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Author:Rev. Joe Poppe
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Congregation:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
 www.redeemer-canrc.ca
 
Title:With the plague of hail God calls all people to acknowledge His glorious name
Text:Exodus 9:13-35 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Repentance
 
Preached:2008-08-10
Added:2009-01-14
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Confession of Dependence and Divine Greeting

Ps.97:1,2

Ten words of the covenant

Ps.97:4,6

Prayer of confession and illumination

 

Ministry of the Word

Reading: Exo.9:8-35; Rom.1:18-32

Ps.78:19

Text: Exo.9:13-35

With the plague of hail God calls all people to acknowledge His glorious name.  We’ll consider:

  1. God’s longsuffering mercy to fallen sinners.
  2. God’s just warnings to those who refuse to acknowledge Him.
  3. God’s fearful judgment on those who reject Him.

Ps.18:4,5,9

 

Offering

Aug.Hy.1

Prayer of thanksgiving and intercessions

Ps.73:8,9

Divine blessing

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Joe Poppe, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

            Last week Sunday, in dealing with the plague of livestock, we saw how the LORD is Sovereign King, and how He has a claim on the lives of all men.  He was Israel’s covenant God, who had made promises to their forefathers long ago.  The LORD calls Himself “the God of the Hebrews,” and says to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.”  God is also the Creator of all life, and the Ruler over heaven and earth.  He had blessed Pharaoh with His goodness, granting him great prosperity, prestige, and power.  But when Pharaoh refuses to obey the LORD’s commands, He brings judgments on Egypt.  To show forth His dominion over the land.  God is also King over our hearts and lives.  In Christ He frees us from slavery to sin and the devil.  He calls us to submit our whole life to Him.

            The question arises, what happens when people do not acknowledge God’s sovereignty?  What happens when people refuse to submit their hearts and lives to the LORD?  What happens when we harden ourselves in a certain sin, or when we refuse to submit to God’s direction in a certain area of life?  Does God care?  Will He just let us go?  Does the LORD bring punishment or judgment on those who rebel against His commands?  If so, what shape does that punishment take?  These are relevant questions for our everyday walk with God.

            Our text for this morning is the story of the plague of hail.  In this plague we see the LORD beginning to bring the full force of His judgments upon Egypt.  He does so for two reasons.  First, so that Pharaoh will learn to submit to God’s direction and let His people go.  And second, so that God might show His power and that His name might be proclaimed in all the earth.  Like many of the plagues, the plague of hail is preceded by a warning to repent.  Thus the LORD shows forth His mercy to Pharaoh and the Egyptians.

            In this plague, for the first time Pharaoh acknowledges that he has sinned.  We will examine the nature of his repentance.  We will pay special attention to how the LORD deals with those who refuse to acknowledge Him.  To the manner in which God judges them.  We’ll consider how people who know better, when they continue to harden in sin, are given over to a depraved mind so that they plunge headlong into their wicked ways.  At the end of this plague Pharaoh again hardens his heart.  We’ll see how our text serves as a strong warning not to carry on in the ways of sin.  I preach to you the Word of God under the following theme:

With the plague of hail God calls all people to acknowledge His glorious name.  We’ll consider:

  1. God’s longsuffering mercy to fallen sinners.
  2. God’s just warnings to those who refuse to acknowledge Him.
  3. God’s fearful judgment on those who reject Him.

The ten plagues are organised into three sets of three plagues with the climax of the plagues occurring when the LORD kills the firstborn of Egypt.  The previous three plagues brought devastation on the land.  With the plague of livestock Egypt had been pillaged – economically, militarily, and religiously.  With the plague of boils, severe sickness had come upon the Egyptians, so that Pharaoh’s magicians could not even stand before Moses.  Yet, terrible as these plagues were, it is the final three plagues that would strike terror onto the hearts of the Egyptians.

In our text, Moses is again commanded to go to Pharaoh in the morning.  He is to say to Pharaoh, “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.” (Exo.9:13-14).  Please note beloved, that the theme of release is very strong in this plague.  It is mentioned eight times.  Of the ten plagues, no plague mentions “letting go, or releasing” God’s people so often.

At the beginning of this final cycle of plagues the LORD increases His insistence that Pharaoh let Israel go.  There is a direct relationship between the LORD’s demand that Pharaoh let Israel go, and the increase in the severity of the plagues.  The LORD is almighty.  He desires that Israel be released so that His people could serve Him.  Pharaoh has hardened in his resistance.  So now the LORD says that He will “send forth the full force of His plagues” against Pharaoh and the Egyptians.  Previously, God’s hand was restrained.  Now His true power will be unleashed.

God unleashes His almighty power against Egypt for a number of reasons.  To secure the release of His people.  That was the ultimate goal of the plagues.  But along the way God also calls all people to acknowledge His glorious name.  Verse 14 of our text says that the LORD would send the full force of His plagues on Egypt, “so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.”  God says in verses 15-16, “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.  But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

The LORD desires to be recognized as the God of all the earth.  For this reason the plagues are targeted against specific Egyptian gods.  In the plague of hail and fire, the LORD attacks the Egyptian gods Nut, Isis, and Seth.  Nut was the sky goddess.  Imagine the reaction of the worshippers of Nut when they looked skyward, and saw this terrible storm rather than the blessings of sunshine and warmth.  This storm would have brought into question her power over the weather.  Isis and Seth were gods who had responsibilities relating to Egypt’s crops.  The storm God was bringing on Egypt would have made the worshippers of Isis and Seth question why their gods didn’t save the flax and barley from being destroyed.

Through the plagues God wanted to show forth His power, that His name might be proclaimed throughout the earth (Exo.9:16).  The LORD wants all people to acknowledge that He alone is God, and that no other god can stand up to Him.  That is why God planned to unleash a storm on Egypt, unlike anything the people had ever seen before.  Egypt was founded in 3100 BC.  In more than 1600 years it had never experienced a storm like this one.  In Egypt, the region around Cairo has an annual rainfall of about two inches.  The southern part of the country rarely saw rain.  Yet now the heavy hand of God would be unleashed upon them!  If they did not first repent!

Our text shows us the boundless mercy of the LORD on Pharaoh and Egypt.  This terrible plague did not just happen.  Moses went to Pharaoh in the morning, and warned of the plague to come the next day.  Pharaoh had another whole day to consider, to ponder, to relent and allow God’s people to go into the wilderness to worship Him.  The LORD sounds forth warnings, before brings His judgment to bear.  He is just and fair in His dealings with Pharaoh.

What is striking in this seventh plague is that the LORD gives a general warning of the plague to come, along with an escape plan for those who feared Him.   Through Moses God commanded Pharaoh, “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 man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.” (Exo.9:19).  In this situation the LORD will not bring His wrath against all of Egypt because of Pharaoh’s hardness of heart.  He provides away of escape for those who feared Him.

Our text indicates that “Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside.  But those who ignored the word of the LORD left their slaves and livestock in the field.” (Exo.9:20-21).  God’s great mercy is shown to those who fear Him.  All those in Egypt who recognized God’s sovereignty, His dominion, His kingship – escaped this plague.  All that was required of them was that they keep their slaves and servants indoors at the specified time when the plague came.

Beloved, our text reveals to us the boundless mercy of our God.  He is longsuffering towards fallen sinners.  It is as the prophet Ezekiel said to God’s people on behalf of the LORD, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.”  The result of that statement is that Ezekiel issues an urgent plea to God’s people.  He says, “Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Eze.33:11).

That same call goes out to you, brothers and sisters.  There can be times and situations in our lives when we fall into sin, or into the temptations of the devil.  Times when we know that what we are doing is wrong, but when we refuse to break with it.  Times when we are slaves of sin and come under the dominion of the evil one.  Then the Word of the LORD comes to you, urgently calling you to repent and seek your life in Christ.  Warning you that if you don’t, the judgment of God will fall on you!

Think of the words spoken by the Lord Jesus to the people of His day, weighed down by sin and the burden of trying to overcome it themselves.  He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mat.11:28).  Christ is God’s answer to all the struggles we face with sin and temptation.  He has paid the ransom to set us free.  He takes away the guilt of our sins, through the sacrifice of His blood on the cross.  He washes away our impurity through the work of His Spirit in us.  In Christ there is life; there is comfort; there is peace; there is joy.  Seek your life in Him, and in Him alone.  For He can satisfy the longing of your souls, much better than any of the passing pleasures this life has to offer.

In our first point we’ve seen the LORD’s longsuffering mercy to fallen sinners.  In our second point we’ll consider the LORD’s just warnings to those who refuse to acknowledge Him.  Pharaoh did not heed the warning Moses gave him, about the plague of hail that was to come on the land.  He did not acknowledge God’s sovereignty, His dominion.  He did not let the people of Israel go.  And so the LORD brought the seventh plague on Egypt.  The plague of hail and lightning!

“When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the LORD sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt; hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation.  Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields-- both men and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree.” (Exo.9:23-25).

This was a catastrophic storm.  Meteorologists often measure the severity of storms by stating that a storm was a one in a hundred year storm, or a one in three hundred year flood.  That means that such a storm would normally be seen only once in that many years.  Well, this storm of hail and lightning was a one in 1600 year storm.  Egypt had never before in all its history experienced something like this.  Every man or animal that was not indoors was killed by the hail.  The flax and barley crops were destroyed.  The trees were ravished.  God’s mighty power was unleashed, to show that He was Sovereign King, and that all should bow before Him.

This plague was a further warning to Pharaoh, his officials, and all the Egyptians.  A warning that if they did not submit to the LORD, and let His people go – further destruction and devastation would come upon them.  The previous plague of boils ended with the statement that “the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not listen.”  After five plagues in which Pharaoh hardened his heart, or in which it was reported that his heart was hard – the sixth plague ended with the LORD hardening Pharaoh’s heart.  That is why he did not submit, even when the terror of God came on Egypt.  God gave him over to his own hardness of heart.

There is a very important lesson that we can learn from this beloved.  It concerns the nature of God’s judgment on those who harden in sin against Him.  God’s judgment on those who harden in sin, is often that He gives them exactly what they want.  He hardens them in the very desires of their own hearts.  He allows them to go their own way, to follow their own pleasure.  We might ask, what kind of judgment is that?  Is it truly judgment when God gives people what they in their sin desire?

Yes, beloved, this is the worst judgment imaginable on this side of hell.  Do you think that people who pursue a wicked way of sin, really derive so much pleasure from it?  Do you think that those who are disobedient to the commands of God get much fun out of it?  Perhaps, a little, in the short run.  Those who pursue a party lifestyle, who get drunk on the weekends, who use drugs – may experience what they feel is a good time, or a short-term high.  Those who engage in illicit sex may derive some pleasure out of the act itself.

But the wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23).  There are high costs to pay for a sinful way of life.  Your conscience accuses you that what you are doing is wrong.  Perhaps you can shut it up for a while, but there is always something that causes guilt to arise in your heart again.  Those who abuse alcohol or drugs are often enslaved by it.  It ruins their lives.  It costs them most of what money they have.  It leads to distorted and broken relationships.  If people who walk in the ways of sin are really willing to open up about what lives in their hearts – you will not find joy, peace, or contentment.  Instead, being given over in a way of sin leads to deep unhappiness, guilt, shame, and sorrow.

So why do people continue on when they are on a pathway of sin?  Sometimes we get stuck.  Embroiled in a way of sin, that we find hard to get out of.  Then the answer is to admit that we have a problem, and to get help dealing with it.  But ultimately, the reason why people continue in sin is because they do not truly know God.  Because they do not understand the grace and love of God in Christ.  O, intellectually, they may be able to debate theology with the best of the scholars.  But it doesn’t live in their hearts.  Whatever knowledge of God they have, they suppress.

The apostle Paul speaks about this in that passage we read together from Romans 1.  He talks about how the wrath of God comes against the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.  Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God nor give thanks to Him.  Just like Pharaoh, although God’s glorious name was proclaimed to them, they hardened themselves in their sins.

What is the result?  There is a refrain repeated three times in Romans 1.  God gave them over… God gave them over… God gave them over.  He gave them over to sexual impurity (v.24); He gave them over to shameful lusts (v.26); he gave them over to a depraved mind (v.28).  God’s judgment on their sin was that he allowed them to continue in it, and to reap the bitter consequences that come from sin.

Now beloved, some of you may still be sitting in comfortable pews, thinking that parts of the sermon apply to brother so and so and sister such and such.  But that this morning’s message is not really applicable to you.  Isn’t it?  Don’t you have areas of life where you struggle with temptation, with sin, with flaws in your character?  Are the effects of that not obvious to you?

Please remember the basic message of our text.  In the plague of hail, the LORD is proclaiming His glorious name, so that all may acknowledge Him.  Today God’s primary means of revelation is not through plagues, or even through His creation.  It is through His Word, the gospel of salvation.  To truly know God and His wondrous works, we need to delve into the Scriptures, to read and study and meditate on them.  Yet this often does not happen as it should.  The busyness of life, and other priorities make us slack.  From last years’ home visits, one of the particular struggles faced in many of our homes, was a struggle to be busy with the Word of God, to partake in regular devotions.

Beloved, God is not going to force you to read your Bibles, and pray to Him.  He is not going to drag you kicking and screaming to the Bible study societies.  But if you don’t read and meditate on God’s Word, if you don’t involve yourself in Bible study, if you do not engage in discussions about the preaching – you will reap the consequences of that.  God will give you over, more and more to the things that are more important than He is.  Your relationship with Him will die a slow death.  You will become more distant.  And in the process you rob yourself of the joy of a living relationship with Christ your Saviour.  You deny yourself the comfort, the peace, the contentment that comes from being in communion with God.

This brings us to our final point.  In it we’ll consider the LORD’s fearful judgment on those who reject Him.  In our text, the plague of hail and lightning brings Pharaoh to his knees.  Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned… The LORD is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong.  Pray to the LORD, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don't have to stay any longer.” (Exo.9:27-28).

Please notice, beloved, what is happening in our text.  Pharaoh is acknowledging the LORD.  Previously he had said, “I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” (Exo.5:2).  Now Pharaoh acknowledges God by stating that the LORD is in the right, and he and his people are in the wrong.  For Pharaoh to admit that he is in the wrong, to say that he has sinned – is amazing.  You see, Pharaoh was considered a god.  Pharaoh was considered to be so righteous that when you came into his presence you had to lick the dust because you were in the presence of the righteous god of Egypt.  Here Moses is showing us how the one who claims to be a god, who claims to be righteous, admits his own wickedness.  How Pharaoh is humbled before the throne of the LORD God almighty.

Yet we should not think that Pharaoh is truly sorry for his sin, that he is truly repentant.  His repentance is half-hearted; it is not real.  Note that Pharaoh is only willing to admit that “this time I have sinned.”  As if he had not broken his promise to let Israel go in the other plagues.  Pharaoh’s admission of wrongdoing is not genuine.  It is only to escape the plague of hail and lightning that was devastating his land.  Moses tells Pharaoh that he will pray for him.  But he calls Pharaoh on his hardness of heart, stating, “But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the LORD.”

Beloved, at times when guilt overcomes us, or when we get caught in the midst of sin – we can come across as being repentant.  We can utter a thousand “sorries,” and plead with God and those whom we’ve hurt by our sin - to forgive us.  But that is not necessarily true repentance.  In 2 Corinthians 7 the apostle Paul makes clear the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow.  Worldly sorrow is sorrow at getting caught, sorrow about the consequences of our sins.  Godly sorrow is sorrow that we have offended God by our sin, and more and more to hate it and flee from it.  The fruit of true repentance is that we turn from our sinful ways, that we live a life pleasing to God.

Pharaoh did not turn away from his sin, once the plague of hail and lightning stopped.  Our text says that “he sinned again.  He and his officials hardened their hearts.”  Pharaoh “would not let the Israelites go.”  And in the coming plagues we will see the results of that.  The LORD will bring a fearful judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt because they continued to reject Him.

There is a warning in all this for us too, beloved.  We serve the living God of the heavens and earth.  The LORD, Sovereign King over all.  He is a holy God.  A God who hates sin.  He is a just God.  A God who will bring fearful judgment on those who reject Him.  God is also a merciful God.  A gracious God.  He has provided us with a wondrous redemption in Jesus Christ our Lord.  He has promised forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all those who believe in Him.  Set before you this morning are two pathways, beloved.  The way of life, and the way of death.  On which are you traveling?  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Joe Poppe, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. Joe Poppe

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