The following is an excerpt from the Winter 2016 issue of The Gospel Project for Adults. The Gospel Project takes adults, students, and kids on a chronological, Christ-centered journey through the storyline of Scripture. Preview one month free at gospelproject.com.
God Reveals His Glory by Confronting False Gods (Ex. 7:14-25)
In the exodus story one of the ways that God revealed His glory was by confronting false gods. Chapters 7–12 of Exodus reveal God’s judgment on the Egyptians through a series of severe plagues. I suppose the modern person may look at these plagues and say, “Are you kidding me? This scene is bizarre! Is God a cosmic jerk? Was He trying to annoy the Egyptians?” Or one might be tempted to say, “This is silly and hard to believe.”
It was certainly strange and severe. But you must understand that there’s something bigger going on than what you see at first glance. God was judging not only the Egyptians but also the gods of Egypt. In Exodus 12:12, God said that He was going to perform the last sign, the death of the firstborn, and in so doing He would execute “judgments against all the gods of Egypt” (see also Num. 33:4).
The plagues fell on all the areas of life that were supposed to have been protected by Egypt’s gods. God put His glory on display by judging these false gods. He alone is the Almighty. God’s first display of superior power was appropriate—a miracle on the Nile River: “This is what Yahweh says: Here is how you will know that I am Yahweh. Watch. I will strike the water in the Nile with the staff in my hand, and it will turn to blood. The fish in the Nile will die, the river will stink, and the Egyptians will be unable to drink water from it” (Ex. 7:17-18).
The Nile was the lifeblood of Egypt. Essentially, Egypt didn’t exist without the Nile. It was responsible for transportation, irrigation, water, food, and the setting of the calendar. This type of catastrophe would be similar to cutting off all oil supplies, the stock market collapsing, drinking water being contaminated, and having no food in the grocery store. It would be total chaos. It’s no surprise that the Egyptians worshiped the Nile as their creator and sustainer. At least three deities were associated with the Nile. But God totally humiliated these gods when He turned the mighty Nile into blood (see also Pss. 78:44; 105:29; Rev. 16:3-7).
The magicians somehow replicated the miracle. But the fact that the people were digging for water shows that while they repeated the sign, they couldn’t cleanse the water of the Nile. Yet Pharaoh refused to “even take this to heart” (Ex. 7:23).
If you just glance at the plagues following this one, you notice that there were four recurring elements in the 10 plagues (in general, not in each and every case):
- The obedience of Moses and Aaron
- God’s superior power over Egypt’s gods
- Satan’s counterfeits
- The perpetual hardening of Pharaoh’s heart
But there’s one dominant theme: “You will know that I am Yahweh” (see Ex. 7:17; 8:10,22; 9:14,16,29; 10:2). God let everyone know that He alone is God. We must not miss this overarching theme in the midst of all the details of the plagues. God’s passion is to be known and worshiped.
God’s display of glory in unleashing plagues against Pharaoh should cause us to stand in awe, comforted by the love God has for His children and challenged by His unswerving justice. No matter what discouraging times we are facing, we can trust in the all-surpassing glory of God and the wonderful news of the gospel. For this reason, we can continue to live in obedience, even when it is difficult. We can rest in God’s promises and trust in God’s sovereignty as we make the one true God known to everyone on the earth.
Excerpted from The Gospel Project © 2015 Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.