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Showing posts with label 10 Plagues of Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 10 Plagues of Egypt. Show all posts

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Ten Plagues fo Egypt, Plague 6 - Boils

Exodus 9:8-12
8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a brick kiln, and have Moses toss it into the air while Pharaoh watches. 9 The ashes will spread like fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, causing festering boils to break out on people and animals throughout the land.”

10 So they took soot from a brick kiln and went and stood before Pharaoh. As Pharaoh watched, Moses threw the soot into the air, and boils broke out on people and animals alike. 11 Even the magicians were unable to stand before Moses, because the boils had broken out on them and all the Egyptians. 12 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and just as the Lord had predicted to Moses, Pharaoh refused to listen.

Introduction
Can you name the plagues so far? Blood, frogs, gnats, flies, the death of Egypt’s livestock, and boils.  Can you name the ones still to come?  Hail, locust, darkness, and the death of the first born son.

God used all these plagues to prove to Pharaoh and Egypt and everyone there is only one God, Yahweh, the Great I Am, Lord of all.  For He said in Exodus 12:12, “I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.” And in Exodus 17:17 He said, “By this you will know that I am the Lord…”

Ancient Egypt was a great civilization that lasted some 3,000 years.  One of the ways they demonstrated their greatness was by building impressive monuments.  Each successive Pharaoh was pressured to build bigger and better structures to demonstrate they were greater than the Pharaoh’s who came before them.  This heavy burden forced Pharaoh’s to marshal all the empire's resources and tens of thousands of laborers and slaves to construct remarkable tombs to glorify their legacy. 

In order for build the Great Pyramid of Giza, it took about 30,000 people 20 years at a cost of $1.2 billion dollars (by today's standards).  Do you know which Pharaoh built the Great Pyramid of Giza?  Me either.  You would think for $1.2 billion we would know.  But the vast majority of the world doesn’t really care.  (By the way, I Googled it and it was Pharaoh Hemiunu.)  

An Empire of Idols
Egypt believed in thousands of gods and goddesses, of which Pharaoh was the earthly representative.  I can't imagine the pressure it puts on a person live up to people's expectations that you are a god.  I can't imagine the pressure Pharaoh felt because he actually believed he was a god, knowing all his own flaws.  That was the lie with which they deluded themselves.  

And because life is unpredictable—and life in the ancient world was incredibly unpredictable—the Egyptians believed gods could bless them one day and curse them the next.  And so, the Egyptians sought to appease and control their deities through sacrifices and magical incantations. Much of the mysterious writing with which the Egyptians decorated their buildings were magical spells intended to ward off evil spirits and enlist the help of benevolent ones. 

Among the thousands of Egyptian Gods, one important goddess was Sekhmet, the goddess of war and healing.  “She is depicted as a lioness. She was seen as the protector of the pharaohs and led them in warfare. Upon death, Sekhmet continued to protect them, bearing them to the afterlife.”[i]  But Sekhmet was powerless to help when Moses reached into the brick kiln for a handful of dust.  

Do you remember how Pharaoh forced the Israelites to make bricks to build his temples and tombs?  Now God has Moses use the ashes from the brick kilns to afflict the Egyptians with festering boils.  Boils broke out all over the Egyptians, but not a single Israelite was affected.  Can you imagine the horror and humiliation for Egyptians as they suffered while they saw their slaves--the Hebrews the viewed as less than human--being spared.  Even Pharaoh's magicians were covered from head to foot with the awful misery.  And where was the protection and healing of the Egyptian goddess?  She has no power to stop Yahweh.

What are our gods today?  According to Timothy Keller in his book, Counterfeit Gods, 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.”   

The Love Idol
According to the Beatles, “All you need is love.”  God made us for love and to love and there is a deep longing for it in every human heart.  Unfortunately, instead of finding love in God and healthy human relationships, we usually turn love into an idol where sex and romance takes the place of God in our hearts.  These are such important idols in our culture we don’t even see them as idols.  In fact, I may get in trouble just for trying to expose them as a myth.  (Nobody likes it when you smash their idol.)

The general myth of love in our culture right now is portrayed in a thousand movies and love songs.  It’s a powerful myth.  We sing the love songs and believe the lies, even though we know they’re unrealistic.  We watch the movies with teary eyes and a yearning in our soul.  The myth is imbedded in our worldview.  The details for each story are different, but it generally goes something like this. 

A little girl begins dreaming from an early age that, one day, she will have a beautiful wedding to celebrate her ultimate achievement—finding true love.  For out there, somewhere, is the man created just for her—her soulmate—the one who will fulfill her deepest needs.  He will be tall, dark, and handsome. (Ladies, you can insert whatever physical traits you prefer here because they aren’t as important as what how the man acts.)  The girls greatest dream is that she will find her one true love and he will fall madly in love with her.  He will get down on one knee and propose ini the most romantic way.  They will have the beautiful wedding of her dreams and spend the rest of their lives together.  He will cherish her and give her everything she needs.  They will have kids and he will take care of her and their family.  And they will live happily ever after.  Now all you have to do is fill in the details a bit and expand the story and you have the makings for a romantic comedy that could make millions on the silver screen.  You’re welcome.

Men have a slightly different love myth, but it pairs well with the feminine myth.  Men grow up believing that somewhere, there is a woman so incredibly attractive he will know “she’s the one” as soon as he sees her.  He will be so smitten he will do anything to win her love.  She will be everything he’s ever wanted in a girl.  Because of her, he won’t even want to look at another woman.  Sex with her will be so amazing he will be in heaven!  Therefore, he will gladly dedicate his life to making her happy and she will cherish him as her provider and protector and hero.  He will sacrifice anything for her because life without her would be meaningless.

It’s just harmless stuff right?  Except, that somewhere deep down we believe this stuff.  The fact is, there is no man or woman out there that can live up to the myth we’ve made up in our minds.  Tragically, this kind of thinking actually hinders true love.  Love is not what another person does for you.  Love is what you do for others.  Love is sacrificial.  It’s not about how the other person makes you feel or what they do for you.  Love is giving without expecting anything.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 tells us the characteristics of true love.  "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."  Real love is Jesus dying on the cross for sinful humanity.  In fact, the Bible says Jesus dying on the cross is the example of love between a husband and wife.  Which image do you trust?  The popular image of love portrayed in our society or the image of love God give us in His Word?

Conclusion
The very first of the 10 commandments from Exodus 20 says, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.  You shall have no other gods before me.”

This commandment lays the ground work for all the other laws and commandments God gave us.  Why is it so important that we worship only God?  Some complain God is jealous and egotistical.  That's not true.  God is actually selfless.  He is thinking of us as He gives these commands.  If you have any other gods, you will not be able to love God and you will not be able to experience God's love for you in its fullness.  

When we cut God out of first place in our heart, we create a huge hole that nothing else can fill.  Our deepest desire is love—and it’s the only kind of love God is able to give. So many of the love songs and love stories we cherish, we cherish because they portray an idealized love that only God can give.  Unfortunately, when we seek that love from mere mortals, they will not be up to the task and we will be woefully disappointed.  Meanwhile expecting that love from people cuts us off from the true source of perfect love—Almighty God.

It is not that God is spiteful and refuses to love us if we don’t love someone else besides Him. No.  It's amazing that He still loves us despite our unfaithfulness.  Perhaps an illustration will help.  Suppose you are married and you cheat on your spouse.  You have damaged the relationship terribly.  Even if your spouse stays with you, there will be an offense in your psyche that hinders your relationship.  This illustrates our condition with God.  We have broken that relationship with our sin.  Every time we turn to an idol, we are cheating on God—chasing after fulfilment in some fantasy that can never deliver what it promises.  We chase this fantasy until discover it is an illusion.  Then we either settle for the disappointing illusion or we chase after a new fantasy, ending with the same results again.  All the while, our One True Love is watching, heart breaking, as He see--not only our betrayal and unfaithfulness, but also knows with His all-knowing wisdom that--we are inflicting wound upon wound on our own souls.

And so, God came as Jesus came and lived among us.  He is the perfect representation of true love.  It is not that we love him, but He loved us.  While we were still sinners, Christ came and died for us.  He has made a way for us to come back to God. 

Won’t you repent of your sins and turn to God?

Stop believing the lie that there is some person out there who's love is going to "complete you".  Only God, thru Christ, can complete you.  And when you trust Him, He will save you and teach you to love others--maybe even someone you could marry and spend the rest of your life with.  Even if you remain single your whole life, you will still be completely complete because in Christ you have everything you truly need.




Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Ten Plagues of Egypt, Plague 5 - Livestock

Exodus 8:30-9:7
30 So Moses left Pharaoh’s palace and pleaded with the Lord to remove all the flies. 31 And the Lord did as Moses asked and caused the swarms of flies to disappear from Pharaoh, his officials, and his people. Not a single fly remained. 32 But Pharaoh again became stubborn and refused to let the people go.

9:1 “Go back to Pharaoh,” the Lord commanded Moses. “Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. 2 If you continue to hold them and refuse to let them go, 3 the hand of the Lord will strike all your livestock—your horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats—with a deadly plague. 4 But the Lord will again make a distinction between the livestock of the Israelites and that of the Egyptians. Not a single one of Israel’s animals will die! 5 The Lord has already set the time for the plague to begin. He has declared that he will strike the land tomorrow.’”

6 And the Lord did just as he had said. The next morning all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but the Israelites didn’t lose a single animal. 7 Pharaoh sent his officials to investigate, and they discovered that the Israelites had not lost a single animal! But even so, Pharaoh’s heart remained stubborn,[a] and he still refused to let the people go.

Introduction
Can you name the plagues so far? Blood, frogs, gnats, flies, and now the death of Egypt’s livestock.
Exodus tells us again and again that God sent the plagues to prove to Egypt and everyone that there is only one God, Yahweh, the Great I Am, Lord of all.  (Ex 17:17 - By this you will know that I am the Lord… Ex 6:6 - Then you will know that I am the Lord your God… Ex 10:2 - …that you may know that I am the Lord. Ex 12:12 - …I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord.)

Sacred Cows of Ancient Egypt

As Modern people, we can’t underestimate the importance of livestock to ancient people.  They provided food, transportation, cultivation for farms, and they carried goods from place to place.  Livestock were a symbol of power, wealth, and status and Egypt owned tremendous amounts of livestock.  

The Egyptians made gods and goddesses of the things that were important to them.  And since livestock were very important, they have many gods fashioned in the image of cows.  There was Hesat, the goddess who was said to provide humanity with milk to sustain life.  In particular, Hesat was said to suckle the Pharaoh and several ancient Egyptian bull gods.

There was also a cow goddess named Hathor, who was the mother of the sky god Horus and the sun god Ra, both of whom were connected with kingship.  Thus, Hathor was the symbolic mother of the pharaohs. The Egyptians believed Hathor helped deceased souls in the transition to the afterlife.

They also believed in a bull god called Apis (pronounced Happy).  Apis served as an intermediary between humans and other powerful deities. In the Egyptian myth, Apis was sacrificed and then reborn. Apis was represented by a live animal mascot (sort of like UGA, the mascot of the University of Georgia). Religious leaders would identify a black calf by the markings that identified him as Apis. He was venerated throughout life and buried in an expensive funeral with a tomb and mourned until a new Apis was found.

God brought judgment on Egypt’s gods and goddesses.  Through the fifth plague, God intentionally poured out judgment on Egypt’s pride, wealth, and livelihood while exposing their perverted sense of what is sacred.  All the livestock of the Egyptians died. ("All" is a hyperbolic statement.  In plague 7, we will see God warning to Egyptians to protect their livestock from the hail.  So it wasn't that all the livestock of Egypt died in the fifth plague, but so many died it seemed like they all died.  However, some apparently survived to be threatened by the seventh plague.)

Pharaoh’s Hard Heart

Now you would think one plague would be enough to turn Pharaoh and Egypt around.  Yet, here we are on the fifth plague and Pharaoh still will not let God's people go.  (I pray COVID-19 is enough to convince America to turn back to God; I would hate to think there are still five or ten more plagues coming.)

A number of times throughout this story, we read about Pharaoh’s stubborn heart. Sometimes it says, “Pharaoh hardened his heart…” (Ex 8:32). In other places, it says, “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” (Ex 9:12)  The two sort of go together.  God always gives us a choice to obey.  However, when you disobey again and again, your heart becomes hard and it can grow so hard it is nearly impossible to change.  That was Pharaoh.  And God chose to use Pharaoh's hard heart to make an example for all the world for all time to see.  

We must also remember Pharaoh and Egypt were under demonic influences.  When a person or a people reject the truth of God for false gods as did Egypt, it opens them up to all kinds of evil influence.  Demons are real and they are always willing to come in and pretend be gods.  And if you let them (thinking they will serve you and give you what you want), it won't be long before those same demons will take over your life.  This is always the case with idol and false gods.  You start out thinking they will serve you, but you end up serving them as slaves.

We must never forget there is a spiritual battle raging all around us, though unseen.  Ephesians 6:12 says, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."

Some people today think demons are an outdated idea. They think the demonic possessions of the Bible were merely mental or physical disorders ancient people could not diagnose; so many today believe people in the Bible were ignorant and we know better. However, we must remember that Jesus acknowledged demonic influence as a legitimate problem for people. Are we so intelligent as to disregard Jesus' worldview?  Isn’t it a bit arrogant for modern people to assume we always know better and that the ancients always misdiagnosed mental/physical disorders as demon possessions? We now live in a world that dismisses the idea that any malady at all could be caused by demons. Consider:  Are we not in as much danger now as the ancients were then of misdiagnosing a serious problem if we arrogantly dismiss their experience as absurd?

We live in a rational age. That means we believe in science and logic and critical thinking. If you want to know if something is true, then test it, study it, verify it scientifically. We have taught ourselves that science is the answer, that science is black and white. However, we are not as smart as we think we are. And the “experts” (the modern equivalents of ancient high priests) are not as infallible as we think they are either. One of the things we have all seen this year is how wrong the experts can be.  The very same experts (the CDC and Dr. Fauci) who confidently proclaimed in March, "You don't need to wear a mask."  In fact, they even had the attitude that you were being ridiculous and ignorant if you were wearing a mask.  A few months latter, they completely changed their message and now say the exact opposite of what they said in the beginning.  Added to all this mixed messaging is the politics.  The virus is real and a serious problem.  However, who you support politically has a lot to do with what you believe about the virus and how we should handle this pandemic.  And all sides use science and data to support their opinion.

I’m not here to take on side or the other.  I’m just making a point.  We are not as smart as we think we are.  How people use science is not black and white nor does it have all the answers. People will arrogantly scoff at you as irrational & ignorant one day and then completely change their story the next day.  Science and facts might be unbiased, but the way people use science and facts is a product of what they believe.

The Idol of the Intellect

My purpose today is not to debate the science and politics of COVID-19. My purpose is to expose an idol in our lives. According to Timothy Keller in his book, Counterfeit Gods, 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.” And if we’re honest, I think we’ll admit that a lot of people today—maybe even you—trust more in the intelligence of modern humanity than you do in the ancient God of which the Bible tells us.

Some will say, “Pastor, don’t you think it can be both? Can't we trust science and God?” Listen, I believe in the importance of education.  I have Bachelor of Science degree and Masters degree from Emory University.  Education is important and God gave us intelligence and wants us to use.  Furthermore, He gave us tools like science to better understand our world.  However, we have to be careful we don't start thinking we're so smart we don't need God.  

The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.  As modern people, we often raise intellect and rational thinking to a god-like state. It has come to the place that many people don’t think they even need God anymore. Religion is just an outdated myth (some think it even a handicap to society).  It's just stupid when your intelligence turns you away from God.

Proverbs 3:5 advises, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding."  Verse 7 warns, "Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil."  And Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall."  We have grown very proud in our modern, intellectual world.

Evil Influences

Are we too smart, too rational to think that demons could influence our world today?  Here are some signs that dark forces may be at work behind the scenes.

The first sign is hard to see because it's hidden.  People won’t see it coming.  The fact that the Enemy remains hidden is a sign to watch for in and of itself.  The Devil is real, but he doesn't want people to know it.  He will try to convince people he doesn't exists and that anyone who says he does is just ignorant and superstitious.

A second sign of demonic influence is that people will twist what God says.  In the Scripture, we see Satan twisting God's Word.  This is how he tempted Eve in the Garden in Genesis.  He didn't deny God's Word outright.  He changed it.  He said to Eve, "Did God say you can't eat any fruit in the garden?"  That's not what God said.  Then he told Eve God denied Eve something good by  withholding the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  "He knows if you eat it, you will be like God…"

Satan even quoted Scripture when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, quoting Psalm 91 out of context to tempt Jesus to leap off a high place so that “angels will protect you” and prove that Jesus is God's Son.  Of course, Jesus knew better and quoted Scripture (Deuteronomy) right back at Satan saying, "You must not put the Lord to the test."

Another sign of demonic influence in the world is that people will do evil things.  Of course, people will always do evil things, as long as we are lead bya sinful, fallen nature.  However, we look around and we see people doing particularly evil things--things previous generations could have never imagined.  Don't we see there is dark evil in the world today?  Isn't it obvious when a crazy person walks into a school and starts randomly shooting innocent children?

Demonic influence is getting especially bad when people call evil good and good evil.  It's gotten to where the average person today is really confused, because we can't hardly tell right from wrong anymore.  Society's rules change all the time.

Have you noticed the subtle way hero stories are being recast in our generation?  When I was a boy, I loved superhero movies and it was real clear who were the good guys and who were the bad guys.  Superman was the hero and Lex Luther was the archvillain.  However, the trend in movies over the last couple decades has been to recast all these stories.  They now want to tell the story from the villain's perspective and show he's not such a bad guy after all.  In fact, he (or she) may actually be the real hero and the apparent hero is really the villain.  Part of this is just an attempt at interesting story-telling to bring new life to an old story.  It was interesting the first time it was done, but now it's been done so much it's become the norm.  And I think it reflects a deeper issue in our culture.  So many today think have decided (or are questioning) if good is really good or if evil is really good.  There is a reversal of roles happening before our eyes.  Things that were considered undeniably repulsive and wrong a generation ago are glorified today.  And things we always accepted as good are now called evil. 

When demons are manipulating your culture, it isn't long until people deny or replace God.  Soon, you don’t even have to hide it anymore; the demons can come out in the open and people won't be repulsed at all.  People will welcome them, idolize them, worship them--just like they did in ancient Egypt.

Romans 1:24-27 – “So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”

Closing

There is still time to turn to God.  We live in a free  society.  It may be hard to reject the norm of idolatry and paganism.  You may be ridiculed and have to sacrifice some things you've come to cherish and depend upon, but it won't get you killed.  Unfortunately, if our nation continues down the road we are headed, spurred on by our favorite demons, we may soon come to a place I don't want to imagine.  Now, more than ever, is the time to turn to God through Jesus Christ.  We must put God before all else, above all the other counterfeit gods in our nation: wealth, power, relationships, intellect, entertainment, etc.  Colossians 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ."

Turn from your false gods to the One True and Living God—the One who gave His life on the cross to redeem you from slavery to sin.   If you choose something else above God, know this: your days are numbered. Your world and everything in it, all your false gods will soon fall—just like the false gods of Egypt.

For there is only one Lord—Yahweh, the Great I Am.