EXODUS: Snakes & Blood
Last we left Moses, he and his brother had confidently approached Pharaoh and requested off time for the Israelite slaves.
I bet they felt confident.
God had spoken to Moses from a burning bush.
God had transformed Moses’ wooden staff into a deadly snake.
God had transformed Moses’ healthy hands into a hand with a deadly skin disease.
God was powerful.
Besides, they were only asking for three days’ vacation.
Pharaoh was bound to say, “Yes!” Right?
Pharaoh said, “No.”
And, “You are lazy.”
And, “I’m going to decrease your supplies.”
And, “I’m going to maintain the same rate of production.”
And, “Stop wasting my time.”
Maybe God wasn’t powerful enough…
I. God’s Powerful Instrument
Today’s lesson picks up right after that interaction.
God said to Moses, “I am the LORD. Tell Pharoah…everything I tell you.”
But Moses said to the LORD, “Since I speak with faltering lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?” (7:28-30)
Moses must have been reeling from PTSD.
That is “Pharaoh Traumatic Stress Disorder.”
God, didn’t you see what happened last time?
Pharaoh didn’t listen to anything I said.
It’s like I told you way back when you asked me to do this. I said, “I speak with f-f-f-f-altering lips.”
I must have said, “um” too many times.
Or did something weird with my hands.
God, I don’t think I can do this!
Look at God’s response:
The Lord said, “You are to say everything I command you…I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and I will bring the Israelites out of it.” (v.1-5)
Did you count it? In that paragraph, there are seven actions verbs in which God is the one doing the action.
I command you…
I will harden…
I will lay my hand…
I will bring out…
I will stretch out my hand…
I will bring out…
Do you know how many actions verbs are associated with Moses as the doer?
We could summarize this portion of Scripture like this:
Moses says, “I can’t do this.”
God says, “You aren’t. I am.”
God works POWERFULLY through his people.
Are you feeling unable?
I can’t raise this child on my own. I’m too tired.
I can’t fix my relationship. I’m too hurt.
I can’t care for my family. I’m too unmotivated.
I can’t pass this test. I’m too stupid.
I can’t rebuke my child. I’m too sinful.
I can’t serve at church. I’m too guilty.
I can’t speak the Gospel. I’m too tongue tied.
I can’t converse about Jesus. I’m too uneducated.
I can’t convert my neighbor. I’m too awkward.
If you are feeling unable, perhaps it’s helpful to know that God is also unable…
God is unable to be unable.
That means you are able in Jesus.
Because Jesus is always able.
Do you know what is recorded after this conversation?
Verse 7 says that Moses was eighty years old and Aaron was eighty-three.
Why is that verse in here?
Because sometimes society can make senior feel so very unable.
Sometimes society isn’t so nice to seniors.
Sometimes seniors listen to society and begin to feel…
But not with God.
With God, 80-year-old Moses would lead an entire nation out of slavery.
With God, 83-year-old Aaron would speak boldly to the angry king of Egypt.
What might whatever-year-old you be able to do?
II. A Powerful Enemy
Check out what God would do through Moses and Aaron:
The Lord said, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle, take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.” (v.8-9)
Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh.
They asked the soldiers to get into the palace.
They waited nervously as the soldiers went to get permission.
Then, they walked down the halls into the throne room of the Pharoah.
There, perched seated royal was Pharaoh.
You two again? Ha! Did you want me to increase the amount of production needed?
Say the word and I’ll send my soldiers to whip every one of your brother slaves.
Come on in. I could use a good laugh.
Moses took a deep breath.
He remembered what God said:
Just say and do what I command you. (v.1)
So Moses and Aaron…did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. (v.10)
From wooden to scary.
From stiff to slithery.
From dead to deadly.
Ok. You’ve got some power.
So do I.
Get me Jannes!
Get me Jambres!
I’ll show you my power.
Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. (v.11-12a)
How did they do that?
Obviously, they aren’t working for God.
They are working against God.
If God wasn’t enabling these magicians to turn sticks into snakes, then who was?
It wasn’t the Egyptian sun god, Ra. He’s not real.
It wasn’t the Egyptian cat gods. They were too busy hacking up fur balls.
It certainly wasn’t Pharaoh. This is impossible for humans.
Who was turning this stick into a snake?
Someone else very powerful...
The original snake.
And all his demonic minions.
The Enemies of God are SCARY POWERFUL.
They aren’t cute.
They aren’t fun.
They aren’t fake.
They aren’t cool.
They aren’t hip.
They aren’t worth getting a bicep tattoo.
They are real.
They are scary.
They are powerful.
Powerful enough to turn a stick into a snake, sure…
Powerful enough to turn God’s perfect world into a sinful one.
Powerful enough to turn God’s people into God’s enemies.
Powerful enough to turn you away from your God.
Maybe these evil forces don’t work on you in the same way.
Maybe you’ve never seen a stick turn into a snake…
But the forces of evil are still powerful.
It’s powerful temptation of the guy at work. He’s friendly. He’s nice. He listens to me when my husband doesn’t. He’s nice to me. And…he doesn’t mind taking you away from your marriage and ruining what God has put together.
It’s the allure of sexy photos on the pop-up websites. You know they are wrong. But they don’t nag! They do whatever you want. So…You can’t click away or look away. Actually, you just click and look more.
It’s the powerful strength of a drug. I know I’m not thinking straight, but at least I’m not thinking stress…Until the next day, when I wake up and have created so much more stress with what I said and did.
It’s the powerful attraction of stuff and things –…That I gotta work and make money and fill my schedule and…, I don’t have time for church, group study or God, in fact… “Who is God again?”
It’s the power of fear. There’s COVID and disease and turmoil and…I know that reading all this stuff only makes me worse, but I can’t help it. And I’ll replace my morning devotion with morning scroll through the scariness of social media.
It’s the power of gossip. Because I feel bad about myself, so…Let me tell some of the people around me about some of the bad stuff I know that other church person did.
It’s the powerful weight of guilt. Cause you’re right, pastor. I’ve sinned. I’ve spent more time with demon than God. And I’m so sorry. I don’t think God would ever forgive me.
Demons are powerful.
Sin is powerful.
I left a key part out of this account.
It happens right after the magician’s staffs turn into snakes.
But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. (v.12)
III. A More Powerful God
Early the next morning, Pharaoh was feeling pretty good about himself.
In his mind, he had yet again shown his power over Aaron.
His power over Moses.
His power over this “LORD.”
He decided to celebrate his victory.
With a bath.
He went down to the Nile River.
He brought along his towel.
His rubber ducky.
But before he could get into his favorite bathing spot.
“MOSES! AARON! What are you doing here? I thought I told you to leave me alone!”
“The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert. But until now you have not listened. 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. The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.” (v.16-18)
Then, Aaron lifted up his staff.
The one that had previously been a snake.
And had previously eaten the staff of Pharaoh’s magicians…
He raised his staff…and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt. (v.20-21)
And there was nothing Pharoah could do.
He summoned his magicians.
They could replicate the changing of water into blood.
With whatever small bit of water was left.
But they could not undo what God had done.
There was nothing Pharaoh could do.
Not even take a bath.
TRUTH:God is MORE POWERFUL than his powerful enemies.
That Nile River was the source of Egyptian life.
It gave water to the plants.
It gave nourishment to the animals.
It kept the Egyptians alive.
They believed it so much they even thought it had life restoring qualities –the very reason Pharaoh bathed in it.
The Nile was the source of life for Egypt.
God turned into a source of death.
That’s nothing compared to what happened years later.
God himself, the source of all life…
When he was dead…
And most have the power to do nothing when they are dead.
When he was dead…
He conquered death.
God is more powerful in death.
Than even death.
And he’s more powerful than whatever you are facing.
He’s more powerful than your guilt.
He’s more powerful than your shame.
He’s more powerful than temptation.
He’s more powerful than sinful desire.
He’s more powerful your demons.
He’s more powerful than the devil.
He’s more powerful than death.
He’s more powerful.
And he’s on your side.
IV. What Now?
(1) Take God’s Enemies Seriously
Back in 8th grade. I was pretty full of myself.
I thought I was God’s gift to basketball.
Mostly it was because I was 6 foot 1 inch. (Though I haven’t grown an inch upwards since then).
We had won our opening two games and our third was against a school in Milwaukee.
They were led by a player that was 6 foot 3 inches.
Our coaches said we had to work on pump fakes, jab stabs, and fast cutting to be able to get open shots against him. My normal, slow drop step approach wouldn’t work.
I thought they were bluffing.
And in the game, I did what I always did.
Again and again and again…
We got beat badly. In part, because I took him lightly.
Don’t take your opponents lightly.
Don’t view them as easy wins just cause you’ve won before.
Don’t view them as not that dangerous because you’ve haven’t fallen yet.
Instead, take them seriously.
Stop talking to that flirty guy at work.
Install a filter on your internet.
Pour all the booze out of your house.
Give away things and stuff to others.
Delete your social media account.
Share your guilt with a trusted Christian so that they can share with you God’s forgiveness.
Better yet --
Write this number down.
That’s my phone.
If you’ve got guilt weighing you down.
Guilt that feels so powerful no one could lift it.
Let me know about it.
I’ll tell you that God can lift that guilt.
I’ll tell you that…because he already did.
(2) Take God’s Power Seriously
When we talked about the power of the evil forces earlier, we specifically were discussing the magicians that could transform the staff into a snake.
But there’s another, subtle opposing power.
It may have been even stronger.
Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said. (v.13)
Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. (v.22-23)
It’s too bad really.
Because he doubted God’s power, his people had nothing but blood and sandy hole water to drink for three days.
And this is only plague number one.
On the other hand…
Moses has undergone a transformation.
At the end of chapter six, he doesn’t want to confront Pharaoh because he doesn’t think Pharaoh will listen to him.
But then the snake incident happens.
And Pharaoh again rejects Moses’ request.
And the next morning God asks Moses to meet with Pharaoh again.
How does Moses respond?
Joining team Pharaoh?
Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. (7:20)
Because he had seen God’s power.
And God’s power was with him.
And he knew God’s power was enough.
God still has that same power.
And that same power is with you.
And that power is still enough.
Because it’s always enough.
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