyed. 26The only spot in all Egypt without hail that day was the land of Goshen, where the people of Israel lived.
 27Then Pharaoh urgently sent for Moses and Aaron. "I finally admit my fault," he confessed. "The LORD is right, and my people and I are wrong. 28Please beg the LORD to end this terrifying thunder and hail. I will let you go at once."
 29"All right," Moses replied. "As soon as I leave the city, I will lift my hands and pray to the LORD. Then the thunder and hail will stop. This will prove to you that the earth belongs to the LORD. 30But as for you and your officials, I know that you still do not fear the LORD God as you should."
 31All the flax and barley were destroyed because the barley was ripe and the flax was in bloom. 32But the wheat and the spelt were not destroyed because they had not yet sprouted from the ground.
 33So Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. As he lifted his hands to the LORD, all at once the thunder and hail stopped, and the downpour ceased. 34When Pharaoh saw this, he and his officials sinned yet again by stubbornly refusing to do as they had promised. 35Pharaoh refused to let the people leave, just as the LORD had predicted.

Points of Interest:
• Between last passage and this passage, we skipped a plague and a terrible rash.

• ‘I could have killed you all by now’—this statement reminds me of something we sometimes hear people say in action movies: ‘If I wanted to kill you, you’d be dead already.’ God could have rescued Israel already. As he says here, he could have done it over the Egyptians’ dead bodies. It seems he also could have led his people out of Egypt without Pharaoh’s permission, protecting them from any punishment. Apparently, God wants something besides merely rescuing the Israelites or killing the Egyptians. What he seems to want is for the Egyptians to recognize and acknowledge his desire and ability to save the Israelites. It’s as if he’s saying, ‘Just admit that I’m a good God to my people.’

• ‘Quick! Order your livestock and servants to come in from the fields’—Moses gives the Egyptians fair warning here. If they believe what he says and act accordingly, they can avoid the worst effects of the storm.

• ‘Some of Pharaoh's officials’—even some of Pharaoh’s own officials are beginning to show respect for God and his word. At this point, it seems that Pharaoh is beginning to lose the public relations battle, even among his own people.

• ‘Lift your hand toward the sky’—it’s worth noting again that the LORD is saying and doing all of these things through Moses. God probably doesn’t need Moses to lift his hand in order to send the storm. But God gives Moses the incredible privilege of playing a crucial role in the amazing thing he is doing.

• ‘left all of Egypt in ruins’—because an earlier pharaoh was willing to listen to God’s servant Joseph, Egypt was saved in the midst of a famine. Because this pharaoh refuses to listen to God’s servant Moses, Egypt is being torn apart.

• ‘this terrifying thunder and hail’—even in our modern, materialist age, it’s generally acknowledged that there’s something awe-inspiring and even frightening about a thunderstorm. The idea that a thunderstorm is a God speaking or showing his wrath isn’t completely absent today, and it was the general belief in the ancient world. Any thunderstorm, therefore, would have been somewhat frightening. The fact that this storm was particularly severe—and that it was specifically sent as a judgment from God—would have made it especially unnerving.

Taking it home:
For you: Moses is in some ways quite an ordinary person, but God sends him on an extraordinary journey. One of the unbelievably awesome things Moses experiences on this journey is the power to do the impossible. How many of us have never dreamed about what it would be like to have a superpower? Well, one of the amazingly fun things about stepping out on a journey of faith is that when we do, God actually enjoys giving us supernatural abilities. Have you ever done something you know you don’t have the power to do yourself? How did it feel? Thank God for giving you that wonderful opportunity. If you’ve never experienced something like that, ask God to give you the chance.

For your six: In this story, some of Pharaoh’s officials experience the benefits of respecting God’s words. They hear him and respond, and it turns out well for them. Have you heard some words from God recently that you think might be especially helpful to one or more of your six? Consider passing God’s suggestion along to them. Give them the chance to hear, respond, and experience the benefits.

For our church: God makes his intentions clear: ‘that you might see my power and that my fame might spread throughout the earth.’ Pray that we will see God’s power here in New Haven—through a widespread outbreak of the benefits that come from the Holy Spirit, rather than a storm of hail, if possible—and that what we experience of God’s saving power will spread throughout the earth.