Sermon for Sunday, April 18th, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Exo 4:1-9 ESV] 1 Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.'” 2 The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” 3 And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. 4 But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”–so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand– 5 “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” 6 Again, the LORD said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. 7 Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. 8 “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. 9 If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”
New Testament reading:
[2Ti 3:1-9 ESV] 1 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. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
[Jhn 10:25-38 ESV] 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” 31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If he called them gods to whom the word of God came–and Scripture cannot be broken– 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37 If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38 but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”
[Exo 6:28 – 7:24 ESV] 28 On the day when the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, 29 the LORD said to Moses, “I am the LORD; tell Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I say to you.” 30 But Moses said to the LORD, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?”
1 And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. 2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. 3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” 6 Moses and Aaron did so; they did just as the LORD commanded them. 7 Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh. 8 Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.'” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. 14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” But so far, you have not obeyed. 17 Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.”‘” 19 And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.'” 20 Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile.
Pharaoh is King of Egypt. But God is King of Kings.
Now in our series in the Exodus we come to the plagues of God upon the Egyptians. The book has been building to this point. Moses and Aaron have come from Midian to lead the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, but Pharaoh’s heart is hardened and he will not let them go. God then begins to tighten the ratchet strap on Pharaoh, pulling on him with more and more force until finally Pharaoh will break—he will relent and let the people go. But Pharaoh is not going to give in easily. He is the most powerful ruler on the earth and is defeated only by God.
This account then gives the glory to God, not to Moses or Aaron or anyone else.
It is God who brings the plagues.
It is God who frees His people.
It is God who defeats Pharaoh.
God alone is the King of Kings.
I. The Plagues are Given for the Glory of God (6:28-7:7)
First, we find that God teaches Moses and Aaron to rely on Him.
Moses said to the LORD, “Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips. How will Pharaoh listen to me?”
God will give Moses the words to say. And he’ll even give him his brother Aaron to say those words to Pharaoh. Moses is the prophet of God. But since Aaron acts as the spokesperson or prophet of Moses, Moses is like God to Pharaoh. What Moses says is the truth, given by the King of Kings himself. Moses will relay the words of God to Aaron and Aaron will relay them to Pharaoh.
Pharaoh will not listen. But this is all in plan of God. Now God will make His glory known to Egyptians and Israelites alike through the plagues; visible, powerful signs for all to see that God is King of all.
Moses and Aaron themselves are old men. Here we find that Moses is 80 years old and Aaron is 83 years old. This is to say, it is not because they are powerful warrior-kings that Pharaoh and his army will be defeated. Their age is provided to given glory to God and show His power. They are not strong men. They are 80 and 83 years old, respectively. They were probably quite healthy, but one’s physical strength diminishes with age. One of my 90 year old friends — I have multiple friends in their 90s! — has told me that he most notices his diminished strength when lifting something overhead. The very fact that he still attempts such things is impressive in my opinion.
So God’s power is emphasized, not Moses’s or Aaron’s.
And this has an important application when it comes to evangelism and the Christian life.
Application: People will hear you in accord with the will and plan of God.
Perhaps like Moses, you say “Who will listen to me?” Who am I? Weak, feeble, scared. How can I lead anyone to Christ? How can I have success in evangelism, discipleship, or counseling?
Know this: The success is of the Lord. It is not our success nor in our power to succeed. But we, like Moses and Aaron, are given the words to say and the task to accomplish. Rather than having direct personal revelation from God, we are given His Word in the entire Bible. It is those words that we are to give to others. And I do not mean only the verbatim words, but also the good and necessary implications of the Scriptures. We are to proclaim, to teach, and to live the Word of God.
But the ultimate success of our endeavors is dependent on God. He alone makes the plant to grow and he alone gets the glory.
So we are to be encouraged that:
When it is in His plan, your evangelism will bring disciples.
When it is in His plan, your training of your children will raise up believers.
So indeed continue on with your calling. And do not be depressed if your efforts have failed in your own eyes. For Moses’s and Aaron’s efforts might seem to be failing. But all things work together for God’s glory and for the good of those who believe in Him.
Even the plagues upon Egypt are for the glory of God.
Calvin says: “God willed that Pharaoh should pertinaciously resist Moses, in order that the deliverance of the people might be more conspicuous.”
Translating that into English, Calvin is saying that all of these miracles that will occur in Egypt will show God’s power to all the people, both Israelites and Egyptians, for his glory. It is not Pharaoh who is supreme, but God.
II. A Pre-Plague Sign (7:8-13)
Before God sends the plagues he gives a sign to Pharaoh. It is the story of the staff being turned into a serpent and then back into a staff.
Back in chapter 4 this miracle was used to convince the Israelites that Moses is sent by God. Now the same miracle is used to show Pharaoh that Moses is sent by God.
But now when Moses are Aaron perform the miracle, the magicians of Egypt in a sense match the performance, though we are not told how.
I think from the text that the magicians are not doing “sleight of hand” but are either allotted some ability, or merely claiming an ability when God in fact does the miracle.
We’re not told the names of the magicians here either. But, very interestingly, Paul tells us their names in the New Testament! They are named Jannes and Jambres. Speaking of others in his own time, Paul says “Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.” These names seem to have been passed down through the tradition of the Jews. And it is not unreasonable at all to think that the tradition would have remained in the knowledge of the people until the time of Paul despite 1500 years passing since Moses’ time. We know that they kept detailed information on their history and even their genealogies for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
These magicians, Jannes and Jambres, are called “wise men.”
Calvin says: “It is remarkable that they are honourably called “wise men” by courtesy, although they were but inventors of deceit, and destitute of sound learning. For although astronomy flourished among them, and the study of liberal arts was cultivated, it yet appears from the context that they were devoted to many foolish imaginations, nay, that all their degenerate science was but vanity.” – Calvin 148
The magicians of old had a degenerate science that was but vanity.
Are today’s scientists any better? Always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.
I studied a considerable amount of science in earning an engineering degree from one of the better universities.
What I found then and now is that many scientists miss the bigger picture. Their view of philosophy and of the world in general are all wrong.
There are many great errors that scientists make today. I’ll note 4 in particular.
Error 1. Scientists are in error when they claim that the world is 4.5 Billion years old. (Debates over the age of the earth have been going on for many years. Evidence is marshaled in one direction and another. But the Scriptures — God’s own word — repeatedly and consistently have it that the world is thousands of years old, not billions. And in remarkable discoveries in recent years—time and again — there has been found dinosaur tissue. Not dinosaur fossils, or even dinosaur bones, but the flesh of dinosaurs. And scientists have been scrambling to figure out how tissues could have survived for millions of years. They previously argued that such was impossible. Now that such tissues have been found they have to reconsider their beliefs. Will they admit that the Bible is right? Or will they, like Pharaoh, harden their hearts and continue to fight against God?
Error 2. Scientists are in error when they claim the earth is either dangerously cooling (as they said in the 70s) or dangerously heating up (as they said in the 90s). In fact, they’ve become so confused on this subject that they’ve changed the term to “climate change” – a term so meaningless that they can never be wrong. All predictions are right because the climate always changes.
Error 3. Scientists are in error when they claim that humans are descended from animal ancestors and when they claim that all animals are descended from a common ancestor. Many—even secular—thinkers are more and more doubting the theory of evolution. The problems are just too many. So difficult are the problems for how life may have emerged and spread on earth that many have begun to speculate that Aliens from another planet seeded our world with life. But all this does is push back the problem to how life emerged on some alien world. The difficulties however are not so difficult for the Bible-believer who knows that God created the world and all that is in it; all that lives and breaths including humans who live, move, and have their being in God.
Error 4. Scientists are in error when they claim you can choose your own gender. Now we MUST act in a Christian manner and show kindness to all people, even the most confused and deranged in our world. Yet I must say that all this business today of people attempting to change their body from male to female or female to male is a lie of Satan. The fact is no one has ever succeeded in changing gender. They sadly have mutilated themselves and drugged themselves. Some have awoken to it and regretted their decisions.
Now these scientists, promoting all these worldly errors, are the “wise men” of today. Foolish. They are fools.
This is not to say all scientists fall into that description. Many do honest work. But those who ignore God are “wise” only in their own minds.
Their theories are demolished by the truth of God.
So Aaron’s staff swallowed up staffs of the Egyptian magician. Aaron’s God is the bigger God. The True God.
And still, despite all of this, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.
So the Lord brings the first (of ten) plagues upon Egypt.
III. The First Plague (7:14-24)
Pharaoh’s heart is hard, like a log with many knots. But each plague will act like another blow of the axe or maul upon it. The log stubbornly stays intact. But God is preparing for a final blow to defeat Pharaoh.
The first blow, the first plague is that of the Nile turning into blood.
For the Egyptians the Nile was absolutely essential to their livelihood. Nearly all of their people lived near its banks and depended on it for water and for food.
For us believers, while water and food are essential to our bodies, we know that it is God who provides all things including water, food, and the very preservation of our being and existence.
God is bigger than Pharaoh. And God is bigger than the Nile. That is proven in this first plague.
20 Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.
Blood is a frequently a symbol of death. And death is soon coming, perhaps has already come, to many in Egypt. They become so desperate for water that they dig in the ground besides the river to find fresh water.
The magicians—those “wise men”—are said to have done the same; they are said to have also turned water into blood. We are not told how, but they may have used the opportunity of the miracle to claim it as their own.
Still we find that “Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened” and “he would not listen to them (Moses and Aaron).”
But the text also reminds us that this is “as the LORD had said.” The Lord had told Aaron and Moses and Pharaoh would not listen to them. His heart remains hard. The text even says “Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart.”
Even this! How stubborn. How hard-hearted. His people are dying, but he will not relent. You can see something very selfish of Pharaoh here. While his people are struggling, he goes away into the comfort of his own house.
The Lord God however, when his people are struggling, he comes to them! Here he has sent Moses and Aaron to rescue them. But ultimately God will send his own son Jesus Christ to rescue His people from their sins. God himself will come to His people, not hide away in His own house.
The sign above Jesus Christ on the cross read “King of the Jews.” For indeed that is the truth. The Pharisees wanted Pilate to change the sign to say “He claims to be King of the Jews.” But Pilate said “What is written is written.”
Jesus Christ is King of the Jews. But even more he is King of all. He does not hide in safety, but comes to the world and dies for the sins of his people. He is God in the flesh, who cares for his people.
A good king in the ancient world would lead his people in battle. Jesus, in his death on the cross, and in his resurrection is our leader in the battle against sin and the devil.
In the book of Revelation, the lamb Jesus Christ is called “Lord of lords, and King of Kings.”
He is the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, forever and ever Hallelujah. Praise the Lord.