Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” 2 If you refuse to let them go and continue to hold them back, 3 the hand of the Lord will bring a terrible plague on your livestock in the field—on your horses, donkeys and camels and on your cattle, sheep and goats. 4 But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and that of Egypt, so that no animal belonging to the Israelites will die.’”
5 The Lord set a time and said, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this in the land.” 6 And the next day the Lord did it: All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died. 7 Pharaoh investigated and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.
Many of the animals in Egypt were sacred and therefore worshipped by the people. It was only fitting for the Lord to destroy the animals as they represented gods of the land. The Lord strongly cautions believers about idols because idols are sneaky. The King James Version often refers to idols as “graven images” and that is pretty fitting because idols can start out as good things. But over time, we allow that thing to engrave itself onto our heart. This is why Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
I challenge you this week to do an “idol check.” Trim away those extra tasks that take up time in your day and sit before the Lord. He will reveal to you what may be amiss. The crazy thing about idols is that they are often right in front of our faces and we don’t even see it!
8 Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from a furnace and have Moses toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. 9 It will become fine dust over the whole land of Egypt, and festering boils will break out on people and animals throughout the land.”
This was the first plague where the body was inflicted. To me, nothing puts you on your face before the Lord faster than when you feel miserable – and I would venture to say that “festering boils” fall into that miserable category. Just as these boils festered and were painful, so is the sin in our lives when we don’t deal with it. The Psalmist said this very thing in 38:5, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” Sin always has consequences.
Interestingly enough, in Revelation 16 it talks of God’s wrath upon unbelievers. “The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.” It goes onto talk about seven “bowls” of wrath. “The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died.” Sound familiar? Similar to the plague of blood we read earlier. Let’s read on: “The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.” Sounds like our antagonist, Pharaoh, doesn’t it?
10 So they took soot from a furnace and stood before Pharaoh. Moses tossed it into the air, and festering boils broke out on people and animals. 11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils that were on them and on all the Egyptians. 12 But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said to Moses.
How was it that a furnace was so nearby? Arthur Pink states in Gleanings in Exodus that these furnaces were actually altars where human sacrifices were burned to worship various gods. The worship of the false gods by offering humans became the boils of the people.
Notice that the magicians “could not stand.” Philippians 2:10-11 is the New Testament parallel here: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” It was time for the magicians to bow their knee to the Lord. May it not take boils to get us in the posture of submission!
13 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, 14 or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. 16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. 17 You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. 18 Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now. 19 Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every person and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’”
Let’s take some time to dissect this, because there are some good nuggets in here. Remember, the Lord is speaking to Pharaoh (through Moses) and said, “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” God states His ultimate purpose – not just for Pharaoh, but for each of us individually. He desires to show you His power so He might be glorified through you. Think on that one, chap. That’s pretty powerful.
20 Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. 21 But those who ignored the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the field.
Check out this verse: “Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord...” Maybe Pharaoh’s heart was hard, but some of his men feared the Lord and weren’t slow to obey. There’s a critical word in verse 21: ignored. When we are told truth, yet choose to ignore it, there are consequences. That is what it’s said in Matthew 11:15, “If anyone has ears, let them hear!”
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that hail will fall all over Egypt—on people and animals and on everything growing in the fields of Egypt.” 23 When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the Lord sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the Lord rained hail on the land of Egypt; 24 hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. 25 Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both people and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree. 26 The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were.
This wasn’t just quarter-sized Missouri hail. It was apparently the worst storm in all the land of Egypt. Can you imagine looking out your window and seeing all the trees stripped of their leaves, fruit, and branches? Yet again, the land of Goshen (where the Israelites resided) was unharmed. I love the Lord’s protective “line” He draws with His own hand. It’s a beautiful picture of those who abide in God’s grace through Christ Jesus and are sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).
27 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. “This time I have sinned,” he said to them. “The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Pray to the Lord, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer.”
“This time I have sinned.” Apparently Pharaoh felt the other times he hadn’t sinned, but he was finally willing to admit it after the hail storm that destroyed the city! Unfortunately, it can sometimes take a hail storm in our lives before we give our attention to the Lord. Oftentimes, when we hit rock bottom, that is when the Lord is given control of the situation and things begin to change. Pharaoh hit “hail bottom” in this case and asked Moses to pray to the Lord for its removal and in turn, he promised to let the Israelites go.
29 Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the Lord’s. 30 But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the Lord God.”
31 (The flax and barley were destroyed, since the barley had headed and the flax was in bloom. 32 The wheat and spelt, however, were not destroyed, because they ripen later.)
Moses knew better. He knew that Pharaoh and his official didn’t really have a change in heart – they had a moment of desperation. Friends, there is such a difference. We cannot run to God simply out of desperation. We must run to Him out of desperation and with a heart of obedience to Him. Even a block of ice can cry tears. I’m all about crying out to Him in desperation, but our minds must be “alert and fully sober” and our hope must be set on the grace of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13). When we do, victory comes because our attitude is in alignment with God’s Truth.
33 Then Moses left Pharaoh and went out of the city. He spread out his hands toward the Lord; the thunder and hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down on the land. 34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts. 35 So Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not let the Israelites go, just as the Lord had said through Moses.
Pharaoh’s word of letting the people go was short-lived. As soon as the situation turned around, he went right back to his old ways. Sound familiar? It does for me, too. I easily get frustrated with others when I see them cry out in desperation, start coming to Bible study and prayer, and then once things start to improve and they feel better, they turn right around and walk down the same old, worn path again. But as I think on where I once was and the many times I walked and re-walked those destructive paths, it quickly humbles me. God offers grace upon grace.
We’ve talked about this before, but it’s worth the reminder. As believers, when we see others starting to stray, we must be that godly guardrail for them. James 5:19 tells us,” My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” Amen.