Exodus 3:1-22; 7-11
Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:
“Moses – What’s the Deal with the Plagues?”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
14 months ago Jennifer and I went on a vacation that was both the worst of times and the best of times. The “worst-of” involved sickness, disagreeable diets, strange sleeping conditions, skin rashes, and a “developing nation” hospitalization.
The “best-of” involved visiting Andrew in Kyrgyzstan, seeing where he lives, meeting his friends and family, experiencing the fullness of life there (some of that was covered in the “worst-of” report); and then going to Kenya to visit our CEO Director, her family, all the children, and some of the sights and sounds of Africa – including a 3-day safari in Massai Mara.
We all have stories similar to what I am sharing from across the globe in Kenya, and I bet you have stories that compare or even win out over these:
Our CEO Director, Edina, shows incredible stamina and strength every day – having been an orphan herself, from age 3 years, she has a Momma’s heart for the orphans that are under her supervision – and her strength and stamina can come out in scary ways when she thinks one of “her babies” might be in some kind of danger – we watched her attack school head masters with a smart wit and an integrity that always made sure the children were safe and secure.
On our Safari one day, our driver kind of screeched to a halt and pointed to something on the ground. In fact, he screeched to a halt and had to back up several meters (yards) to point out this dirt-colored ground-nesting bird. It was right next to the “road”, literally, maybe a couple feet – and it didn’t move at all when we flew past, or screeched to a stop, or backed up. The bird just sat there. Our driver said, “She’s a Yellow-Necked Spurfowl, sitting on her eggs. She will not move away from them for any reason, unless she feels that her eggs are threatened, then she will attack a rhino or a cheetah to keep her eggs safe. She’s equipped with spurs on her legs, and she will rip your eyes out! Do not step out of the vehicle; you might be perceived as such a threat!” We did not open our van door!
In our current Sermon Series we are looking at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessons – stories of Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and a few about Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses. Today we read about a Parent who protects His Son.
I invite you to turn with me today, and to listen to, Exodus 3:1-22; 7-11 (Pp. 41-48). Hear the Word of God …. —-
Last week we read about the political and economic and life conditions in Egypt, for the Hebrews, when Moses was born. And we saw how God had been at work in every step of that process. And we chose to trust this same God with our own lives and the lives of those we love. That was the first 10 verses of Exodus 2.
Today we find ourselves in Exodus 3. By now Moses is a fully grown man – who recognizes his very privileged position in the household of the Pharaoh! But he also recognizes his Hebrew bloodline, and how closely connected he is to the Hebrew slaves.
Moses had killed an Egyptian slave master for the ways he had abused his Hebrew slaves – so Moses flees into the wilderness out of fear of retribution, maybe accused of treason resulting in a torturous death penalty. And while out in the wilderness, near the people of Midian, Moses gets married and works for his father-in-law as a shepherd – prince of Egypt to shepherd of a nobody!
So this shepherd boy, married to a foreigner, starts a family and goes about his business, his new life as a shepherd. No longer connected to the Pharaoh. No longer connected to the Hebrew slaves. He’s a free man tending his flock.
Chapter 3: You all know this story: One day, while watching his sheep, he wanders up a hill and around a corner and he sees something he has never seen before. You know what it is? He sees a bush that is on fire – but it is not burning up! So he goes toward is to inspect this wonder. And as he approaches he hears a voice (I wonder if it sounded the same to Moses as it did to Abraham as he was about to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah?).
As he gets near Moses hears God: “Take off your shoes, you’re standing on holy ground! I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Hebrew people, your people! And I have heard my people’s groans. I have heard my people crying in despair! And I am going to rescue them!
“Here’s my plan: I am sending YOU, Moses, to go and set them free! To lead them out of Egypt. To lead them into the Promised Land – the Land I Promised to give to Abraham nearly 500 years ago!”
Moses – standing there barefoot in front of a talking Burning Bush – “Wait! What?! No! No, no, no, no! Not me. I am NOT doing that! Wait… I c-c-c-c-can’t do that! I s-s-s-s-tut-t-t-t-ter!”
God says, “Don’t worry, Moses. I’ll be with you. I am with you. Don’t worry. And here’s the thing – I’m sending your brother Aaron – he doesn’t stutter. He can do all the talking.”
So Moses relents a little, and he says, “OK, but if I go, whom do I say sent me?”
And this is where God gives us His name. God says, “Tell them YHWH – I am who Is and who Was and who Will always Be. YHWH sends you. I am is with you!”
So, then there’s a few chapters (4, 5, & 6) wherein Aaron tells the Hebrew slaves that God is going to set them free – so they should just hang on a bit longer, and be ready to follow Moses; and in the meantime, Moses and Aaron go to the Pharaoh and plead with the Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go, but the Pharaoh just gets angrier and angrier with them for this; and so new rules go out to the slave masters: the Hebrew slaves were making bricks, and the new rule was – same number of bricks, but now the Hebrews have to go find their own straw, their own brick-making supplies – it became an impossible task! This was a big power play.
Moses gets scared that this whole thing is going haywire, and is about to really backfire!
God reminds them who He is: YHWH. And God reassures Moses that He will keep His promise; He always keeps His promise.
In the negotiations between Moses and God, and then between Moses and the Pharaoh, we read this interchange (listen carefully to these words, listen to how God describes the Israelite people): Exodus 4 21 The Lord said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. 22 Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”
Then in chapters 7-11 we find the 10 plagues used by God, through Moses, to do three things: to let the Pharaoh know that it is God who is in charge; to remind the Israelites that it is God who is in charge; to tell us, you and me, that it is always God who is in charge!
- The Nile River turns to blood
- Frogs. Everywhere. Frogs!
- Gnats. Stinging, buzzing gnats.
- Flies. Dirty, disease-carrying flies.
- Livestock die, income lost, food gone, stench of death.
- Boils on the humans, painful, ugly, infected boils.
- Hail rains down like bullets, killing the crops and bruising anyone not protected by a roof.
- Locusts, in biblcal proportions! Destroying whatever crops the hail didn’t.
- Darkness. Nothing but blind-like dark.
Interestingly, the Hebrew slaves, in the area called Goshen, are all safe from these plagues. Remember who the Egyptians and the Israelites and you and I are supposed to learn who is in charge? YHWH!
After each plague, the Pharaoh considers giving in, and then he doesn’t. But we haven’t read chapter 11 yet. We haven’t yet come to Plague Number Ten.
Before we go down the Plague No. 10 Road, let’s do a quick review of a running theme in a few of our previous studies in Genesis:
- God promises Eve that one of her offspring will crush the head of an offspring of the devilish serpent.
- God promises the old man Abraham that he will be the father of a nation, and that one of those offspring will be a Savior for all nations.
- Abraham offers his only son, whom he loves, as a sacrifice – on the same mountain that 1,800 years later God offers His only Son, whom He loves, as a sacrifice.
- At this same sacrifice, God provides a ram to die as a substitute for Isaac – again, on the same mountain that God provides Jesus to die as a substitutionary atonement for you and me.
- Moses is born into a world where baby boys are meant to be killed by order of the king – just like when Jesus is born, the baby boys were meant to be killed by order of King Herod.
Do you see this theme – the Old Testament promises ultimately fulfilled in the New Testament Messiah – and Old Testament pictures, previews of the perfect New Testament Christ. Listen again to God’s words to Moses in Exodus 4: ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”
Now comes Plague No. Ten – the big one: God says, “At midnight I shall go through the whole land of Egypt and the first-born son in every family will die – from the palace to the poorest, from the highest to the lowest, from the most prestigious to the most unimportant. The spirit of death will ‘Pass Over’ each household and take the first-born son.”
God also told Moses that the Israelite people, the first-born sons of the Hebrew families would be kept safe, just like with the other nine plagues, but only if they obey the word of the Lord – they are to paint heir door posts with the blood of a lamb, the Passover Lamb’s blood would be poured out on their doorposts to save them from death.
Do you hear the theme again? – the Old Testament Passover Lamb’s blood would be fulfilled in the New Testament Lamb of God whose blood is poured out for the forgiveness of sins.
So, what is God doing with this story? I see three lessons about what God does with and for His people:
- God qualifies the Called. That’s the Bumper Sticker theology that tells a real truth. God calls Moses into service from the moment of his Basket Baptism way back in Exodus 2. God calls Moses by training him in the household of the Pharaoh. God calls this stuttering fugitive to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt. God calls this unqualified shepherd, whom He has been qualifying since the day he was born.
- That’s what He does for you, too. He qualifies you for service in the Kingdom of God, for priesthood in His eternal presence, royalty in the Palace of Paradise. And He does that with whatever trials and troubles and successes and gifts, whatever circumstances and experiences you have had to endure, whatever comforts and wonders you’ve been privileged to share.
- I recently listened to a TED Talk with Michael Junior, a Christian who does standup comedy. He compared life to a joke. He says that a joke consists of a set-up, something that gets the audience to go in a common direction; and there’s a punchline that brings the listeners somewhere they didn’t expect to go.
- A ham sandwich walks into a bar and orders a drink. (We’re all going a common direction. What does the bartender say?) The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve food here.”
- Two guys walk into a bar. (We’re all together?) The third guy ducked.
- Then Michael Junior tells us that our lives are the set-up. Our families, our homes, our jobs – and our divorces, our evictions, and our unemployment. But we can decide to take our lives in different directions that no one expects. That’s what Jesus offers us. He says our set-backs might make the best set-ups. Like a slingshot, the farther it gets pulled back, the farther forward we can fly. Our set-backs, our set-ups are what qualifies us for the punchline – that we can live with joy and hope and love and peace beyond what the world understands.
- Allow God to Call you – because, like Moses, He will qualify you!
- God is with Moses, YHWH – God is with us, always! Where can we go to hide from God? Not the heights of the heavens, not the depths of Hades, because God is YHWH! God Is! And He is with you, always!
- God calls His people Israel His “first-born Son”. This is the first time God uses that description for His people. God’s first-born Son is the people of Israel. Then God’s “first-born Son” is limited to Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son. But in the days which follow the New Testament, God calls His Church His “first-born Son” – we are the Body of Christ – we are His Church, whom He loves!
And that’s the Deal with the Plagues! Do you remember how I described the work of Edina with her orphan babies in Kenya? She would do anything to demonstrate her love for them – as would any mother!
The dirt-colored Yellow-Necked Spur Fowl on the ground-nest, protecting her eggs, in Massai Mara, Kenya, would even sacrifice her own life by attacking threats much bigger and meaner than she is.
And so YHWH God does the ultimate to save His “first-born” Son, Israel, from bondage, death, in Egypt!
What does this story ask of us? How do we respond to this Moses-story?
- Accept God’s Call for you.
- Experience the ways God qualifies you for service, for priesthood, for royalty, for Son-ship!
- Know and trust that God is always with us – never leaves or forsakes us – ever!
Friends, God loves you, and He longs to give that love to you.
Thank You, YHWH God, for Your love which stops at nothing to rescue, to save, Your “first-born”; for never giving up or abandoning Your children; for calling us, even before, long before, we are qualified to do what You call us to do, and for qualifying us for Your Kingdom purposes! Thank You for Jesus; in His name we pray, Amen.
Junior, Michael; #MoreThanFunny; TED Talk; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twSvd5bQLDw.