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Showing posts with label Ten Plagues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ten Plagues. 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.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

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



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, 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?

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Ten Plagues of Egypt, Plague 2 - Frogs

Last week we saw that Moses turned the Nile into blood to punish Pharaoh for not letting God's people leave slavery in Egypt.  The Nile was full of blood for seven days.  However, Pharaoh was stubborn and wouldn't let God's people go.  So God sent another plague.

Exodus 8:1-8
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go back to Pharaoh and announce to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so they can worship me. 2 If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs across your entire land. 3 The Nile River will swarm with frogs. They will come up out of the river and into your palace, even into your bedroom and onto your bed! They will enter the houses of your officials and your people. They will even jump into your ovens and your kneading bowls. 4 Frogs will jump on you, your people, and all your officials.’”

5Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Raise the staff in your hand over all the rivers, canals, and ponds of Egypt, and bring up frogs over all the land.’” 6 So Aaron raised his hand over the waters of Egypt, and frogs came up and covered the whole land! 7 But the magicians were able to do the same thing with their magic. They, too, caused frogs to come up on the land of Egypt. 

8 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and begged, “Plead with the Lord to take the frogs away from me and my people. I will let your people go, so they can offer

Egyptian Idolatry
Ancient Egypt was an impressive civilization. I learned last night while we were playing Apples to Apples as a family that Egyptians were the first to popularize the idea of applying scents to armpits, usually using cinnamon and other spices that wouldn't turn rancid in the heat.  They invented one of the first forms of writing.  They constructed remarkable buildings such as the Great Pyramids and Temples and tombs that are still consider great wonders of the world today.

Yet, Egypt was mired in sin.  As a very powerful empire, they abused their power to mistreat neighboring peoples.  They enslaved the Hebrews and then tried attempted genocide by forcing the Hebrews to throw their baby boys into the Nile River.  They were also guilty of idolatry,

Idolatry may seem a mild sin when compared to things like slavery and genocide.  However, idolatry is a gateway sin.  Idolatry replaces the One True God with a god of your own making.  In the ancient world, people would often craft an idol out of stone or wood into the shape of a god they imagined.  They could make their idol look however they wanted it to look.  But here’s the thing.  Not only could they make their supposed god (which was not really a god at all) look they way they wanted.  They could make their god embody whatever they wanted.  They could make the fake god say, do, believe, and condone whatever they people wanted.

One of the most heinous atrocities of the Egyptians was forcing Hebrews to throw their baby boys into the Nile River.  Now, there is a natural repulsion in every human heart at even the thought of taking a helpless infant and throwing them in a river to drown.  I know that’s wrong.  You know it’s wrong too.  It doesn’t matter what language you speak, what color is your skin, or from what time in history or what country you come from.  Every human being instinctively knows killing babies is wrong.  We know it because God created us with a natural sense of right and wrong.  We value life because God values life.  We want to protect the powerless because God protects the powerless.  We were made in God’s image. Even though we are warped by sin, we still reflect His character.  As America's funding fathers expressed, "We hold these truths to be self-evident..."

But we also want to do what we want to do.  We don’t want God restricting our behavior (I’m speaking in a worldly sense here).  And so, if we don’t like what the One True God says, then we’ll just change it.  “Let’s just make a minor adjustment here.  There!  I like this god much better!”  And then someone else comes along and says, “Yeah, but, I don’t like that other thing about God.  I would much rather God were this instead of that.”  And they make another little change to god to make Him the way they want him to be.  And this can go on and on and on until the god you are left with doesn't look like the One True God at all. 

And so as Romans 1:21b-23 says, “…they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles." 

When people start compromising the truth and start making their gods to be they they want the to be, it’s not long until your “gods” start condoning things like drowning Hebrew babies in the Nile River.  The Egyptians were smart, intelligent, creative, resourceful people.  Unfortunately, they turned into utter fools because they turned their backs on the truth in favor of lies.  (America, be warned!) 

Anchored in the Truth
Do you realize how incredibly blessed we are to have the Holy Bible? The Bible helps us know the Truth. It guards us from forgetting the character of God and recreating Him into whatever we want Him to be. The Word of God doesn’t change.  The same story about the ten plagues of Egypt we're reading today is the same story Jesus read 2,000 years ago.  We read the same stories and characteristics of God that people have always read.  These words haven't changed and they won't change.  Now, everyone can read the words for themselves and come to their own conclusions.  And honest people may all come to slightly different conclusions.  That's why we have Methodist and Baptist and Pentecostals, etc.  However, though we have varying interpretations, we are all anchored to the same Holy Bible.  We are like ships floating at anchor in the open sea.  We may drift this way and that, but we won't drift of into never never land because we are anchored.  And so a Methodist ship may float to the left and a Baptist one may float to the right, but we are still in the same general area.  It is when we severe the connection to Scripture that we float away into crazy heresies that have nothing to do with the One True God of the Bible.  Some have done this.  Some are doing this now.  They don't like this or that about God and what His Holy Word says in Scripture.  So they decide to disregard the Bible.  And in doing so, they are doing something like the Egyptians who made idols to represent gods the way they thought they should be or the way they wanted them to be.

But Why Did God Send a Plague of Frogs?
Egypt had thousands of gods. “Instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.”  And one of their most important gods was the goddess Heqet, which they imagined looked like a frog.  She was the goddess of fertility.  Egyptians imagined that Heqet was the wife of Knume, the guardian of the Nile River.  (Remember how last week we saw the One True God turned the Nile River into blood, proving that Knume could not protect the Nile from God because Knume has no real power?)  The Egyptians believed Knume formed the bodies of new children on his potter's wheel and then their frog goddess breathed life into them.  An Egyptian mother giving birth depended upon the frog goddess to hasten birth.  New mothers-to-be often wore amulets depicting Heqet sitting in a lotus.

Frogs were sacred in ancient Egypt.  They were not to be trampled upon.  God—the One True God of the Bible—has a sense of humor, don’t you think?  It’s like He said, “Ok.  So you think frogs are sacred.  You think these slimy creature represent your fertility goddess? OK.  I’ll gonna give you so many frogs you won’t know what to do with them!  You won’t be able to walk without stepping on 10 or 15 of them with each stride!  They’re gonna be in your houses and in your bedrooms and even in your beds.  Let’s see you try to make some babies while you’ve got frogs crawling all over you!”

Once again, the God of the Hebrews shows the Egyptians that their gods are nothing.  If Heqet is real, why didn’t she (or any of the other Egyptian gods) stop this nonsense? They couldn't.  Only Yahweh, the Great I Am of the Hebrews has any real power. 

What’s Your Favorite Idol?
I doubt anyone reading this today actually bows down to worship a statue of a frog.  But Americans have their idols too.  Tim Keller states 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.”  If we’re honest with ourselves, I think many may realize we have idols today too. 

So what’s your favorite idol?

Is Wealth Your Idol?

Are Pleasure & Entertainment Your Idols?

Is love or relationships your idol? 

Are your children your idol?

Is your intellect and intelligence your idol?

Is America (or your nation and way of life) your idol?

Are you your idol?

Or is it something else?

The things we turn into idols aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves.  Frogs aren’t evil.  They have their place.  They are living creatures God made and they are important to the environment.  But they are not gods.  Children are an important blessing God gives us to nurture and love.  But they are not gods.  Money, intellect, national pride… none of these things are evil in and of themselves.  It is when we expect them to do for us what only God can do that we run into trouble.  It is when they are more important to us than God that we sin.  It is when they absorb our heart and imagination more than God that we are heading towards destruction.

What are you clinging to as an idol that you need to let go of today?
I invite you to repent of your idolatry and turn to Jesus for forgiveness.
He will forgive you and show you who God really is in the most accurate way.
And where do you see what Jesus is like?
It's not the popular image of Jesus that's been made up by our world.
It's not what you think about Jesus. (You don't get to make Jesus whatever you want him to be.)
Jesus is not necessarily what the “experts” says about him. (Experts sometimes term out to be fools.)
Your Bible is where you read the most accurate description of who Jesus is and what he did and what he expects from us.  John 3:16 may be the best summary of it all where it says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."  That's a great summary.  But let's don't stop there.  Read the Bible.  Study it.  Trust the Jesus you find there and follow him.

Monday, September 21, 2020

10 Plagues of Egypt, Plague 1 - Blood Red River

Yahweh, the Great “I AM”, the One, True, and Living God commanded Pharaoh: 
“Let my people go…”
Pharaoh was stubborn and arrogant. He said, “Is that so? And who is the Lord?
Why should I listen to him and let Israel go?
I don’t know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.”

Well Pharaoh, You are about to find out ‘Who is the Lord?’

The Ten Plagues of Egypt
The First Plague: The Nile River Turns to Blood

Exodus 7:14-25
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn, and he still refuses to let the people go. 15 So go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes down to the river. Stand on the bank of the Nile and meet him there. Be sure to take along the staff that turned into a snake. 16 Then announce to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to tell you, “Let my people go, so they can worship me in the wilderness.” Until now, you have refused to listen to him. 17 So this is what the Lord says: “I will show you that I am the Lord.” Look! I will strike the water of the Nile with this staff in my hand, and the river will turn to blood. 18 The fish in it will die, and the river will stink. The Egyptians will not be able to drink any water from the Nile.’” 

19 Then the Lord said to Moses: “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and raise your hand over the waters of Egypt—all its rivers, canals, ponds, and all the reservoirs. Turn all the water to blood. Everywhere in Egypt the water will turn to blood, even the water stored in wooden bowls and stone pots.’” 

20 So Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded them. As Pharaoh and all of his officials watched, Aaron raised his staff and struck the water of the Nile. Suddenly, the whole river turned to blood! 21 The fish in the river died, and the water became so foul that the Egyptians couldn’t drink it. There was blood everywhere throughout the land of Egypt. 22 But again the magicians of Egypt used their magic, and they, too, turned water into blood. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hard. He refused to listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had predicted. 23 Pharaoh returned to his palace and put the whole thing out of his mind. 24 Then all the Egyptians dug along the riverbank to find drinking water, for they couldn’t drink the water from the Nile. 

25 Seven days passed from the time the Lord struck the Nile. 

God tells us why He sent ten plagues on Egypt in Exodus 7:5 – “When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”  Again and again in the book of Exodus, God repeats the definitive statement, “I am the Lord!” to Moses, the Hebrews, and Pharaoh and the Egyptians.  In fact, God says “I am the Lord!” no less than 36 times throughout the book of Exodus.  God wants everyone to know that He is in supreme command of everything in Heaven and on Earth.  That no king, no Pharaoh, no army, no empire, and no other supposed “god” has any power above Him.  And through the ten Plagues of Egypt, God is going to prove once and for all to everyone that He is Yahweh, the Great I AM, the One True Living God.  My greatest hope as we go through this series about the 10 plagues of Egypt (and as we live through this plague of COVID-19) is that everyone knows beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is still Lord of all and we need to turn to Him for our salvation through His son, Jesus Christ.

In order to really appreciate what God proved by delivering the Hebrews (AKA, the Israelites) from Egypt, you have to understand a few things about ancient Egypt.

Egypt vs. USA
First, Egypt was a vast and powerful Empire.  Egypt was unified as an empire around 3,100 BC.  It is one of the oldest civilizations on earth.  For reference, Christ lived on earth about 2,000 ago.  Now, that's a long time ago.  However, that's not even half way back to when Egypt was founded.  Egypt unified as an empire in over 5,000 years ago!  That's incredible!  

Egypt was the most successful empires of the ancient world.  Of course, they are famous for the great pyramids, one of the grea wonders of our world.  In this picture to the right, you can see a comparison of the great pyramid of Giza to other
famous structures.  notice the statue of liberty on the chart.  Now that statue is quite grand (if you've ever seen it, you know).  However, look how the sheer mass of the pyramid dwarfs Lady Liberty.  The Egyptians did this without computers, calculators, or mechanized equipment.  Their empire boasted incredible wealth, power, regional influence, peace, and security.  They are know to this day for their music, medicine, philosophy, art, and literature.  They invented hieroglyphics to write down their history, religion, and ideas long before most peoples even knew how to write.  Egypt was the superpower of their day and their influence persisted nearly ten times as long as the Unites States of America has even been in existence.

Egypt had a complex religion of over 2,000 deities. There were gods for everything. Egyptians made gods from what they saw—animals, natural features, and the sun, moon, and stars. Egyptian gods had to be controlled by sacrifices and religious ceremonies. If you did the right magic, the god’s had to do what you asked. It was important to control the Egyptian gods because they didn’t care about humans. This might be hard for modern people, because most of us grew up with a Christian concept of a benevolent God who is holy, righteous, and compassionate.  So when we think of God, we probably think of a good God.  Egyptian gods were not like the Christian God.  Egyptian gods were greedy, selfish, and lustful and just wanted to enjoy the pleasure of being a god—often at the expense of humanity.  Egyptian gods resembled more of what Christians might call demons.  They would lie, cheat, steal, and use people to get what they wanted (or just abuse people for their own entertainment).  

Among the thousands of Egyptian gods, some that were supposed to be among the most important and powerful were Appis (pronounced 'happy'; the god of the Nile River, the source of life), and Isis (the goddess of the Nile and supposed divine mother of Pharaoh), Khnum (the guardian of the Nile. The ten plagues with which Yahweh struck Egypt through Moses, attack the very gods the Egyptians believed were in control of the world. One by one, God shows that He is the Lord; He is in complete control and can do whatever He wants and no other god, no demon, no army, no empire, and no Pharaoh can stop Him.

Look at what God did in this very first plague. The Nile was the most important feature of Egypt. It was the empire’s lifeblood—it made agriculture and civilization possible in the middle of the dessert (not to mention fishing and transportation as boats traveled up and down the river like tractor trailers drive up and down I-75 today).

And so God attacked the most important asset of the Egyptian empire. He turns the Nile reiver into blood. He says, “Ok, you think the Nile River is your life blood. Fine, I’ll turn your river into actual blood! You think you can commit genocide an take little Hebrew babies and drown them in your “amazing” river? Their blood is on your hands and in your river. So, let’s make it official! I’ll show you what your river looks like to me! It is filled with the blood of your murders.”

In the process, God exposes the impotence of some of the most important “gods” in Egypt. Appis was suppose to be the god of the Nile. Isis was the goddess of the Nile. Khnum was the guardian of the Nile. Where were they when God stuck the Nile? There were three of these gods against Yahweh.  Why couldn’t they protect the Nile? Because they are nothing. Exodus 7:14, “I will show you that I am the Lord.”

Egypt’s Experiment with Monotheism
I’m no expert in Egyptian history or religion. However, some very interesting things happened in Egyptian history (and this is according to secular—not religious—scholars).  One is that a foreign people group ruled in Egypt for a number of years.  This group, the Hyksos, ruled in Egypt about the time the Bible says Joseph rose to second in command of the empire when the Hebrews came to live in Egypt.  Could the Hyksos been the Hebrews?  

Another interesting phenomena occurred about the same time.   One Pharaoh, Akhenaten, started to favor one god above all the other gods in Egypt.  Soon he decided that that one god was the only god.  COuld this have been the influence of Yahweh's people living in Egypt?  Could Joseph’s influence have lead some of the Egyptians to reject their idols and false gods toward the One True God? Maybe.

Ultimately, the Egyptians rejected Joseph’s people and his God, and chose to delve back into their idolatry.  When Akhenaten died, Egypt delved back into their traditional pantheism.  This also seems to follow the biblical narrative that says the Egyptians forgot about Joseph and began to resent the Hebrews and eventually made them slaves and turned to genocide.  That is why God is leading His people out of Egypt in Exodus to give them their own land where they will serve as His representatives to the whole world.

God Bless America
Well, Ok, I’m a nerd. I love this stuff! You may not. So, what does all this have to do with you today? I‘m glad you asked!

There are so many parallels for us today. Obviously, we are in the midst of a global plague. I don’t know if God sent COVID-19 on us the same way He sent ten plagues on Egypt (I sure hope not! What if COVID-19 and the all the troubles of 2020 are just the start? What if 2021 gets even worse?) Whether God sent COVID or not, I say we all make sure we turn back to God because I’m tired of this!

There are more parallels between the ten plagues of Egypt and your life in America today. Egypt was a superpower of the Ancient world. Who is the superpower of our times? America. Again and again in the Bible, God is the God who stands up for the oppressed against the powerful. Why is that? One of the biggest reason is because when people get powerful, they often feel like they don’t need God anymore and they turn their backs on Him. They grow selfish. Eventually they may get so bad they are willing to do the same kinds of things Pharaoh did. Thinking he was a god, Pharaoh ordered the enslavement of the Hebrews and then resorted to genocide to wipe them out by drowning their babies in the Nile River.

In America, we are some of the most privileged and prosperous and powerful people in the world. According to Gallup, the median household income around the world is $9,733 per year.[i] What’s the annual income at your house? The average for Dalton is 43,076.[ii] So, there’s no denying we have it pretty good. We’ve worked hard to get where we are. We also owe a lot to our ancestors stuggles, the military for protecting our nation, and many others.  However, I pray we never, ever, ever forget that our blessings and security come from God. Lord, forbid we ever begin to think America’s greatness is due to our businesses or military or system of government or philosophy or anything else.  God forbid we forget He is the one who grants and protects our peace and prosperity.  For when we do, we are going right down the same road as Egypt in Exodus. God might have to come in and remind us, all our “gods” are nothing! God, and God alone, is the Lord.

Whether or not God specifically sent COVID-19, I pray it wakes us all up to the truth that we are not in control. We never really were. A tiny little virus shut down the entire world. Do you still think you are in control?  How many plagues will it take to convince you otherwise?

This is the Lord’s word to you today. Repent of your sin and arrogance and idolatry and turn to the Lord through Jesus Christ. 

Well, what Pharaoh did is indicative of the way some people will respond to the Lord.  Exodus 7:23, “Pharaoh returned to his palace and put the whole thing out of his mind.”  You see, Pharaoh  hardened his heart.  He was stubborn.  He said to himself, “It’s just a thing, a coincidence.  It will pass.  I’ll be fine.  Life will return to normal.  I’ll still be in control.”  And unfortunately, that’s the way some who read this message may respond.  You will be stubborn and harden your heart.  You’ll say, “I’m not gonna change.  This ain’t that big a deal.  I’m still in control.  I’ll be fine.”  And you will return to your “palace” and put the whole thing out of your mind.

But, I pray that will not be your response.  I pray you will recognize the Jesus is Lord.  I pray you will repent of your sin and turn to Him.  Get down on your knees and pray for forgiveness.  And start today to follow Jesus with your whole heart.  For Jesus said in Matthew 4:17, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”

Monday, June 3, 2019

When Life is Scary, God is Good

As my church prepares for vacation Bible school coming July 8-12, I'm sharing a message series inspired by the themes for each day of VBS.  The overall theme is: Life is Wild, God is Good.  We learn that when life is unfair, or scary, or when it changes, or is sad, or when life is good, God is good.  God is good all the time and all the time, God is good.

Last week, I shared how God is good even when life is unfair.  The Israelites were forced to work as slaves in Egypt.  It wasn't fair, but God was still good to the Israelites and he sent Moses to help deliver them from Egypt.  However, things had to get worse before they could get better.  Today, we learn that when life is scary, God is good.

Psalm 23:4Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

Exodus 7:14, 19
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is stubborn, and he still refuses to let the people go…  19 Then the Lord said to Moses: “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and raise your hand over the waters of Egypt—all its rivers, canals, ponds, and all the reservoirs. Turn all the water to blood. Everywhere in Egypt the water will turn to blood, even the water stored in wooden bowls and stone pots.’”

When Life is Scary, God is Good
Quite often, things have to get worse before they get better.  Thankfully, when life is unfair, God is good.  And today we learn that when life is scary, God is good.  God sent Moses to demand that Pharaoh let the Israelites go free, but Pharaoh said no.  So God sent ten plagues to bring Pharaoh and the Egyptians to their knees in submission.  You can read the full description of all the plagues in Exodus 7:14-12:32.  The first plague was turning all the water in Egypt into blood.  The second was a plague of frogs.  These were followed by an infestation of lice (or gnats), flies, the death of Egyptian livestock, boils covering the Egyptian's skin, destructive hail, locusts, and darkness.  In the final plague, God caused the death of every first born make child not residing in a house marked by the blood of a lamb.

God is Lord
One of the great themes of the Exodus story is the Lordship of God.  In fact, the book of Exodus is really when God reveals Himself as “the Lord”.  When God first appeared to Moses in a burning bush in Exodus 3:15 He tells Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh [The Lord], the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.  This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.” 

In Egypt, Pharaoh was the lord.  Egyptians considered Pharaoh a god.  He rules with absolute authority.  He could command people to be put to death, even children.  But God showed the Egyptians and the Israelites and whole world that Pharaoh was just a man.  Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Israelites, the God of the Bible, our God is truly the Lord.  The ten plagues in Exodus prove that Yahweh has authority over all creation.  As a polytheistic society, the Egyptians probably believed in gods who ruled over all the various things like frogs and flies and the sun and weather.  However, Yahweh God is the only One who is in charge of frogs and flies, the sun, our health, and the weather.  The Lord made everything we see (and even things we can’t see).  He has the power to control everything.  And Yahweh God is all knowing and He knows that no one else has the right or ability to be Lord in His place because they will always misuse and abuse.  God will not let anyone else claim lordship over all the earth. 

But, sometimes things must get worse before they get better.  And sometimes, things will also get scary before they get better.  Yahweh God, the Great Lord of All, sent 10 plagues to prove to Pharaoh and the Egyptians and the Israelites and everyone in the whole world that only Yahweh is God and Lord of all.  And even thought The Lord was fighting for the Israelites, they had to live through the scary plagues right along side the Egyptians.  They had to learn as we do: when life is scary, God is good.  When things get scary, always remember, God is Lord; God is in control; and God loves you.  Remember that scary things often accompany the work of the Lord, but do not be dismayed because is good.

Use Your Fear
It’s OK to be afraid.  Sometimes, you just can’t help it when so many terrible and scary things are happening all around.  So often our fears make us think and act irrationally.  However, I want to suggest you let your fear lead to positive things.

First of all, let your fear turn your heart to God.  Don't be like Pharaoh who hardened his heart.  Pharaoh could have saved himself and his people great suffering if he'd simply submitted to The Lord.  Instead, Pharaoh was stubborn and arrogantly held onto the lie that he was greater than God.  If only he'd repented and turned to God, God would have blessed him and all the Egyptians.

So when life is scary, we need to soften our hearts and repent of any sin we become aware is in our lives.  If we have been living in opposition to God, we need to ask forgiveness and turn to Him.  God is faithful and just and quick to forgive us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Forget your ego; let go of your pride.  Turn to God.  He is the Lord and you are not.

Second, let your fears lead you to trust God.  Trust that God loves you.  The last plague God brought in Exodus was the worst.  He sent the Angel of Death to wipe out the first born of every living thing--people and animals--in Egypt who didn't have the blood of a lamb on the doorpost of their house.  The Egyptians (and even Pharaoh) could have been spared the death of their firstborn children if only they'd humbled themselves, trusted in God, and put the blood of a lamb on their doorposts.  The Angel of death "passed over" all who had the blood of a lamb on their doorpost.  

The yearly celebration of Passover became the way for Israelites to always remember how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt.  Passover was also a foreshadowing of how God would save all humanity from slavery to sin.  For Jesus Christ is called the Lamb of God.  One day, John the Baptist say Jesus coming towards him and he declared, "Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29)  Jesus let the glory of heaven to die on the cross for our sins.  Though he was perfect in every way, with no sin in him, Jesus shed his blood as our Passover Lamb.  His blood covers our sins.  "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

Yet, we must still trust the Lord.  We must put our faith in Christ and figurative apply the blood of the Lamb to the doorpost of our life.  If we do, The Lord will deliver us from slavery to sin and give us new life, abundant life, eternal life.  The Angel of Death will pass over our life and we will live.  So when life is scary, let it lead you to trust in Christ and be save, because God is good.

Jesus, the Lamb of God, was celebrating the Passover with his disciples when he changed the ceremony.  He took the bread and broke it and gave it to his disciples and said, "This is my body, given for you."  Likewise, after the meal he took the cup of wine and asked the Lord to bless it and gave it to his disciples and said, "This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.  As often as you drink it, do it in remembrance of me."

So now, put your faith in Jesus.  And receive Holy Communion and remember what Christ has done for you.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away your sin if you will trust him and follow him as your Savior and Lord.  Will you?