The Final Straw

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Even in the midst of judgment, God is gracious and merciful.

Exodus(30) (Part of the Rescued(29) series)
by Stuart Johns(233) on February 18, 2024 (Sunday Morning(336))

Grace(8), Justice(7), Mercy(12), Repentance(17), Trust(24)

Rescued

The Final Straw

(Exodus 11:1-10)

 

INTRODUCTION

Heather Burke-Cody blogs:

 

I was thrift shopping for dorm stuff. The cashier appeared to be one of the most unhappy, maddest people ever. I was six people deep in the line, and it seemed like she got more and more exasperated with each passing customer.

 

She was especially incensed when one of my unmarked items needed a price check …. But as she rang up my items, I felt a ... soul nudge. I tried to bargain with Jesus and told him that the extra little bit of cash in the backside of my wallet was not meant for her. It surely should go to someone sweeter and kinder, more deserving, or at least appreciative maybe. Not someone downright mean and angry. But God did not budge.

 

The human heart is our very best compass. It rarely leads us astray. So, I paid my bill and reluctantly found the backside of my wallet. I slipped her some cash as she handed me my receipt.

 

She was caught off-guard by the gesture. She gripped the folded bill with one hand and paused. Then slid her mask down with the other hand. Her loud, stern voice got quiet when she whispered a single word: ‘Why?’ To which I answered two words back: ‘Soul nudge.’

 

There was another pause. A brief reckoning of sorts. When she grabbed my hand and held on, I was the one caught off-guard. ‘Today’s my 75th birthday and ain’t nobody called me. Not my sister. Not none of my kids. None of these people here. Nobody. Nothing. I don’t think I can remember ever being so sad. Ain’t nobody even remembers it’s my birthday.’”

 

Source: Heather Burke-Cody, “Soul Nudges and Heart Tingles,” The Everyday Good (8-12-22).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2023/february/soul-nudge-for-nasty.html]

BODY

  • ME

    • Extending mercy

        • In talking with family and friends who are expressing anger or frustration with how they were treated, I often encourage them to extend grace and mercy

        • I try to remind them that the individual may be dealing with unspoken conflict, illness, financial troubles, and/or spiritual battles that are weighing them down

        • Extending grace and mercy could change their attitude

 

  • WE

    • Extending mercy

        • How many of us have run into a nasty person?

        • Have we extended mercy to them or have we treated them the same way they are treating us?

 

As we prepare for the final plague, we see the grace and mercy of God on display. ​​ Pharaoh continued to live in rebellion against God and His commands.  ​​​​ He will suffer the consequences of that behavior, and yet God will extend mercy in the midst of His judgment of Pharaoh and the Egyptians. ​​ Moses wants us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Even in the midst of judgment, God is gracious and merciful.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Exodus 11:1-10)

    • Review (vv. 1-3)

        • The Lord reassured Moses that there will be just one more plague on Pharaoh and Egypt

        • The Lord reviewed for Moses what He had said previously concerning the Israelites leaving Egypt

          • At the burning bush: ​​ Exodus 3:19-22, “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. ​​ So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. ​​ After that, he will let you go. ​​ And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. ​​ Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. ​​ And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”

          • In Midian: ​​ Exodus 4:22-23, “Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: ​​ Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” ​​ But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”

          • In Egypt: ​​ Exodus 7:3-5, “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous 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 divisions, my people the Israelites. ​​ And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.”

        • Moses added a parenthetical note

          • Since Moses was writing after the fact, he explains what the Lord did after the final plague

          • Moses did not create suspense, but explained the power of God

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is able to make those who persecute us look on us with favor.

            • Read Acts 5:29-42

            • When I worked in the secular business world, I experienced God’s power at work to make those who persecuted me, because of my faith, look on me with favor

            • Have you experienced that in your own life?

            • We can trust God and His power to transform the thoughts and actions of those who persecute us

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust in God’s awesome power to make __________ (person/group) look on me with favor.

          • That is what God did for the Israelites and for Moses

          • Moses was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and the people

            • While Pharaoh was struggling to see God’s hand at work through Moses, Pharaoh’s officials and the people of Egypt recognized it

              • Gnats: ​​ Exodus 8:19, The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.”

              • Hail: ​​ Exodus 9:20, Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside.

              • Locusts: ​​ Exodus 10:7, Pharaoh’s officials said to him, “How long will this man be a snare to us? ​​ Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their God. ​​ Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?”

            • As we will see in just a moment, Pharaoh’s officials would bow down to Moses

            • “Moses himself was afforded a lofty status among the Egyptians, not because of anything he had done, but because his God granted him special favor and chose to work mighty signs through him.” ​​ [Martin, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, 48]

          • The parenthetical note shared the positive outcome of the final plague

        • The review is finished and it is time to return to the narrative

    • Report (vv. 4-8)

        • Most scholars agree that what we see in Exodus 11:4-8 actually happens between Exodus 10:26 and Exodus 10:27

          • “It is as if, while leaving, Moses turns to Pharaoh and says, ‘Oh yes, one more thing before I go.’” [Enns, The NIV Application Commentary, Exodus, 245]

          • It also appears that the last part of Exodus 11:8 happens right after Exodus 10:29

        • Moses gave Pharaoh the details about the last plague as the Lord had told him

          • The plague (vv. 4-5)

            • The Lord was going to go throughout Egypt about midnight

            • Every firstborn in Egypt would die, without exception

            • It would affect every family from the greatest to least

            • It would include the firstborn cattle too

          • Reaction to the plague (v. 6)

            • There would be loud wailing throughout Egypt

            • The Hebrew word for wailing is the same Hebrew word used of the Israelites in Exodus 3:7, 9

              • Exodus 3:7, The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. ​​ I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.”

              • Exodus 3:9, And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.

            • The wailing would be worse than they had ever experienced before or would experience in the future

          • Exception to the plague (v. 7)

            • The Israelites would be exempt from this plague

            • That is what is meant by the phrase “not a dog will bark”

            • “The actual meaning of the Hebrew is ‘but among the Israelites not a dog will stick out its tongue at any man or animal.’ . . . To say that not even a dog would stick out its tongue at an Israelite was a simple, graphically idiomatic way of saying that the Israelite humans and cattle would simply see no harm whatever from the tenth plague.” ​​ [Stuart, The New American Commentary, Volume 2, Exodus, 267]

          • Response to the plague (v. 8)

            • Now we see that Moses is talking to Pharaoh and his officials that are standing beside him

            • Pharaoh’s officials would come down from the platform where Pharaoh’s throne was at and bow down before Moses

            • They would encourage Moses and the Israelites to leave Egypt

          • Moses left the presence of Pharaoh

        • Application

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is gracious and merciful.

            • We see God’s grace and mercy in several aspects within this narrative

              • One is the timing of the death of the firstborn at midnight

                • “. . . ‘midnight’ in the sense of the concept in the ancient world was the deepest, darkest time of night, the point during the night when the most people were likely to be asleep (since people tended to retire to bed at dusk) and the time of greatest vulnerability and defenselessness. ​​ Thinking of the events of the plague from the point of view of the mercies of God, causing the death of so many Egyptians was indeed a severe punishment, but allowing them to die quietly in their sleep was an act of grace.” ​​ [Stuart, 265]

                • I love the idea that God graciously took all the firstborn of Egypt while they quietly slept

                • Even in the midst of judgment, God is gracious and merciful.

                • He loved the Egyptian people even though they had rebelled against Him

                • We see God’s love and justice working together perfectly through His grace and mercy

              • Another is the fact that God did not completely destroy all the Egyptians

                • He certainly had the power and the right to do that

                • Exodus 9:15, For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth.

                • Definitions

                  • Grace is getting something we don’t deserve

                  • Mercy is not getting what we do deserve

                • The Egyptians deserved to be wiped off the earth because of their rebellion against God and their oppression of His people, but God only required the lives of the firstborn children and cattle

                • Even in the midst of judgment, God is gracious and merciful.

            • God is gracious and merciful to us as well

              • We are all born into sin, meaning that we are in rebellion against God from our birth (Rom. 3:23)

              • We see God’s grace and mercy in the fact that what we earn or deserve for our sin is to be separated from God for all eternity, but He offers us the gift of eternal life through His Son, Jesus (Rom. 6:23)

              • We experience God’s love for us through the fact that He sent Jesus to die for us while we were still in rebellion against Him (Rom. 5:8)

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Experience God’s grace and mercy by accepting His gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

            • Through the tenth plague we see the grace and mercy of God, but we also see His justice

          • PRINCIPLE #3 – God is just.

            • Many people ask if God’s punishment was just, because Pharaoh was the one whose heart was hardened and not necessarily his people

              • That belief assumes we know the heart of the Egyptians, which we don’t

              • “[We] must . . . remember that the firstborn of the womb belongs to God. ​​ It is his by right and he may do with it as he pleases. ​​ The ‘destroyer’ (i.e., the tenth plague) was not a random type of punishment; it was directed against the Egyptian firstborn. ​​ This is significant. ​​ Not only was the tenth plague a payback for Pharaoh’s decree to kill the Israelite children in chapter 1, but it was God’s exercising his divine right over the firstborn.” [Enns, 254]

              • “What the question fails to bring out is the right of God to bring judgment upon any and all who have rebelled against him. . . . He may judge sinners at any moment by any means he considers appropriate: ​​ overthrowing cities such as Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18-19) or annihilating the inhabitants of Jericho by an invading army (Josh. 6).” ​​ [Mackay, Exodus: A Mentor Commentary, 205]

              • “God does a great many things that remain beyond human understanding because human intellect is far too limited to allow for appreciation of the entire complexity of God’s overall eternal plan for his universe and each individual in it.” ​​ [Stuart, 265]

              • “Compensation is a fundamental law of life (Matt. 7:1-2), and God isn’t unjust in permitting this law to operate in the world. ​​ Pharaoh drowned the Jewish babies, so God drowned Pharaoh’s army (Ex. 14:26-31; 15:4-5). ​​ Jacob lied to his father Isaac (Gen. 17:15-17), and years later, Jacob’s sons lied to him (37:31-35). ​​ David committed adultery and had the woman’s husband murdered (2 Sam. 11), and David’s daughter was raped and two of his sons were murdered (2 Sam. 13; 18). ​​ Haman built a gallows on which to hang Mordecai, but it was Haman who was hanged there instead (Es. 7:7-10). ​​ ‘Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap’ (Gal. 6:7, NKJV). ​​ As to the justice of this tenth plague, who can pass judgment on the acts of the Lord when ‘righteousness and justice are the foundation of [His] throne’? (Ps. 89:14, NIV).” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 197]

              • Genesis 18:25b, Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

              • It is arrogant of us as finite human beings to think that we know better than an infinite, holy God

              • We have to humble ourselves by ridding our hearts and minds of pride and submit to Him as Almighty God

            • Blaming God for not being fair or just

              • How many of us are willing to admit we have thought that we know better than God does about . . .

                • Our job, a relationship, and/or our finances

                • The physical or spiritual healing of a family member or friend

                • Children and women who are exploited and hurt

                • The political system and our government officials

                • The leadership and direction of our church

              • Maybe some of us have questioned whether God’s punishment of us has been just or fair

                • Even in the midst of judgment, God is gracious and merciful.

                • We can trust that God is fair and just even if we don’t understand, because that is His character

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Acknowledge that God is just and fair in how He deals with humanity.

            • We also see in this section of the narrative a principle that we have already talked about

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is able to make those who persecute us look on us with favor.

            • Moses told Pharaoh that his officials would come and bow down before him and plead with him to leave with all of the Israelites in tow

            • And we know from verses 2 and 3 that the Israelites would plunder the Egyptians when they left

        • The Lord’s announcement is finished and we see His final reminder in verses 9 and 10

    • Reminder (vv. 9-10)

        • Most translations simply say that the Lord “said” instead of “had said”

        • Whether the Lord told Moses presently or not, it is something the Lord had said before

          • Exodus 4:21-23, The Lord said to Moses, “When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do. ​​ But I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. ​​ Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: ​​ Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” ​​ But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”

          • Exodus 3:19-22, “But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. ​​ So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. ​​ After that, he will let you go.

          • Read Exodus 6:1-8

          • The Lord had been said these things throughout the plague accounts and they had come true

        • Application

          • PRINCIPLE #4 – God’s desire is for His people to come to Him without experiencing great calamities.

            • The Egyptians

              • The greater purpose behind every plague the Egyptians experienced was so they would recognize that the Lord is God

              • He wanted the Egyptians to believe in Him and serve Him instead of the vast number of gods and goddesses they were currently worshiping

            • Us

              • The greater purpose behind every hardship we face is so we will recognize that the Lord is God

              • He wants us to believe in Him and serve Him instead of the idols we currently worship

              • Are you continuing to rebel against the Lord?

              • How many calamities will you need to experience before you recognize that the Lord is God

                • He created you and He loves you

                • He wants you to be in a personal relationship with His Son, Jesus

          • PRINCIPLE #5 – God wants us to turn from our wicked ways and live.

            • “Judgment is not the first option in God’s dealings with mankind.” ​​ [Mackay, 208-209]

              • Ezekiel 33:11, Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. ​​ Turn! ​​ Turn from your evil ways! ​​ Why will you die, O house of Israel?’

              • 2 Peter 3:8-9, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. ​​ The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. ​​ He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

            • #4 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Turn from my wicked ways and repent of my sins.

 

  • YOU

    • Trust in God’s awesome power to make those who are persecuting me, look on me with favor.

    • Experience God’s grace and mercy by accepting His gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

    • Acknowledge that God is just and fair in how He deals with me.

    • Turn from my wicked ways and repent of my sins.

 

  • WE

    • Trust in God’s awesome power to make those who are persecuting us, look on us with favor.

    • Acknowledge that God is just and fair in how He deals with us.

 

CONCLUSION

“The historian Paul Veyne calls himself an ‘unbeliever,’ and yet he extols the message of human dignity that we find in the sacrificial love and death of Jesus. Veyne writes:

 

[In the gospel, a person's life] suddenly acquired an eternal significance within a cosmic plan, something that no philosophy or paganism could confer ... The pagan gods lived for themselves. In contrast, Christ, the Man-God sacrificed himself for his [people] ... Christianity owed its success to a collective invention of genius ... namely, the infinite mercy of a God passionate about the fate of the human race, indeed about the fate of each and every individual soul, including mine and yours, and not just those of the kingdoms, empires and the human race in general.”

 

Source:

Paul Veyne, “When Our World Became Christian: (Polity, 2010), pp. 19-22.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2020/march/secular-historian-on-clear-benefit-from-resurrection.html]

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