God absolutely knew what he was doing from the start. The time table was set. It was like doing a restart on your computer or a reset on your phone to get a fresh start. That’s what God envisioned for his people. God knew there would be the firstborn plague. He timed it perfectly. Just when we were wondering why. He was setting them apart for his own purpose.
I’m not sure when Moses and Aaron got this message, but it doesn’t sound like it was at the same time Moses brought the news of the plague to Pharaoh. The Israelites needed to be made aware of how God’s plan involved them. There was some prepping to do.
This is it. This is God’s time. God tells Moses, “I will strike Pharaoh and the land of Egypt with one more blow. After that, Pharaoh will let you leave this country. In fact, he will be so eager to get rid of you that he will force you all to leave.” I can just imagine Moses thinking, “I’ll believe it when I see it!”
Then we hear what God is planning to do. Imagine your firstborn son dead! Everyone’s firstborn, including livestock. The sound of wailing would be eerie and deafening. But the Israelites will be at peace. Pharaoh will lose his son.
Have you ever said to someone, “I never want to see you again!” That usually comes from a place of anger, desperation, or frustration. Pharaoh was clearly put out with Moses and Aaron. He must have figured that if he didn’t see them again the destruction of his land would end. That is only true in that the land would not be touched again. We hear that it was already destroyed, so there was nothing left to ruin.
But God wasn’t done. We’ll have to wait and see what is coming next. But for today, we have two more plagues of destruction. God sent more pests. Locusts this time would devour all signs of life on the vegetation of the land. It must have looked like a warzone with leafless trees and no vegetation providing color or life. And then came the darkness. Like no darkness we have ever seen, other than perhaps in the middle of a forest with no city lights to brighten the horizon.
Today’s reading covers three more of the plague stories. Rather than read each separately, at this point it seems we understand what’s happening. God wants some attention. He also wants his people to be free from bondage. Moses and Aaron are the messengers he is empowering for the job. Pharaoh is the one he is toying with to keep the story going.
When you think of what has transpired so far, we have the water turning to blood, frogs, gnats, and flies. Today we have the plague affecting livestock, boils, and hail. This is all pretty nasty stuff. Thankfully, he is sparing his people in Goshen. And, Pharaoh’s magicians are not able to keep up with God anymore.
It’s the warm season in Mexico now, and it seems like the bugs want to get in from the heat as well. Do you all know that buzzing you hear when a fly or mosquito is close by your ear? Well, I’ve heard that lately as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. I seem to be a bug magnet and will often swat and the “invisible” pests in the dark. I can’t imagine having a swarm of them as in today’s reading. In general, I am not a fan of bugs. God’s sense of humor is clear in that we live in Mexico now where the bugs all seem so much bigger and more in love with me than ever before.
But for the people in Egypt, these pests were nasty. First gnats and then flies. What struck me is that the magicians couldn’t replicate the gnats, and it never said whether they tried flies or not. I loved how they told Pharaoh that the gnats were the “finger of God.” But Pharoah didn’t listen. God’s hardening was still at work. Interesting that the magicians recognized God at least.