October 21, 2012   Exodus   The Plagues 

        I want to share this article from Thom because there is encouragement in it for us today I believe.   Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of Life Way Christian Resources (LifeWay.com).   He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.   His many books include Surprising Insights from the unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.  He writes, one of my greatest joys in research is talking to and listening to those who clearly identify themselves as non-Christians. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not celebrating their absence of faith in Christ.   My joy comes from listening to those who don’t believe as I do, so I might be better equipped to witness to them.   Over the past several years, my research teams and I have interviewed thousands of unchurched non-Christians.   Among the more interesting insights I gleaned were those where the interviewees shared with me their perspectives of Christians.   In this article, I group the seven most common types of comments in order of frequency.   I then follow that representative statement with a direct quote from a non-Christian.

1. Christians are against more things than they are for.    “It just seems to me Christians are mad at the world and mad at each other.   They are so negative, they seem unhappy.   I have no desire to be like them and stay upset all the time.”

2. I would like to develop a friendship with a Christian.  “I’m really interested in what they believe and how they carry out their beliefs.   I wish I could find a Christian who would be willing to spend some time with me.”

3. I would like to learn about the Bible from a Christian.   “The Bible really fascinates me, but I don’t want to go to a stuffy and legalistic church to learn about it.    It would be nice if a Christian invited me to study the Bible in his home or at a place like Starbucks.”

4. I don’t see much difference in the way Christians live compared to others.  “I really can’t tell what a Christian believes because he doesn’t seem much different than other people I know. The only exception would be Mormons. They really seem to take their beliefs seriously.”

5. I wish I could learn to be a better husband/wife/dad/mom, etc., from a Christian.   “My wife is threatening to divorce me, and I think she means it this time. My neighbor is a Christian, and he seems to have it together. I am swallowing my pride and asking him to help me.”

6. Some Christians try to act like they have no problems.   “Harriett works in my department. She is one of those Christians who seems to have a mask on.  I would respect her more if she didn’t put on such an act.    I know better.”

7. I wish a Christian would take me to his or her church.  “I really would like to visit a church, but I’m not particularly comfortable going by myself.   What is weird is that I am 32 years old, and I’ve never had a Christian invite me to church in my entire life.”  Wow we have a job to do. 

     He says do you see the pattern?    Non-Christians want to interact with Christians. They want to see Christians’ actions match their beliefs.    They want Christians to be real.  In one study we conducted, we found only 5 percent of non-Christians are antagonistic toward Christians     It’s time to stop believing the lies we have been told.   Jesus said it clearly: “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few.   Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest” (Luke10:2, HCSB).  Satan is the author of excuses.   There is no reason to wait to reach those who don’t know Jesus Christ.   We must go now.   The harvest is waiting.  And the Lord of the harvest has prepared the way.   I am not sure that he would get the same results in New England however there are a lot of people that are seeking out there and God wants to reveal Himself to them.   Part of the process of God revealing himself to the Egyptians was how God protected the Israelites from the plagues.   Pharaoh would check on the land where the Israelites lived to see if the plague had hit them.   God uses his people to make himself known to others.     Read   Exodus 5:1 – 14 

     Well most of us know the story here in Exodus.   Jacob comes to Egypt with his family and servants about 70 people in all and they leave some 430 years later with 600,000 men and probably at least 2 million people.   They go into Egypt as a family and come out as a nation.   They have been in slavery for a long time but not the whole time they were in Egypt.   Moses is sent to Pharaoh and tells him this is what the Lord the God of Israel says let my people go so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.   Pharaoh said who is the Lord that I should obey him and let Israel go?   I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.   Well Pharaoh is about to learn about the Lord and God wants people to know him. 

     Then the Lord said to Moses, in chapter 7 "See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.2   You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country   .3But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt,   4he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites   .5And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it."    These people who worshipped so many false gods would know the Lord God.  They did not seek God but God was merciful to reveal himself to them.    God wanted the Egyptians to know that he was God.   And God wants you and me to know that He is God.   And God wants the people around us to know that He is God.  About 15 times in these chapters God says let my people go.  

    The Egyptians worshipped and believed in many gods.   The Nile had several gods associated with it.    What were those acts of judgment?  Those Ten Plagues were:  1. Waters of the Nile River were turned to blood.   The Egyptian deity that they worshipped was Hapi.   The Egyptians believed that the Nile was Osiris blood stream.   They worship this god and God Big G totally destroys the river.   The other gods are no contest for God.   The other gods are not real gods.  It is assumed that the first judgment lasts 7 days and that these plagues or judgments last about 9 months.   I suppose that they would begin to wonder when the Nile would be normal again.   That must have been extremely disruptive to their life.    The Nile was the center of Egyptian life.     It flooded in July and August and enriched the soil on the banks of the Nile and the crops grew very well from the flooding.  The water turns to blood and the fish die and stink.  

     2. Swarms of frogs are everywhere and their god was Heqet.  The Bible Knowledge Commentary says that the Egyptians regarded frogs as having divine power.   In the Egyptian pantheon the goddess Heqet had the form of a woman with a frog’s head.  From her nostrils, it was believed, came the breath of life that animated the bodies of those created by her husband the great god Khnum from the dust of the earth.  Therefore frogs were not to be killed.   So this Egyptian deity becomes a curse to them also.   The rotting frogs caused a stench and a reeking in the land.   Why did God do that so that they may know Him the true God?       

        3. Gnats or lice covered the land and they worshipped Hathor and Nut.   The Hebrew word for gnats is Kinnim and it could also mean mosquitoes.    That is the only time in the bible this word is used.   It may have been an attack against Set the god of the desert or perhaps against the Egyptian priests who prided themselves with physical cleanliness.  They could not duplicate this miracle and called it the finger of God.          4. Flies covered the land and they worshipped Shu and Isis.    These flies may have been the kind that bite and causes pain or they may have been the kind of fly that was depicted by one of their gods.   Pharaoh begins to desire a compromise after this plague.    He said they could sacrifice in Egypt.   But for the Jews to kill a cow or bull with be a horrible thing in the eyes of the Egyptians because they worshipped them and could cause riots.   Moses declines the offer.      5. Cattle got sick and died and the god they worshipped was Apis or Re or Hathor.   The Israelite cattle were unharmed but again Pharaoh hardens his heart.     6. Boils (sores) broke out on both man and beasts and the god they worshipped was Sekhmet.    They also worshipped Sunu the pestilence god and Iris the god of healing.  None of these gods of course could help them.   7. Hail, which destroyed more crops and the god they worshipped was Geb.  Also Nut the sky goddess and Osirusis the god of crop fertility and Set the storm god could not hold back the storm.  They were not given warning on all the plagues but this one a warning was given and some of the Egyptians took in their cattle.  Those left out in the field would die and crops ready to be harvested would be destroyed.  Why because God wanted to reveal himself to them.   Some started to believe.  You get the picture here that God purposely put their gods to shame.   He wanted to prove that He was and is the only God.        8. Locusts and the god they worshipped was Serapis.  These plagues were unprecedented.   It was far greater than they ever experienced before.  God is making a statement to them.   Their sky goddess and the god of crop fertility could not stop the locusts.   9. Thick darkness that covered the land, except the Land of Goshen and the god they worshipped was Ra or Re and Pharaoh represented that god. The sun god and their sky god were no table to stop the darkness.   The sun was shining on the children of Israel.    The land is devastated     Read Exodus 12:29 & 30

     10. First born sons died.  The Pharaoh was considered a god and so was his son.   It is a difficult thing to take life but God is totally just and righteous.    I am also reminded that Joseph came to Egypt and through him the nation was saved from starvation.   I am also reminded that the Egyptians were killing the Israelite boys that were born.    We are the apple of God’s eyes.   God cares about us.   God wanted his people to be set free and no matter what it took God was going to do it.   God had a plan and purpose for them and God has a plan and purpose for you.    My daughter in law Shellie did some research from the Princeton library and found that the Egyptians worshipped Osirus and one of the stories was that they would kill a pig and take the blood and do what?    They took the blood of the pig and smeared it on the door posts of their houses to protect them from?  -- yes death.   God had to go to great lengths to get their attention.  Today is the same.  Man resists God and resists the HS.   Man in general chooses sin over righteousness

      In Chapter 9 the Lord tells Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him This is what the Lord God of the Hebrews says Let my people go so that they may worship me or this time I will send plagues against you and against your officials and your people so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.  Over 15 times we read the words let my people go.  Let my people go.   Brothers and sisters in Jesus we have been set free.   Satan has been bound.   Greater is he that is in us.   The law of sin and death no longer holds us.  God means it when he says set my people free and let my people go.  

      Later in the chapter in verse 16 God says but I have raised you (you meaning Pharaoh) up for this very purpose that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.    Did the Egyptians suffer?  Yes they suffered.  Was it tough for them?  Yes it was tough on them.   Is it tough for people to come to God today?   Yes I believe it is.  Was it hard for you to come to God?   Each one of us has a story.   Many find it difficult to humble them self and admit that they cannot do it alone.    It is not easy for most to come to the place where they admit God I need you.     Was God cruel to reveal himself to them?   God is totally righteous of course but we do labor with questions like that. It took a tough show of power to get them where God wanted them.   To be in the place God wants you is the best place to be.    I think the most important thing about life on this earth is to get to know God even if that costs us a great deal.   Often that means some kind of suffering.  Often that means that God has to strip away our idols and our crutches in life.   I think America is close to a big lesson from God.  I think money, drugs alcohol and luxuries will dry up at some point.  When that happens many people will turn to the Lord that have resisted him.  Some of the things that have kept us too busy to spend time with him will go away.   As the song writer said we need to get back to the basics of life.