Exodus 9.13-15: God's Awe
January 4, 2009 Series: Exodus
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Exodus 9:13–9:35
Exodus 9.13-35: God's Storm
January 3, 2008
To be a Storm chaser[PICTURES]
I love storms. There is a TV show on called Storm Chasers where men and women jump into cars and chase storms across the mid-west. They "say" they are doing for scientific reasons, to measure the storms and learn about them in hopes of preventing or recognizing when they will come in the future. I would love to do that job. I love storms. I love driving in them, I love walking in them, I love playing soccer in them, I love the rain, the thunder, and the lighting. I like it when the power goes out, when trees fall, or when the wind blows so hard that you can feel the windows shake. And I would love to jump into a car that looks like a tank and drive straight into a storm.
Awe of Power
My attraction for storm is rooted in the awesomeness of their power. They create in me a sense of AWE-that feeling you get when you see a beautiful sunset or the birth of a child, or an incredible explosion of a volcano. AWE is the best word I can find to describe it. I could say "fear" but, unfortunately, that wonderful word has come to mean little more than being scared, and I'm not scared of any of those things. Defined, awe is partly emotional and partly intellectual combining a sense of dread, respect, and mystery and wonder. In those moments, you see and feel how small you are, you see an amazing display of power that scares you a bit, and yet, you see beauty that you want to know be close to.
Exodus 9 - 7th Plague/Hail
Psalm 19.1 says The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky aboveï»¿proclaims his handiwork. In today's text, God unleashes a perfect storm intended to demonstrate his POWER. God intended for this storm to declare HIS NAME-to show Pharaoh, the Egyptians, the Israelites, and us today, who He is-to give us more knowledge of him because it leaves us in AWE.
At this point, Pharaoh has experienced six different plagues: (1) Nile turned to blood, (2) frogs covering the land, (3) gnats infesting homes, (4) flies attacking people, (5) livestock dying (6) and boils covering people from head to foot. Throughout all of the plagues we see a God who is patient and slow to anger, mercifully tolerating the sin of unbelieving men that they might turn from their sins, but more so, that he might show the depth and riches of his glory and mercy for those whom he loves (Romans 9.22-23).
Read Exodus 9.13-15
Moses and Aaron begin the 3rd of cycles of three plagues. With each new cycle, they go before Pharaoh and, in God's Words, call Pharaoh to release the Hebrews who serve him to serve the one true God. Following each opportunity to repent, God declares that he will send a new plague signaling a new set of three that will be worst than the last. For the 7th plague, God tells Pharaoh that the plagues (meaning the rest of them) will be sent on HIS HEART so that they will know that there is none like me in all the earth.
Plagues on Your Heart
14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth.
Proverbs 4.23 say that the heart is the spring of life. The Jew understood the heart as essentially the whole man, with all his attributes, physical, intellectual and psychological, from which men thought and spoke. The heart governed whole of the INNER MAN and gives explanation for the behavior of the OUTER MAN. The heart is the home for man's sin and the focus of God's redemption or condemnation.
The Bible says it is the heart that God searches, the heart that is blind, the heart that speaks, the heart that will either love God or hate him. Scripture teaches that unless God gives a man a new heart, that heart will remain hard. Without a new heart, God's Word will not lead someone to KNOW the one God, it will in fact harden the heart further to deny and fight against the ONE God. Someone once said, "Someone once said, "The same sun that melts wax, hardens clay."In order to know God, he must give us a new heart that we might return to him. Je. 24:7 7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.
For by Now
15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.17 You are still exalting yourself against my people and will not let them go.
God tells Pharaoh that I have tolerated your sinfulness when I didn't have to. I doesn't take 10 plagues to free my people-but I have willed it so. I am slow to anger and patient, thus, I have shown you mercy in that I haven't ‘wiped you out the moment you disobeyed my Word. Praise God that he doesn't smite us the moment that we sinned. With as much as the average guy struggles with lust, you'd see us going up in fireballs on trips to the Supermarket!
God gives us a clear perspective on our hearts. Before the flood in Genesis 6.5 5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Then after ‘cleaning the world' with the flood he says, in Genesis 8.21 as Noah makes sacrifices to him, "21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth.
But because we don't actually recognize that we are ungrateful rebellious brats, we make light of our sins and ignore the MERCY that God shows us by not ending us. The plagues are merciful in the sense that God doesn't cut off Pharaoh or his people. Each plague is another opportunity and another and another and another for Pharaoh AND for anyone else who might hear to repent. 2Peter 3.9 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Raised you to exalt yourself
So God patiently endures Pharaoh's self-exaltation. God basically tells him, I raised you up to exalt yourself. I created you. I made you king. Ironically, you have been blessed and protected by ME that I might use your disobedience to show the Pharaoh, Egypt, Israel, and the WORLD who He is. And he has:
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18 Behold, about this time tomorrow I will cause very heavy hail to fall, such as never has been in Egypt from the day it was founded until now. 19 Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter,
God informs Pharaoh that the 7th plague is coming as a result of your disobedience. He says, using a phrase common with Pharaoh's who describe their own "greatness" that a BIG STORM is coming. For nearly 2000 years, Egypt had experienced various weather encounters, even hail, but in the area around Cairo the norm was to receive only about two inches of rain per year. For those times of exception, they had created various gods to worship that they might experience good weather for their crops. (Sky goddess Nut was "the mother of the sun-god Ra, whose role it was to protect the land from destructions that came down from the heavens; The god of the wind was named Shu; The sky god of upper Egypt was named Horus; The gods who protected the crops were Isis and Seth)
By grace, God tells Pharaoh that any one who gets their livestock in will be saved. If we understand the nature of this storm, then we'll probably recognize the act of grace that God is showing to people who clearly DO NOT have faith in God. Hail storms don't seem to be a very big deal around here. I have never really been in a hail storm that frightened me enough to stay inside. This storm was a storm unlike any other-a storm that demonstrated in perhaps a small way, the POWER of God, a storm that would fill us with AWE:
24 There was hail and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. 25 The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field.
The Bible has several other instances where hail falls from the sky and causes some level of destruction related to God's Wrath. But only here and in the book of Revelation do we really get some details about what happened. The book of
Heavy Hail: The Bible says it was a heavy hail. The hail I remember was anything but heavy, it looks like small Styrofoam. In large storms today, Hail can get the size of an inch across or so., sometimes as large as a golf ball, others the size of softballs. The largest recorded hail piece in the United States is about 7 inches in diameter and 18 inches in circumference, weighing just under two pounds-perhaps about the size of a volleyball. In this storm, hail ripped through roofs of homes and cars. BUT, if Revelation is any indication of what kind of storm this was, then that storm was nothing more than a fart in the wind. Revelation 16.21 21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe. The storm of the Exodus was this massive. It is the kind of storm we would sit with our mouths open in AWE, unable to speak as we saw beach ball size ice stones fall from the sky-crushing animals and breaking trees-large sycamore trees.
Thunder: The Thunder itself must have been deafening. In Scripture, Thunder is always connected with the voice of God. Often when God's voice thunders, it is accompanied by earthquake like effects, causing confusion and destruction. 1Samuel 7.10 10 As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the Lord thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they were routed before Israel.
Lightning (fire): If that is not enough, the Psalmist records a retelling of the plague. Psalm 78.48 He gave over their cattle to the hail and their flocks to thunderbolts. In addition to the large hail stones crushing cattle and devastating crops, the flocks of sheep are being electrified by thunderbolts.
Pharaoh's Repentance - "I have sinned"
As Pharaoh hears and sees the devastation of his land, he realizes he messed up royally. For the first time, the plagues have resulted in the death of his people. If it wasn't already, his land is devastated as his crops of flax used for clothing and barley used for food (and beer) is completely destroyed. Further, it is reported that the land of the Hebrews has not been touched. He calls for Aaron and Moses. Perhaps, Pharaoh has finally broken. Wouldn't you hate to be the guy how had to go and get them. I wonder how many they had to send.
27 Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, "This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Plead with the Lord, for there has been enough of God's thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer."30 But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the Lord God."
Moses Response & Our Experience
Moses tells Pharaoh that he will plead to the LORD but ADDS that he knows neither he or his servants really FEAR the LORD. The fact is, Moses has seen Pharaoh express the same kind of sorrow before, even if now he's using "religious" words.
He knows that just because someone SAYS they "sinned" just because someone SAYS they were wrong, just because someone SAYS God's Word is right, just because some SAYS a lot of things means NOTHING if behavior doesn't accompany it. Sound like anyone you know? Much like Pharaoh, there are many who do not fear God as they SAY that they do. There are many people go through a cycle of admitting their mistakes, admitting they were wrong, even declaring themselves sinful. But they don't stop sinning because they FEAR something else more than God. Something less than God fills them with AWE, something else's beauty captures their emotion, something else fills them with dread (or losing it), and something else fills them with mystery and wonder.
Three Different ways responses to God and His Word
But the question is NOT how do THEY, how does SHE, how does HE, respond to God and His Word. The question, how do you? In this passage I see three different ways modeled: Pharaoh, his servants, and Moses.
OPTION #1 - Pharaoh - those who do not fear God
Pharaoh does not fear God they DO NOT BELIEVE in the one true God. Apart from crying out to God when the @#$ his the fan, they do not even pretend to worship God. They are hostile and obstinate toward the God and his word. Without apology, they serve other Gods, practice other religions, or claim a pagan "spirituality" where their idols become their own happiness, own prosperity, and their own pursuit of personal pleasure-SELF-EXALTATION. These are the people who are self-indulgent. Their authority is either their own emotions or experiences through which they define what is good, bad, right, and wrong to soot their own personal preferences for the moment. Whatever they call "god" is little more than a tool to use and enjoy one's self forever.
Romans 1.29 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
OPTION #2 Servants - those who fear the "Word" of God
The Bible says that Pharaoh's servants, on the other hand, feared "the Word of God" enough heed his warning. These people follow listen to the Word of god if it benefits them. They will live upstanding moral "Christian" lives, feeling good about their own self-righteousness when they choose to obey. They view themselves as good people because they do the things that God asks them to do but, as Moses says, THEY DO NOT FEAR GOD himself. They give Him everything that he says he wants, except their heart. They love something else more than God. These people bother me the most because most of them pretend to believers AND most of them aren't. The true believers don't know what to think because, although sometimes the LOOK like the real deal, most of the time their own worshipping their idols. And the unbelieving pagans don't know what do with them because, although they claim to be "Christians", their lives don't look any different than theirs!
2Timothy 3.1-5 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.
Galatians 6. 7 says, 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
OPTION #3 - Moses - those who fear God
The text doesn't even mention the Israelites, so the only believer you have to look at is Moses. This is the man WHO FEARS God. This is the man for whom God's power, and beauty, and perfections fill him with AWE to the extent that he denies EVERYTHING else the world can offer in order to follow him. Think about how Moses has changed. He went from fearing God's call, to arguing about how no one would listen, all but refusing to go before the most powerful King in the world, accusing God of not coming through when he did to a man who FEARS God.
FEARS GOD MORE THAN MEN: He's a man who every couple of weeks God tells him to go before Pharaoh, declare to him the same message of repentance that he has heard for the last 6 months, and then tell him that more devastation is coming. He goes before a man who could kill him with a word because...God tells him to. He fears God more than what men can or can't give him.
FEARS GOD MORE THAN HIMSELF: He is never told how many plagues there will be, or when it will end. I imagine Moses is probably thinking of all the ways "He would do things." But he never says that. He doesn't trust what he knows, or sees, or feels, he obeys God's Word without excuse. He speaks the same truth to a man whom God says will not listen. And he goes to him every time Pharaoh suffers enough, he prays to God perhaps hoping Pharaoh will keep his word but trusting God is in control. He doesn't make excuses for why he can't obey, he doesn't complain that he's not popular, he doesn't list for God all the sacrifices he's making in order to obey. He fears and respects God's Wisdom more than his own.
FEARS GOD MORE THAN THE STORM- At this point the nation is completely decimated. When he goes to Pharaoh, the storm is still ongoing-it has not subsided. In the middle of the storm, he walks through miles of death and decay, and strangely he does the same when he leaves. 33 So Moses went out of the city from Pharaoh and stretched out his hands to the Lord, and the thunder and the hail ceased, and the rain no longer poured upon the earth. He does not stand in dread, respect, and wonder at the storm, but is filled with AWE for the God who sends the storm. What he sees with his heart overwhelms what he can sees with his eyes. He knows that he can walk into the middle of the storm and not be afraid saying to himself...HE SEES ME....HE KNOWS....HE HAS ME....I WILL BE STILL AND KNOW THAT HE IS GOD.
Conclusion - Jesus and the AWE of God
Do you fear God like that? Jesus himself warned us, Matthew 10.28ff 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven Today I stand to acknowledge Jesus Christ before you-because I fear Him. His power, and beauty, and love fill with me awe. I am not in Christ because I fear God, I FEAR God because Christ is in me. Jesus did not live to give me an example of how to love and obey, he lived and died that he might give me the very heart he lived it with-that he might live through me-that I might make much of God and less of myself.
For those who do not fear God, know that the storm is real and there is only one way to stop it.
For those who have given him lip service but not your heart, know that God is not mocked or deceived, and if you are living in sin, claiming to believe the Bible calls you a liar who does not have the Spirit of Christ in him. And, if that doesn't shake you...that only confirms it.
BUT...For those who are in Christ, for those who believe we are really sinners, for those who believe that Jesus really lived a sinless life for you, that Jesus really died in your place, that Jesus really rose from the dead to free us from bondage, ...for you who fear the Lord more than words, know that there is NO STORM big enough to overcome us.