Sunday, August 15, 2010

Twelfth Sunday in Trinity: Exodus 8:1-32

Exodus is the story of God coming for His son, Israel and remaking a world for him (4:22-23), but God created the universe for Adam His first son, and ever after, God recreates the world for His sons to rule and glorify.

Creation and De-creation

Genesis 1
Day 1: Light/Darkness
Day 2: Heaven/Firmament
Day 3: Dry land
Day 4: Sun, Moon, and Stars
Day 5: Birds/Fish
Day 6: Animals/Man

Plague 1: Nile to Blood (in the morning, 7:15)
Plague 2: Frogs (command &
confrontation, 8:1)
Plague 3: Lice (no confrontation, 8:16)

Plague 4: Flies (in the morning, 8:20)
Plague 5: Livestock diseased (command &
confrontation, 9:1)
Plague 6: Boils (no confrontation, 9:8)

Plague 7: Hail (in the morning, 9:13)
Plague 8: Locusts (command &
confrontation, 10:1-3)
Plague 9: Darkness (no confrontation,

The order and structure of the Exodus plagues reveals Yahweh systematically unmaking the Egyptian world. Moses is a righteous and faithful Adamson who is being led through a universe remodel. This is also giving Pharaoh what he wants: disobedience to the word of God is always an embrace of chaos.

A couple of transitions run through plagues 2, 3, and 4: first, the magicians go from mimicking Moses’ power (8:7) to not being able to keep up (8:18-19). This is perhaps part of the transition from making no explicit difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians to making a difference (8:22-23). Twice Pharaoh makes false promises to allow Israel to go sacrifice to Yahweh (8:8, 8:25ff). As these plagues fall, and Yahweh’s might becomes clear, Pharaoh hardens his heart (8:15, 19, 32).

Hardness, Heaviness, and Glory
One of the words used to describe the “hardness” of Pharaoh’s heart is the word kaved which means “heavy, dense, fat, glory.” It is first used in Exodus to describe the “slowness” of Moses’ mouth/words (4:10). Likewise it describes the kind of “heavy” labor placed on the Hebrews (5:9). This same word is used to describe the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart seven times in the story (7:14, 8:15, 8:32, 9:7, 9:34, 10:1, 14:40). What is striking is that the plagues are described with the same word: “heavy swarms” (8:24), “severe plague” (9:3), “heavy hail” (9:18, 24) “severe/heavy swarms” (10:14). Ultimately, Israel goes up out of the land with “dense” livestock (12:38). Thus, the whole narrative is structured by this theme which is driving toward Yahweh’s goal of being “glorified” by the Egyptians (14:17-18).

A similar thread can be traced through the use of another term: Yahweh says at the beginning of His first speech to Moses that when Moses goes to Pharaoh he will not listen except by a “mighty hand” (3:19). The word for “mighty” is khazaq and literally means “clenched” and can mean “hard, strong, severe.” Moses “seizes” the serpent with his hand (4:4) as a sign of Yahweh’s strength. But this word is also used to describe Pharaoh’s hardness of heart (4:21, 7:13, 7:22, 8:19, 9:12, 9:35, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8). Ultimately the hearts of the Egyptians are hardened too (14:17). The word is used twelve times to refer to hard hearts.

Despite his refusal, Yahweh promises that Pharaoh will ultimately send Israel out of Egypt with a “strong hand” (6:1). The plagues come on Egypt because Pharaoh still “holds” Israel (9:2). Likewise the “strong” wind drives away the locusts (10:19), and ultimately the Egyptians “strongly urge” the people to go (12:33). And it is Yahweh’s strong hand that brings Israel out of the house of bondage (13:3, 13:9, 13:14, 13:16).

Conclusions & Applications
When God remakes worlds with His mighty hand, He unmakes old worlds in order to renew and refresh, driving history from glory to glory. The central question becomes how do we respond to God’s work? There is always temptation to hardness of heart, refusing to believe that God knows what He is doing, refusing to believe that this is glory. Faith receives the word of God, embraces the glory, and joins the story.

Jesus is the Mighty Hand of God, the strength and glory of God. God has triumphed over every Pharaoh and every Egypt in the cross and resurrection, and that event – as the greater Exodus – made possible and made certain that everyone who looks to Him in faith is being conformed to that glory. Whatever is heavy upon you, whatever seems to hold you, grasp at you, everything has to do with where you are looking. When we look away from Jesus, heaviness becomes hardness, but when we look to Jesus, the heaviness becomes glory.

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