Let’s Make a Deal
Let’s Make a Deal debuted on television in December 1963. The premise of the show involved guests wearing crazy costumes, winning merchandise and being offered the opportunity to take the items they had already won and trade them for items they could not see. The items were hidden behind doors or in boxes and the contestant had to make a choice. If they chose to trade the prizes they had already won, they might get something better, or they might get a “Zonk.” That is, they might leave with something worthless. The show succeeded because there was always someone willing to make a deal. There was always someone ready to compromise by trading what they already had for what they thought would be something better.
This morning we continue our study of Exodus in 8:20-32. God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, are in slavery in Egypt. God has sent Moses to Pharaoh to demand he let His people go. When Pharaoh refuses God sends plagues on Pharaoh, the Egyptians and the land. Through the first three plagues, water to blood, frogs and gnats, Pharaoh has hardened his heart toward the Lord and has refused to let the people go. In the second plague, Pharaoh outright lied saying he would let the people go if Moses would pray to God to take the frogs away. In the fourth plague, this morning, we are going to see a “Let’s make a deal” scenario play out, as Pharaoh offers to let God’s people go, but only on his terms. He will attach a condition or compromise to their leaving. He will in effect say to Moses, “I know God said to let His people go, and I will, but first, let’s make a deal.” He wanted Moses and Israel to compromise that which God had promised them, which was total freedom from slavery, for something much less.
The same goes for us today. Pharaoh stands for Satan, Egypt stands for the world and the children of Israel stands for the church, all those who are saved by grace. When we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and commit to lives to the Lord, we are called to leave the world and our old master, Satan, behind. The world and Satan are forever trying to call us back to our old selves and convince us to make a deal with him and to compromise our faith. But, with the Devil, there are no upgrades, only “Zonks.” Satan wants us to compromise by trading what we already have from the Lord, for something much less.
God wants us to lead a life of obedience that is Spirit-filled and blessed by Him. The Devil wants us to trade the blessings of God for the rubbish of this world and he will offer us every compromise at his disposal to attempt to lead us astray. Sadly, many people, Christians included, will fall for his tricks. But don’t be discouraged this morning. John 16:33 says, “I have told these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” By the cross, Jesus has conquered Satan and the grave. With the Holy Spirit living within us and helping us to obey all that Jesus commanded, we have the same power to overcome Satan and the world. We do not have to trade the blessings of God for something less. We don’t have to compromise with Satan or the world. That brings us to our big idea this morning that God calls his people to obedience, not compromise. And with the Holy Spirit within us it can be done.
Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to your Word this morning. Don’t let us leave this place unaffected or unchanged. Help us to be obedient to your commands and not compromise the great things we have with you for the trash of this world that Satan wants to give us. Thank you for your Holy Spirit within us. We worship you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
There are three points this morning. The first is Complete found in Exodus 8:20-24. Please follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the river and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies; even the ground will be covered with them. “‘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. I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.’” And the Lord did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials; throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies.”
This is the beginning of the fourth plague, the second cycle of plagues that God has sent against Pharaoh and Egypt. The first cycle consisted of water turning to blood, frogs and gnats. The fourth plague is similar to the first plague, the fifth plague will be similar to the second and the sixth plague will be similar to the third. The first similarity is that Moses was to “present” himself to Pharaoh as he went to the water or the Nile River. Pharaoh and the Egyptians worshipped the gods of the Nile so it was probably his ritual to go to the river each morning to worship. The second similarity is that Moses was to tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go so they could worship him. The third similarity is that Moses was to announce the fourth plague. The fourth plague would consist of swarms of flies being sent on Pharaoh and his officials, on the people and in their houses. It would be a complete infestation where Pharaoh, his officials and the Egyptian people lived; even the ground would be infested. There would be so many flies that Stuart says, “you won’t even be able to put a foot down without stepping on lots of them.” There would be no escape from them.
In verse 21 we see a play on words: If Pharaoh will not “send” God’s people out of Egypt, God will “send” the swarms of flies against Egypt. The language of “send against” was a sign of divine response and punishment to his people’s slavery in Egypt. The choice was Pharaoh’s as to whether the plagues stopped or not. Would he be obedient to Almighty God or not? (Big Idea) These swarms of flies were not your ordinary housefly. They were made up of many different kinds of insects including dog flies, sandflies, horseflies, March flies, fleas, mosquitoes, midges, and even gnats again. The Septuagint identifies them as biting insects. This plague would be a complete infestation of biting insects sent against Pharaoh, his officials and the Egyptian people. There would be nowhere where these insects could not to get to them and bite them.
We also see some differences with the first plague. First, Moses didn’t have to identify the Lord to Pharaoh. In Exodus 7:16, Moses identified the Lord as the God of the Hebrews. After three plagues, Pharaoh knew it was Yahweh who was sending these plagues. Second, Moses didn’t need to identify where the Israelite people would go. Pharaoh didn’t need to be reminded that God had commanded them to go three-days into the desert. Moses may have left that part out fueling Pharaoh’s compromising response later on in the narrative. Third, the magicians will not be present, and Pharaoh will not call them. He knew after the plague of gnats that his gods were defeated and that there was no reason to summon the magicians. Also, Aaron is absent signifying that this is now between Moses and Pharaoh. Fourth, no staff would be needed to perform this miraculous sign. This would be a direct display of God’s power. All the Lord would have to do is speak and the plague would happen. That brings us to our first principle that God is All-powerful. We have seen this time and time again throughout our narrative.
Fifth, the first and second plagues were an attack on the water as all water above the ground was turned to blood and frogs came out of the Nile. The third plague was an attack on the earth as the dust of the ground became gnats. But the fourth plague will be different. It will be an attack on the air as swarms of flies overtake Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Like the frogs, the fly was revered because they seemed to bring life out of death. Ross says, “As the maggots came crawling out of rotting flesh, only to fly away, they manifested a power over death that was very appealing to a people obsessed with surviving after death.” This plague seems to be connected to the ichneumon fly which the Egyptians considered a manifestation of the god Uatchit. There also seems to be a connection with “Beelzebub” which means “Lord of the flies.” Beelzebub was actually a tool of Satan and one of the representations of Satan’s power in Egypt. Luke 11:15 says, “But some of them said, “By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he (Jesus) is driving out demons.” Dunnam says, “They depended on Beelzebub to guard them against ravenous flies, but this plague convinced them he was impotent causing them to look elsewhere for relief.” The Lord has complete sovereignty and power over the gods of Egypt. He is also in control of all nature. That brings us to our second principle that God is in control of all nature. He is in control of the water, the earth, and the air. He created all nature, and he sustains all nature, and we can worship him for that this morning.
Lastly, probably the greatest difference between the fourth plague and the others is that we are told explicitly that the plague of flies would not happen in Goshen, where his people resided. The question we may ask is: has Goshen been exempt from the plagues so far? Stuart says, “At this point Moses chose to make the distinction explicit. It will appear as a feature in some of the subsequent plague accounts as well (nos. 5, 7, 9 and 10), but not in all of them—indicating that the cases where the distinction is overtly described are intended to suggest to the reader the general pattern that prevailed in all ten plagues. It is possible that Goshen has been exempt and we are now only being told. Pharaoh may or may not have been aware, but he is also now being told and he will not be able to ignore the fact that it is the Lord God of the Hebrews that is bringing these plagues.
The Lord was going to deal differently with the land where his chosen people lived. The Lord was going to make a distinction between the Israelites – his people and the Egyptians – Pharaoh’s people. The complete infestation of flies that the Lord promised to send against Egypt would be non-existent in the land of Goshen where his people were living. The reason given for this was so that Pharaoh would know that the Lord of the Hebrews is in the land. Pharaoh thought he was the king of Egypt, and he was in control of his land, and wielded the power there. But the Lord was going to let him know that was not the case. Yahweh is the Lord of all the world even the land of Egypt and all power is his.
The fact that it would only happen in Egypt and not in Goshen would be a miraculous sign from the Lord. It would also be miraculous because it would have a starting time, which would be the next day. This would prove that the plague of flies was not be a natural phenomenon or something that happened by chance. This sign was supposed to change the heart of Pharaoh into softening his heart and letting God’s chosen people go. But it was also a sign to the Israelites that they were still God’s chosen people. Magonet says, “This degree of discrimination moves the events beyond a natural cataclysm into a precise divine intervention.” Here God is granting his people a serene immunity because they are, after all, his people. The language of “knowing” and “sign” should have been a “sign” to Pharaoh of future disaster. This same distinction will be made again in Exodus 11:7 with the death of the firstborn sons. Even the word “ruin” used in verse 24 points to something more disastrous than a fly infestation.
Pharaoh did not comply with the Lord’s command, and he sent dense swarms of flies into Pharaoh’s palace, into the houses of his officials and throughout Egypt. The land was “ruined” or “corrupted” by the flies. This corruption would have kept the Egyptians from worshipping their gods because of being unclean, as they were with the plague of gnats. The imperfect form of the verb “ruin” is used to signify that the ruining continued for a period of time. Ryken says, “These were blood-sucking bugs that tormented both man and beast.” Literally, the swarms are described as “heavy”, meaning they were so numerous they became a burden to the Egyptians. Psalm 78:45 confirms this, saying, “He sent swarms of flies that devoured them.” These biting flies terrorized the people and devastated the countryside. The flies fed on the people and devoured them. We again see the principle that God is All-Powerful as he is able to use the even the smallest of his creations with such destructive force.
Now that the land was completely infested with flies, we could expect Pharaoh to comply with the Lord’s demands to let his people go which brings us to our second point this morning, called Compromise, found in verses 25-29. Please follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land.” But Moses said, “That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the Lord our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us? We must take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, as he commands us.” Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me.” Moses answered, “As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the Lord, and tomorrow the flies will leave Pharaoh and his officials and his people. Only let Pharaoh be sure that he does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to the Lord.”
We don’t know how long it took Pharaoh to summon Moses and Aaron, but once it happened they must have thought that Pharaoh was ready to let the Israelites go to worship the Lord. Pharaoh wanted relief and had seemingly started to crack under the burden of the flies. He was now willing to let the Israelites go but he was not willing to let them go to the desert. Instead, he was only willing to allow the Israelites “a holiday” in order to sacrifice to their God in the land of Egypt. This may have been seen as a capitulation on Pharaoh’s part, but it really wasn’t. They would continue to be under his jurisdiction, and he wouldn’t have to recognize their God’s superiority. Interestingly, Pharaoh now admits the existence and power of the Lord that He had claimed earlier to not “know.” But even now he only recognizes him as God of the Hebrews and not as God of all creation.
Pharaoh was offering to make a deal with Moses and Aaron to compromise that which God had promised them, which was total freedom from slavery, for something much less. Nothing but the complete release of God’s chosen people out of the land of Egypt and out of slavery was going to do. These were God’s people not Pharaoh’s. They were created to worship the one true God of the universe, the Lord God Almighty, not Pharaoh. This brings us to our third principle that God is pleased when we fulfill our created purpose to worship him and him alone. We see this in Psalm 148:5, “Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created.” And in Psalm 86:9, “All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord, they will bring glory to your name.” And in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me.” We were created to worship the Lord and that is why God brought the plagues upon Egypt. It was so His people could be free to worship him and him alone. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to Fulfill my created purpose to worship the Lord and have no other gods before Him.
Next, we see Moses’ response to Pharaoh’s compromise. This was not going to fly with God nor with Moses. Moses knows that staying in Egypt would violate God’s command and he refuses to compromise saying that sacrificing to the Lord in the land of Egypt would not be right. The sacrifices the Israelites would make would be detestable to the Egyptians and would cause them to stone them. Cole says, “Moses refuses on the grounds that to sacrifice in Egypt would be like killing a pig in a Muslim mosque or slaughtering a cow in a Hindu temple. In the sense that the Egyptians would consider the sacrifice of a sacred animal as blasphemous.” The Egyptians would stone the Israelites on principle. Then Moses reiterates that they must take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the Lord, as he has commanded them. Pharaoh knew this three-day journey meant that he would never see the Israelites again. He would lose his free slave labor force and that was something he wasn’t prepared to do. We see the truth that Pharaoh knew that the Israelites wouldn’t be able to get away with making sacrifices in the midst of the Egyptians because he didn’t argue with Moses about it. He immediately tried again to get Moses to compromise. He said that he would let the people go as long as they didn’t go too far. He seemed to be allowing them to leave but really, he was keeping them on a short leash. They could only go as far as he could send his army after them to easily bring them back. This was as far as Pharaoh was going to go even with the plague of flies ruining the people and the land.
This goes to show that it wasn’t about the Israelites worshipping their God. It was about the Israelites freedom and whose they really were. “I will let you go” shows that Pharaoh believed he still owned and controlled God’s chosen people. Spurgeon says, “They were not Pharaoh’s people; Pharaoh never chose them, he had never brought them where they were. He had not fought with them and overcome them. They were not captives in war, nor did they dwell in a territory which was the spoil of fair conflict.” As Christ-followers, we are called to be in the world but not of it. We can’t compromise by worshiping “in the land” or worshiping the way the world wants us to. The world would say “worship on Sundays but the rest of the week do whatever you want.” The world would say “go ahead and worship but don’t be extreme, God will be okay with a little bit of worship or half-hearted worship.” No, we are to be obedient to the Lord and leave sin behind completely. Satan wants Christians to mix the world and church to the point where there is no distinction between God’s people and his people. Instead of being hated by the world like Jesus was Christians are joining the world and blurring the lines. We want to offer sacrifices to God but remain within the friendly confines of Egypt. But our scripture teaches us that we must not settle for the deals that Satan wants to make with us and compromise with the world
Jesus said we would worship the Lord “in spirit and in truth” and that means two things. One, it means leaving Egypt for the wilderness and ultimately the promised land. Two, it means total obedience to the Lord. We can’t compromise our faith; we must obey Jesus completely without compromise. (Big Idea) Spurgeon explained it like this: God’s demand is not that his people should have some little liberty, some little rest in their sin, no, but that they should go right out of Egypt.… Christ did not come into the world merely to make our sin more tolerable, but to deliver us right away from it. He did not come to make hell less hot, or sin less damnable, or our lusts less mighty; but to put all these things far away from his people and work out a full and complete deliverance.… Christ does not come to make people less sinful, but to make them leave off sin altogether—not to make them less miserable, but to put their miseries right away, and give them joy and peace in believing in him. The deliverance must be complete, or else there shall be no deliverance at all.” When it comes to obeying the Lord there can be no deals and no compromise. That brings us to our second next step which is to Obey the Lord completely, leaving Egypt (the world) and compromise behind.
Pharaoh then asked Moses to pray for him. “Now pray for me” shows Pharaoh knew exactly who the plagues came from, and how they could be stopped which was by humbly appealing to the Lord. Moses tells Pharaoh that as soon as he leaves him, he will pray to the Lord and tomorrow the flies will be completely gone. This would be proof to Pharaoh, the Egyptians and also to the Israelites that this plague was another miraculous sign from the Lord. The fact that the flies would leave at the precise moment that Moses said they would, would be all the proof Pharaoh needed to “know the Lord” and to let God’s people go. Pharaoh had already hardened his heart three times, so Moses warns Pharaoh to not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to make sacrifices to the Lord.
After the plague of the flies brought ruin to the land and Pharaoh tried to get Moses to compromise by not going too far from Egypt to make sacrifices, we now come to our third point this morning, which is Choice, found in verses 30-32. Please follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord, and the Lord did what Moses asked. The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not a fly remained. But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.”
Moses leaves Pharaoh and prays to the Lord just as he promised, and the Lord did just as Moses asked. The flies completely left Pharaoh, his officials and his people, not one fly remained. Now Pharaoh had a choice to make. He could choose to let God’s people go, or he could choose to harden his heart again. This brings us to our fourth principle this morning that God is pleased when we choose him as our Lord. God wants us to be obedient to him. He is long-suffering, not wanting anyone to perish and this was true of Pharaoh as well. God longed for Pharaoh to choose repentance and begin to serve and worship Him. God wanted to show his mercy toward Pharaoh instead of forcing him into submission, but Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he resolved to stand against God and his chosen people. Making choices is the privilege and price of being human. Every choice we make forms our character and the more choices we make forms a habit within us. As responsible human beings we need to make proper moral choices. When we become Christ-followers, God calls us to choose obedience to him, and every time we do it forms our Christian character. But if we choose to not obey the Lord and harden our hearts toward him then we form a different kind of character. No one knows when the “point of no return” will be, which was where Pharaoh found himself. Pharaoh had hardened his heart to the Lord and his people for so long and so many times that he was beyond that point of no return, and he would reap the punishment of his choices not only for himself but for the Egyptian people as well. Maybe that is where you are at this morning. Maybe you have been hardening your heart toward the Lord for a while now. He has been pursuing you and you have continued to put him off. If you are able to recognize this then you are not too far gone like Pharaoh was. We all have a choice to make when confronted by the Lord and you can still choose to soften your heart and bow before Almighty God this morning and accept him as your Savior and make him Lord of your life. That brings us to our last next step which is to Soften my heart, bow before Almighty God, accept him as my Savior, and live in obedience to Him and His commands.
I want to end with two short illustrations: In the early 1900’s through the 1960’s Broadway Presbyterian Church was a powerful witness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Upper Manhattan, but from the 1960’s to the 1990’s a subtle change began to take place. A change in emphasis stole in as massive feeding programs for the homeless were undertaken. Church membership slipped from over 1000 to 120. In the soup kitchens, prayers were not even offered over meals out of concern that the clients might resent it. And it was discovered that the same people were coming through the lines year after year. There was no change taking place in their lives. What happened? The decisive point of the battle, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, had been surrendered. Free food doesn’t transform lives, The resurrected Christ transforms lives. (World Magazine, 26 January 2002).
The second comes from A. T. Pierson: Suppose you had a thousand-acre farm, and someone offered to buy it. You agree to sell the land except for one acre right in the center which you want to keep for yourself. Did you know that in some areas the law would allow you to have access to that one lone spot? And that you would have the right to build a road across the surrounding property in order to get to it? So it is with us as Christians if we make less than 100-percent surrender to God. We can be sure that the devil will take advantage of any inroad to reach that uncommitted area of our lives. (Encyclopedia of Illustrations #1775).
We have all heard Satan say at one time or the other, “Let’s make a deal.” He has tempted us to trade something precious for something worthless. He has tempted us to trade our testimony for empty promises and wasted years. The great thing about our God is his mercy, grace and forgiveness. When we fall, Jesus will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He will restore us to life in Him. So I want to encourage all of us this morning that with the help of the Holy Spirit within we do not have to fall for Satan’s deals and compromises. And if we do our heavenly Father will let us trade in that which the Devil has given us for something more precious than gold.
As the ushers come to collect the tithes and offerings and the praise team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, I thank you for your Word. It is true and tells us of your mighty deeds for your people. We can trust in it for our lives. I praise you because you are all-powerful and that you are in control of all nature. I also praise you for creating us to worship you alone and that we can choose you as our Lord. Help us to fulfill our created purpose by worshiping you and having no other gods before you. Help us to obey you completely, leaving Egypt and compromise behind. And Lord, I pray that we all would soften our hearts towards you, bow before you, accept you as our Savior and live in obedience to you and your commands. In Jesus’ name, Amen.