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Mar 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 18, 2018 – Exodus 9:13-chapter 11

An End to Oppression

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh. Tell him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says,: Let my people go, so they can worship me. If you don’t, I will send more plagues on you and your officials and your people. Then you will know that there is no one like me in all the earth. By now I could have lifted my hand and struck you and your people with a plague to wipe you off the face of the earth. But I have spared you for a purpose–to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth. But you still lord it over my people and refuse to let them go. So tomorrow at this time I will send a hailstorm more devastating that any in all the history of Egypt. . . .’ “ Exodus 9:13-18

Intro: At this point in the story, Israel is not yet a nation

They are a slave people – their identity is tied to Egypt
– oppressed and exploited, they cried out for relief
• Yahweh, the God of their ancestors, has heard them
◦ he has stepped into the world to rescue them
• at first he sent a request to Pharaoh to release them to him
◦ but Pharaoh responded by tightening his grip on his slaves
– now God has launched an assault on Egypt; the infamous plagues
• the first few plagues were annoying, the next were painful
◦ we observe this increase in magnitude and danger
• preparing Pharaoh for the worst, God reveals his purpose:

to spread my fame throughout the earth
Robert Alter points out, “The Exodus story is conceived as an establishing of the credentials of the God of Israel for all humankind.”

◦ of course, the story is more than Yahweh making his name known to the world
◦ the primary theme of Exodus is a complete salvation
(“complete” is not only out of, but is also into
i.e., a fuller, richer life and a better place in life)

9:13-35 The seventh plague: thunder, lightning, hail and fire

This time, God not only announces plague,
– but he gives the Egyptians instructions to avoid its deadly force
• they will be protected by finding shelter indoors
◦ in two previous plagues, God made a distinction

For example, God told Pharaoh, I will make a clear distinction between my people and your people (Ex. 8:23)

• in this instance, the Egyptians given opportunity to share Israel’s protection
◦ as a result, Egypt is divided — some are beginning to take Yahweh seriously
◦ the others paid no attention to the word of Yahweh
– in verses 27-28, Pharaoh makes a confession and requests prayer

This time I have sinned, he confessed, The LORD is the righteous one, and my people and I are wrong. Please beg the LORD to end this terrifying thunder and hail . . . .

• although this looks like a good sign, verse 34 exposes the truth

But when Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail, and thunder had stopped, he and his officials sinned again, and Pharaoh again became stubborn.

◦ confession and prayer alone do not effect change
• a person can say righteous words from an evil heart
◦ if I do not own my confession with my whole body and soul, nothing changes
◦ I remain the same obstinate person

10:1-21 The eight plague: An invasion of locusts

10:1-2, The men and women of Israel were just getting to know God
– what they learned through God’s display of power was foundational
• passing it on from generation to generation,
◦ would guarantee Israel’s life with God into the future
◦ it was in knowing God that they came to know themselves
(they would no longer be defined by slavery)
• as important as this knowledge is, future generations will need more than information
◦ they will need to experience this salvation for themselves
◦ we will get to that part next week

In verses 7-11, Pharaoh’s officials have had enough
– they went to Pharaoh and tried to reason with him

Let the men go to worship the LORD their God! Don’t you realize that Egypt lies in ruins?

• Pharaoh listened to them, but being suspicious, he asked Moses for details,

But who exactly will be going with you?

◦ the last thing he wanted to hear was, We will all go
◦ and to insure there was no misunderstanding, Moses specified,

young and old, our sons and daughters, and our flocks and herds. We must all join together in celebrating a festival to the LORD

• the facts of their departure are too obvious to miss
◦ they were not planning on returning to Egypt
– once again, Pharaoh threw Moses and Aaron out and slamed the door
• so the locust arrived and devoured whatever vegetation remained in the land
• then, after another superficial confession by Pharaoh, the locusts were removed

Three phrases appear here that we will find again

east wind
Red Sea (or sea of reeds)
Not a single one (of the locusts)

• after leaving Egypt, Israel will come to this same body of water
◦ Pharaoh and his army will be hot on their heels to capture them
• there,

at the Red Sea
God will use an east wind to create a path through the water
but drown Egypt’s army so that not a single one will survive (Ex. 14:21-28)

– even after escaping Egypt, Israel was not out of danger
• as long as Pharaoh and his army survived, they would not give up
• Pharaoh’s control over the Israelites had to be broken
◦ only then could God’s people begin to enjoy their freedom

10:10-29 The ninth plague: An uncanny darkness

Some commentators have trouble with a darkness so thick you can feel it
– perhaps they’ve never experienced total darkness
• it closes in on you and can feel suffocating
– one vacation, Barb and I took the twins and a friend of theirs to Flagstaff
• while there, we explored a volcanic ice tunnel
• deep inside, we off our flashlights and tried to sit in total silence
◦ they could not take more than a few seconds of it
◦ it’s easy to image how a few hours in that darkness could drive a person crazy

In verse 24, Pharaoh offered Moses a compromise

God and worship the LORD, but leave your flocks and herds here

– he wanted to make certain something had them anchored in Egypt
• he assumed that their possessions would bring them back
• can you see how Pharaoh still believes he is in control?
◦ he’s convinced that he will have the last word
– Moses’ response is impressive – he has stepped up
• in his last argument with Pharaoh,
◦ he has become the man God envisioned

Chapter 11 needs some explanation

Moses’ last conversation with Pharaoh in chapter 10 broke a pattern
– their previous encounters were fairly consistent

Moses (or Aaron and Moses) announced the coming plague
The plague arrived
Pharaoh responded to the plague

– in this instance, Pharaoh summoned Moses
• he attempted a negotiation with Moses’ demands, but failed
◦ then Moses left Pharaoh’s presence without announcing the next plague
• it feels like something is missing

What is happening in the narrative is that the flow of time has been interrupted
– events are jumbled because the storyteller wants our attention
• we are coming to the last plague that will finally secure Israel’s liberation
◦ God will be etch it into Israel’s memory forever
• so the storyteller slows down the action
◦ in this way, he emphasizes what it is that God wishes to reveal
– as a result, chapter 11 contains a speech that belongs in chapter 10
• the speech is sandwiched between two of God’s messages to Moses
◦ that is, two messages with which we are already familiar
• the New Living Translation indicates the displacement of Moses’ speech
◦ it does so by introducing it in the past tense, Moses had announced to Pharaoh . . . (v. 4)

Moses concludes with these words:

All the officials of Egypt will run to me and fall to the ground before me. “Please leave!” they will beg. “Hurry! And take all your followers with you.” Only then will I go!

– that last line is a stinger, Only then will I go!
• up to now, Moses has been wasting his breath arguing with them
• but Pharaoh and his officials have refused his petitions
◦ so Moses will remain there until they have been humbled by the final plague

Only when Pharaoh and his officials are on their knees begging, only when there are no more false promises or compromises or empty confessions, only when Egypt’s grip is finally broken and Pharaoh is so eager to get rid of you that he will force you all to leave (v. 1), then and only then Moses would finally lead God’s people out of Egypt.

◦ and they would not leave like runaway slaves, but like a victorious army, carrying with them the plunder of their enemy

Conclusion: Imagine a conference of patriotic Americans in a large auditorium

How would react if someone announced that they were not living in freedom, but slavery?
– probably much like the crowd whose feathers were ruffled when:

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “Your are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”  
(Jn. 8:31-33)

• Jesus then explained, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin (Jn. 8:34)
• like any addiction, this is a form of slavery that sneaks up on a person
◦ we do not realize we are being taken over until we cannot break the habit
◦ Paul stated the case like this:

Don’t your realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living (Ro. 6:16)

Think for a moment about your computer, tablet or smart phone
– when using them, most of us don’t think about what goes on inside them
how a program or app works doesn’t really matter to us
◦ we only pay attention to what we do with them
• this is similar to how our nervous system works
◦ we don’t think about all the nerves and muscles inside us
◦ even though they work round the clock
– every movement, sensation, thought, and emotion
• is connected to an electrical, chemical action in the brain and nervous system
◦ these have been programmed by life experience, education and repetition
◦ and the majority of these programs run automatically and unconsciously
• this includes most of our thoughts and emotions
◦ we are not aware of how every thought or emotions has been triggered
◦ nor do we realize how every thought is connected to an emotion and vice versa

Once the brain learns to react in a certain way, that reaction becomes automatic
– consciously, we may not know why we responded to a remark with anger
• or with hurt feelings, shame, fear, or disgust
◦ our brain cells are simply doing what they’ve been trained to do
◦ and they operate without our being aware of them or effect on us
• these are the programs that form our internal belief systems and define reality
– the way we experience life and other people seems normal to us
• like there is no other way to think or feel
◦ that anyone else standing where we stand would see the same things
◦ think the same thoughts, feel the same feelings, have the same emotions
• but, in fact, there are eight billion different ways to see, think and feel

When Jesus or Paul talk about being slaves to sin,
– they are referring to behavior that is so automatic we act without thinking
• or if we think, we can hardly imagine another way to react
• we are controlled by all of this below-the-surface activity
– both Hebrew and Greek, the word for sin means “to miss the mark”
• in Romans 6, Paul says that our old self is enslaved to sin
◦ the only way to be free is for it to be crucified with Christ
◦ the old self dies so we can become a new person in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17)
• Paul explains how the old self dies with Christ in baptism (Ro. 6:3-7; Col. 2:12)

God said he could have erased Egypt with one swipe of his hand
– so why did he send so many plagues?
• well, what does it take to be set free?
◦ our old self (old habit/addiction) is like Pharaoh
◦ it releases its grip for a moment, then clamps down again
• Israel became a new and free people at the Red Sea
◦ that is where their slavery to Egypt ended
◦ Paul referred to that event as their baptism (1 Cor. 10:2)

Our freedom begins when we wake up to our slavery
– when we realize how we are missing God’s mark for our lives
• once we become aware of, and identify what controls us,
• we can, with God’s help, begin to erase those programs and write new ones

Within the last couple of weeks, I became aware of one of the attributes of my old self that has continued to enslave me and cause me to miss the mark. I have labeled it “overwhelming oppression.” I discovered that it is easily triggered and incapacitating. One morning as I sat silently in God’s presence, I presented it to him and waited to see what he would do with it. The impression came to me that Jesus was right there. Then he spoke (I won’t speculate on whether it was merely in my imagination or Spirit to spirit).
“Chuck, you have many scars within. I am sorry.”
My immediate impulse was to say, “Lord, it’s not Your fault.” But instead I said, “Thank You, Lord. Your sorrow heals them all.”

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