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Author:Rev. Joe Poppe
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Congregation:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Title:In the plague of the livestock, the LORD shows forth His lordship over all
Text:Exodus 9:1-7 (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 & Text: Exo.9:1-7


In the plague of the livestock, the LORD shows forth His lordship over all.  We’ll consider the LORD’s:

  1. claim over the Hebrews.
  2. dominion over the Egyptians.
  3. authority over us.





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,

            When God created man, He gave man dominion over this world.  He said to man, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen.1:28).  Man was given the high position of being ruler over this world, in place of God.  While God was King, man was His vice-regent, exercising dominion in His place.  Yet with the fall into sin, man lost the high position God gave him.  Instead of being rulers, we became slaves.  Slaves of sin and of the devil.

            Most people today do not realize that God charged mankind to have dominion over this earth, or that mankind is now in the employ of Satan.  Most people do not recognize God’s claim on their lives or Satan’s dominion over them.  They deny that any spiritual power or authority has any say in their lives.  Instead they consider themselves to be lords and masters over their own life.  I’m the boss; I can do what I want; no one can tell me what to do.  This anti-authoritarian spirit, this spirit of individualism is what rules in the hearts and lives of many in today’s society.

            Such attitudes also affect us, beloved.  Within each one of us there is a little rebel.  That is part of our sinful human nature.  We too want to be our own boss.  To do what we want.  To be in control of our own lives.  Yet such a perspective on life runs completely contrary to the teachings of God’s Word.  It denies God’s authority over us; His claim on our lives.  It robs us of the true comfort there is in belonging to God, and the blessings of a life lived in submission to Him.

            This morning we continue our consideration of the plagues the LORD brought on Egypt.  Despite God’s mighty works in changing staffs to snakes, and water to blood, and inundating the land with frogs, gnats, and flies – Pharaoh continued to harden his heart.  He would not let the people of Israel go.  He had said, “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).  So in this fifth plague, the LORD continues to reveal Himself, showing Himself to be Almighty God.  I preach to you the Word of God under the following theme:

In the plague of the livestock, the LORD shows forth His lordship over all.  We’ll consider the LORD’s:

  1. claim over the Hebrews.
  2. dominion over the Egyptians.
  3. authority over us.

Our text begins with the LORD commanding Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: "Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” (Exo.9:1).  Like in the first plague, the LORD makes it absolutely clear who He is.  He is the LORD; Yahweh; the covenant God.  The one who had made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He identifies Himself to Pharaoh as “the God of the Hebrews.”  He is Israel’s God and they are His people.

Already in Exodus 3 at the burning bush, the LORD said to Moses, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians…” (Exo.3:7-8).  It is not that the Israelites recognized this.  For many years they served other gods in Egypt.  Moses first approach to Pharaoh had brought extra hardships upon them.  Pharaoh required them to make bricks without being given the required straw.  The result was that the people did not listen further to the LORD’s promises, because of their discouragement and cruel bondage (Exo.6:9).

Through the first plagues, God’s people would have experienced the almighty power of the LORD their God.  They too suffered under the first three plagues.  But the LORD God proved Himself to be stronger than the Egyptian magicians in the plague of gnats.  The magicians were forced to admit that this was “the finger of God.” (Exo.8:19).  In the plague of flies the LORD proved Himself to be the God of the Hebrews.  For the swarms of flies that came upon Pharaoh and his officials and all the Egyptians did not come on the Israelites.  The LORD made a distinction between His people and the Egyptians.  The flies did not come upon the Hebrews living in the land of Goshen.

Now prior to the plague on the livestock, the LORD claims the Hebrews as His own people.  Perhaps they did not yet recognize that He was their God who had come to deliver them from slavery.  Yet God nevertheless owns the people.  He was the one who brought them to Egypt, to deliver them from the famine that would otherwise have killed them in the days of Jacob.  He was the one who had preserved them and caused them to grow into a mighty nation during the four hundred years in Egypt.  And now He was claiming them as His own possession, telling Pharaoh, “This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews says, Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” (Exo.9:1).

But Pharaoh does not recognize the LORD’s claim over the Hebrews.  Pharaoh considered the Hebrews to be his own possession.  The Egyptians thought of the Hebrews as being their slave people.  Already in Exodus 5 Pharaoh had said, “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.”  Pharaoh does not recognize God’s claim on the Hebrews.  He considered them to belong to him.  They were his slaves, and they would do what he told them to do.  Failure to obey would lead to further beatings and increased hardships.

So we see that there is a struggle going on.  A struggle between Pharaoh and God.  A struggle for the people of Israel.  To whom did the Hebrews really belong?  They were under Pharaoh’s dominion; they were his slaves doing his will.  But God claimed them as His own.  The purpose of the plagues was to teach Pharaoh and the Egyptians who the LORD was.  It was to force Pharaoh to recognize God’s claim on His own people, so that he would let them go.

Beloved, there are many parallels that we can draw between the slavery of the people of God in Egypt and our slavery today.  By nature we are slaves to sin.  Remember what we lost in the fall into sin. We lost our goodness, our righteousness, our holiness. We lost the ability to serve God, to love Him, and to live for Him.  Within each one of us lives a rebellious heart.  A heart that says, “no one can tell me what to do.  I’ll do things my way.”  There may be many areas in life where we are stellar Christians.  But we each have our weak points.  Areas of life where sin holds sway over us.  Areas of life where Satan can easily tempt us.  Areas where, when it comes down to it, we are slaves of sin and Satan.

Some get caught in what we today call “addictions.”  Where we may be able to control our lives most of the time, but where occasionally we give in to our desires.  Where at times we indulge in whatever our vice is.  It may be alcohol or drugs, it may be pornography or gambling.  Whatever it is, at times we lose control.  We give in - in the battle against sin and the devil.  Satan reigns.  In that moment he claims us as his own.

Our struggle against sin does not have to be an addiction.  For many of us, the battle lines are not quite so obvious.  But still, in a certain area of life Satan holds sway over us.  It could be that we’ve had some bad experiences with those set in authority over us, and that as a result we buck up any time someone tries to tell us what to do.  It may be that you’ve had some difficult struggles in interpersonal relationships, and that as a result you carry frustration or anger or hatred in your heart against your neighbour.  Perhaps your struggle is against wrong sexual desires.

Many of us face struggles in our money management.  We live in such a materialistic society, and our tendency is to want whatever our neighbour has.  Our sinful nature is covetous.  We want more and more and more.  That reveals itself in how we manage our money.  It is so easy to live for ourselves.  Forgetting about God, who provides us with everything we receive.  Neglecting His kingdom.  Neglecting the poor and needy.  Living for the here and now, mortgaging and financing ourselves to get what we want NOW.  At times not even recognising how deeply we are enslaved by sin and Satan.

Yes, beloved, there is a war going on.  A spiritual war for our souls.  A battle in which Satan, like Pharaoh says – these people are mine.  In which he lays claim to our hearts and souls.  Were the Israelites slaves of Pharaoh?  Yes they were.  Are we at times enslaved by Satan and by our sinful nature?  Yes we are!  But the LORD our God has something to say about that.  Long ago He said to Pharaoh, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.”  That is what the LORD our God also says to Satan today.  “Let my people go, that they may serve me!”

Historically, God had a claim on the Hebrews.  He had made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob more than four hundred years earlier.  In Genesis 15:13-14 the LORD said to Abram, “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.”  In the same way God has a claim on us.  God chooses all His people.  He did so from eternity.  Paul speaks about that in Ephesians 1, indicating that we were chosen to salvation from before we even came into being.

Did God choose the Hebrews because they were special, because there was something attractive about them?  Certainly not!  They were a motley group of rebellious slaves.  Deuteronomy 7 makes it clear that God chose them, not because of their great number, but because they were the least among the nations.  He chose them because He loved them.  God also made us His own when we were dead in trespasses and sins.  There was nothing in us that deserved God’s love, that made us attractive to Him. Yet God chose us to save us.  He chose us to change us. He chose us to make us holy and blameless.  So that we might indeed worship Him.

In our first point we’ve seen the LORD’s claim over the Hebrews.  In our second point we’ll consider the LORD’s dominion over the Egyptians.  In our text the power struggle between God and Pharaoh continues.  Although Pharaoh had promised to let the Israelites go while plagued by the flies, he reneges on his promise as soon as they are removed.  Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.

Through Moses the LORD says to him, “If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, the hand of the LORD will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field-- on your horses and donkeys and camels and on your cattle and sheep and goats.”  God is the Creator, and Pharaoh is called to submit to Him.  God has the right to do with everyone whatever He likes to do.  He rules over the nations.  He is God of the heavens and the earth.  All owe God honour and obedience.  And God has the right to punish those who disobey His commands.

What we need to recognise beloved, is that God had been good to Pharaoh.  He had given him great wealth and power and prestige.  Egypt was the economic power of the day.  Of all the countries in the Middle East at that time, the Egyptians were supreme.  Their society was far advanced, they had great wealth, they were the dominant world power of the day.  Now God says to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.”  Pharaoh says, “no!”  These people are mine.  He refuses to acknowledge God’s power or dominion over him.

In the fifth plague God destroys the livestock of Egypt.  He destroys the horses, donkeys, and camels, the cattle, sheep and goats.  God took them all away.  Previously we’ve noted that in the first three plagues God brought discomfort, in the next three destruction, and in the final three downright dread.  This fifth plague was indeed destructive.  Militarily, economically, and religiously, the plague on livestock devastated Egypt.

Militarily, Egypt used horses to fight battles against its enemies.  After the tenth plague, we read about Pharaoh pursuing the Israelites with his horsemen and chariots.  Pharaoh had a well developed military.  Egypt’s horses allowed Pharaoh’s armies to move swiftly.  It also struck fear in the hearts of the surrounding nations.  For who would want to go into battle against an army of chariots and horsemen?  Yet by destroying Pharoah’s horses, God struck a mighty blow against Egypt’s military power.

Economically, Egypt used donkeys and camels as beasts of burden.  Just like today we use trains and big highway rigs to transport goods, so in Egypt they used donkeys and camels to carry trade goods to and from Egypt.  But with the plague on livestock, the LORD wiped out the traders’ transport.  This would have brought much of Egypt’s economy to a standstill.  The cattle, sheep and goats were a source of milk and meat, of wool and hides.  A source of food and clothing.  All gone!  Part of what the Egyptians depended on for their livelihood was dramatically taken away.  Thus the plague on livestock left Egypt’s economy in tatters.

Religiously, bulls and cows were revered in Egypt.  The god Apis was represented as a bull.  He was so highly revered that when the bull representing him died, it was embalmed and placed in a tomb.  Remains of these bulls have been found in various discoveries of ancient Egyptian tombs.  Hathor was the cow-headed goddess of the desert.  Thus bulls and cows were seen as gods of beauty, of fertility, love, and motherhood.  Yet all these gods died!  The LORD took away Pharaoh’s gods.  He is the LORD!  Thus the LORD showed forth His sovereignty over all the earth.  He is the God of Egypt.  He rules over the land.  By His mighty hand the LORD shows His dominion over the Egyptians.

We should note beloved, that in this plague the LORD showed forth His sovereignty in two more specific ways.  First, by setting a time when the plague would come upon Egypt.  “Tomorrow the LORD will do this in the land.  And the next day the LORD did it.” (Exo.9:5-6).  And second, by again making a distinction between the Egyptians and the Hebrews.  The LORD told Pharaoh already before the plague that no animal belonging to the Israelites would die.  Our text tells us that when this plague came upon Egypt, Pharaoh “sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died.” (Exo.9:7).  This plague was not some natural disease like foot and mouth, which ravished the whole land.  It was a plague sent by God on Pharaoh and Egypt, which passed His own people by.

Beloved, our text gives us much to ponder on.  For in it the LORD shows forth His sovereignty over all the earth.  He is Lord and King over all!  All lands, all peoples are subject to Him.  We see how God deals with Pharaoh, and ponder on how He deals with sin and sinners.  We have opportunity to understand our own unbelief, our rebellion, and sin.  We see the consequences of hardening our hearts against God.  For we see the hand of God raised in judgment against those who rebel against Him.  Our text issues an urgent call for us to repent from our sins, and to seek our life and salvation in God alone.

At the same time, beloved, we see the boundless mercy of God.  He made a distinction between the Egyptians and the Hebrews.  His hand was not raised up in judgment upon His own chosen people.  Instead it was stretched out to save them.  To deliver them from their slavery; to free them so that they might serve Him.  Despite our sin and rebellion against God, His grace has been manifest towards us in Jesus Christ His Son.  God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt is a picture of His mighty saving work in Jesus Christ.  For He came to deliver us from sin and Satan and death.  To redeem us and restore us to righteousness and life, so that we may worship Him!

This brings us to our final point.  In it we’ll consider the LORD’s claim over us.  Our text began with the LORD telling Pharaoh, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.”  The LORD claimed to be the God of the Hebrews, because of covenant promises made to their forefathers.  He called them His “treasured possession.” (Exo.19:5; Deut.7:6).  Today the LORD issues the same challenge to Satan, when he enslaves God’s chosen ones.  God says, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.”  Today the basis for God to make this claim is much stronger than it was with the Hebrews long ago.

God has a claim on us as our Creator.  He made us, and so we belong to Him.  As our Maker, He owns us.  On this basis, God has a claim over the life of every human being.  But God’s claim on His own people has been strengthened.  After we sinned, we became slaves of sin under the dominion of Satan.  But God has redeemed us from Satan’s power.  He did so by sending His Son into the world, to die for us.

Hebrews 2:14-15 teach us that Christ shared in our humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-- that is, the devil-- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”  1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.”  Peter gives us great comfort when he says “that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” (1Pet.1:18-19).

Christ thus has a claim on our lives because He has bought us!  That is what redemption is all about.  Paying the ransom, to set us free.  Our great comfort is that we belong to our faithful Saviour Jesus Christ.  We owe Him our allegiance.  We are called to submit our lives to Him.  For he has paid the price to deliver us from our sins.  He has won the victory to set us free from the dominion of the evil one.  By His resurrection He assures us that He will raise us up to a new life, in which we may worship Him eternally.

Do we, beloved, recognise God’s claim on our lives?  Do we see that we have been set free, in order that we may worship God?  Do we submit to Him in all aspects of our lives?  How about when the desire arises within us to go out and party, to get drunk and have fun?  How about when that covetous spirit comes up within us, and we need to get this or that in order to satisfy our fleshly wants?  Whose will do we do when sin and temptation arise before us?

God has set us free so that we might serve Him.  “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.”  The best thing we can desire is God, and being with Him.  For He can satisfy the desires of our hearts completely.  He, and He alone, can give comfort in the midst of suffering, peace in the midst of affliction, joy in the midst of sorrow.  We serve God by loving Him, by following Him, by having His character developed in us.  God has chosen us to change us.  To make us holy and righteous before Him.  Without sin, evil thoughts, selfishness, greed, and covetousness.  He does this in Christ.

Not only has God created and redeemed us.  He has also put His Spirit within us.  We are now the temples of God.  Holy; set apart; dedicated to worship and serve Him.  Enabled more and more to do so by the mighty power of the Spirit at work in us.  And so we are no longer slaves to sin, enslaved by the evil one.  We are the redeemed and sanctified people of God.  Holy and righteous in Christ.  Set apart for giving glory to the LORD.  These gifts are ours, if we receive God’s gracious work for us and in us with faith.

So beloved, let us believe in the LORD our faithful covenant God.  That He is sovereign Lord and King over all.  That we will be blessed, truly blessed, only when we submit our hearts and lives to Him.  The service of God is not dull or boring.  It is a truly liberating experience.  For those who live their lives in tune with God, those who walk in step with Him – will live free from the slavery of sin and the tyranny of Satan.  That’s true freedom!  Living under the lordship of our Sovereign King.  May God help us in that by His Holy Spirit.  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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