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Author:Rev. Joe Poppe
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Congregation:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Title:In the first plague, the LORD changes the water of the Nile into blood
Text:Exodus 7:14-24 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

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 & text: Exo.7:14-24



In the first plague, the LORD changes the water of the Nile into blood.  We’ll consider how the LORD:

1.      displays His power over Egypt’s gods.

2.      brings judgment on the land.

3.      calls all people to repentance.





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,

            Today we begin our treatment of the ten plagues that the LORD brought upon Egypt.  Some see these plagues as a series of natural disasters.  But Scripture characterises them as miraculous signs and wonders.  The nature of the signs and their specific timing makes this clear.  So does the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn among men and animals.  There is no natural explanation for such a sign.  In the ten plagues, we see that the LORD was at work with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.

            The LORD had a specific purpose in bringing the plagues upon Egypt.  In Exodus 7:3-5 the LORD says to Moses, “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.”  God’s primary purpose was to show Himself as the living God of heaven and earth to both the Egyptians and His own people.

            To convince the Egyptians that He was the God of all the earth, the LORD had to show Himself more powerful than the Egyptian gods.  Each of the plagues is targeted against one or more specific Egyptian gods.  Pharaoh himself was seen as the son of the gods.  The plagues would undermine him, as ruler of Egypt, and show that he was not able to maintain order in the land.  Through the plagues God would bring His judgment on the Egyptians for the harsh and cruel bondage they had imposed on God’s people.  The end result would be that Moses would lead God’s people out of slavery, on the way to the Promised Land.

            Today we focus our attention on the first plague.  On how, through the mighty hand of God, the water of the Nile and all the others waters of Egypt were turned to blood.  A mighty display of the LORD’s power in Egypt!  The Nile River was the life-blood of Egypt.  It was Egypt’s source of water for drinking and bathing.  It was used to irrigate their crops.  It was a source of fish, a major part of the Egyptian diet.  Various gods were associated with the Nile, because it was the source of life in the land.  This plague showed how the LORD could change their source of life into the giver of death.  It brought a warning of the terrible judgments the LORD would bring on those who rebelled against Him. I preach to you the Word of God under the following theme:

In the first plague, the LORD changes the water of the Nile into blood.  We’ll consider how the LORD:

1.      displays His power over Egypt’s gods.

2.      brings judgment on the land.

3.      calls all people to repentance.

After the miracle of Moses’ staff being changed to a snake and swallowing the staffs of Egyptian magicians, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.  Our text begins with the LORD speaking to Moses saying, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go.”  The result is that the LORD will act.  He commands Moses to go to Pharaoh in the morning, and meet him at the bank of the Nile.  Moses was to take with him his staff, as a symbol of the authority by which he spoke on the LORD’s behalf.

Moses was commanded to speak these words to Pharaoh, “The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert. But until now you have not listened.  This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood.  The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.” (Exo.7:16-18).

Moses did as the LORD commanded and met Pharaoh at the bank of the Nile.  He commanded Aaron to stretch out his staff over the waters of Egypt, the streams, canals, ponds, and reservoirs.  The water in them turned to blood.  All the waters of Egypt were involved, including the Nile River, the irrigation canals, and the pools formed by the annual flooding of the Nile.  Even the water that was in the wooden buckets and the stone jars was turned to blood.  Our text summarizes the situation saying, “Blood was everywhere in Egypt.” (Exo.7:21).

Try to imagine what this was like, beloved.  Imagine the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba, and all the other rivers and lakes being turned to blood.  Imagine the water sitting in your tub or sink being turned to blood, and turning on the tap and having a flow of blood come out.  Our response would be: that’s gross!

But the problem was greater than that.  Having all Egypt’s rivers and pools changed to blood created a stinking mess.  For everything that lived in the water, died.  Our text mentions that the fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water.  This created problems for the people.  For in those days water was necessary not just for washing, but also for drinking.  In those days they didn’t have all kinds of juices, pop, milk, and whatever else we like to drink.  The first plague brought thirst upon the Egyptian people.  They were forced to dig soaks in the sand next to the Nile, to filter the bloody liquid through sand to get drinking water.

But even that was not the worst thing for Pharaoh, and the Egyptian people.  Having the waters of the Nile changed to blood was an attack on the Egyptian gods. To understand something about the effect of this plague we need to know something more about the history and climate of Egypt.  At the beginning of Egyptian history, there were two parts to Egypt: Upper and Lower Egypt.  They were united into one country by making Pharaoh the god of all Egypt.  Of course, he was not the only god.  The priests and pharaohs invented all sorts of other gods from objects of nature.  The most important of these gods related to the Nile River.

The reason for this is that the Nile River was the very lifeline of Egypt.  Egypt is basically a desert land.  Even today most areas receive less than three inches of rain annually.  Nowhere near enough to sustain any kinds of crops.  But Egypt is fed by the Nile River.  Each year the snow in the Ethiopian highlands melts, and the Nile River greatly expands.  It overflows its banks, leaving behind an abundance of water in pools and reservoirs.  It carries with it much fertile silt, in which the crops are planted.  The Nile River sustains many fish.  Thus it was, and in many ways still is, the source of life in Egypt.

The result was that the Egyptians worshipped many gods associated with the Nile.  There was the god Hapi, the spirit of the Nile in flood and the “giver of life to all men.”  The annual flooding of the Nile was called “the arrival of Hapi.”  There was the god Osiris, one of the greatest gods of Egypt, a god of the underworld.  The Egyptians believed that the Nile was his transformed life-blood.  There was also the fish goddess Hatmeyt, and a couple of hippopotamus goddesses of the river.

When the LORD tuned the water of the Nile River into blood, this was a direct attack on the gods of Egypt.  Scripture makes that abundantly clear.  In Exodus 12:12 the LORD speaks about how He will bring the final plague on Egypt.  He says, “I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn-- both men and animals-- and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.”

God’s power over Egypt’s gods is a theme that resounds again and again.  In Exodus 15 Moses and the children of Israel sang a song pf praise to the LORD after He delivered them from Pharaoh and his armies.  They sang, “The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.  Pharaoh's chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea... Your right hand, O LORD, was majestic in power. Your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.” (Exo.15:3-6).  And then as part of their song, they asked, “Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you-- majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?  You stretched out your right hand and the earth swallowed them.” (Exo.15:11-12).

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, testifies to this in Exodus 18:11 saying, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.”  Numbers 33:4 says that “the LORD had brought judgment on their gods.”

Imagine being an Egyptian, and seeing your god Hapi, the life-giver of all Egypt, unable to keep the waters of the Nile pure.  Imagine seeing Osiris’ transformed life-blood turn into actual blood, which was abominable to the Egyptians.  Imagine what Pharaoh and his people would have thought of Hatmeyt, the fish goddess, after all the fish had died.  Instead of being a provider of life, the Nile had turned into a stinking mess.  The powers of the gods of Egypt were under attack, and they were not able to stand up to the God of the Hebrews!  Pharaoh had said earlier, “I do not know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go.” (Exo.5:2).  Already in this first plague the LORD was making Himself known as Almighty God, the Ruler of the heavens and the earth.
            We today know that here is no such thing as other gods.  But that doesn’t always mean that we acknowledge and respect the LORD God as the Creator and Preserver of life.  Often our perspectives on God are distorted.  We think too small of God.  The gods of
Egypt that came under attack in this first plague were gods that the Egyptians thought provided them with food, with life.  At times we too struggle to acknowledge God as the Provider of life.  We think that we through our own hard work earn a living for ourselves and our families.

We do not always acknowledge God as the Provider of all we need for body and soul.  This is seen in the struggles some of us face in partaking in regular devotions, reading from God’s Word and praying to Him.  We don’t always seek the LORD’s help and direction when faced with hardships or uncertainty in our lives.  We try to solve life’s problems in our own strength.  God delivered the Israelites from Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  But we so often fail to recognize that this same God is our God, who leads and guides us in our lives.  One of the things God was teaching the Israelites, and also us, in the first plague is that He is the one who gives life.  He wants us to praise and adore Him as the God of life.

Having considered how the LORD displays His power over Egypt’s gods, we come to our second point. In it we’ll see how the LORD brings judgment on the land.  One of the questions that comes up in connection with the plagues is why there were ten plagues?  Why didn’t the LORD just annihilate the Egyptians with one swift stroke?  We’ve already considered how part of the answer is that the LORD wanted to display His power over the Egyptian gods.  But there is more involved than just this.

What we need to remember is that the Israelites spent more than four hundred years in Egypt.  During that time they were enslaved and mistreated.  The LORD wanted to bring judgment on the Egyptians who had treated His chosen nation so cruelly.  This was made clear to Abraham, already in Genesis 15.  The LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.  But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions.” (Gen.15:13-14).

We need to remember that the LORD God is a just God, and that He will execute His wrath on all those who oppose Him.  Scripture teaches the principle that the LORD will repay each person according to what he has done (Ps.28:4; Prov.24:12; Isa.59:18; Rom.2:6).  The Egyptians brought much judgment upon themselves by their cruel bondage of God’s people.  Pharaoh had enslaved the Israelites for his own benefit, in order to advance his ambitious building program.  But now, the Egyptians would suffer under the LORD’s punishment.  The wrath they had stored up for themselves would now be poured forth on them.

The first plague was the first installment of God’s just judgment on Egypt for the evil they had committed against His covenant people.  Yet it was not only the Egyptians that suffered this punishment.  What we need to understand, beloved, is that the first three plagues were inflicted not just on the Egyptians, but also on the Israelites.  Our text emphasizes that all the waters of Egypt – the streams and canals, the ponds and reservoirs, the wooden buckets and stone jars were turned to blood.  The land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived was part of Egypt.  And our text says that “blood was everywhere in Egypt.” (Exo.7:21).

It is not until the fourth plague that the LORD makes a distinction between the Egyptians and the Israelites.  In Exodus 8 Moses warns Pharaoh of the swarms of flies that the LORD would bring on Pharaoh and his officials.  He says, “But 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.”  Thus we see that the first three plagues also came upon God’s own people – the Israelites.

God’s people Israel was guilty of grievous sin against the LORD.  In their time in Egypt they had not remained faithful to the LORD and His service.  They had fallen into the idolatry of the people of Egypt.  This is clear from what Joshua said to God’s people when they were about to enter the Promised Land.  He said “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” (Josh.24:14).

Because Israel was guilty of covenantal unfaithfulness, the LORD’s chastising hand also came upon them.  We ask why the LORD would do this?  Why bring such terrible judgments upon His own people?  The reason is that the Israelites served the Egyptian gods, and didn’t really know the LORD God.  The last time the LORD had spoken to them, the Israelites had been unwilling to listen to Him.  They did not listen, “because of their discouragement and cruel bondage.” (Exo.6:9).

Thus it was not only to the Egyptians, but also to His people that the LORD needed to reveal His “outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgment.” (Exo.6:6).  God’s own people needed to see and to experience the mighty hand of God at work.  For only then would they earn to appreciate the LORD, His mighty power and saving hand.

It is the same way in our lives, beloved.  At times there are members who stray from the service of the Lord.  This causes real struggles.  For the person himself or herself.  People can make a real mess of their lives.  Also for their families.  For we wonder: if God is almighty, why doesn’t He change the heart of my loved one?  Doesn’t God remember the covenant promises made at my son or daughter’s baptism?  Why doesn’t He do something?

Often those who stray will not quickly come back.  When people first stray, the early experiences of that can be quite pleasurable.  Sin often does provide short-term pleasure.  That is why we are drawn to it.  Satan likes to sink his hooks in us, before he reels us in.  Yet with sin, the law of diminishing returns always applies.  As time progresses, you get less and less satisfaction from a sinful way of life.  You begin to suffer the consequences of your sins.

Often those who stray need to experience suffering, before they come back.  They need to learn that the wages of sin is death.  To experience the breakdown of relationships; to face hardship; to suffer despair.  To hit rock bottom.  Just think of the prodigal son.  Life cruised along quite fine for him, as long as he was still spending his father’s inheritance.  It was not until the money was gone and a famine hit the land, that he came to his senses and truly realized what he had done wrong.  Sometimes it is only through the experience of misery that God’s children come to appreciate the wonders of His grace.

This brings us to our final point. In it we’ll consider how the LORD calls all people to repentance.  In the plagues the LORD displays His power over Egypt’s gods, and brings judgment on Egypt’s land.  Yet through the plagues He also issues a call to repentance.  Calling Pharaoh back from his hardness of heart, to let the Israelites go.  Calling His own people to know Him and love Him and serve Him.

Yet Pharaoh does not heed this call.  After the LORD’s mighty display of power, turning all the waters of Egypt to blood, Pharaoh called his wise men to do the same.  Our text notes that the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts (Exo.7:22).  It is likely that they would have had to dig a soak next to the Nile River to first get clean water.  Then through their magic arts they were able to change it into blood.

The scale of their miracle is far inferior to what the LORD had done in changing all the waters of Egypt to blood.  And their miracle was of no real benefit to Pharaoh and the rest of the people in Egypt.  They would have accomplished something if they had changed all the blood back into water.  Yet despite their limitations, Pharaoh’s heart became hard.  He would not listen to Moses, just as the LORD had said.

The LORD revealed His outstretched arm and mighty acts of judgment, not just to call the Egyptians to repentance.  This same call also went out to God’s own people.  Through the plagues they too needed to learn to repent from their sins.  The LORD used these miraculous signs to show His people He was Almighty God, and to teach them to put their trust in Him alone.

Beloved, this same call goes out to us today.  A call to repent from our sins and believe in the gospel.  For the mighty acts of redemption God worked for Israel pale in comparison with what He has done for us.  God has given His Son to die for us, to redeem us from our sins, from the power of Satan, and even from death.  Do we believe that message and live out of it?  Or do we presume on the mercies of our God, while living lives in bondage to the evil one?

The Lord can and does use difficult experiences in our lives to call us to repentance; to be ready for the day when we will have to appear before His judgment seat.  He chastens us with sickness, with hardships, with need, with loss.  Even events like the passing away of young people are used by God as a wake-up call.  Not necessarily for the particular families involved.  But for us all!  Beloved, do you believe in Christ as your only Saviour?  Do you trust in Him to provide all you need for body and soul?  Are you living your life in His service, to the glory of His name?

In Luke 13 the Lord Jesus was told about how Pilate had killed some people as they were offering their sacrifices.  It is important for us to note Jesus’ response to this.  He said, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luk.13:2-3).  Jesus went on to speak about the eighteen who died when the Tower of Siloam fell on them.  He asked, “do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

There is a critically important lesson we need to take away from this, beloved.  When bad things happen to people around us, we need to be careful not to make negative judgments about them.  For we do not know why the Lord allows someone to suffer loss or heartache.  Instead we need to take heed to ourselves.  To repent, lest we perish.  Each of us in our own life faces certain struggles against sin, certain flaws in our character, certain temptations that we fall for again and again.  Do we truly repent of our sins beloved?  Do we confess them before the Lord and seek the strength of His Spirit to help us fight against them?  Do we hate our sins and flee from them?

Our comfort is that we serve a God who loves His children, and who desires their salvation.  A God who works in our lives, calling us again and again to love and serve Him.  A God who is often longsuffering, giving time for His children to respond to His love.  The Lord is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish but all to come to repentance (2Pet.3:9).  Let us heed God’s call.  Let us live with Him and for Him.  For it is when we live in communion with God that we are blessed.  Despite life’s trials and sorrows, we receive the joy of faith and experience the peace that that transcends all understanding.  For we know that the LORD Almighty is my God and Father.  That provides the comfort and encouragement we need to go on.  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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