I’ve heard the story of the 10 plagues a gazillion times. I’ve seen the movie Prince of Egypt about a million times. If I thumb through the 3 or 4 kids Bibles we have at the house, the Exodus account takes up about half of the Old Testament stories. The account of the 10 plagues is a well-worn story.
But God’s Word is living and active.
And I learned something new about the plagues…rather, something new about God through the plagues.
See, whenever I heard the plagues story, I thought about the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and that God is super-duper powerful.
The aforementioned are still true. But there is so much more to learn about our God.
So here are 2 things I learned:
1. God used the plagues to set His people apart.
In the 4th plague, the one with pestering flies, God mentions in Exodus 8 verse 22-24 that
On that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the LORD, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people.
And again with the plague on livestock, God tells Pharaoh in Exodus 9:4 that
But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.
God’s distinct, chosen Israelites were also protected from the plague of hail, the plague of darkness, and the plague on the firstborn.
God wanted Pharaoh, the Egyptians and the Israelites to know that He was not only powerful enough to choose on whom the plagues would land, but that He also had chosen a people to be distinct and separate from other peoples. A people that He loves enough to come in and rescue from 400 years of oppression.
This theme continues all throughout the Israelites story. As they wandered for 40 years in the desert, God set them apart with the 10 commandments…with the unique ways of winning battles…with circumcision…with His peculiar provisions…and just think – their identity as set apart started when no flies swarmed their houses.
This identity is not reserved for the Israelites.
We as modern-day disciples have been adopted into the royal priesthood of believers. 1 Peter 2:9 proclaims that
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
We are set apart just as the Israelites were set apart from the Egyptians. And just as God flexed His muscles in choosing the geography of the plagues, He reveals His supreme power in choosing to adopt us, little ole’ you and me.
It is like curling up with a cup of hot chocolate (with whipped cream) to know that I am God’s special possession, distinct and set apart.
2. Our God is so so so so so so patient.
Pharaoh pulled a bait and switch 4 times on Moses and God. Four times Pharaoh said he would let God’s people go if Moses would just ask God to remove the plague. Four times Moses went to God and prayed for the plagues to subside…and four times God dispelled the plague. And, you remember, four times Pharaoh hardened his heart and changed his mind.
If I were Moses, or God, I would have gone bananas on Pharaoh for repeatedly lying. I’m a total rule keeper, and if we make a deal, I expect you to keep up your end of the bargain especially if I’ve kept mine.
But our perfect and holy God is extremely patient with Pharaoh. He relents each time Pharaoh lies. In Exodus 9:15 God notes His restraint
…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.
God knows Pharaoh is jerking Him around. But He doesn’t destroy him. He’s patient. He’s long-suffering.
This same God who’s restrained with the Egyptian ruler is also patient with me.
This awesome characteristic of God is described in 2 Peter 3:9
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Sometimes I fear that God is going to give up on me – get tired of me apologizing for my worry and my lack of self-discipline. I wonder when my forgiveness is going to run out. But if God is so so so patient with Pharaoh (who consistently hardened his heart), how much more patient will He be with me who’s heart is weak and pliable?
I can’t wait to read the Exodus account again and discover something new about God. I believe that when we know God more intimately through His Word, our trust in Him grows.
So I challenge you this week to revisit a familiar story. Read with new eyes and ask yourself
What does this story teach me about God?
Leave a comment sharing what you’ve learned!