Sermon for Sunday, May 23rd, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Exo 10:21 – 11:10 ESV] 21 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived. 24 Then Pharaoh called Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; your little ones also may go with you; only let your flocks and your herds remain behind.” 25 But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God. 26 Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve the LORD our God, and we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there.” 27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. 28 Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” 29 Moses said, “As you say! I will not see your face again.” 1 The LORD said to Moses, “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely. 2 Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.” 3 And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people. 4 So Moses said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, 5 and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. 7 But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ 8 And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you.’ And after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. 9 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.
New Testament reading:
[Col 1:13-20 ESV] 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
[Mat 24:36-44 ESV] 36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
How do you know that rain is coming? How do you know that soon there will be lightning and thunder and torrential rains? If it is day time, darkness that sets in, and this tells you that the storms are a-brewin’. Darkness comes before a storm.
Here in God’s 9th plague on the Pharaoh and the Egyptian we have darkness. The ominous darkness then leads to a promise of a 10th and final — and WORST — plague that is to come, the death of all the firstborn.
So we have in our text the Plague of Darkness and the promise of “Yet one plague more.” [REPEAT: The Plague of Darkness and the promise of “Yet one plague more.”]
I. The Plague of Darkness (The 9th plague)
The plague of darkness is the penultimate plague; the second to the last.
And with each plague we’ve been noting God’s power over each of the so-called gods of Egypt. Now we come to the one considered the greatest of all the Egyptian gods. Ra, the Sun-god. Now Yawheh shows his power over Ra by bringing darkness to the land.
It might seem at first that darkness is a lesser plague, not destroying much of anything. But while it does not bring physical destruction it brings mental torment. Just consider: THREE DAYS of darkness!
We surely take light for granted! We expect the sun to rise every morning and set every evening. The rising and setting of the sun is the epitome of regularity. In the ancient world you’d “set your watch on it.” And, without electric lights, you were entirely dependent on the sun to see your way through the day; to get any work done.
The lack of sunlight in the plague of darkness must have kept the Egyptians from any semblance of normalcy. It completely stopped them in their tracks. No one worked, no one even left their house. And it must have brought great fear! They must have been asking “What will happen to us?” “When will the sun return?”
We have in the English the phrase “in the dark” meaning a state of complete ignorance about something. The Egyptians experienced that proverbial truth as they experienced that literal truth. DARKNESS was over everything.
Just how dark was it? Was it like a power outage? Was it partly cloudy? Grey skies? No, it was pitch dark. The King James Version says “and there was THICK DARKNESS in all the land of Egypt three days.”
The Hebrew word – חֹשֶׁךְ – is the same word used in the creation account when before the sun was created and even before God said “Let there be the light,” it was the case that “the earth was without form and void, and DARKNESS was upon the face of the waters.”
But now in this plague the term is modified; it not just חֹשֶׁךְ but – חֹֽשֶׁךְ־אֲפֵלָה (chosek-apela). These are two words for darkness. Placed together it is something like darkness-darkness! Pitch-dark.
I’ve heard of coal miners explaining how dark it is in a coal mine. I haven’t experience that, but once on an elementary school field trip with my class I took an elevator down into the gypsum mines near my home town. Gypsum, you may know, is a rock on the soft side of the Moh’s hardness scale and it is used in things like the drywall in your house. And they mine it out of the ground and leave behind endless tunnels and caverns. And you can go down there and find shark teeth in the rocks and all sorts of interesting things. But if you turn out your flashlight—as we did—you’ll see darkness UNLIKE ANYTHING YOU’VE NEVER SEEN BEFORE! Our nighttime darkness just isn’t so dark. We have the moon and stars and city lights, even lightning bugs, and various other sources of light. But in the mines, 100 ft below the earth there is simply NO LIGHT. You cannot see your hand even if it is in front of your face. And it is quite disturbing. You could feel quite ill because of it. You might even wish for frogs, flies, and gnats; anything other than the frightening, disorienting darkness.
So let us not think that this was a light plague.
So what is Pharaoh’s response this time?
He again seeks to compromise on the clear word of God. Repeatedly God has said “Let my people Go.” And we all know by now that He means ALL His people.
Pharaoh even seems to get that picture, for he says “your little ones also may go with you.” He had previously said the men could go, now he adds “the little ones.” And I really think this implies that the women are allowed to go as well, not because they are “little ones” but because the “little ones” depend on them!
Women, what do you think would happen today if the men got together and with all the children hiked three days out into the wilderness and then hiked three days back? How do you think that would go? Men exhausted. Children crying! Teeth not brushed!
So Pharaoh is apparently willing to let all the people go. But, he compromises, demanding that the flocks and herds stay behind.
What does this teach us about Pharaoh and other evil men? John Calvin says “This passage again teaches us, that the wicked only partially yield to God.” [REPEAT: the wicked only partially yield to God. Pharaoh gives in, but only partially.
So does Moses approve the negotiation? Does he accept Pharaoh’s offer for all the people to go but not with the livestock?
No he does not. Moses points out that the herds and flocks must come. They are necessary as sacrifices to God. And God hasn’t yet specified which animals to be sacrificed, so they must all be taken.
But Pharaoh doesn’t back down. He will not let the animals go, and so still neither the animals nor the Israelites yet depart.
Pharaoh in fact is so incensed that he says “don’t come back or I’ll kill you.”
See, Pharaoh wants his negotiations to be considered. He might be thinking, “Perhaps Yawheh is powerful, but what about me?” “Don’t I get a seat at the table?” Can’t we find some middle ground here?
The answer is No. It is God’s command that matters. Not Pharaoh’s. Man’s desire is of no consequence compared to God’s command. God demands full obedience. He does not negotiate.
That is now 9 plagues that we’ve looked at in 6 sermons. But there is one more to come. And we’ll not quite get there today. But we do get to God’s promise of the coming of the 10th plague.
II. The Promise of Yet One Plague More
And this 10th plague is the plague of plagues. It is the very worst of them. God says, “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt.”
It is the plague of the death of all the firstborn.
The promise comes:
“Thus says the LORD: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, 5 and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. 7 But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’
This is the storm that comes after the darkness.
God no longer says to Pharaoh “Let my people go or else … I’ll send a plague.” Now it is “I’ll send this plague and Pharaoh WILL let my people go.” It will happen.
Chapter 11 starts off saying:
1 The LORD said to Moses, “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he WILL let you go from here.
God’s objective WILL be accomplished. No one stands in His way.
III. Deliverance from Darkness
We are now on the heels of the Passover. It is in the very next chapter. That night when God, true to his promise, brought death to the firstborn of all Egypt, but deliverance through the blood of the lamb for all Israel.
There is then Darkness and then Death, but there is also Deliverance.
And to think, I was going to title this sermon “Darkness and Death.” Imagine putting that on the sign outside! “Darkness and Death.” That would really draw in the people! So instead this sermon is titled “Darkness and Deliverance.” Having looked at the plague of darkness, we come then to deliverance, both in the Passover (which we’ll look at next week God willing) and also in Jesus Christ.
It is interesting that there was darkness before the death of the firstborn of Egypt, and there was darkness before the death of the only-begotten son of God.
In the Plague of Darkness in Egypt it was dark for 3 days; before Christ’s death on the cross it was dark for 3 hours.
We find this in Matthew 27:45 – “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”
Both Mark’s Gospel and Luke’s Gospel also recount this darkness.
While the children of Israel had light in Egypt, now comes upon them darkness in Jerusalem and all the land.
But just as physical death passed over the people of God in the Passover of Exodus, so spiritual death passed over the people of God in the Gospels. Jesus Christ is the lamb of God. And HIS blood was shed for the forgiveness of the sins of His people.
Paul says in [Col 1:13-20 ESV] 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
HE has done it! It is finished.
Death passed over Israelites in Egypt not because of anything they did, but solely because of God’s sovereign choice of them in election.
And death passes over the children of God in Jesus Christ not because of anything we do, but solely because of God’s sovereign choice of us in election.
Salvation is fulfilled in Christ on the Cross and he took – FULLY – the punishment due to us.
We are delivered from darkness and from death because of the death of Jesus Christ. Christ took upon himself the judgment of God so that we are no longer condemned but receive the gift of eternal life.
And because HE has done it, because “it is finished” we are to be assured of our salvation. For the power of God is far beyond the power of darkness and death.
Death has been conquered and Christ is Risen! Because He lives we shall live. God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. Praise be to God. Amen.