What is God like? We are used to reading Exodus for the actions, but tonight, as we look at this passage, we’re looking at the details and seeing the God that it describes. Be like the man in Ps 1 – meditate on the Lord that you may bear fruit.
(A) God of the plagues: He knows the outcome of things we cannot see and reveals it in His time
1. What new information does God reveal to Moses in v1? (c.f. Ex 3:8, 10, 17, 20, Ex 6:1)
(c.f. Exo 3:8, 10) In earlier chapters, God had promised to deliver His people out of Egypt (c.f. Exo 3:8,10). Moses was also told that he was the one to complete that task (Exo 3:10). In the process, Egypt will be struck with wonders (Exo 3:20). Before the start of the plagues, God told Moses that Pharaoh would ultimately drive them out of Egypt (Exo 6:1). This is, however, the first time that God says that there is one more plague left. Prior to this, Moses was just told to tell Pharaoh about the coming plague. The Hebrew word for plague here carries the connotation of “striking”. The strike will be so hard that it will make a mark. The end is finally in sight for the people. With the next plague, the deliverance is almost at hand.
Notice how God did not give a timeline for the mission! God only gave a promise of deliverance, but Moses and Aaron did not know how long it’ll take. God knows the outcome of things even if we don't. He may reveal it to us in His time, but our obedience does not depend on this revelation. This final plague was also not a backup plan. God knew exactly how His plans will unfold. If you are struggling with doubt and uncertainty, and also unsure about where things are going, take heart! God sees and determines the outcome of things. We can place our trust in Him!
(B) God of the plagues: He provides for His people in the midst of tribulation
God also gave instructions to the people to ask their Egyptian masters for gold and silver (Exo 11:2). The Egyptians afflicted the people with heavy burdens, and made their lives bitter (c.f. Exo 1:11-14). They were mistreated and given hard service to carry out. They were also most likely exploited economically and not given proper wages. Drawing from all this, we can make some inferences as to why God gave them this instruction here.
- God is paying them back for years of hard labour and injustice under the Egyptians.
- God also providing for their material needs!
- He was plundering a nation who had willfully mistreated His people (c.f. Exo 3:21-22).
- God was also preparing His people for the time ahead in the wilderness. This gold and silver would be used to build the tabernacle later on.
- God’s provision for our needs ultimately point to His glory! God’s instructions and His people’s obedience work in this way.
- God provides and those who belong to the Lord lack nothing! If you’re struggling and in any need, know that God provides, even in the midst of trials. God never shortchanges us in His provision.
(C) God of the plagues: He raises up those whom He has chosen
By the time we reach Exo 11:3, we are able to notice a change in Moses. Contrast his actions and behaviour in chapter 11 with that in Exo 2:14-15. In earlier chapters, Moses tried to exact judgment on his own terms and in his own way. The Israelites rejected him and he also became a wanted man in Egypt. This was because he acted on his own judgment. Exo 3-4 marked Moses’ own crisis of confidence. After his initial encounter, the Israelites were resentful because their lives were made worse (c.f. Exo 5:21).
This was different in Exo 11:3. Despite his rejection initially, Moses grew to become a great man in Egypt, as well as in the sight of the servants and in the people. God raised Moses up for His purposes. This is a common pattern throughout the Bible. God works to raise those of lowly status, as well as those who have been rejected and also outcast. Years later, God would raise up a man who is rejected and scorned by man, all for the sake of accomplishing God’s purpose
and mission. Moses would be denied entry into the Promised Land because of his disobedience. But Jesus, the better Moses, was raised as our eternal Prophet, Priest and King.
God doesn’t just raise up BIG characters and special people. Each Christian has been chosen by God for His purposes. How do we know this? In 2 Cor 5:20, we are told that all Christians are ambassadors for Christ! This is the office that you have been given. What is the mission? We are ambassadors to a world in need of reconciliation. If you are facing rejection, persecution even, because you seek to honor God at home or in the workplace, rest assured that God will raise you up for His purposes and provide all you need. Take heart in the story in Moses’ life in Exo 2-5. If we just read the plagues, we might think that God is a terrible God that just judges and unleashes terrible things. But when we look at these 3 sections, we see that this is not so. God is a wise God with a plan to provide for a people that He loves. He doesn’t just judge arbitrarily.
(D) God of the plagues: He sets His people apart and distinguishes those who believe in Him
The plagues can be seen as God's terrible judgment over Egypt. In Exo 1:22, Pharaoh ordered the Egyptians to kill the male Israelite babies. They ordered the midwives to commit infanticide. God did not just ignore such actions but in Exo 4:23, God declared the Israel was His firstborn son, and if Pharaoh did not let Israel go, God will kill Pharaoh’s firstborn son. God was warning them right from the start. This principle of a son for a son plays itself out again and again.
Pharaoh had multiple chances to respond, but did not always do so. He hardened his heart the minute there was a respite (Exo 9:34-35). Initially, Pharaoh dismissed the God of the Hebrews and in chapter 10, God points out Pharaoh’s pride as he stood against God (c.f. Exo 5:2, 10:3). This is not about fairness. God’s judgment is against Pharaoh’s pride. God acted in this way to force the hand of an unrepentant Pharaoh. This was not God’s backup plan after 9 failed plagues. This wasn’t God acting on a whim nor was it a desperate last resort. Pharaoh had a
lot of time to repent and Egypt with him. Each plague struck at the heart of Egyptian society and Egyptian religious life. To the Egyptians, Pharaoh was not just a man-king but the incarnation of Ra. The firstborn son is seen as a reincarnation of another God. Thus this 10th plague will completely undermine the presumed divinity of Pharaoh and his offspring. It
will also highlight Pharaoh’s inability to protect his own son. The "angel of death" mentioned in the text doesn't indicate that it was a secondary cause and neither does it seem to point to a natural cause. This was a supernatural and powerful act. All of Egypt will be afflicted and none was spared. This was so that they will know the Lord!
But why was the outcome different for the people of Israel (Exo 11:7)? We’ve seen this distinction before in previous verses. Why is this the case that not even a dog will bear to
growl against the Israelites? The people of Israel belong to God (c.f. Exo 3:10, 5:1)! God calls them His own. Israel is God’s firstborn son. In the previous 9 plagues, the people of Israel did not have to do anything. Life went on in Goshen. But in this 10th plague, the people needed to act in faith and obey. We’ll read more next week!
We see here that God distinguishes between those who believe in Him and those who don’t. He sets His people apart. Because He is holy, they shall be holy. There is a judgment here, and there will also be another final judgment at the end of time. Those who are in Christ Jesus will find their names written in the Book of Life. Those whose names are not written in the Book are thrown in the Lake of Fire. This is a final and terrible judgment that is worse than all the plagues.
(E) Behold our God! Great in power, terrible in judgement, patient towards those who reject
Him, yet just towards the guilty
After working through the 9 plagues, and heading towards the final one, we might have developed a certain idea of who God is. But if we read Exo 34:6 in light of the 10 plagues, what else about God do we learn and see? We see His judgment, but we also see a God who is merciful and patient. What kind of harsh judge will give an unrepentant person 10 chances? His mercy and patience is also extended to those who reject Him. But He is also a just God who cannot leave sin unpunished. What theologians call the immutability of God -- that because He is God, He cannot change -- is important for us to not only know, but to believe and hold fast to it. He is consistent and constant and God is eternal.
How do we read the plagues and see God's character in it? We can see the following things about God:
- God is omnipotent – He knows the outcome of things we cannot see
- God is a provider – He provides for His people and gives them their due. He never shortchanges!
- God is true to His word – He keeps His promises to His servants
- God is holy – He sets apart those whom He calls His people
- God is awesome in power – He is terrible in judgement on the gods of Egypt
- God is merciful – He is patient even towards those who reject Him
- God is just – He will punish the unrepentant sinner
He makes His mercy available to us in Christ Jesus. This is freely available to us, not that we might abuse it or try to test God’s patience, but so that we might sincerely and truly repent of our sins. Do we take God’s mercy and patience for granted? Let us not be like Pharaoh. Here are some reflection questions that can help us to respond to this passage in obedience and faith!
- Do you struggle with uncertainty in the midst of your trials or times of need? What can we learn from this portrait of God in Exodus 11?
- Are you facing difficulty or feelings of inadequacy in your witness for God? How can tonight’s passage encourage you?
- God’s terrible judgement is about to be exacted on the unrepentant Pharaoh. Is this you in your walk today? In what ways are we like Pharaoh? Are there areas in your life where you are taking God’s patience for granted and need to repent?