Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church
Thanks to Steve who is filling in for our Worship Pastor Zach Foty today.
Zach and his wife Ali just had their second child, a girl, Avery Rose Foty
(put up Avery photo)
Everyone is doing well!
Before we get started this morning, I really want to encourage you to be thinking about getting baptized…if you haven’t yet!
(Put up Baptism Slide)
Our next baptism is just 2 weeks from today on July 16th
If you’re a believer in Jesus, and you’ve never been baptized as a believer, get baptized.
It’s an amazing experience. So powerful.
The Bible speaks A LOT about baptism, and tells us it’s something we’re to do after we make a decision to believe in Jesus.
It’s an outward symbol of Jesus giving us new life and washing away our sins
It’s something that Jesus even commands us to do as his followers…it’s that important.
So…if you’ve been waiting to do it…let go of any excuses and sign-up
It’s not about being ready.
Baptism is a symbol of us not being good enough, and he died for anyway.
It’s not about the conditions being just right..
It’s a matter of obedience.
In the Bible…people often even got baptized the same day they believed.
And it’s not (and this a tough on in our Midwestern culture), it’s not even about “if you were baptized already as a baby”
I was myself…but I was baptized as an adult (when I became a believer) because the Bible never mentions baptizing babies.
Every time the Bible describes baptism, it describes someone who gets baptized after their faith becomes their own…after they believe.
It’s so awesome to do it.
If you’ve been putting it off, put it off no longer.
(PUT UP RESCUE SERIES SLIDE)
This morning, we are continuing our Rescue series on the Book of Exodus
If you were here two weeks ago, we spent our first of 2 weeks on the plagues.
If you’re new around here, here’s what’s happened so far in the book of Exodus in a nutshell.
Pharaoh and the Egyptians have enslaved over one million of the Israelite people, and God has told Moses (& his brother Aaron) to confront Pharaoh and tell him to let the Israelite slaves leave his country.
Pharaoh has rejected that request, and so God is going to start raining down a series of 10 plagues (punishments) until the Egyptians finally get the picture that they shouldn’t really mess with God.
Two weeks ago, we answered the difficult question of why does Pharaoh sometimes harden his own heart towards God, and why does God sometimes harden Pharaoh’s heart.
And now this week, we’re going to look at the supremacy of God…in our 2nd week of 2 weeks on the plagues.
We’re going to start w/ Pharaoh’s first impression of God…this is important because he thinks of God as a puny nobody
(Exodus 5:1-2) – NIV
Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”
Pharaoh doesn’t know this “God” that Israelites worship and call Lord.
Now, keep in mind, this is a totally different culture.
Pharaoh’s not mad they have a different god.
Egypt was a polytheistic culture…meaning they worshipped all sorts of different gods.
114 of them in fact!
But Pharaoh is unfamiliar with this God called the Lord, and he sees no reason to obey him.
It seems like an ancient problem, and yet it’s incredibly relevant.
Think about people today.
Not that they necessarily believe in hundreds of gods, but (just like Pharaoh) people generally don’t have a problem with the fact that you believe in your God.
What they have a problem with is when you say, “My God is the only GOD, and He thinks you should live this way.”
People DEFINITELY don’t like that.
They don’t want to live like God is the only God…like God is supreme and has full dominion over their lives.
And either did Pharaoh.
He was fine that the Hebrews believed in this God…but he was not having it when they said that this “God” was telling him what to do
But we’re going to see here that disobeying God…the one and only God…is a fruitless exercise.
GOD PROVES HIS SUPREMACY THROUGH THE PLAGUES
God is going to prove His supremacy through the plagues
Watch the language He uses when He talks about the first plague
(Exodus 7:17) – NIV
17 This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood.
And when He says, “You’ll know I’m the Lord,”
“Lord” there means the “I am who I am.” It means, I am the Lord of Lords, the God of “so called other gods.”
There’s a problem though with how we typically read this narrative as modern-day readers…even modern-day Christians…I think we miss a main point of the story
We tend to just read Exodus like this: “God continues to punish the Egyptians with plagues in order to show them that He’s real and that they should listen to Him.”
But like we teach in our Theology classes in the summer: We must always put ourselves in the shoes of the original listeners…the Egyptians who lived through this.
And when we think hard about how the Egyptians would have reacted to the plagues in those days, the story changes DRAMATICALLY.
So let’s get into the minds and worldview of the Egyptians 3,400 years ago.
Because remember, these Egyptians believed in 114 different gods…quite strongly in a prominent few gods.
And the Egyptians attributed so much of their success and livelihood to those particular gods…almost all of which were connected to natural elements.
In other words, there were some gods who oversaw their crops, other gods who oversaw the river, others fertility, others health.
And what I want you to see today is that plagues weren’t just random punishments, but plagues that were specifically chosen by God to demonstrate his supremacy over the Egyptian “so-called-gods.”
When Pharaoh says, “Who is the Lord…that I should obey him?”
God is going to show him, “I’m the LORD of lords!”
So let’s walk through the plagues.
PLAGUE #1: BLOOD IN THE NILE
In the first plague God turns the Nile river to blood.
This is striking right at the heart of Egypt’s life and economy.
The Egyptians THRIVED because of Nile!
And God turns it to blood.
But if we get into their religious worldview, and how the Egyptians would have experienced this, it’s even deeper than that.
See, the Egyptians actually had multiple gods who’s responsibility it was to watch over the Nile
For instance, the Egyptian god Khnum (kuh-noom) was said to be the GUARDIAN of the Nile,
The supposedly great Egyptian god Osiris was thought to have the Nile as his bloodstream, but he can’t protect it in this “apparent battle of the gods’
The Egyptian gods of the Nile are rendered powerless by the one true God.
PLAGUE #2: FROGS
We move to the second plague: The plague of the frogs where God sent frogs all over Egypt
This is not random.
God doesn’t just pick frogs because frogs are gross
Anyone ever have to do a frog dissection in school? And you faked sick that day?
Yeah, imagine them in your bed!
One of the popular Egyptian gods at the time was the Goddess Heqet (Heck-it), who was always pictured with the head of a frog.
(Show Heqet Picture)
Heqet was a popular deity, because was supposed to bring the people of Egypt fruitfulness, whether that was fruitfulness in business or even in childbirth.
In fact, pregnant Egyptians women used to wear amulets of Heqet…(because well, frogs have no trouble reproducing)
It’s hard for us to believe, but frogs therefore were actually considered sacred in Egypt and could not be killed.
You could even be given the death penalty if you stepped on and killed a frog.
So imagine this plague!
You have frogs everywhere in your house (on your food, in your bed), but you can’t kill them.
In fact, when Pharaoh asks Moses to end the plague, he specifically says “Take the frogs away,” but God doesn’t just “take them away”
(warning: this isn’t very PETA friendly), God kills all the frogs right in the Egyptians house’s.
Again, this isn’t just about being a nuisance.
God is clearly showing his supremacy over the so-called Egyptian gods, and that’s exactly how the Egyptians of that time would have interpreted it
PLAGUE #3: GNATS
The third plague is the plague of the gnats.
(Exodus 8:16-17) – NIV
16 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” 17 They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats.
Scholars are actually a bit divided on if the word for “gnats” should be translated as gnats or lice.
If I’m Pharaoh, you had me at lice. Get out of my country!
But it’s another diss to the so-called-Egyptian gods.
They had a god named Geb, who was the god who controlled the dirt and the land…but not anymore.
God just turned their dirt into a plague to hurt the Egyptians and their “god Geb” was powerless over it.
PLAGUE #4: FLIES
Plague #4 is quite similar…it’s a plague of the flies.
The Egyptians also have lesser known gods with flies on their face or beetles.
Not to mention that now no one in Egypt can even sacrifice to any of their gods because the Egyptians had very intense hygiene rituals for sacrifices
An infestation like this would have made it impossible for both the worshipper to come to worship and for an animal to be clean for sacrifice.
But here we’re told that God’s people, the Israelites are left untouched
(Exodus 8:22) – NIV
22 “‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land.
Plague #5: Livestock
Plague #5 is the plague of the livestock, so we’re starting to get more intense here…this is not just merely annoying anymore, it’s devastating.
For the Egyptians, livestock were their main means of transportation, commerce, agriculture, clothing, and food.
In fact, livestock were so important to Egyptian life that (no surprise here) they had gods over their livestock.
This plague is really directed against the Egyptian god Hathor who was thought to be a mother goddess with cow horns and in a cow-like form.
In addition, the Egyptians also considered the cow to be sacred …but the cows were killed…right in front of their eyes.
But can you imagine when they went over to Goshen where the Israelites lived, and all their livestock were still alive?
How shocking would that have been?!
In fact, we’re told that some of the Egyptians are now going to start fearing the Lord…
Some will eventually even leave with the Israelites in the future.
Plague #6: Boils
To plague #6 we go. The plague of the boils. That sounds fun.
The Egyptians had a ton of gods who were supposed to help them prevent diseases.
And so when the boils came, they would been crying out to a goddess like Sekhmet who was supposed to prevent diseases like this.
Even the magicians in Pharaoh’s court often prayed to and were representatives of the god of Imhotep (im-hoh-tep), who was also the god of medicine.
And yet we’re told in chapter 9 that these magicians who during the first 2 plagues even made frogs appear from somewhere, now are cowering in front of Moses, and it says, “we’re even unable to stand” because of the pain of the boils.
Their gods are POWERLESS.
And that is exactly what they would have been thinking!
PLAGUE # 7 & 8
We see the same things continue with plagues 7 and 8, the plague of the hail and the plague of the locusts.
It’s no surprise that the Egyptians had gods that were supposed to control the weather.
And yet, the sky goddess, Nut (Noot), is absolutely powerless stop the hail that kills everything left outside: their crops, their animals, and their friends and family.
The Egyptian god Min, can also do nothing…NOTHING…to stop the locusts (or the hail) from protecting the crops…when one of his main jobs was to bring the harvest to fruition
I mean what are you thinking about your gods if you’re an Egyptian at this point?
And you keep checking on those Hebrew slaves in Goshen…
Their animals are fine.
No boils in sight.
The hail never touched them.
You’re starting to think, “Maybe my gods aren’t gods at all!”
“We better listen to this real God!”
Here’s the description of the ninth plague
(Exodus 10:21-23) – NIV
21 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness spreads over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.” 22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. 23 No one could see anyone else or move about for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.
God is now clearly, and undisputedly, showing his supremacy over the chief Egyptian Deity: Ra.
Ra was the god that Egyptians believed to be the creator of all forms of life.
But not only that, Ra, as their chief deity, was, more than anything, in charge of the Sun
At this point, nine plagues in, the common person is most likely convinced that their gods are not real…they can’t be.
But Pharaoh…is not convinced…at least he still has himself.
Because in those days, the Pharaoh’s (and their family line) were worshipped as gods as well.
And cue PLAGUE #10.
The death of the first born.
We’ll cover this in detail next week, but suffice to say that when God strikes down all the first-born sons of Egypt, he proves that even Pharaoh is not a god.
His reign of succession is over.
His own son is dead.
GOD IS DOING THE SAME IN YOUR LIFE
Pretty crazy, huh?
God shows these people that do not believe in Him, the people who say, “Who is the Lord that I should listen to Him?...” that He IS SUPREME
And here’s what I want you to know: God is doing the same in your life.
The question of the day is: Do you see it?
And maybe the second question is: How many plagues will it take for you to see it?
Now let me break this down a little bit…because many people will say:
For one, I don’t worship any other gods
And secondly, I definitely haven’t had any plagues in my life
While Christians don’t worship idols of the statue variety, we still have plenty of idols.
Things that we worship…that we deem as more important to God.
Timothy Keller has a great book called counterfeit Gods, in which he defines idolatry this way:
“What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living . . . An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure. There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.” – Timothy Keller
And we have all sorts of idols:
Our jobs, our spouses, money, success, approval, control, you name it.
Things that any outsider to our lives could see, that we give more importance to than God
But God has no rival…and He won’t stand for us attempting to put a rival on His rightful throne.
How many times in your life has God shown you that these ‘gods’ you worship are inferior to Him?
Maybe in your twenties, you went on this search to find “the one”
“The one” who was going to complete you and be your storybook ending.
But then you got married and realized they had bad breath, were super crabby in the morning, and have terrible taste in music…not to mention they always seem to want to argue with you.
And we do this all over the place.
We think, “Well that job will do it!”
Or if I have this much money…
Or if I can finally have a baby…
But these “things” (these “idols” even) never seem to give us “life to the full”
Not like Jesus promises us He will anyway.
And yet, like Keller says, we’re basically worshipping these things.
It’s where we spend our time, it’s where we spend our thoughts, even where we spend our money.
They are our “gods”
And trust me, God will show you over and over that these “gods in your life” are not supreme.
And that intersection of life (when God reveals to us that the things we’re worshipping our not gods)…is actually pretty painful.
Call it a modern-day mini-plague if you like.
“the realization that thing you’re giving your life to is not a God at all”
Maybe, God painfully reveals to us that our spouse will not, and can not, be god to us.
Or maybe He shows you that money (because it comes…and it GOES!)…can not be god to you.
And often those revelations and experiences are quite painful.
Just like it would have been painful for the Egyptians to realize that Hathor was no god at all, or that Ra was no god at all.
DON’T FIGHT IT
But those moments in our lives are actually just grace from God.
Another chance at acknowledging the truth and then living in it.
We can’t keep going back to these things when He’s already proven that they’re not God, and they’re NOT supreme.
Friends, we CAN NOT imitate the Egyptians here
You can not find true life outside of God.
You won’t find it in another religion, because there is only one true religion.
And you won’t find it in trying to live a Christian-like life without Christ at the center of it.
Think of the Magicians in Pharaoh’s court…who try and imitate God’s work rather than just submit to Him
A lot of Christians do this.
Maybe you’re not going out and just living a wild lifestyle, but you don’t truly want to fully surrender your life to God either.
And you settle for just doing some things like “God”
And you try and have a good marriage, or work hard, or have decent morals…
But like the Egyptian magicians…God’s not looking for you to imitate him in your own strength, He’s looking for you to surrender to Him.
Paul David Tripp says when Christians try and imitate God in their own strength, it’s like buying apples at the store, and stapling them to the branches of an apple tree…those apples are going to rot.
God’s not looking for you to mimic his ways so you can get some good things out stealing his good ideas for how to live life.
Christianity is not a list of tips for how to better improve your life.
It’s a relationship
God wants you to be fully surrendered to Him, and then, He will grow in you, His life and ways.
Do you see the difference?
Eventually, even the magicians (after the 2nd plague just give up trying to imitate god)
You can’t keep up with God.
If he shows you, even through pain, that you can not find life outside of Him…acknowledge the truth and surrender.
You can not be your own god.
You can’t manufacture your own happiness.
And so much of what we settle for instead of Him is just mud.
I’m always fascinated by the part in the very first plague where God turns the Nile into blood and we’re told that then the Egyptians just went nearby the Nile and dug holes and ditches to try and get what was most likely some dirty/muddy water out of the ground.
What a picture of what we do.
God does us a favor, and maybe even painfully reveals to us, that we can not find life through our own strength.
He turns our precious Nile River into blood.
He turns our bank account to zero
He turns our successful job into a pink slip.
And instead of interpreting that moment as a turning point to say, “God, I will acknowledge you, and more fully surrender to finding life through you!”
We immediately start digging ditches…trying to find our water elsewhere.
It’s perpetual idolatry
“I lost my job, but…well…what if I started this new company…or this new job, or I started selling this…I could be rich…I could”
And just like Pharaoh and the Egyptians, we miss what God is doing.
We miss our chance to surrender to Him as the Supreme leader of our lives.
God exposes our idolatry, but instead of acknowledging that hard truth, we settle for muddy water, because at least then we can do what we want.
But listen, because your God loves you so much…and He wants to be in deep relationship with you...
…and He knows that you will be most happy when He is LORD of your life.
He’s going to keep trying to get your attention this way.
But here’s the warning from the Book.
This is the kind of stuff that you won’t hear at a lot of churches today.
The plagues…keep increasing in their intensity and challenge.
God will stop at nothing to help you see the freedom of the truth.
So here’s the challenge:
Obey and follow God now.
If you’re a drifting Christian…and you’re experiencing the slow fade…
God is sending you wake up calls.
And they’ll only get louder…and harder.
But the challenge is, our sin, at the same time, only gets more irrational.
At first we say, “I’ll just dig a ditch.”
But then we say, “yeah, I know my livestock are dying, but it’s okay”
“yeah, I know the locusts are ruining my life and I should just surrender…but, it’s okay”
Do you see how sin can also breed irrationalism?
Let’s end by going back to Pharaoh’s original question:
“Who is the Lord that I should his voice?”
And “Who is the Lord that you should listen to Him and trust everything he says to you?”
He’s God…that’s who.
He’s the one who created you.
He created earth, mars, the solar system, and the milky way.
He’s allowing you to breathe today.
He sent His OWN son to die on the cross for you…in your place…because He loves you so much.
And so when you feel like, “Who is this Being that I should trust Him when he says the best life is to surrender to His ways?”
He is supreme over everything.
He’s won the battle.
Learn that from the Word this morning.
Trust in Him now.
He is God, and He is good.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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