The Plagues in Exodus = God’s Power and Mercy

For the past few weeks, I have been brought back several times to the Old Testament book of Exodus. Our Sunday Morning Junior High class is doing a series on the Old Testament and is currently in Exodus. Our High School class is a little over half way through a series on Exodus. Somewhere in the midst of that my Bible reading plan took me into Exodus.

If you are familiar with the book of Exodus, you know about the ten plagues that God sent to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelite people go free. At the time the Hebrews (God’s chosen people) were in slavery to the Egyptians. Pharaoh was stubborn and needed some convincing before he would part with his slave work force.

My reading plan took me to Exodus chapter 9 where God threatens to send the plague of hail if Pharaoh doesn’t agree to let them go free.

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my 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. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth.”  [Exodus 9:13-15]

The plagues definitely show God’s power.  He sends hail that will destroy both livestock and the crops.  At the raising of Moses’ hands, God unleashes a plague that brings a lot of destruction.  God clearly shows His power.

As I read this chapter again, I see how the plagues also show God’s mercy.  While God was definitely going to bring destruction, He didn’t do it without warning.  He gave Pharaoh and the Egyptian people opportunities to avoid what He was going to do.

Notice was it says in Exodus 9:18-19:  “Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every person and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’ ” [Exodus 9:18-19]

Anyone who would listen to God’s warning would avoid the damage done by the hail.  God was flexing His muscle, but He also revealed His heart – He gave the Egyptians a chance to protect their animals and possessions from the hail.  Those who feared God listened and brought in their slaves and livestock.

God demonstrated His power and His mercy.

Later in the chapter God shows His mercy again:

“The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later.”  [Exodus 9:31-32]

Not all the crops were destroyed.  God spared some of the Egyptians future food supply.

As I was brought back to the book of Exodus, I was brought back to both the power of God and the mercy of God.  Yes, God brought judgement.  Yes, God brought His power down on the people of Egypt.  But He didn’t do it without warning.  He didn’t do it without giving Pharaoh and the Egyptians a chance to respond.

The good news is that God does the same thing for us.  He continues to offer His mercy and gives us a chance to respond.  That’s good news for those of us who can be stubborn like Pharaoh.

Is the Lord’s Arm Too Short?

My reading plan on YouVersion has me in the book of Numbers.  I have been reading about the setting apart of the Levites, the jobs they were given to care for and serve in the tabernacle and how the tribes of Israel were to camp out and then move out as they followed the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.

It is a pretty amazing thing to try to pictures the hundreds of thousands of Israelites moving out by tribes under each ones banner as they followed God’s leading.

In Numbers 11, the people start complaining.  They have manna to eat every day, but now they want meat.  Moses is so tired of bearing the weight of their whining, he turns to complain to God about the people’s complaining.  To support Moses, God has him select 70 of Israel’s elders to assist Moses in caring for the people.  And He promises to give the people meat.

But not just meat for a day.

Not just meat for a couple of days.

Meat for a whole month – so much that it comes out of their nostrils (that’s really what the NIV says) and they begin to loathe it.  God basically says, “You want meat?  I will give you meat!”

Moses isn’t so sure.  Even though God brought 10 plagues on the nation of Egypt, lead the people through the Red Sea and wiped out Pharoah’s army, he isn’t sure God can come through.  He sees 600,000 men on foot and wonders if God can provide meat every day for all of them for a whole month.

Then God says, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

God is able.  He is more than powerful enough to do what He says He will do.  And I was glad for that reminder today.

The last few days have brought some frustrations, challenges, difficulties…stuff you have to deal with on a pretty regular basis.  Like most people, I can get impatient and run ahead of what God may be doing.  Then I have to ask, “Is the Lord’s arm too short?”  Can He handle the stuff you and I deal with?  If He can feed 600,000 men meat for a month that is comes out their nose, my problems aren’t that big of deal.

Take some encouragement today that God’s arm is not too short.

Envisioning the Exodus

When you think about the Exodus – when Moses lead the Israelites out of Egypt – what do you picture?  There have been several movies & videos made about the event, so that may influence what shows up in your mind.

This year I have been reading through the Bible using YouVersion.  I am in the book of Exodus and was reminded what a huge sea of humanity the Israelites were when they left Egypt.

Whenever I think of large crowds, I think of sporting events.  Football games bring out big groups.  Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts,  holds 63,000 people and they sell out on a regular basis.  “The Horseshoe,” Ohio State’s football stadium, had a record attendance of just over 106,000 people for a game in 2009.  That’s a whole lot of people!  Both stadiums are big venues and when you are in them or see them on television, you are probably impressed.  Imagine the traffic coming in and going out before and after the game.

With that small bit of perspective, read these words from Exodus 12:37-38b:

“The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Sukkoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children.  Many other people went up with them, and also large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds.”

600,000 men, just men, on foot.  Then you have to add in the women and children.  If you made the assumption that each family had just  2 kids, you are already at 2.4 million people…imagine if they had families for 5, 6 or more!  Than it said “many other people went up with them.”  Then you add all their livestock.  Can you even picture that mass of people making a trip out of Egypt?

I grew up hearing about Moses and the 10 Plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea, but to imagine that many people leaving Egypt, it puts those events in a whole new light.

It speaks to God’s power to not only care for that many people and lead them through the Red Sea and the desert, but also to his patience that he could put up with that large of a group.  Most of us get grumpy if we sit in a crowded car too long.

I think it’s pretty cool how the Bible still comes to life and God uses His Word to remind us of what He is able to do.