Grasping God's Purpose: ”The God that Will Be Known” – Exodus 7-12

When we left off in our story in the Biblical account of the Exodus, we were standing on a hill overlooking the ancient cities of Pithom and Ramses in Egypt. We were watching a drama play out between three men. First in our scene was the mighty ruler of Egypt, the Pharaoh of the most powerful nation of his day. He was a world leader with unparalleled strength on his continent — a man groomed for destiny. Standing before him, day after day, were two old men, neither powerfully dressed nor imposing in their appearance. One was dressed, in fact, in the garb of a Midianite shepherd. The other stood before Pharaoh with the meager arraignment of the slave classes.

From our perch, we watched as plague upon plague fell upon the Egyptians from Heaven to show them that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was not One among peers — but God above all that was worshipped by their society. The point of this whole section of the story, as we pointed out, was God on the move – exposing WHO He is to lost men. We kept asking the nagging question… “How will the whole world know our God?”

The fact is that we find ourselves in this time and place of history in sort of the same place Moses and Aaron did. We are surrounded by men and women who sacrifice all to the pagan gods of fortune, fame, power and pleasure. They do not think there is a God above them beyond the self-made and carefully sculpted gods they have bowed before. They worship money, celebrity, amusement and sexuality. Some barely mask their worship. It is fed by publishing houses, television networks, film makers and entertainment industry specialists the world over. Advertisers appeal to the sensual nature of these who are completely ensnared and often totally oblivious. Standing before the “mass of the powerful” are a few believers who know and love the God that created all things. What’s more, we were called to powerfully demonstrated Who this God is before those all about us. We were not called to JOIN them nor JUDGE them… We were called to REACH them.

We must remember that God has taken the time and energy to expose Who He is and how we can know Him. He began the process in the Garden after man sinned, and expanded the knowledge of Himself over time. Today, we will trace three paths that God wants to establish to Himself: He is at the end of each path… drawing men from their darkness into the warmth and light of His presence. The first path is one for the strong follower that needs to be led by a powerful God in the midst of dangers and disappointments; the second is the weak believer that needs to grow strong in his trust of God’s plan and direction; a third is the path for the nonbeliever that needs a relationship with his Creator.

Key Principle: God is reaching out to men and women – but they must learn to see Him through the dust the world is kicking up around them!

Go back with me to the story. Before we go too far, take out your Bible and look closely at these names. Go back to Exodus 6:13 and look at the words: Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and gave them a charge to the sons of Israel and to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt.” Mark the three characters – the so called three players: Moses/Aaron (the strong believers), the Israelites, though at times you will want to place Aaron here! (weak but growing believers), and the Egyptians and Pharaoh (unbelievers).

Now turn to Exodus 7:5 and look at God’s purpose in all that He did: “The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst.” The one purposeGod had in the whole story of the plagues is obvious: The formula ” … that you may know that I am the Lord … ,” or something similar to it appears eleven times (in Exodus 6:2, 6, 7, 8, 28; 7:5, 17; 8:10, 22; 9:14; and 10:2).

Now think through the plagues we read about last time we were together, did you also noticethree patterns: The story offers a way for God to show some important distinctionsGod makes with people. The Biblical truth is that God doesn’t see all people in the same way, nor does He deal with them in the same way. NO! God distinguishes:

In Plagues 1-3: The Lord distinguishes between his servants, Moses and Aaron, and the servants of the Egyptian gods, the magicians.

  • 1st Plague: 7:14-19. Water to Blood- Both the Nile and stored water was affected.

  • 2nd Plague: 8:1-15Frogs Everywhere!

  • 3rd Plague: 8:16-19 Lice, Sand Flea or Chigger Infestation

Although the Egyptian magiciansduplicate the first two plagues (7:11, 22), they cannot reverse the effects (8:8), and they cannot duplicate the third plague (8:18), finally recognizing “the fingerof God” (8:19). In each of these plagues, God acts through Moses and Aaron!

In Plagues 4-6: The Lord distinguished between his people, the Israelites, and the Egyptians.

  • 4th Plague: 8:20-32 Flies everywhere!

  • 5th Plague: 9:1-7 Death of the Livestock.

  • 6th Plague: 9:8-12 Boils on the Egyptian People and Animals not killed with the livestock.

While the first three plagues affected allof Egypt, the next three don’t impact the land of Goshen, where the Israelites live (8:22-23). In the fourth and fifth, God acts directly though Moses prays!

In Plagues 7-9: The Lord distinguished between Himself and everyone else.

  • 7th plague: 9:13-35 Hail.

  • 8th Plague: 10:1-20 TheLocusts.

  • 9th Plague: 10:21-29 Plague of Darkness

In these plagues, he demonstrates that “there is no one like Me in all the earth” (9:14); therefore, the severity of the plagues is without precedent (9:18, 9:24, 10:6, 10:14).

In The 10th plague: The Lord distinguished himself again in this plague. Moses (11:3), the Israelites (11:7) and the Lord (11:6) are all differentiated again.

  • 10th Plague: Death of the Firstborn Children and protected cattle (11:1-10).

The Lord executed the 10th plague Himselfand not through Moses or Aaron (12:12). Potentially all people could have been affected, but the difference He made was through the instruction of the blood on the door or tent post. This showed clearly that people had the opportunity to be saved from destruction, but they needed to demonstrate faith by obedience to God’s Word. Those who didn’t were treated very differently from those who did. Even weak believersthat obeyed were cared for by God.

This seems like a lot of review, but it is critical to summarize what God showed the people in order for us to see the Biblical point of the story. Careful combining of the ingredients of the text gives us the opportunity to taste extraordinarily of the richness of what God wants us to know. Haphazard observation makes poor spiritual food.

What God said in the ten plagues, as we studied them was this:

You can’t trust the daily source of your sustenance of the past (Nile); nor the source of your comfort and personal relief (frogs eating flies). Your superstitions (insects) are worthless and your economy a house of cards(cattle). Your education, health care and technology (magician’s boils) can’t save you from God’s power, nor can you have confidence that your leaders and family (death of first born) will be able to remain strong in the face of the troubles. Resist the God of the Hebrews and suffer! Follow Him and LIVE!

The gods of men are self-made and offer no ultimate rescue. The gods of our culture are NO DIFFERENT than the many gods of the ancient Egyptians. Look at the way our pagan gods fail us today!

  • Richesfade in the hospital room of the dying.

  • Celebritymeans little when the lights go down and the crowd disperses. This is the reason so many athletes find it nearly impossible to deal with the off season or an injury that takes them from the spotlight.

  • Poweris fleeting. At the dawn of my life, Americans once believed we would have decades of Kennedys in leadership over the country. Two cut down by assassin’s bullets, a third marked in scandal, a son crushed in a freak accident – and they were off the stage of leadership.

  • The god of entertainmentand pleasurerequires an ever committed legion of followers to pay greater and greater personal costs to stay entertained. Who doesn’t know a young person that has fallen into the electronic rabbit hole that eats all his energy and accomplishment in a video game? How many are so busy searching for a friend on Facebook that they cannot develop a single real and touchable human relationship – because they need to keep “channel surfing” for a better and more interesting friend.

Fortune, fame, power and pleasure are the gods made by men. They are hungry for more allegiance—they are insatiable. Sadly, in times of trouble, they offer no rescue. In times of JOY they offer no relationship. They are cold gods – stones shaped by human hands.

From the lessons of the plagues we can grab incredible truths:

Truth #1. God revealed to the strong follower (Moses) that even He needs to be led by a powerful God.

Watch the growth of Moses as he learned to trust God, and you will see a movie about growing mature in the Lord.

  • Look where Moses started! Exodus 3 records that when God called him, Moses could ONLY SEE HIMSELF and all his flaws and weaknesses. God reminded him: Exodus 3:10 “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” That is where we begin in our walk with God. He tells us He called us. He offers us a way to walk with Him and have a daily walk with Him. We jerk back, and He shows us that He is ready to walk with us.

  • Follow Moses forward. Exodus 4 tells of how God walked the weak beginner Moses through seeing His power – a stick comes to life and a hand withers… Moses learned that God isn’t unable to accomplish what He calls us to do with Him.

  • When Moses walked in on Pharaoh in Exodus 5, he had every reason to believe that God’s power would push Pharaoh to an immediate response. It did – but not a repentant one. Moses heard the PROMISES of God in the call… but he didn’t listen to the PROBLEMS of the call – the truth was already revealed that PHAROAOH WOULD NOT LISTEN! God said it, but Moses didn’t hear it.

Henry Blackaby once wrote, “When God was ready to judge the world with a flood, He came to Noah. When He desired to build a nation for Himself, He turned to Abraham. When He heard His children groaning under Egyptian bondage, He appeared in a burning bush to Moses. They were three of the most ordinary of men. But God had work to do, and He knew just who to do it with. God has always given His people assignments that are too big for them to handle alone, so that a watching world can see—not what we can do—but what God can do.”

  • Keep following Him, and you will see Moses growing up in FAITH right before your eyes. From the despair of the end of Exodus 5:22 “Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? 23 “Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.” Moses kept moving ahead. God was teaching him to trust.

Follow Him through Exodus 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10 – 11 and into 12. Here is what you will read. Time and again “The Lord told Moses to go and speak” and a verse or two later… “And Moses went to Pharaoh and said…” He got it. He learned that God meant what He said. He learned that things looked out of control, but God was sculpting a plan.

WHY NOT JUST WIN ON THE FIRST ROUND? Because God isn’t just showing the world Who He is – He is teaching US as well. We need the troubles. We need the defeat… and YES, we need the despair. We need things to be tough to see God’s Word in action. WE NEED TO BE LED BY A POWERFUL GOD. Muscles are best seen when things break down and someone strong needs to push!

Truth #2. God revealed to the weaker believer that needs to grow strong in his walk that God was able to work through men to accomplish great things, even when it didn’t look like things were going well.

Maybe you don’t see yourself as a Moses. Maybe you don’t see the strength to move ahead based solely on God’s Word. It is good to also note that God’s power was not lost on the Israelites, they too learned that God is able and resourceful!

January 6, 1850, was bitterly cold in Colchester, England, a hard-biting blizzard keeping most worshipers at home. At the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Artillery Street only about a dozen showed up. When it became apparent that even the pastor would not arrive, an unlettered man rose and spoke haltingly from Isaiah 45:22, Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. Then the crowd dispersed, thinking the day’s service a loss—not realizing that a fifteen-year-old boy had ducked into the room to escape the snowstorm, and, hearing the sermon, had been converted.

Years later that boy, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, wrote: “Don’t hold back because you cannot preach in St. Paul’s; be content to talk to one or two in a cottage. You may cook in small pots as well as in big ones. Little pigeons can carry great messages. Even a little dog can bark at a thief, wake up the master, and save the house.… Do what you do right thoroughly, pray over it heartily, and leave the result to God.” (Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations and Quotes).

3. God revealed Himself to the non-believer that needs a relationship with his Creator.

Pharaoh was an arrogant and stubborn man. He saw himself as the King in his own land, and in his own life! He is used to getting his own way.

Many people come into a religious audience or church congregation in America today just like Pharaoh. It may be why some of you are listening right now. Your problems are buckling your legs, and you are hoping if you do right for an hour, God’ll back off.

Be careful! Proverbs warns us of the consequences of a hard heart. Proverbs 29:1 says, “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” That is pretty sobering.

Did you notice in Pharaoh’s example were responses of a Hardened Heart. Such a heart can continue to:

Defy God: The “Ignore it and Hope it goes away” method. Water to Blood (read 7:23-25):

7:23 Then Pharaoh turned and went into his house with no concern even for this. 24 So all the Egyptians dug around the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink of the water of the Nile. 25 Seven days passed after the LORD had struck the Nile.

This is a silent way of Defying God! Remember, Pharaoh’s initial response was, “Who is the LORD that I should obey his voice?” (Exodus 5:2)

Delay God: “We can obey God … tomorrow” method. Frogs (Read 8:8-10):

8:8 Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Entreat the LORD that He remove the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the LORD.” 9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “The honor is yours to tell me: when shall I entreat for you and your servants and your people, that the frogs be destroyed from you and your houses, {that} they may be left only in the Nile?” 10 Then he said, “Tomorrow.” So he said, “{May it be} according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God.

So he said, “Tomorrow.” In Pharaoh’s reactions we see the mistakes that individuals make to day when things get difficult in their lives. In times of difficulty, they put God off. He puts off submitting to God until the last possible moment. “Tomorrow” he says will be soon enough.

Phil Yancey wrote: “Living in Colorado, I climb mountains. Colorado has 54 mountains rising above 14,000 ft and every summer I climb some of them. On a summer weekend in the mountains, I see casual hikers who have no idea what they are doing. In sandals, shorts, and T-shirts, carrying a single container of water, they start up a trail at mid-morning. They have no map, no compass, and no rain gear. They also have no apparent knowledge of the lightning storms that roll in many summer afternoons, making it imperative to summit before noon and head for the safety of the timberline (the elevation in a mountainous region above which trees do not grow).

My neighbor, who volunteers for Alpine Rescue, has told me hair-raising stories of tourists who must be rescued from certain death after wandering off a trail, falling, or simply being exposed to a sudden hailstorm or 30-degree drop in temperature. Nevertheless, regardless of the circumstances, Alpine Rescue always responds to a call for help.
Not once have they lectured a hapless tourist, “Well, since you obviously ignored the most basic rules of the wilderness, you’ll just have to sit here and bear the consequences. We won’t assist you.”

Their mission is rescue, and so they pursue every needy hiker in the wilderness, no matter how undeserving. A whistle, a cry, a flashing mirror, a bonfire, an “SOS spelled out in pine branches, a message of distress from a cell phone – any of these signals will cause Alpine Rescue to mobilize teams of medically trained searchers.

I have come to see the central message of the Bible, too, as one of rescue. In the book of Romans, Paul takes pains to point out that none of us ’deserve’ God’s mercy and none of us can save ourselves. Like a stranded hiker, all we can do it call for help.
A hardened park ranger could look at the efforts of Alpine Rescue as indulging the bad habits of irresponsible tourists. Shouldn’t they spend their energy instead handing out rewards to hikers who follow the rules? (“God, I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers,” prayed the Pharisees.)

When I posed such a question to my neighbor, she looked at me uncomprehending. “But our business is rescue!” she said. “Do you expect us to leave any hiker stranded in the wilderness? I don’t care who they are – they need help.” (“In the same way,” said Jesus, “I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents
.Philip Yancey, Rumors of Another World, pp.154-55

Deal With God: “I will submit to God on my terms” method. Insects (Read 8:24-28):

8:24 … And there came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and the houses of his servants and the land was laid waste because of the swarms of flies in all the land of Egypt. 25 Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” 26 But Moses said, “It is not right to do so, for we will sacrifice to the LORD our God what is an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice what is an abomination to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not then stone us? 27 “We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as He commands us.” 28 Pharaoh said, “I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away. Make supplication for me.”

Pharaoh here offers twodifferent bargains to God and His followers. These proposals strangely parallel offers that Satan makes a believer today:

  • The first deal we will call the “Partial Obedience Deal”: You can serve God, but keep one foot in the world (8:25).

  • The second deal we will call the “Partial Commitment Deal” (8:28): Stay where you can see the world (8:28) You can leave, but please “leave with one eye still on Egypt”.

Dent Without Dedication(9:27-30, 35): The ever popular “convicted without commitment” method. Hail. (Read 9:20, 27-28, 34-35):

9:20 The one among the servants of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD made his servants and his livestock flee into the houses… 27 Then Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ” I have sinned this time; the LORD is the righteous one, and I and my people are the wicked ones. 28 “Make supplication to the LORD, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail; and I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer.”

Note that Pharaoh felt bad, but he made no change. Being convicted of our sins is not the same as being saved from our sins. You can sit in a service with tears streaming down your face because of the deep conviction of your sins, but that does not save you. It takes more than conviction – it take commitment. To be delivered from our sins we must commit ourselves to the Lord.

“You may be in the danger zone …..You have played fast and loose with your life, ignoring warning after warning. You have shoved aside essential truths for so long that your heart has become hardened. And the longer you harden it, the more difficult it will be to allow God’s light to finally break through.” [Charles Swindoll. Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication. (Nashville: Word, 1999) p. 188].

God is reaching out to men and women – but they must learn to see Him through the dust the world is kicking up around them!