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Author:Rev. Joe Poppe
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Congregation:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Title:In the ninth plague the LORD causes deep darkness to fall upon Egypt, but grants light to His people
Text:Exodus 10:21-29 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Maintaining the Antithesis

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: Joh.3:1-21


Text: Exo.10:21-29

In the ninth plague the LORD causes deep darkness to fall upon Egypt, but grants light to His people.  We’ll see how:

  1. darkness is a sign of judgment.
  2. light is a symbol of life.





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,

            Our text deals with the ninth plague that the LORD brought on Egypt.  It arrived without any warning, just like the third and sixth plagues.  In it the LORD showed forth His mighty power by causing total darkness to fall upon the land of Egypt for three days.  This was the next to last plague.  A plague that in and of itself was terrifying.  But at the same time a plague that warned of the final judgment that the LORD would bring on Egypt.  A sign that warned of God’s abandonment of Egypt, and of His heavy judgment on the Egyptians who had enslaved His covenant people.

            One of the striking things about this plague is that in it the LORD once again makes a clear distinction between the Egyptians and the Hebrews.  Our text says that “total darkness covered all Egypt for three days.  No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.” (Exo.10:22-23).  Thus while Egypt came under God’s severe judgment, the Hebrews were allowed light in their homes.  This was a sign that God’s fury was not directed against them.  Instead, it spoke of God’s mercy and grace towards His people.  They could live in the light He provided.

            What we need to realize is that darkness and light are often used as symbols in Scripture.  Darkness is associated with sin, and Satan, and judgment and death.  Light is a symbol of God and of the life and peace there are in Him.  In our text the struggle between darkness and light is coming to a climax.  God plunges those who oppose Him and His will into darkness, while at the same time giving light to those who love and serve Him.

We should not have the impression that this was only something God did way back when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt.  By nature man in his sinfulness plunges himself headlong into sin and darkness.  But by His grace God has caused the Light to shine in this world.  Jesus Himself said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Joh.8:12).  The question that our text raises for each one of us is clear: are you walking in the darkness or in the light?  I preach to you the Word of God under the following theme:

In the ninth plague the LORD causes deep darkness to fall upon Egypt, but grants light to His people.  We’ll see how:

  1. darkness is a sign of judgment.
  2. light is a symbol of life.

One of the first things that should be noted about the ninth plague is that this is the work of God.  Earlier in the plagues the Egyptian magicians had come to the conclusion, “this is the finger of God.”  Indeed!  Some commentators try to explain that the ninth plague occurred through some natural means, like a sandstorm.  There is no justification for this.  In the previous plague God did use natural means to bring about the plague.  God used a wind to deliver the locusts, and He used a wind to remove them from Egypt.  But his plague makes no mention of God using a specific means to bring darkness on Egypt.  We need to accept this as a supernatural act of God.

What was God’s purpose in bringing darkness on the land?  How are we to interpret this?  Physical darkness is something that frightens many people.  Children, are any of you afraid to go to sleep without having a light on?  Many are not comfortable being out when it is pitch black outside.  Experiencing darkness during the day is even worse.  When we have a real cloudy day, we often view it as a gloomy day.  When people are affected by a volcanic eruption that darkens the sky, they speak of how eerie it is.  Experiencing an eclipse can give you a creepy feeling.

The Egyptians were normal people.  They would have experienced the darkness in a similar way.  Yet for them, the darkness was even worse.  Our text makes it clear that the darkness was dark.  It was a darkness that could be felt (Exo.10:21).  It was so black “that no one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days.”  Not only did the darkness make them unable to do anything.  It also gave them time to think.  About all the other plagues the LORD had brought about them.  The darkness the LORD brought on the land gave them an impending sense of doom.

What made the plague of darkness especially hard for the Egyptians was the fact that they worshipped Ra, the sun god.  The sun god was their chief god.  They worshipped Ra in almost all the palace ceremonies.  The Egyptians believed that his rising in the east each morning symbolised Ra’s victory over the demonic powers of the underworld.  When the sun came up in the morning, that was a symbol of his victory over those who challenged his rule.  His rising symbolised life!  In the same way, when Ra, the sun god sank in the west, that symbolised death and the underworld.

Thus when the LORD darkened the sun, He overpowered Ra, the most important of the gods of Egypt.  That meant that the LORD was sovereign King over life and death in Egypt.  During the ninth plague, Ra did not rise over Egypt, giving light and life.  He was confined to the realm of death and judgment.  Thus the total darkness that came on Egypt was not just an eerie experience for the Egyptians.  It was a symbol that the LORD had overpowered their god of light and life.  How appropriate that the plague of darkness was the last one, before the death of all the firstborn of Egypt.  The Egyptians were now condemned to the netherworld, to the realm of death and judgment.

Throughout Scripture, darkness is a sign of God’s judgment.  In 1 Samuel 2:9 speaks about how the LORD “will guard the feet of his saints, but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.”  The prophet Amos describes the judgment God will bring on evildoers in day of the LORD.  “‘In that day,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight’.” (Amos.8:9).  In Revelation 16 John describes the day of the Lord as a day of judgment for the beast and everyone associated with his kingdom.  “The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.” (Rev.16:10-11).

In Egypt God was bringing judgment and wrath on this stubborn people who refused to let His children go.  During the midst of the plague of darkness, Pharaoh summoned Moses and again attempted to negotiate with him.  Now Pharaoh is willing to let the women and children go along with the men of Israel, to worship God in the wilderness.  But he commands Moses to leave the flocks and herds behind.

Pharaoh is still trying to negotiate with the living God of heaven and earth.  With the LORD, who was showing Himself to be more powerful than even Egypt’s sun god.  But the LORD does not allow any compromise between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.  There is only one way – God’s way, and Pharaoh must submit!  Otherwise God’s judgments would continue.

What we see in our text is that God is un-creating Egypt.  In the earlier plagues we’ve seen the LORD’s power 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.  In creation, before God said, “Let there be light,” the earth was formless and void.  Darkness was over the surface of the deep (Gen.1:2).  Egypt was returning to such a state.  In God’s judgment on Egypt the blessings of creation are reversed.  Egypt would be left in a position of chaos, emptiness, darkness and torment.

What we need to understand, beloved, is that in certain ways God shows His goodness to all men.  Psalm 145:9 says, “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”  In Matthew 5:45  Jesus says that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  In Acts 14:16&17 Paul explains to the gentiles that “in the past, he [God] let all nations go their own way.  Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”  Egypt had enjoyed living under God’s providential care.  Now it was passing into darkness.

Scripture teaches us that God is Light, and so when darkness comes, it is a sign that God is removing Himself from a situation.  When darkness comes, it is a sign that God is abandoning those left behind in the darkness, that they are about to come under His heavy judgment.  Being worshippers of the sun god, Ra, the Egyptians understood this.  Even to them the three days of deep darkness on the land was a symbol of impending death.  The darkness of night was upon them.  Their final destruction was at hand.

Now the question for us, beloved, is: what does this have to do with our lives today?  Does the symbol of darkness have any application to us?  It does.  By nature we are inclined to walk in darkness.  Jesus makes that clear in His conservations with Nicodemus.  He said in John 3:19-20, “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

The reason we by nature love the darkness rather than the light is because our deeds are evil, and we do not want them to be exposed.  It is very important that we understand this.  Sin flourishes in darkness.  It is there that Satan and our sinful flesh can hold sway over us.  Without God and without Christ we would remain in darkness.  Yet Jesus brought Nicodemus a message about how God sent Him into this world not to condemn the world but to save the world through Him (Joh.3:17).  He even pointed out the manner in which He would accomplish that.

Jesus said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (Joh.3:14-15).  With these words Jesus pointed out how He would have to suffer under the judgment of God, in order to redeem us.  He would have to pass through darkness, in order to grant us light.

It is striking to note the sacrifice our Saviour made for us.  When He went the way of the cross, He bore the curse of God that lay on us.  For being crucified was a sign of being cursed by God.  During Christ’s sojourn on the cross, darkness came on the land for three hours.  Matthew 27:45&46 reads, “From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"-- which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"”  God removed His presence from Christ during those hours of darkness.  He gave Him over to suffer the torment and agony of hell.  Jesus went through the darkness, to grant us light!

In our first point we’ve seen how darkness is a sign of judgment.  In our second point we’ll see that light is a symbol of life.  In stark contrast to the “total darkness that covered all Egypt,” God gave His people light.  Our text states, “Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.”  Here we see God’s mercy and grace.  He did not withdraw light from His people.  They were not the ones coming under His judgment.  Instead the LORD was at work bringing about their redemption from Egypt.  The light they enjoyed was a symbol of the presence of God among them.  They were not faced with judgment and death, but with light and life!

Scripture makes clear a very close association between God and light.  It wants to convey to us that it is only in God that we can find life.  When creating the world, God was the one who said, “Let there be light.” (Gen.1:3).  We all know that we are totally dependent on physical light for life.  Plants need light in order to grow.  Without the sun, life on this earth would soon cease.

This also applies spiritually.  We need the light of God’s presence in our lives.  Without it, we are dead.  Consider the words of David in Psalm 27.  He sang, “The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?  And in the same psalm, “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.  So we see that God is our light, and that He gives us life.

The close association between God and light carries through in the New Testament.  Already at the beginning of his gospel, John tells us that Christ is “the true light that gives light to every man.” (Joh.1:9).  Later Jesus Himself also made this clear.  In John 8:12 He said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  In John 12:46 He said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”  Thus Jesus calls us to believe in Him and follow Him, so that we may move from darkness to the light.  From the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God.  From death to life!

That is precisely what Pharaoh refused to do.  In our text he again tried to negotiate a compromise with God.  He was unwilling to repent from his hardness of heart.  He refused to heed God’s command to let His people go.  When Moses was unwilling to accept Pharaoh’s attempts to strike a deal, Pharaoh got angry.  He said to Moses, “Get out of my sight!  Make sure you do not appear before me again!  The day you see my face you will die.” (Exo.10:28).

There is a bit of divine humour worked into our text.  Pharaoh says to Moses that he will not see his face again.  As if, at that moment Moses could.  Remember, at that time it was dark in the land of Egypt.  Thick darkness, that could be felt.  Pharaoh had summoned Moses, and he came.  But it was not like they had eye contact.  For their meeting took place in pitch black conditions.

Pharaoh dismisses Moses with an unveiled threat: I’ll kill you if you show your face to me again.  You come into my presence, and I’ll kill you on the spot!  But these words are going to come back to haunt Pharaoh.  Moses indicates that it is true that he would never appear before Pharaoh again.  But the next time they came in contact, it would not be Moses that died.  Instead it would be Pharaoh who was killed.  The darkness that came upon Pharaoh and Egypt, was symbolic of their impending doom.  The current darkness upon the land was symbolic of Egypt’s destruction and Pharaoh’s death.

Our text has rich application to our daily lives.  Scripture repeatedly warns us against walking in darkness, and calls us to live in the light.  God’s Word makes a clear distinction between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness.  It warns us that if we walk in the darkness today, and do not repent, we will remain in the darkness forevermore.

Paul speaks about this in his letter to the Ephesians.  He says in chapter 4:17-18, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”  Paul makes it clear that the ungodly are darkened in their understanding.  They live in folly and ignorance.  They remain in slavery to sin and Satan because of a hardening of their hearts.

Paul explains to the Ephesians that they too were once like that.  He says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light.”  Paul explains that as Christians we are to show forth the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.  We are to show forth goodness, righteousness, and truth, finding out what pleases the Lord.  We are to have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather to expose them.  Then Paul utters a call to those who are asleep, to those who are dead in their sins, to those who walk in darkness.  He says, “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

You see, beloved, in this world there are two kinds of people.  There are those who belong to the light, and those who belong to the darkness.  There are those who love Christ and seek to serve Him, and those who hate Christ and who show this by doing their own will.  The difference between these two is a difference between life and death.  Those who are of the light have life; those who walk in darkness are under God’s curse.  If they persist in their ways, they will be cast into outer darkness (Matt.22:13; 25:30).

So, beloved, what kind of person are you?  Are you walking in the darkness or in the light?  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Joh.3:16).  Do you believe in Jesus Christ as the Light of the world?  Do you seek your hope and salvation only in Him?  Or are you someone who loves the darkness rather than the light (Joh.3:19)?  The answer you give to these questions is very important.  It spells the difference between life and death.

The apostle John makes this very clear in 1 John 1:6.  He says, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.  To walk in darkness is the same as being controlled by the sinful desires of the flesh.  If we are controlled by desires for the world rather than desire for God, it doesn’t matter if we say we have fellowship with God – we don’t.  Instead we walk in darkness.  To claim a connection with Christ, and yet live a sinful lifestyle is hypocrisy.  Faith in the Son of God will manifest itself in fruits of faith.  If the Spirit lives in us, the light of Christ will shine from us.

In 1 John 1:7 John gives the positive side of the application of the teaching that God is light.  He says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  Walking in the light is the opposite of walking in darkness.  It means that we dwell in sweet communion with our God.  It means that we will seek the fulfilment of all our desires in Jesus Christ, rather than in the fleeting pleasures this world has to offer.

Beloved, how is that with you?  Does the light of Christ shine forth from you?  When people meet you, are they drawn to you?  Do they sense that there is something different about you?  Do they see calmness in the face of adversity, fearlessness in the face of attack?  Do they sense the fullness of your joy, the peace that surpasses understanding, the certainty of your hope in God?  Or are you no different to them than your unbelieving neighbour?

Yes, beloved, like you I’m aware that our lives are not perfect.  I only have to look to myself to note many sins, many weaknesses, many shortcomings.  Yet I know that I’m a child of God, and that He has granted His Spirit to me.  It is the Spirit who helps us to live as children of the light.  We all know that there is a distinct difference between light and darkness.  If we walk with God, then our lives will reflect that.  Then the light of Christ will shine from us!  Then we may continue on in communion with God, now and forevermore.  May God help us to walk in the light by the power of 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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