Bible reading for Feb 27: Exodus 10; Luke 13.
"...that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD." (Exodus 10:2)
The natural order of things. We are enjoying the early spring weather here in southwest Virginia, with warmer breezes, birds singing, and green shoots and swelling buds all around. I like all of the seasons: the shade of our large maple on a hot summer day, the autumn colors, and a warm fire on a cold winter day. God's word tells us that these are gifts from God ("seedtime and harvest", Gen 8:22) and a testimony to his goodness (Acts 14:17; 17:26). This includes social order, as well, such as living under a just rule of law, being able to work and do business, going to church, having neighbors who care for you, celebrating birthdays, and enjoying the blessings of family and friends. We are given these gifts that we might give thanks and seek to know their Author, the giver of all good gifts. This is one reason we give thanks for every meal!
We see all of this undone in the judgment upon Egypt in plague and pestilence: water to blood, frogs, gnats, insects, cattle, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness. Everything goes haywire. God is the author of order, goodness, and fullness. He created life and order out of darkness and chaos (Gen 1). So his judgment upon a nation is not so much a destruction of nature as it is a disruption of the natural order (usually taken for granted), which brings a return to a level of disorder. It is a withdrawn blessing of the regular order of things. (Now, philosophic naturalists will say that even natural irregularities are natural, which is true in a sense, yet they cannot see that there may be higher causes at work than merely the mechanical. They are assuming we live in a closed universe, not an open one.)
From Exodus to Revelation. There are a number of parallels, or foreshadowing, between the plagues on Egypt and the judgments described in the book of Revelation. Egypt is specifically mentioned in Rev 11:8, and Moses in 15:3. In Revelation chapters 7, 8, 9, and 16 we see mention of pestilence, the darkened sun, hail (mixed with fire), some very strange locusts (who need a haircut), bodily sores, a sea of blood, and demonic spirits that look like frogs. Jesus himself in Matthew chapter 24 likewise speaks of environmental and cosmic catastrophes at the end. Along with wars (social disruption) these occurrences, which have always existed, will increase in magnitude and frequency like labor pains (Matt 24:8).
Meanwhile, Pharaoh continues to qualify and add conditions to his release of the Israelites. Any "repentance" he demonstrates is shallow and temporary. May that not be true of us!
"Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." (Luke 13:24)
All must repent (Luke 13:1-9). Even in considering what we think are the judgments of God -- which they may be -- we must be very careful not to read the wrong message into them. Jesus said, "...do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (13:4-5). Even in the case of the Israelites living in Egypt, the death of the firstborn male in each family was a judgment placed not only upon Egypt but also upon every Israelite family. Only the blood of the Passover sacrifice placed upon the door of the home would spare them from destruction (John 1:29). Any judgment of God, upon any individual or any nation, is a warning to all of us to repent.
The people of Jesus' day generally were unfruitful in God's sight (13:6-9). Case in point: the Sabbath day in the synagogue should have been a wonderful occasion for the healing of the disabled woman. Rather, it becomes a point of legalistic argument rather than celebration of this woman's liberation (13:10-17). Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like a small seed or a little bit of leaven, which will go largely unnoticed, but will grow and spread (13:18-22; cf Dan 2:35). So the Lord calls us to "enter through the narrow door". Many people will ignore the universal grace of God in nature (Acts 14:17; see post above). And many people will likewise ignore the call of the gospel for whatever reasons -- it's too lowly, too different, too simple, or too narrow. Like Pharaoh in the story of Exodus they will harden their hearts. And God says both to them and to us, "How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?" (Ex 10:3) And Jesus' message to Jerusalem (13:25-35) is also applicable to us: "How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!" (13:34) Judgment is inevitable -- whether upon Egypt, or Jerusalem, or America -- because God is a righteous God. Yet, for now the door of repentance still remains open!
Photo of locusts swarming in a grassland in Eswatini, Africa. Image credit: Encyclopedia Britannica.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. A PDF copy is available here.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.