Exodus Day Twenty-Two
July 30, 2020, 5:00 AM

Plagues
Exodus 7:17, 8:22, 9:14

Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD.”

“That you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth.”

“That you may know that there is none like me in all the earth.”

Yesterday, we compared Moses and Pharaoh; one humble, the other, quite full of himself. As we look at the plagues on Egypt today, one further brief comparison might be helpful in understanding how Egypt found itself under the displeasure of Almighty God. Mark Scarlata compares the King of Egypt with The King— “The sacred authors present us with the reign of two distinctly different kings. Pharaoh does not hear the cries of his people and he refuses to acknowledge their suffering. He does not know their pain or understand that his nation is in utter ruin (Ex. 10:7). This earthly king stands in stark contrast to the heavenly king who hears, remembers, sees and knows the plight of his people (Ex. 2:23-25) and acts on their behalf to bring about justice and salvation.” (The Abiding Presence: A Theological Commentary on Exodus, SCM Press, 2018, p.91).

The "ruin” comes in the form of ten plagues on Egypt. The literary structure plagues have been analyzed and categorized over the years, and the consensus seems to be a division into three triads with a tenth and final, Egypt arresting plague, the death of their firstborn sons. As the plagues come upon Egypt, they seem to be growing in severity. The verses I’ve noted at the head of this blog entry mark out the three triads of plagues. In each one, God commands Moses to go to Pharaoh in the morning, early in the morning to bring the call for release (and repentance!)

Triad #1
Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him… Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD (7:15, 17).

1. Blood (7:14–24)
2. Frogs (7:25–8:15)
3. Gnats (8:16–19)

Significantly, after this third plague, the Pharaoh’s Magicians are brought to confess that “this is the finger of God.” (8:19). However, true to form, their Boss doesn’t get it with this first round of supernatural infestations. Each triad of trouble will grow more severe. With each triad, Pharaoh will grow in his thickness. He doesn’t get that Yahweh is Lord. Yet.

The second triad of three introduces a new wrinkle in the way the plagues are delivered: Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself to Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water… On that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth.” (8:20, 22). With these plagues, God begins to make a distinction between Egypt and Israel— Egypt will suffer; but Goshen will not be touched. God protects his own as “the apple of his eye.”

4. Flies (8:20–32)
5. Pestilence (9:1–7)
6. Boils (9:8–12)

As the boils are the first plague to impact physically and personally— the Magicians are clearly out of their league, and after the sixth plague of boils, the Magicians disappear from the Story. “The magicians could not stand before Moses.” (9:11).

The final triad— seven, eight and nine— comes: Then the LORD said to Moses, “Rise up early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 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.’” (9:13-14)

7. Hail (9:13–35) (The longest plague account of the ten!)
8. Locusts (10:1–20)
9 Darkness (10:21–29)

The ultimate plague comes with the first Passover. This night will become the Night of nights in perpetuity. In hindsight, the irony of all ironies, is that Pharaoh desired the death of firstborn Hebrew sons, and now his own firstborn are paying the tab on the cruel decree. [!]

10. Death of Firstborn (12:29–30)

The dark night of the tenth and final plague will forever memorialize the Exodus on the collective heart of God’s people. This event will be the benchmark of God’s faithfulness. Their children, and the children of their children, and all subsequent their childrens, will be raised on this Story, lest anyone forget: “Why is this night special?” Of course, in Jesus, we have the fulfilment of this observance in our sacrament of Communion, the Lord’s Table. Ironically, providentially, mind-blowingly, God’s Firstborn, His Only Begotten Son, will be given up on a dark day; upon the Cross; for the World, so that the World might be Passed Over. "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

It is convicting to me personally, that we do not utilize Communion similarly to impress on the hearts of our own children, by their participation, God’s faithfulness in Jesus. (Only baptized, confirmed children are to partake in Communion.) Instead, we have interpreted the Table as an adults-only event. We exclude our children. I do not speak here for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, or even the mainstream of Presbyterian thought. Even so, I endeavor to be a faithful servant in my Church; and will remain a faithful servant— I abide by our collective understanding of the Sacrament. But this question on Communion persists for me… and will not go away.


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