Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Exodus 8 - Frogs, Gnats, and Flies

LINK: Exodus 7:25-8:32

BACKGROUND

This chapter includes three more judgments on the Egyptians:

Plague 2: Frogs

Instead of turning away when the frogs came, Pharaoh asked Moses to "entreat the LORD" (8:8). By this Pharaoh was beginning to acknowledge the power of Moses' God. Moses responded by saying, "May it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God" (8:10).

Again, God was setting Himself up as more powerful than the gods of the Egyptians. The goddess Hequet had a frog's head. The breath of life was believed to come out of her nostrils. This goddess was believed to help with childbirth. Interesting that these frogs were invading even the bedrooms! Frogs were considered to have divine power. Consequently, they were not supposed to be killed. The LORD was making a statement that He was LORD and God above all gods. Sadly, even though Moses prayed, Pharaoh went back on his promise to let the people go.

Plague 3: Gnats

The Hebrew word for gnats is kinnim. It could be gnats or mosquitoes. This is the only time this word is used in the Old Testament. Because Aaron struck the "dust of the earth" (8:17), many commentators believe this may have been an attack against Set, the god of the desert. The magicians acknowledged the "finger of God" in the plague. Jesus communicated that he cast out demons by the finger of God in Luke 11:20. Even with this, Pharaoh did not listen, just as God said.

Plague 4: Flies

Moses was directed by God to go to Pharaoh again and say, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me." If he refused, God would send swarms of flies that would go only to the Egyptians and not to His people. Again, He did this so that Pharaoh would know that God is the LORD (8:22) and that His people were set apart from Pharaoh's people. Are you seeing the message that God is trying to get across to the Egyptians?

Pharaoh was beginning to crack. He suggested a compromise of sacrificing to God within the land of Egypt, but Moses stated this would be an abomination to the Egyptians (8:26). The bull represented the god Apis or Re, and the cow represented their goddess Hathor. Consequently, they would not have been sacrificed in Egypt because they were considered sacred. This would offend the Egyptians.

So, Pharaoh said they could go, but not too far. Moses made intercession, God answered Moses, the flies stopped, and Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to let them go despite Moses' warning to Pharaoh to not deal deceitfully with him! This is significant since Pharaohs were supposed to be the model of justice and truth.

Will this ever stop? Stay tuned.

REFLECTION

During our training for overseas work, we did a "survival simulation." The goals were to work as a team and survive in adverse conditions. We had a hypothetical situation in which we had to choose the items we would take for survival. I do not remember the list of all the items, but mosquito repellent was on the list, and our team quickly dismissed that as a non-essential item. The reaction from one of our team members named Mark was swift, "NO! We have to put that on the list!" 

We thought he was crazy. Our rationale was that mosquitoes won't kill us (I think it was specified that it was an area where diseases from mosquitoes were not a problem), but there were other, more important things that would help keep us ALIVE!

In our group of eight, it was six and a half against one and a half. (Mark's wife timidlly supported him, probably because she was a newlywed and was trying to be a good wife). It became clear that Mark was more stubborn and peskier than any mosquito ever could be. It did not help that Mark was the "young pup" on our team being in his early twenties while we were all in our late thirties and forties. We listened politely, but we knew we were correct based on our vast number of years of life. (With age comes wisdom, right?)

We debated and argued as Mark related a story about an experience they had with a travel group to Dagestan (a republic in the Russian federation. See here and say a short prayer if you can). The mosquitoes were SO bad there that it took a psychological toll on his whole group. He related one particular hot, summer night where he and his wife thought they were literally going crazy.

More to shut up Mark than anything, we relented and included mosquito repellent on our list of essential items. It was more a way to make peace on the team than anything else because we had to continue to work together for two more weeks.

Guess what was a top essential item?

Mosquito Repellent!

It was for all the reasons that Mark explained. This twenty-something now had a voice and our respect. (By the way, we won the challenge because we included the mosquito repellent.)

I relate this story for two reasons. One is that mosquitoes and little flying insects are nasty things. We experienced exactly what Mark related when we lived on the edge of a Malaysian jungle a few years later. Through experience, we learned how mosquitoes can become your number one enemy when the sun goes down. I could not even put my arms out of my bed to read a book without being attacked. I had to read under the covers at night, and then it got too hot! (In case you are wondering, the cathedral-like ceilings were too high to hang mosquito netting and screens were not possible.) It got frustrating to the point of maddening. Through experience, we learned the discomfort of being covered from head to toe with bites and the subsequent itching that ensued. This does not include the fleas that made my 2 1/2 year old look like he had chicken pox. There were also biting ants. Then there were the rats. I know they are not insects, but they contributed to the psychological toll as they would nibble up my food through layers of protection and knock things over in the middle of the night as they jumped all over my furniture. Then, I would have all sorts of little "droppings" to clean up after their night in my home. Then there were the bats . . . I better stop. You get the picture. Mark was right. Hands down, Mark was right!

It was a form of bondage that I cannot even begin to describe. Suffice it to say that eventually we had to evacuate the place for a number of reasons beyond just the bugs. Later, George's employer fumigated this house and the carnage afterward left every inch of the 6,000 square foot floor covered with the dead carcasses of jungle creatures. It was amazing. I wish I had taken a picture.

I relate this to try to give you a picture of what the gnats and flies plague was like for the Egyptian people without the aid of mosquito repellent! It must have been maddening.

Secondly, I relate this story of Mark's persistence because he was a kind of Moses figure. He was speaking out the truth because he knew from experience, and we were like Pharaoh, we just did not want to listen to it. Although we had the "wisdom of age," Mark had the wisdom of experience.

Moses knew his God from the experience of the burning bush and the events leading up to the plagues. He could speak out truth boldly and stand up for his people because he knew His God even when he was opposed by the "wisdom of the age" in Egypt which included the worship of false gods.

APPLICATION

I love this story because I see Moses experiencing God and becoming bolder as he sees the power of God work in and through him. He did this by initially stepping out in faith even with his doubts about his abilities. As He experienced more of God, he stepped out again and again and again to where he even challenged the Pharaoh to not deal deceitfully with him! That is incredible.

Are you boldly stepping out in faith in your life as God directs you? Are you speaking up to challenge the "wisdom of the age"?

Also, here is a really fun tool for remembering the 10 plagues. It is called the "Passover Plagues Bag," I bought it years ago for my kids, and they love it:


Passover Plagues Bag

PRAYER

Lord, make us not afraid to step out in faith and speak up when You lead us to do so. Thank You that You are the all-powerful God. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
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