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Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts

Monday, October 26, 2020

The Ten Plagues of Egypt, Plague 7 - Hail

Egyptian Government and Society
Ancient Egypt was a theocratic monarchy.  What that means is, Pharaoh (their king) ruled by mandate of the gods.  In America, “we the people” vote to choose our president, senators, representatives, and other leaders.  In ancient Egypt, they believed the gods chose their leader—and it was Pharaoh.  What a convenient system they had.  Do you see?  

The leaders of Egypt created gods to explain everything, who supposedly control everything—from the weather to fertility and the harvest, the protection of the nation, etc.  The leaders of Egypt told the people to say prayers and sacrifice to the gods to ensure their help and protection. And these “made up” gods chose Pharaoh to lead the people.  So if the people believe these “gods” chose Pharaoh, then whatever Pharaoh says, the people have to do or else it will bring down their wrath.  So Pharaoh was able to rule with absolute authority.

Attributing divine authority to national rulers is one of the oldest tricks in the book.  Kings and governments have used it throughout history.  In fact, it was not until a wild bunch of independent thinkers we know as the “Founding Fathers” got together and put their ideas to work that anyone had the guts to really challenge this notion.  At the time, King George was the ruler of the British Empire.  Most of the world accepted the king derived his right to rule from God.  One of the reasons it was so hard for the American colonies to break free from British rule was that everyone believed it meant rebelling not only against King George, but against God who chose the king to rule.

Never-the-less, our founding fathers believed King George’s actions—his “history of repeated injuries and usurpations” (as the Declaration of Independence states)—had overwhelmingly proved he was a tyrant rather than a king operating under God’s authority.  And therefore, the founding fathers laid forth all their reasons why they were rejecting the king's rule and seeking independence.

Our ancestors won a hard-fought war to gain our independence.  And many have made tremendous sacrifices to maintain our freedom for the last 244 years so that we can continue to be ruled by a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

Well, God showed that the ancient Egyptian idols were nothing.  God could have destroyed Egypt with just one plague, but He opted for 10 instead so that He could draw it our and bring judgment on all of Egypt’s so-called gods—like Set, who was supposed to be the god of chaos and storms.  So in the 7th plague, God brought chaos through a terrible hail storm—the likes the Empire had never suffered before.  Massive hail stones dropped from the sky, raining down death and destruction to everyone not protected by a substantial shelter.  Egypt’s storm god, Set, was silent—offering no help or relief.

The Idol of Patriotism
I was born in Maryland.  We moved to Macon, GA when I was still very young.  Before we moved, I lived just outside of Washington DC for a short time.  Some of my earliest childhood memories are of driving around the capital and seeing all the beautiful national monuments.  One of the most iconic is the Washington Monument, which is actually based off of the obelisks the ancient Egyptians used to build to glorify the power of their empire.

There’s nothing wrong with statues or national monuments.  They help us honor our heroes and remember our most important values.  However, we must be careful not to turn love for our country into an idol.  And, as a pastor, I must to warn you of something important.  Your nation’s leaders probably won’t mind if you bow to the idol of patriotism.  It works in their favor.  They may even encourage it because the more devoted you are to the country, the more it helps them. Why would they care if you choose to love your country more than God? 

Now, patriotism is not a bad thing.  We don't usually turn bad things into idols.  We take good things and idolize them.  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.”   

I really struggled with how to present the next part of the message.  I went round and round and just couldn’t break through to find the words.  So, after praying about it, I felt God leading me to simply ask you a series of questions.  These are just designed to make you think as you look deeply into your own heart.

First Question:  To whom do you pledge your primary allegiance?  God or Country? 
Whenever I ask this question, people usually say, "Can’t it be both?"  And on the surface, the answer is yes.  You can pledge allegiance to both God and your country.  Jesus was asked a similar question about a very hot topic in his day.  The Pharisees didn't like Jesus and so they tried to trap him with a question: "Should we pay taxes to Cesar?"  They knew that common people in Jesus' day hated the Romans as foreign oppressors who were extorting money from God's chosen people.  So if Jesus said you should pay taxes to Caesar, it would discredit him with the people. On the other hand, if Jesus said no, then the Roman military would arrest him.  Jesus' answer was perfect.  He asked the Pharisees for a coin and asked, "Who's image is on this coin?"  It was Caesar's.  So Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what belongs to  Caesar, but give to God what belongs to God."  You see, we are all made in God's image.  His image is stamped upon our heart.  So give money (which really isn't that important) to Caesar and give your heart (your everything) to God. 

You can give your allegiance to both God and your country, but one must be primary.  Jesus also said, "You cannot serve two masters.  For you will either hate the one and love the other; or you will ove the one and hate the other." So to who do you pledge your primary allegiance?

If I asked you to recite the pledge of allegiance, could you do it.  Most would proudly stand and begin, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America...", but stop.  Why did you choose that pledge.  You assumed I mean the American pledge.  Why did you choose that one over the pledge to the Christian flag?  Perhaps you didn't know their was a pledge to the Christian flag.  More likely, it's because you simply assumed when I asked "Pledge of Allegiance" that I meant the pledge most children grew up saying every morning at school.  Do you see?  The state has done a much better job indoctrinating us all than has the church.  (The Pledge of Allegiance to the Christian Flag:  I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands; one brotherhood, uniting all mankind in service and in love.]

Next Question:  If you had to choose between being an American or being a Christian, which would you choose?
Again, people will always ask, “Can’t it be both?”  Of course it can.  You can be an American and a Christian—but one must be primary.  For God will not be second to anyone or anything.  And most Americans aren’t going to push this issue very far because it risks potentially pointing out that we really have made a choice and maybe the choice is America first and God second.  We don’t want to see that in ourselves so we avoid this question and sit on the fence.  Most people will be “Both American and Christian.”  But if you had to choose, which would it be?

It might be easy to deceive ourselves in answer this question.  So let me ask a few more than might reveals something we've never thought about.  Do you fly a flag at your home? Which one? Almost all the homes I see as I drive around my community fly the American flag.  Is that the one you fly?  Why did you choose that flag?  The obvious answer is you are American.  You may never have even given it much thought.  But if you are a Christian, you are a citizen of God's Kingdom and there is a Christian flag.  Why, as a Christian, do you choose to fly an American flag instead of a Christian one?

My goal here is not to judge anyone.  You may have good reasons.  But I suspect most people have never given this much thought.  And I also wonder if we do give this much thought if it might reveal our subconscious primary identity as either Christian or American.

Last question:  Do you believe you would be safer living as an atheist in America or as a Christian in Saudi Arabia? Why?  Perhaps it is because you believe we are more protected in the US because we have better laws and are under the watch of a strong military but in Saudi Arabia we would be vulnerable without that protection.  What if God specifically sent you to Saudi?  Would He protect 
you? Would His protection in Saudi Arabia be stronger or weaker than the US military is in America?

Now, let's dig in a little deeper.  I asked about your safety.  Did you think of safety primarily in terms of protection of this temporary life rather than considering it from an eternal perspective? In other words, what probably came to you mind was whether you would be physically safe.  You probably didn't think about the safety of your soul.  You were worried about your life (this life).  Why?  The early Christians saw this life as something they would gladly sacrifice for the sake of God's Kingdom.  They viewed life from the perspective of eternity.  Have we grown so comfortable with this life and the things of this world that we cherish it above eternity?

The Election
I will be so glad when this election cycle is over.  People are going crazy.  Everyone is so ramped up like this election is the end all and be all and it makes people who are normally kind and civil act very badly.  To be sure, this is an important election, but it's not an excuse to behave badly. I think some people think the stakes are so high because they believe the outcome of this election will either preserve or damage an idol they have in their life.  Their “America” will either be preserved or destroyed based on who wins.  

I’m not as concerned because my future is not tied up with the success or failure of this nation.  I care—don’t get me wrong.  I care, but the stakes aren’t as high for me because my hope is in the Kingdom of God.  Whether America rises or falls, my hopes rest in the Lord who said in Exodus 20:1-2, “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.  You must not have any other god but me.” (Exodus 20:1-2) 

Who rescued you? Who preserves you? Who will you honor and trust to preserve you in the days ahead regardless of the outcome of this election? Who will you choose to serve?

Joshua 24:15, “Choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”

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.

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.”


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.