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Author:Rev. Joe Poppe
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Congregation:Redeemer Canadian Reformed Church
 Winnipeg, Manitoba
Title:With the tenth plague, the LORD delivers His people from slavery by killing the firstborn of Egypt
Text:Exodus 11 (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.11:1-12:13; 12:29-42


Text: Exo.11

With the tenth plague, the LORD delivers His people from slavery by killing the firstborn of Egypt.  We’ll consider:

  1. God’s fierce judgment on Egypt.
  2. God’s wondrous grace on Israel.
  3. God’s awesome conquest of Pharaoh.





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,

            We serve the living God of the heavens and the earth.  The Almighty Lord and King over all.  A God whose plan is good, and whose purpose prevails.  When the LORD sets out to accomplish something, it happens.  All God needs to do is speak the word, and it is done.  That happened already in creation.  God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” (Gen.1:3).  That also happens in redemption.  God said to Pharaoh, “Let My people go.” (Exo.5:1).  Our text this morning shows us how the LORD provided such a great deliverance for Israel that the Egyptians begged them to leave.

            The fact that God’s word has effect is clear from Scripture.  Isaiah teaches us that the Word of the LORD does not return to Him empty, but that it accomplishes what He wills.  In Isaiah 55:10-11 the LORD says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

            God had spoken His word to Moses, sending him to Pharaoh to bring His people the Israelites out of Egypt (Exo.3:10).  God had spoken His word to Israel, “I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.” (Exo.6:6).  God had spoken His word to Pharaoh, “This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.  If you refuse to let them go, I will plague your whole country…” (Exo.8:1-2).  In our text we’ll see how the LORD fulfills His Word, by bringing the tenth plague on Egypt.  I preach to you God’s Word under the following theme:

With the tenth plague, the LORD delivers His people from slavery by killing the firstborn of Egypt.  We’ll consider:

  1. God’s fierce judgment on Egypt.
  2. God’s wondrous grace on Israel.
  3. God’s awesome conquest of Pharaoh.

At the end of the ninth plague, the plague of darkness, Pharaoh had told Moses to get lost.  He said, “Get out of my sight!  Make sure you do not appear before me again!  The day you see my face you will die.”  With these words Pharaoh was trying to silence Moses.  In the ancient world, people thought that if you could silence God’s prophet, then God would no longer be able to execute His plan.  That is why at times the prophets were killed.  For people believed if you killed God’s mouthpiece, you could avoid coming under God’s judgment.

That was Pharaoh’s strategy.  He was trying to avoid any further plagues by silencing Moses.  By limiting Moses’ ability to appear before him, Pharaoh was trying to take control of the situation.  Now the question was: whose word would prevail?  Pharaoh’s word or God’s word?

Exodus 10 ends with Moses agreeing that he would never appear before Pharaoh again.  But what is striking is that unlike the other plagues, Moses does not leave Pharaoh.  With the other plagues we often read that “Moses left Pharaoh” (Exo.8:12; 8:30; 9:33; 10:6; 10:18).  But at the end of the ninth plague Moses does not leave.  God will not allow His prophet to be silenced.  He will not allow Pharaoh’s word to triumph.  God makes sure that Moses does not immediately obey Pharaoh’s command to get out of his sight.  Moses stays to deliver one more message from God.  It is not until Exodus 11:8 that Moses left Pharaoh.

The LORD is not silenced.  One final plague is announced.  This shows that the LORD is sovereign, that He is the mighty King of all the earth.  The LORD said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt.  After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely.” (Exo.11:1).  Please note, beloved, that the exodus will not be a concession on Pharaoh’s part.  He will not say, “Okay, now you may go.”  No!  In the end Pharaoh and the Egyptians will be begging the Israelites to leave.

Our text continues with an instruction that Moses had to pass on to the people of Israel.  Moses had spoken to them before the plagues began, but during the plagues the focus has been on the contest between Moses and Pharaoh, between the LORD and the oppressors of His people.  Now Moses needs to deal with some internal affairs.  The LORD instructs Moses to “tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” (Exo.11:2).  Before they left Egypt, they were to plunder the Egyptians.

This is the fulfillment of a prophecy the LORD spoke to Abraham more than four hundred years earlier.  In Genesis 15:13-14 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.”  This prophecy was now going to be fulfilled.

In verse 3 of our text an editorial comment is made.  It says that “the LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh's officials and by the people.”  From this comment we see that God’s plan was succeeding.  There was a reason why the LORD performed miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt.  It was so that the Egyptians would know that He was the LORD (Exo.7:5; 7:17; 8:22).  The fact that the Egyptians esteemed Moses and were favourably inclined towards the Israelites shows how much impact God’s mighty wonders had already had.

Yet while the people of Egypt recognised the LORD’s almighty power, Pharaoh did not.  His heart was hardened, and he would not let the Israelites go.  That is why it was necessary for Moses to announce one final plague on Egypt, and why in the end it was necessary for God to bring this terrible judgment on Egypt.

What does God announce?  Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: 'About midnight I will go throughout Egypt.  Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well.”  Do you know what this means, children?  What God said was that he would kill the oldest child in each family, and the first animal that was born to each horse or cow or sheep or goat in Egypt.  Imagine if God did that in our families.  There was not a home in the land where people would not be crying over the loss of life.

God was saying to Pharaoh, “You won’t let my people go out of Egypt.  So now I am coming to Egypt.”  That was not a happy announcement!  The presence of God is sweet to those who have been reconciled to Him.  There was no problem with God coming to Adam and Eve in the garden before the fall into sin.  They walked and talked with God.  But after sinning, Adam and Eve hid from God.  They could not face Him.  They were terribly afraid of Him.  When God comes among his enemies, He comes in judgment.

In our text God says that He was coming at midnight.  We’ve already noted that Ra, the sun god was the greatest of Egypt’s gods.  But at midnight, he would be nowhere to be found.  The Egyptians believed that when Ra sank in the west, it symbolized death and the underworld.  It is at this time that the LORD would come to bring His fierce judgment on the Egyptians.  They had severely oppressed His covenant people, working them hard to try and weaken them.  They had killed many of the baby Hebrew boys, by throwing them into the Nile.  Now the LORD would wreak vengeance on them.  Repaying them for their evil deeds.  Pouring our His wrath on the Egyptians.

Our text notes that “There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt-- worse than there has ever been or ever will be again.” (Exo.11:6).  This is not the first time that a loud crying occurred in Egypt.  In Exodus 2:23 the people of God cried out for deliverance because of their great oppression, and the LORD heard their cry.  In Exodus 5:15 the people of God cried out to Pharaoh for relief from their oppression, but Pharaoh turned a deaf ear to them.  Now the Egyptians will cry out to their gods with a loud wailing, but no one will hear them or help them.

Beloved, the severe judgment of God that came on Egypt foreshadows the terrible judgment that will come upon unrepentant sinners when Christ comes back on the clouds of heaven.  The Lord Jesus spoke of that time in Luke 23:30.  In that day people will cry out to the mountains, “fall on us,” and to the hills “cover us.”  They will not be able to stand before the judgment seat of God.  In their terror they will seek every possible escape.

After killing the firstborn, the LORD left Egypt behind - a land completely devastated, plundered, and in chaos.  In 2 Thessalonians 1 the apostle Paul speaks about God’s final judgment on those who do not know God or obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He said, “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord.” (2Thes.1:9).  The worst thing about God's final judgment on the wicked is that He will completely withdraw Himself from them.

That is what makes hell such a terrible place.  God will remove His presence and all His grace and goodness from there.  For those condemned to hell, part of the suffering will be a sense of loneliness, of having seen the glory of God and knowing that He is Lord of all, only to be cut off from Him.  Part of the suffering will be the realisation that this separation is permanent.  To have God turn His face deliberately away from you, forever - that is hell. It is the punishment that God will bring on all those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, and love Him and serve Him.  That is why Scripture says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb.10:31).

In our first point we’ve seen God’s fierce judgment on Egypt.  In our second point we’ll consider God’s wondrous grace on Israel.  Like in the previous plagues, the LORD does not deal with Israel in the same way as He dealt with Egypt.  In contrast to the loud wailing throughout Egypt our text says, “But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.' Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.”  (Exo.11:7).  Israel was the LORD’s people, and they would not fall under the curse that came on Egypt.

To emphasise the different ways in which the LORD would treat Egypt and Israel, Moses uses a figure of speech.  While there would be loud wailing among the Egyptians, “among the Israelites not a dog would bark.”  Do any of you have dogs?  Do you know what dogs do at even the slightest disturbance?  They bark.  Someone passes by, they bark.  Someone approaches your home, they bark.  Any kind of fuss around the place, they bark.  But while loud cries sounded and tears were shed in Egypt, Israel was at rest.  They did not face the death of the firstborn in their homes.

Why not?  Was this because the Israelites were such a good people?  Because they were so worthy, or so faithful?  Absolutely not!  That will become abundantly plain as they begin their wilderness sojourn.  They tested and tried the LORD’s patience to the max.  So why then did the LORD make a distinction between the homes of the Egyptians and the homes of the Israelites?  Why judgment and death on Egypt, while grace and life were given to Israel?

Because out of all the nations on earth, God had chosen them to be His people.  In His good pleasure, the LORD made Israel His own.  It is as the LORD says in Exodus 19:5&6, “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  Already half a millennium before the LORD had established His covenant with Abraham.  He had promised that Abraham’s descendants would live in the Promised Land.  The reason He saved Israel, and was bringing them up from slavery was because the LORD is always faithful to His promises.

So how was it possible for the LORD to save Israel when judgment came on Egypt?  Why didn’t the LORD come into the Israelite homes and kill their firstborn as well?  The reason God could show forth His mercy was that He provided a way to atone for the people’s sins.  We see this clearly in the sign the LORD used to make a distinction between the homes of the Israelites and the homes of the Egyptians. 

We could read of that in Exodus 12, where the LORD instituted the Passover.  The Israelites were to kill a lamb, and put its blood on sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they ate the lambs.  On the night when the LORD passed through Egypt to strike down every firstborn, He passed over the Israelite homes.  Every home where the LORD saw the blood, He passed over!  The blood was a sign that caused God to show forth mercy to His people.

It is not the blood of the lambs, slain in the Passover feast, which actually atoned for the Israelites’ sins.  But it pointed forward to the blood of the Lamb who was coming to take away the sin of the world (Joh.1:29).  In 1 Corinthians 5:7 the apostle Paul calls Christ our Passover Lamb.  Christ is the one who has come to deal decisively with sin.  For “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2Cor.5:21).

On the cross Christ suffered the wrath of God to pay for our sins.  He suffered under God’s most severe judgment, undergoing hellish agony for us.  For God withdrew Himself completely from His beloved Son.  God forsook Jesus, so that we might be accepted by God and nevermore be forsaken by Him.  God now grants Christ’s righteousness and holiness to all who believe in Him as their Lord and Saviour.  Christ’s suffering and obedience are ours, if only we accept Him in faith.  Thus we see that God’s wondrous grace on Israel and on us, is based only on the once for all sacrifice Christ offered for us on the cross.

This brings us to our final point.  In it we’ll consider God’s awesome conquest of Pharaoh.  Pharaoh still had a hard heart.  He tried to silence God’s Word by silencing Moses.  Even after Moses proclaimed the Word of the LORD about the upcoming death of the firstborn, Pharaoh refused to repent and let the people of God go.  But in the end the LORD would be victorious!

Moses speaks about the LORD’s glorious victory over Pharaoh.  He says to Pharaoh, “All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, 'Go, you and all the people who follow you!' After that I will leave.” (Exo.11:8).  While Pharaoh had just told Moses never to come back into his presence again threatening him with death, soon his officials would come bowing before Moses.  While Pharaoh had not allowed the Israelites to go, soon his officials would beg them to go.

The LORD was going to win a comprehensive victory over Pharaoh.  The LORD was going to be the all out winner against Pharaoh and Egypt.  In the end everyone would see how mighty and powerful the LORD was.  No one would doubt who had won the victory.  Consider the three following ways in which the LORD shows Himself to be the conquering King.

First, note that Pharaoh began the battle by oppressing Israel and ordering the death of the Hebrew baby boys.  They were to be cast into the Nile River, because the Hebrew people were multiplying and becoming too strong.  Yet God is the one who wins the battle by destroying the firstborn of Egypt.  He kills Pharaoh’s firstborn son, the next ruler of Egypt, one who was considered to be a son of the gods.

Second, note how Pharaoh had enslaved the Israelites.  He worked them hard.  They dug ditches to irrigate the Egyptian crops.  They made bricks and built cities to make Egypt a mighty world power.  But God destroyed Egypt – economically, militarily, and religiously.  And now the LORD demanded payment for His people’s services.  He commanded the people to ask their neighbours for articles of gold and silver and for clothing (Exo.12:35).  They gave freely, because they just wanted the Israelites gone.  Thus the LORD plundered the Egyptians (Exo.12:36).  You only plunder someone you have conquered!  It is a sign of the total conquest of the Sovereign LORD over Egypt.

Thirdly, note that it is not just the Israelites who leave Egypt.  Exodus 12:38 says that “many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds.”  Many living in Egypt defected from the Egyptians to join the Israelites.  These people recognized the LORD as the living God of the heavens and the earth.  They chose to associate themselves with the people of God rather than with the plundered and devastated Egyptians.  Another sign of the LORD’s awesome conquest of Pharaoh.

Thus we see that the LORD’s word did not return to Him empty.  It accomplished what He desired and achieved the purpose for which He sent it.  Through Moses the LORD had spoken about the mighty signs and wonders He would perform in Egypt.  He did them to bring His severe judgment on Egypt, for harshly oppressing His people.  He did them to provide redemption for His people, to deliver them from slavery in Egypt.  He did them to make known His glorious name throughout all the earth.

Today we live thousands of years after the events that took place in our text.  We know that God has fulfilled an even greater miracle than the mighty signs and wonders He performed in Egypt.  He has provided a much more comprehensive redemption than delivery from slavery in a foreign land.  God sent His one and only Son into human flesh to live among us sinful people.  The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us!  God handed His Son over to Satan on the cross, to suffer the torment and agony of hell.  Christ died to give us life.

And so beloved, when we celebrate Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, we have much for which to thank God.  We give thanks for God’s blessing on our crops and labour.  We give thanks for health and the ability to work.  We give thanks for employment and sufficient work.  For the food and drink with which the Lord sustains our physical lives.  For all the many blessings the LORD provides from the storehouses of heaven.

But beloved, don’t let that be all for which you give thanks.  Thank God especially for His mercy and grace in Jesus Christ.  For the victory Christ has won over sin, and Satan, and death.  For the fact that His Word has gone out, and that it has touched our hearts and lives so that we may know Christ as our Lord and Saviour.  For the fact that we may share in Christ’s victory, having life in Him.  For the hope this gives us as we travel on the way to our Promised Land.  Thank the Lord for the abundance of spiritual blessings He provides for us, His children.  If we thank God for these things, then our thanksgiving will bring glory to the Lord, our victorious King.  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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