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Author:Rev. Joe Poppe
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Congregation:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
 www.redeemer-canrc.ca
 
Title:In the eighth plague the LORD sends locusts to humble Pharaoh and devastate Egypt
Text:Exodus 10:1-20 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Pride
 
Preached:2008-09-07
Added:2009-01-14
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Confession of Dependence and Divine Greeting

Ps.135:1,2

Ten words of the covenant

Ps.19:3,5

Prayer of confession and illumination

 

Ministry of the Word

Reading: Exo.10:1-20; Rev.9:1-12

Ps.77:1,4,5

Text: Exo.10:1-20

In the eighth plague the LORD sends locusts to humble Pharaoh and devastate Egypt.  This plague is:

  1. a judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt.
  2. a sign for Moses and Israel.

Ps.105:1,2,12,15

 

Offering

Ps.18:8,10

Prayer of thanksgiving and intercessions

Ps.118:1,4,8

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,

            Is there a particular sin in your life that you are struggling with?  Are there flaws in your character that you need to struggle against?  Is there anything in your life that prevents you from living in close personal communion with your God?  Introspection, taking a good hard look at ourselves, is not something we are always that comfortable with.  Especially when we know that what we’ll find is not so pretty.  Jeremiah says in chapter 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”  There are times in life when we deceive ourselves about who we are and where we are at in life.

            A weakness for many of us is human pride.  We like to look favourably at ourselves, to think the best of ourselves.  Nobody likes to admit that he or she is by nature totally corrupt.  We don’t like the idea that even after being born anew, we remain weak and sinful people.  O, in the abstract, admitting that is not so hard.  But being specific about it, listing our sins and weaknesses to ourselves, confessing them before God – that is much harder.  At times we pray for God to forgive our many sins.  But what sins are we talking about when we pray that?

            One of the reasons why we avoid contemplating our sins is that there are times when we don’t want to face up to them.  Another reason is that we’d rather hang onto our sinful pride, thinking we are not such bad people.  Yet this is the wrong approach to dealing with sin.  Wilful blindness is closely connected to stubborn rebellion.  To a hardening of heart.  Like Pharaoh, when faced with the plagues.  The evidence of who God was and what He required from Pharaoh was right there in front of his eyes.  But Pharaoh did not want to face the truth.  He did not want to acknowledge God and His sovereign power.  He refused to submit to His divine will.

            Scripture teaches us that the Lord opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Prov.3:34; Jam.4:6; 1Pet.5:5).  In the eighth plague we see a very clear demonstration of that.  How the LORD continues to pour out His wrath against Pharaoh and Egypt because of Pharaoh’s proud and stubborn refusal to heed God’s command.  How the LORD also commands Moses to instruct his children and grandchildren in God’s grace towards Israel.  There are important lessons for each of us to learn from this passage.  About how God hates human pride and will break it down.  About how we are called to submit to His Word and will.  About the blessings of living humble lives of service before our great King.  I preach to you the Word of God under the following theme:

In the eighth plague the LORD sends locusts to humble Pharaoh and devastate Egypt.  This plague is:

  1. a judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt.
  2. a sign for Moses and Israel.

Our text tells the story of the eighth plague.  It is the second plague in the last cycle of three plagues.  Again God told Moses to deliver His message to Pharaoh.  The LORD said, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials.”  That is about the worst news that any preacher could ever hear.  Go to Pharaoh and his officials, but they are not going to listen to a word you say.  Their hearts are hard, and they will not submit.  Imagine me as a preacher coming to church, knowing beforehand that nothing I say is going to make any difference in any of your lives.  But, still being commanded to go and preach the Word.

The LORD has a message for Pharaoh.  A message of judgment that comes because of Pharaoh’s cruel oppression of God’s covenant people.  A message of doom on Pharaoh and Egypt because Pharaoh still refused to let God’s people go.  The LORD explains to Moses why He has hardened the heart of Pharaoh and his officials.  He says it is “so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.” (Exo.10:1-2).

One of the reasons why the LORD had hardened Pharaoh’s heart was so that He could deal harshly with the Egyptians.  The verb translated “to deal harshly” has two flavours of meaning in the Old Testament.  It can mean “to deal severely with someone” or “to make a fool of someone.”  Judges 19 uses this word to describe how the men of Gibeah dealt severely with the concubine of the Levite.  They raped and abused her so ruthlessly that she died.  This word is also used by Balaam in Numbers 22, who accused his donkey of making a fool of him, and by Saul in 1 Samuel 31, who was afraid of falling into the hands of the Philistines, who would make sport of him.

In our text both flavours of this word come through.  The LORD is indeed dealing very severely with Pharaoh and Egypt.  The plague of locusts that was coming would absolutely devastate Egypt.  We’ll speak about that more later.  Yet at the same time, the LORD was also making a mockery of Pharaoh.  In Egypt Pharaoh was considered to be a god.  To be sovereign over all the land, to be in control.  As a god, to be righteous and sinless.  Yet before the eyes of Pharaoh’s officials and all Egypt, this mighty king was being humiliated.  Pharaoh was shown to be powerless, he is forced to admit that he has sinned again.  God laughs at his feeble attempts to continue to exert control over the Israelites.

Our text relates how Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh.  They said, “This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: 'How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, so that they may worship me.'” (Exo.10:3).  Here the LORD deals with the central issue.  Pharaoh’s refusal to humble himself before God.  That is what stood behind his hardness of heart.  Sinful pride!  Pharaoh had been brought up as a son of a god.  When assuming the throne he considered himself to be a god.  He was supreme.  What he said went.  His word was law.  Woe to anyone who crossed him!

Beloved, we should not think that this Scriptural account is too far removed from us.  Pharaoh exemplifies the human heart.  By nature we are all proud and stubborn beings.  The desire to be it, to be in charge, to be like God - was what Satan used in Paradise to tempt Adam and Eve.  Each of us likes to be in charge of our own life.  We can have such a strong will.  And when we set our heart on something, we can be stubborn and rebellious in our pursuit of what we want.  Sinful human pride is often what prevents us from living in humble submission to the Word of God.

Dealing with Moses and the God of the Hebrews must have been an immensely frustrating experience for Pharaoh and his officials.  At first, Pharaoh’s magicians had been able to reproduce the signs Moses performed.  But they were soon forced to admit that this was the finger of God at work.  They dropped out of the contest.  Egypt’s gods came under more and more attack.  But they appeared powerless in the plagues the LORD brought on the land.  In the most recent plagues, Pharaoh himself had even been forced to admit that he had sinned, undermining his own position as god in the land.

The first set of three plagues had produced discomfort, the next three destruction.  The seventh plague, the plague of hail, had brought devastation and dread upon the land.  Any livestock in the field had died, wiping out part of Egypt’s military power, much of her ability to trade, and the early crops in the field.  Now Moses and Aaron had again come to Pharaoh.  After asking Pharaoh how long he would refuse to humble himself before the LORD, Moses and Aaron continue to speak to him in the name of the LORD.  They said, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.   If you refuse to let them go, I will bring locusts into your country tomorrow.”

Moses and Aaron warned that this would be a severe plague.  The locusts would cover the ground so that it could not be seen.  They would eat everything in sight, and fill the houses of the Egyptians.  After giving this warning, Moses turned and left Pharaoh.  Hearing his words, Pharaoh’s officials become concerned.  In the previous plague the LORD had already sowed division among the Egyptians.  Some had heeded the LORD’s warning and took their livestock and servants home from the field, sparing them from destruction.  Pharaoh’s officials knew that everything Moses and Aaron had said to them had come true.  So they were left in no doubt that the LORD could and would fulfil this threat.

Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us?  Let the people go, so that they may worship the LORD their God.  Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?” (Exo.10:7).  Fear broke through their proud rebellion.  These men had come close to reaching their breaking point.  They tried to find a compromise.  They urged Pharaoh to reconsider, and to let the men go.  Pharaoh did, calling back Moses and Aaron.  He said he would let them go.  But he still felt the need to be in control.  Pharaoh specified that the women and children were not allowed to go with them.  After this Moses and Aaron were driven from Pharaoh’s presence.

The LORD responded by sending a plague of locusts on Egypt.  The LORD causes an east wind to blow.  This is important, because locusts usually approached Egypt from the south.  The fact that the locusts came from the east indicated an abnormal situation.  The LORD more often uses the east wind.  It was used to divide the Red Sea (Exo.14:21).  It is a wind that brings God’s judgment.  In Psalm 48:7 the east wind is used to shatter the ships of Tarshish, in Jonah this scorching wind is used to cause Jonah to want to die.

Locusts filled the land, eating everything in their path.  They devoured everything that was left after the hail.  All of Egypt was defoliated.  The greenery was gone, the food was gone.  There was nothing left to eat in the land.  The Egyptians now faced famine and mass starvation.  How the tables had turned.  When Jacob had entered Egypt, it was because the LORD had provided Egypt with an abundance of food for the seven years of famine that were coming.  Now in God’s judgment, He was removing food from Egypt, and she would starve.

Again the gods of Egypt are shown to be powerless.  The LORD makes a mockery of the gods of the land, the grain, and fertility.  The plagues are meant to show the LORD’s power not just over the water, land, and sky – but over the whole cosmos, the whole earth.  In Egypt the LORD was de-creating, deconstructing the land.  He was removing creational provision and blessing from Egypt.  That will be even more clear in the coming plagues.  The point is that in God’s judgment on Egypt the blessings of creation are reversed.  God is creating before our eyes a picture of hell.  Egypt would be left in a position of chaos, emptiness and torment.

Later in Israel’s history, many of the minor prophets would warn of the plagues of locusts coming on God’s people for their sins.  In Revelation, many of the plagues find a final fulfillment.  We read this morning from Revelation 9, about the plague of locusts that would be released in the last days.  These locusts would not eat the grass of the earth, or plants and trees.  Instead they would be released on those who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.  They would bite them with a scorpion’s bite, and torment them so that they desire death, but could not find it.

This describes the lives of many in our society who have given themselves over to their sins and wickedness.  Think of the fearful addictions some people have to crack cocaine.  They suffer terrifying hallucinations, but are so hopelessly addicted that they cannot do without their drugs.  A living hell!  Sexual promiscuity is also a bottomless pit.  It demeans those who involve themselves in it; it makes them feel worthless, even empty.  It has such terrifying results as sexually transmitted diseases, cancer, and AIDS.  People ensnared by such things are living a present hell. They have separated themselves from God and submitted themselves to Satan.  God brings the consequences of their sins upon thm. He allows Satan to wreak havoc in their lives with the stings of his scorpion-like locusts.

Now beloved, let these things serve as a warning for us.  When we have stubborn hearts that refuse to do God’s will, when we in sinful pride go our own way – we are asking for the LORD to remove His blessings from us.  We see this clearly in the second commandment, where we are commanded not to worship any other gods.  This command teaches us to worship the LORD according to His Word.  With this command comes both a sanction and a blessing.  The LORD warns us that He is a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.

Let us not think that we are never capable of sinful pride and rebellion, beloved.  At times in our lives we are confronted with a particular sin that we cannot seem to shake.  Whatever that thing is, it has power over us.  In a sense, we make it our god.  It could be money, or alcohol, or drugs, or pornography.  Woe unto us if God gives us over to these things.  For they create a wedge between the LORD and us.  They destroy our communion with Him.  They wreak devastation in our lives.  They leave us empty and in torment.

At times our struggle is not with things, but with a wrong relationship.  Sometimes love strikes, and we get involved in a relationship we know is wrong.  Because we are married, or because the person we are interested in is not a believer, and does not share our faith.  As pastor, these are some of the most frustrating situations I’ve ever been involved in.  God’s Word is so clear: do not commit adultery; do not be yoked to an unbeliever.  But those whose hearts get entangled lose all perspective.  In their heads they know that what they are doing is wrong.  But in their heart they want it.  So you get excuses: so and so really is a believer, you know.  Or you get lies and deceit, covering up what is really going on.  Hard hearts; sinful human pride.  Thinking we know better than God.

But in all these situations, beloved, there is one thing we need to remember.  The LORD our God is a jealous God.  A God who has claimed us as His own, and who will not easily let go of His covenant children.  Remember the text that was quoted earlier in this sermon: the Lord opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  It is not good to be on the wrong side of God.  To face His opposition in our lives.  To come under his chastisement or suffer His wrath.  For the LORD can deal harshly, He can make a mockery of us if we rebel against Him in sinful pride.

This brings us to our second point.  Having seen how the plague of locusts is a judgment on Pharaoh and Egypt, we’ll see how it is also a sign for Moses and Israel.  At the beginning of our text the LORD gave two reasons from bringing this plague on Egypt.  One was to deal harshly with the Egyptians.  But the other was that it might serve as a sign for Moses and Israel.  In our text the LORD says he hardened Pharaoh’s heart “so that I may perform these miraculous signs of mine among them that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed my signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.” (Exo.10:1-2).

God shows His miraculous signs, bringing the plagues on Egypt so that parents would tell coming generations of the wonders of the LORD.  What is striking about our text is how this is communicated.  In our text the LORD says to Moses that you (singular) may tell in the hearing of your son (singular) and your grandson (singular) how I made a mockery of the Egyptians.  The point is of course that God wants all the children of Israel to tell their children and grandchildren of His glorious wonders performed in Egypt.  But in our text Moses serves as a representative for the whole people of Israel.

That is indeed striking.  On the one hand we have proud Pharaoh, who serves as the representative of Egypt.  And now we have Moses, serving as the representative of Israel.  There is something very important about Moses’ character that we need to know.  It is recorded for us in Numbers 12:3.  It says, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”  Just as Pharaoh typified the Egyptians in their sinful pride and rebellion, so Moses typified the Israelites in their need and misery.  They had nothing to be proud about.  They were a slave people, living in bondage.

Yet, though they were not much, their God sure was!  They served the living God of the heavens and earth; the Creator of life; the Sovereign LORD.  It was important for God to have a man like Moses represent Him.  God’s leader needed to be a humble man.  For in performing all these wondrous signs, it would be possible for the people to focus on Moses, as their leader, to glorify him as their god.  It would be so easy for him to get a swelled head about his important role in Israel.  Yet the LORD picked the right man for the job.  A humble man, who would deflect glory away from Himself, and turn it back to God, the author of all these miraculous signs.

One of God’s main purposes in bringing the ten plagues on Egypt was to show forth His power and glory.  To reveal Himself as Soverign King of all the earth.  To declare His name to all nations.  To make known His mighty hand and outstretched arm to His own covenant people.  They needed to know He was the LORD.  That He had the power to save.  That He loved them enough to deliver them from slavery in Egypt.  That He cared enough to bring them to the Promised Land and provide all their needs.

Beloved, if you look through Scripture, Israel’s exodus from Egypt is something recounted again and again.  Moses reflects on this before his death.  Joshua recounts the LORD’s glorious deeds both when he took up the leadership role, and when he renewed the covenant before his death.  The psalmists sang of God’s glorious works, and the prophets reminded God’s people of His covenant faithfulness.  Israel’s annual pilgrimage feasts celebrated deliverance from Egypt and God’s bountiful provision in Canaan.  Throughout Israel’s history, the command to tell the coming generations of God’s glorious deeds in Egypt was often observed.

We too, need to tell our children and grandchildren of the wondrous works of God.  We need to speak of them when we sit at home and when we walk along the road, when we lie down and when we get up (Deu.6:7).  Our story may definitely include all that God did in redeeming His people from slavery in Egypt.  But it should not stop there.  It needs to include more recent, even greater wonders God has performed for us.  In sending His Son as our representative in the flesh.  In saving us from our sins and from the slavery to sin through Christ’s blood and Spirit.  In granting us a new life in Him.

Beloved, when we consider our inherent depravity, when we ponder on our sins, our weaknesses and shortcomings – there is no room left for sinful pride or stubborn rebellion.  We have no reason to think well of ourselves.  Instead we need to humble ourselves before God, seeking His grace in Christ.  We need to repent from those sins that plague us, and seek God’s help and Spirit to help us fight against them.

We may be assured of God’s help when we come to Him with humble and contrite hearts.  For “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  God has taken away the guilt of our sins, through Christ’s blood offered on the cross.  He also sets us free from the dominion of the evil one, by working mightily in us by His Word and Spirit.  Just as He delivered Israel from Egypt, so He will also free us from sin and all its consequences, by providing us with the spiritual land of Canaan.  The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.6:23).  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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