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Author:Rev. Joe Poppe
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Congregation:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Title:Through His servant Moses’ staff, the LORD shows forth His power over Pharaoh
Text:Exodus 7:8-13 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Confession of Dependence and Divine Greeting


Ten words of the covenant


Prayer of confession and illumination


Ministry of the Word

Reading: Exo.6:1-12; Exo.7:1-7


Text: Exo.7:8-13

Through His servant Moses’ staff, the LORD shows forth His power over Pharaoh.  We’ll see how the LORD:

1.      shows His power through Moses’ staff.

2.      demonstrates His dominion over Pharaoh’s magicians.

3.      foreshadows His victory over Egypt’s gods.





Prayer of thanksgiving and intercessions


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,

            In our society there are two different perspectives on life, two opposing worldviews.  Many around us view themselves as lords and masters of their own lives.  They consider themselves to have certain inalienable rights.  The right to self-expression, to self-determination.  People think that they can conduct their lives how they like, and that nobody can tell them what to do.  In the process they reject God’s claim on their life as their Creator.  They reject the norms and standards He has given as being outdated, old-fashioned morals that are no longer applicable to 21st century men and women.

            The result is that people live together without being married.  That people feel okay about lying, cheating, and stealing as long as they don’t get caught.  Women feel that they have the right to determine what happens with their bodies, even if that means that a baby may be aborted along the way.  The case of Sam Golubchuk, an 84 year old man hospitalised for pneumonia, is currently before the courts.  His doctor wanted to withdraw food, hydration, and his ventilator, claiming that continuing to try keep him alive is "grotesque", an "abomination", "immoral" and "tantamount to torture."  The hospital seems to want to end his life because he's old, he's weak and he's disabled and it doesn't want to spend money on his care.

            As Christians we have a different perspective on life.  Our world-view is often completely at odds with the perspectives of those in society around us.  We recognise God as the Creator and Preserver of life.  As our Creator, God has a claim on our lives.  Our lives are not our own, we belong to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  We recognise that we are to live our lives out of thankfulness to God for His redeeming work in Christ.  And that God’s Word sets standards for how we are to live.

            That is why we are against abusing the Lord’s name by cursing, why we worship God in our church services on Sunday, and respect those in authority over us.  That’s why we oppose abortion and any form of euthanasia.  That is why we believe that our sexuality is only to be expressed within the loving relationship of a man and a woman in marriage.  Why we acknowledge that robbing and stealing and cheating are wrong.  Yet our viewpoints are ridiculed, and people are becoming more and more intolerant of them.  Christians are being taken to court for trying to maintain godly perspectives in their personal and business lives.  Increasingly, there is a clash between two opposing perspectives on life.

            We should not be surprised by that.  For, from the beginning, God has set enmity between Satan and the woman and between his offspring and hers (Gen.3:15).  There is a spiritual battle going on over our souls.  In our text we see two world philosophies, two opposing world systems clashing.  Through Moses and Aaron the LORD confronts Pharaoh with His claim over the lives of His people.  He shows forth His power and glory to Pharaoh and his court officials.  But more than that, the LORD begins to demonstrate His dominion over the Egyptian gods.  Our text provides comfort and assurance for us as we continue to fight the good fight of the faith.  I preach to you the Word of God under the following theme:

Through His servant Moses’ staff, the LORD shows forth His power over Pharaoh.  We’ll see how the LORD:

1.      shows His power through Moses’ staff.

2.      demonstrates His dominion over Pharaoh’s magicians.

3.      foreshadows His victory over Egypt’s gods.

Moses has received the LORD’s command to go to Pharaoh and tell him, “Let my people go.” (Exo.5:1).  He had spoken to Pharaoh.  Pharaoh’s response was, “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.” (Exo.5:2).  Instead Pharaoh commanded his slave drivers and foremen to increase the workload of the Israelites.  In addition to their normal work, they were now responsible to gather straw for the making of bricks.  When they didn’t meet their quotas, they were beaten.  The result was that the Israelites would no longer to listen to Moses because of their discouragement and cruel bondage (Exo.6:11).

Moses has now been commanded to again go to Pharaoh.  His question to God is, “Why would Pharaoh listen to me?” (Exo.7:1).  We can imagine Moses’ trepidation.  Here he was as a leader of a slave people, marching into the palace to seek an audience with the king.  Pharaoh’s basic response would be: who are you?  What do you want?  Why should I listen to you?  The LORD told Moses that Pharaoh would ask for a miraculous sign to prove that they were representatives of the LORD, and that He was a God worth listening to.  Basically Pharaoh’s demand would be: show me your credentials in a wondrous act.

The LORD commanded Moses to respond to this by telling Aaron, “Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh, and it will become a snake.”  There is some confusion about whether this was Moses’ staff or Aaron’s staff.  Yet Scripture makes it clear that there was only one staff.  It was Moses’ staff, but when Aaron was serving as Moses’ spokesman, he carried it (see Exo.4:2, 17; 7:15).

There was more to this staff than meets the eye.  At the time of Moses each tribal leader led his group with a staff.  The staff was a symbol of leadership or authority.  In Moses’ case it was a shepherd’s staff, and represented his calling as shepherd over Israel.  In Exodus 4:20 and 17:9 Moses’ staff is called the “staff of the LORD.”  It reminds us of Psalm 23, where the LORD is pictured as the Shepherd of Israel, who leads and guides His people, who comforts them with His rod or staff.  This staff will be used in many of the upcoming plagues, and again to perform mighty wonders and signs for the Israelites in the desert.  Ultimately, Moses staff is God’s staff; it represents His honour and glory and authority.

When Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, it became a snake (Exo.7:10).  Our text uses a special word to refer to “snake.”  It is a different word than what was used when the LORD called Moses and told him to throw down his staff in the desert (Exo.4:2-4).  In Exodus 4 Scripture uses a regular word for a snake; Moses fled from it because he was scared.

In our text a different word is used.  It refers to something large, powerful, or mighty.  It can refer to any large reptile: a crocodile, lizard, dragon, monster, or serpent.  In Genesis 1:21 it refers to the great creatures of the sea, in Job 7:12 to the monster of the deep, and in Isaiah 27:1 to Leviathan.  The word used in our text occurs as a parallel to the cobra in Deuteronomy 32:33 and Psalm 91:13.  In our text it most likely refers to the Egyptian cobra, a large poisonous snake some seven feet long.

Pharaoh used the cobra as a symbol of his kingship, his sovereignty.  A cobra made of metal was fastened to the front of Pharaoh’s headdress as a kind of crown.  In Ezekiel the word our text translates as “snake” is used as a symbol of Pharaoh (Eze.29:3; 32:2).  Thus this large and terrifying snake was a symbol of Pharaoh’s power and the devastation he brought upon the children of Israel.

Ever since man’s fall into sin, the snake or serpent has come to symbolise evil.  Satan, in the form of a snake, tempted Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  In Revelation 12&13, he is referred to as a great dragon, “that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.” (Rev.12:9).  He opposes God.  He tries to devour the woman and her child.  In Scripture both Egypt and Babylon are referred to as snakes (Isa.51:9, Eze.29:3; 32:2; Jer.51:34). Thus the serpent represents every opponent of God – not just Satan but also those whom he employs against God’s people.

Thus the LORD uses Pharaoh’s own symbol, the fearsome cobra, as a sign to show forth His mighty power.  What is happening in our text is not just a confrontation between two men – Moses and Pharaoh.  It is not just a battle between two nations, the Israelites and the Egyptians.  Moses comes before Pharaoh as a representative of the LORD God.  The God who had said to His people, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God.” (Exo.6:6-7).  Pharaoh too is not just a man.  He was respected in Egypt as an incarnation of the sun god.  He is an agent of Satan used to oppress and destroy God’s people.

The events of our text happened some thirty-five hundred years ago.  But they represent the same struggle we today are engaged in.  With the seed of the serpent waging war against those who seek to follow Christ and serve Him.  More and more our society is heading down a pathway that is intolerant of Christians and their viewpoints.  Many around us ridicule our perspectives.  There is an increased threat of Christians being taken to court for disciplining their children in public, or opposing homosexuality, or for speaking out in the public square on issues of morality.

But our comfort, beloved, is that we serve the almighty Ruler of the heavens and the earth.  The God who showed forth His power through Moses’ staff.  The God who by His mighty and outstretched arm redeemed His oppressed people from slavery in Egypt.  The God who still today shepherds His flock and comforts her with His rod or staff.  Though Satan and his forces will arise with fury against the Lord and His church, they will not prevail.  For our God is stronger.  He will uphold us in our spiritual battle, and help us overcome.

We see this in our second point.  In it we’ll see how the LORD demonstrates His dominion over Pharaoh’s magicians.  Pharaoh was not too impressed with the miracle of Moses’ staff becoming a snake.  He “summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake.” (Exo.7:11-12).  From 2 Timothy 3:8 we know the names of two of these Egyptian magicians: Jannes and Jambres.  These wise men also transformed their staffs into snakes, as Moses and Aaron had done.

In ancient days the kings each had wise men, to advise the king and help them administer the affairs of their realm.  They included those who practiced divination or sorcery, in order to foretell the future.  There were those who engaged in witchcraft, and magicians who were able to perform miraculous signs by their secret arts.  There were mediums or spiritists who consulted the dead.  Many of these sorts of people were involved in what we today would call the occult.  These men were the priestly representatives of the Egyptian gods.

Some wonder how it was possible for Pharaoh’s wise men and magicians to replicate the sign of changing a staff into a snake.  Did they use trickery?  It is well known that the Egyptian magicians could make a snake go rigid by paralyzing them by putting pressure on a particular spot on their necks.  They would then break the spell by throwing the snake on the ground.

Yet it does not appear that this is what happened.  Our text states that each of the magicians “threw down his staff and it became a snake.”  We need to keep in mind that the powers of darkness are fully able to do supernatural things and make them look like the wonders done by God.  Jesus warned of this in Matthew 24:24.  He said, “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect-- if that were possible.”  We should not forget that Satan is the father of lies (Joh.8:44), and that he will use counterfeit miracles to confuse and deceive those on this earth.

Ultimately, the focus of our text is not on how the Egyptian magicians were able to make their staffs into snakes.  Rather it is on the conflict between two spiritual powers. On the one side there is the LORD, represented by the staff in Aaron’s hand.  On the other side there is Satan, represented by the staffs of the Egyptian magicians.  A spiritual conflict between light and darkness, between heaven and hell.

Our text tells us what happens.  “Aaron's staff swallowed up their staffs.” (Eo.7:12).  One snake ate all the others.  Swallowed is a word that describes how a snake devours its prey.  It eats it whole.  Here we see how the LORD demonstrates His dominion over Pharaoh’s magicians.

We saw earlier that Moses staff was God’s staff; that it represents His honour and glory and authority.  In the same way the staffs of the Egyptian magicians were of special significance.  They were symbols of authority in the land of Egypt.  It was through their staffs that the magicians performed miraculous signs.  So the fact that Aaron’s staff swallowed the magicians’ staffs was a disaster for them.  The symbol of their power and authority was swallowed up.  It showed that Aaron the slave was superior to Pharaoh’s magicians.  It demonstrated that the God of the Hebrews was more powerful than the gods of Egypt.

The lesson for us beloved, is this: light triumphs over darkness, heaven over hell, the LORD over Satan.  In our spiritual warfare, we can at times lose sight of that.  God has put enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.  At times the forces arrayed against us appear to be so strong.  The trends in our society are such that it appears as if Satan has the upper hand.  So many are captivated by his sales pitch, enslaved by his worldly philosophies.

Paul warned Timothy about this in 2 Timothy 3.  He said, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

Such people are philosophically opposed to Christianity and everything it stands for.  They are increasingly intolerant of us as Christians.  We are kind of allowed our “freedom of religion,” as long as we practice that privately.  But woe to those who speak up in the public square.  The news media ridicules; special interest groups attack.  At times we are intimidated.  Cowed into silence.  But we need not and should not be afraid.  For our God is the living God of the heavens and the earth.  The Creator and Preserver of life.  God is King of kings and Lord of lords.

We have a message that needs to sound forth into this world.  The good news of the gospel: that the Lord Jesus has come to save sinners from their sins, and from Satan and death.  How we as God’s redeemed people live our lives out of thankfulness to the glory of God.  The perspectives this gives us for how society is to be organised, and what kinds of laws will benefit a nation, because they are founded on God’s holy Word.  We should not be afraid to live and speak as Christians.  We need to do so wisely.  But also boldly!  Knowing that God is on our side, and that no matter what kind of trouble or oppression we face, He will vindicate those who confess His name.

This brings us to our final point.  In it we’ll see how the LORD foreshadows His victory over Egypt’s gods.  The confrontation that takes place in our text involved not just two men or two nations, but also two different perspectives based on the worship of different gods.  Moses and Aaron were representatives of the LORD Most High, the Almighty.  Pharaoh’s wise men and sorcerers, the Egyptian magicians were the priestly representatives of the Egyptian gods.

The fact that Moses’ staff swallows up the staffs of the Egyptian magicians foreshadows what is to come.  It is a signal to Pharaoh and his representatives that the power of God Almighty would in the end swallow them up.  Our text ends with the statement that “Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD has said.” God had told Moses and Aaron that Pharaoh would not listen to them (Exo.4:21; 5:2).

The LORD also revealed why Pharaoh’s heart would become hard.  He said in Exodus 7:3-5, “But I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he 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.  And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”  Thus Pharaoh’s heart would be hardened so that the LORD could act against this cruel nation that had oppressed His people.  It was made hard so that the LORD could show forth His mighty power against the Egyptians and their gods.

All of that is foreshadowed in the fact that Moses’ staff swallowed up the Egyptian magicians’ staff.  That same word “swallowed” is used again in Exodus 15:12.  When the LORD stretches out His right hand (Exo.7:5; 14:16), the Egyptians would be swallowed in the depths of the earth below the sea.  Thus this sign that Moses and Aaron performed before all the plagues began, serves as a sign of how Pharaoh and his horsemen and chariots would be swallowed up in the Red Sea!

Yet even more than that is at stake in our text.  We need to remember that Satan was behind the magicians’ power to transform their staffs into snakes.  But he too would be “swallowed up.”  In Revelation 20:10 John speaks of a vision in which he saw how the devil “was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

Our text anticipates the great victory of the Lord Jesus Christ.  His victory over Satan at the cross and the grave.  Paul speaks of that victory in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, showing how the last enemy death will be overcome.  He says, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”  Paul makes known in whom this victory has come about.  He says, “But thanks be to God!  He has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Cor.15:57).  Christ’s victory is certain.  Because it has been sealed with His blood on the cross.

What does this mean for us today?  We need not fear people or the worldly perspectives they hold.  They may seem so great and strong, and we may at times feel so weak and helpless.  Yet no matter how much opposition, or ridicule or oppression we face – we need to continue to confess Christ in all aspects of our lives.  To do so fearlessly!  For the Lord of lords and King of kings is on our side.  Jesus reigns from the throne at God’s right hand.  He will vindicate His saints.  Our victory is assured!  Therefore let us continue to confess Christ before men, so that on the final day He may acknowledge us before His Father in heaven (Mat.10:32).  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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