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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Ten Plagues of Egypt, Plagues 3-4 - Gnats & Flies

 

Introduction

Ancient Egypt was an empire with thousands of gods they believed protected their way of life and made them great.  In their pride and arrogance, Romans 1:25 explains, “They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself…”  

The God of the Hebrews, Yahweh, my God, the only true God we read of in the Holy Bible is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  The gods of the Egyptians evolved over time.  It is sometimes hard to determine who their supposed gods were.  One century a god may be depicted as a swarm of flies.  Then, the Egyptian empire would change.  A new dynasty would come to power and the culture and politics of the empire would change and their gods would morph according to people’s imaginations.  The god of the flies would evolve into a vulture or a snake.  These gods could be changed, because they weren’t really gods at all.  They were only the imaginations of people.  They were created to serve the purposes of the leaders of the empire. 

When God spoke to Moses in a burning bush, He said, "My name is Yahweh," which means, “I am who I am.”  In other words, no one gets to make up my character or who I am or what I do.  I am real.  I am eternal.  I make up my own mind.  I don’t change.  You don’t make me what you want me to be.  I made you and you must conform to the person I made you to be, not the other way around. 

And so, Yahweh, decided to pour out justice on the evil Egyptians and prove He is the supreme Lord of all and all the idols and false gods people worship are nothing.  Through 10 plagues, God shattered every false notion of the Egyptians and brought Pharaoh’s empire to its knees to deliver the Israelites from bondage.  He proved there is only one God and his name is "I Am." 


Uatchit, The Egyptian Lord of the Flies
The Egyptians believed in a goddess called Uatchit (pronounced Wadjet).  She started out as the supposedly as the protector of  lower Egypt and was depicted as a vulture.  When the empire unified, she became the protector of the entire empire.  She was often depicted with the head of a vulture or a fly (and later a cobra) and was said to live in the swamps among the papyrus reeds.  Uatchit was supposed to be Pharaoh’s protector.  With an all-seeing eye, she could see trouble coming and warn him.  But none of that mattered, because this false god was impotent against the One True and Living God of our Bible. 

God sent to swarms of insects as the third and fourth plagues of Egypt—first gnats and then flies.  Now, the the exact nature of the third plague is a bit of a mystery.  The Hebrew word used we usually translate as Keenim can also mean fleas or lice.  Now any of these insects would be awful.  Lice and flees infest and bite. Gnats swarm and get in your eyes and nose.  But the Hebrew word Keenim carries with it the idea of flying and biting or stinging.  So imagine biting/stinging gnats or flying flees and lice! Yikes! 

And the fourth plague is flies.  Not only are flies a nuisance, they often transmit parasite and disease.  I was on a mission team in El Salvador a few years back and we had terrible trouble with flies.  They weren't any more numerous in El Salvador than they are in Georgia where I live.  However, the flies in El Salvador carry an amoeba.  If they land on your food, they you will also get the amoeba and it will cause severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Almost everyone on our team contracted the amoeba and had to take medicine to get rid of it.  Now, imagine ancient Egypt swarming with flies, possibly contracting diseases and having no modern medicine to combat it.  It must have been terrible.

Well, the Egyptian false god, Uatchit, apparently didn’t warn Pharaoh or do anything to stop the gnats and flies.  Isn’t she supposed to see everything?  Isn’t she supposed to be the goddess of swarms who protects Pharaoh and lives in the swamps where these insects live and breed? 

Only One God
There is only one God.  Most people are familiar with Jesus teaching that we should love our neighbor.  Jesus said this is the second most important commandment (and that it is like the first most important commandment).  What is the most important commandment?  Jesus told us the most important commandment too.  Quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Jesus said, “Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.”  There is only one God.  All other gods are idols and false gods.  They are nothing.  And in order to truly love your neighbor, you have to start by loving God.

 

Sadly, people still worship idols today.  There are some listening to this message who worship idols.  It may not be a statue, but you have turned a thing God created into the one you love more than God “with all your heart, all your soul, and all you strength.”  In his book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller says an idol is “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, and anything that you seek to give you what only God can give.”  If we’re honest with ourselves, I think many realize we have idols today too.

The Idol of Wealth
People are often surprised to learn that Jesus taught about money more than any other subject.  The word money is mentioned 70 times in the Gospels.  Forgive is only mentioned 38 times.  And 11 of the 40 parables Jesus told were about money or used money to make the point.  You see, Jesus knew, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be too.”  (Matthew 6:21)  And He knew that greed and wealth idolatry are rampant.  And so he said:
“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (Luke 12:15) And he also said, "No one can serve wo masters… You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money." (Matthew 6:24)

People who worship the idol of wealth do three things: They love it, they trust it, and they obey it.

People who worship wealth, love money.  They dream about it and how to make more. They imagine all the things they can buy with money.  They may be jealous of others who have more money and scheme for how they can “win” in the competition to be wealthiest.  They believe having more money will improve their social status.  People who love wealth are willing to sacrifice in order to have more.  Some things they may sacrifice are their time, their family… their principles… their relationship with God…  1 Timothy 6:10 warns, “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.”  [Jesus to the rich young ruler…]

People who worship wealth, trust money to keep them safe.  If they don’t have enough, they feel vulnerable and out of control.  They are constantly worried about how they will make it if something goes wrong.  They long to have enough money so they can feel in control.  Money makes them feel safe.  They can handle the problems they face, because they can buy their way out of their problems. 

The problem is, money is usually not the answer you think it is.  Ask someone was wealthy who unexpectedly lost it all.  Jesus told a parable about a farmer who had an especially abundant harvest.  He decided to build bigger barns to store up all his wealth thinking, "Now I can live the good life because I will have everything I need.  But the Lord spoke and said, "You're a fool!  Tomorrow, you will die and then who will get all your surplus?"" 

People who worship wealth, obey their master.  Ironically, people who think money will give them freedom and security, find their idol becomes a cruel master that enslaves them.  They have money and can’t imagine living without it.  And often, the wealthiest people still feel they don’t have enough and they must have more.  Soon it becomes clear, money is not serving rich people.  Rich people are usually serving their money. 

It is human nature to want more, more, more. when we are 15 or 16 years old, we say, "If I just had a car!"  Then we get a car and we soon say, "If I just had a reliable car!"  And we get a reliable car and we're finally satisfied, right?  No!  Then we say, "If I could just have a bigger car!"  And then we say, "If I just had the best car!"  The person who constantly wants more, newer, better things has become enslaved by their insatiable addiction to money and the things money can buy.  They are slaves. 

Slaves must obey their master.  Those deeply enslaved to the false god of wealth will lie, cheat, and steal to get more money.  They will justify all kinds of evil to earn and protect their “god”—tax evasion, fraud, embezzlement, extortion, bribery.  They will hoard their wealth while others starve and say, “It’s not my problem.  They should have managed their money better.”  People who worship wealth have broken both the first and second most important commandments.  They don’t really care what God thinks and they don’t care about their neighbor either—as long as they are rolling in the dough.  But Jesus said, “Man does not not live by bread alone, but by the Word of God.” (Matthew 4:4) 

By His Word, God can make mana fall from the sky to satisfy our every need as He did for the Israelites as they traveled to the Promised Land.  By His Word, Jesus multiplied five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food o feed thousands of people.  Do you want to rely on God or would you prefer to make a god of your own choosing to satisfy your needs.  That’s the core issue. We don't want to be beholden to God.  We want to be in control.

Something happened when my son was two or three years old that really illustrated this principle of sinful human nature to me.  I had a bag of Doritos and my little boy wanted some, so I would give him a chip every time he asked.  I made up my mind I was going to give him as many as he wanted; all he had to do was ask and I would give him more--one chip at a time.  But very soon, he was board of this game and just wanted me to give him the bag.  Even though I told him he could have as many as he wanted, that wasn't good enough; he wanted to hold the bag.  And this is how we are with our Heavenly Father.  It's not good enough for us to rely on God who is willing to give us everything we need and want.  No.  We want to hold the bag. 

The Spiritual Practice that Smashes the Idol of Wealth
Greed is a sneaky sin. Greed is rampant in our culture.  And yet, very few people think greed is a problem for them.  “It must be someone else.”  Here’s a simple test.  Do you obey God’s command to tithe?  Tithing is giving 10% of your income to God’s Church.  It is the minimum standard God gives in the Bible for what people are supposed to give to God’s Church. 

According to nonprofitsource.com, the average church-going Christian only gives about 2.5% of their income.  Only five out of one hundred Christians actually obey God’s command to give the minimum.  5 out of 100!  Now, whenever a preacher starts talking about tithing, people get upset.  They start making all kinds of excuses for why don't or why they aren't required to give the tithe.  The fact is, people are simply trying to justify themselves.  They don’t want to give the tithe; maybe they are ashamed they don’t give the tithe and so they make excuses.  Could it be they are protecting their idol?  One thing is certain, they are not obeying the One True God who said, give a tenth of your income to the Lord through His Church.

Jesus on the Cross
Now, God is a God of grace.  He is patient and He is good.  When we were still sinners, He came as Jesus to die for us on the cross.  Now, it is not that we deserved salvation, but that we desperately needed it.  Christ gave his life for us while we were still sinners so that we can be forgiven when we repent of our sin and turn to God.  Repentance means to turn away from sin and our false gods and turn to the One True and Living God who gave His life for us on the cross.

Aren’t you glad Jesus didn’t give to us the way most Christians give to Him?  How would you feel if Jesus only gave, 2-3% for your sake?  (That would still be more than we deserve.)  How much did Jesus give?  Did He only give 10% or His life and blood on the cross?  No.  He gave it all.  Therefore, even if you are giving a tithe of your income, you are still 90% short.  

Jesus doesn't want your money.  He wants your whole heart.  Jesus gave His all for us and I want to give Him my all too.  Don’t you?

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