The Purpose of the Plagues, and Everything
Given By: "Glenn D. Blank" On Saturday, January 1, 2011

How many of your have wondered about the purpose of the plagues upon Egypt?

If you had been there, you would have! Surely many were wondering and crying out to heaven, why are these things happening to us?

 

How many of you have ever wondered and cried out to heaven, why are these things happening to us? Well, the Bible tells us why. People just have to decide whether they believe it, or not, and whether they will join in proclaiming the purpose of God's power, or not.


Those who refuse to believe and proclaim it will harden their hearts, and experience judgment. Those who decide to trust and join in proclaiming it will experience God's deliverance and freedom. Exodus 9:13-16, "Then the LORD said to Moses, "Rise up early in the morning and stand before Pharaoh and say to him, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me. "For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. "For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth." Think about it: if God's purpose was only for His people to make a sacrifice in the wilderness, or ultimately to set them free altogether, did he really need to send ten plagues? Wouldn't a wall of fire around the children of Israel have sufficed? Bye, Pharaoh, we're leaving now! Whatcha think? (People often think they could do things better than God, don't they?) Trust me, He knows what He's doing! V'eemru?


Hashem had several greater purposes: --To bring about the deliverance of Israel (and those who would join them): "Let my people Go!" --To reveal a distinction between His people and all the other peoples of the earth.  E.g., in Exodus 9:4, "But the LORD will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing will die of all that belongs to the sons of Israel." And Pharaoh kept checking it out! Ex. 9:7, "Pharaoh investigated and found that not even one of the animals of the people of Israel had died." What is the purpose of making this distinction? To provoke them to choose the God of Israel. -- To bring everyone to a decision: whether to trust Hashem and obey, or not? This was a decision for everyone-both Pharaoh and Moses, both the Israelites and the Egyptians. -- To accomplish all these things, God sent the plagues and stated His purpose to Pharaoh: "In order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth."


Can anyone see parallels between what God was proclaiming thru Moses to Pharaoh and the Good News? -- The purpose of the Good News is to bring about the deliverance of Israel and all who trust in Him. -- The purpose of the Good News is to make a distinction between God's own people (the people who have put their trust in His Messiah, Yeshua) and those who have not. -- What is the purpose of this distinction? To provoke them to choose the Messiah of Israel! (Note that God's purpose is not His people should boast in themselves! Oy gevolt!) -- Rather, the purpose of the Good News to bring everyone to a decision: whether to trust in Messiah Yeshua, or not. The people around us need to stop sitting on the fence. V'eemru? Choose life! -- Finally, the purpose of the Good News is to show God's power of salvation through Messiah Yeshua and to proclaim the name of Messiah Yeshua throughout all the earth. V'eermu? Remember these purposes; we'll come back to them....


It wasn't enough for God to lead His people out of bondage in Egypt; He wanted their hearts; He wants His people to know that He has called them to be His own. To be God's own people, we must choose Him as our own. Awesome as it is that God would choose us, and we would be no people at all if He did not graciously choose us; still we must also choose Him. His signs and wonders, distinguishing between Egypt and Goshen, were designed to win the hearts of His chosen people. And also they were to proclaim His glorious name throughout the earth. Though the magicians would defiantly imitate God's first few signs, knowing full well their chicanery, God would continue until they were humbled and feared the Lord. Exodus 8:25-26, "Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, "Go, sacrifice to your God within the land." But Moses said, "It is not right to do so"e One who is above all so-called gods. Though Pharaoh would defiantly harden his heart, God would continue until there could be no doubt that the One who identified Himself with the Hebrew slaves was greater than all the gods of Egypt.


Why wouldn't Pharaoh let the people go? Because he would not give up his own gods, especially himself, for Pharaoh was a god in the sight of his people, and in his own sight. Do you know any other Pharaohs? Take a moment to pray for them.... Consider a name, a face.... Only God know when a person has truly hardened his or heart beyond any return.


Exodus 8:15, "But when Pharaoh saw that there was relief, he hardened his heart and did not listen" Exodus 8:19, "Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he did not listen to them." He wouldn't even listen to the testimony of his own magicians! Exodus 9:34, "But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned again and hardened his heart, he and his servants." Not just Pharaoh, but his servants defied God's power. Finally, Exodus 10:1, "Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them." Up to this point, Pharaoh and his servants hardened their own hearts in unbelief, in their pride & idolatry. From this point on, Hashem says "I have hardened their hearts." There is a point of no return that God alone knows. Until then, He wants to give that person every opportunity to repent, turn around, and trust in Messiah! Yet even then, God can accomplish His purpose: "that I may perform these signs of Mine among them." These signs proclaim His glorious name through all the earth. All that remains is for each person and each nation to decide whether they want to remain in Egypt and set out from Goshen. V'eemru?


While Pharaoh was hardening his heart (and finally Hashem sealed the deal by hardening it for him), something else was happening to Moses. Does anyone notice? Moses transformed from a rather weak and vacillating man, to one full of confidence and purpose. We see this transformation even in this week's Torah portion.


Near the beginning, in Exodus 6:12, "But Moses spoke before the LORD, saying, "Behold, the sons of Israel have not listened to me; how then will Pharaoh listen to me, for I am unskilled in speech?" Moses is still whining a little, just as he did at the burning bush. I can relate sometimes; people don't always listen to me either.


How about you? Do any of you think that people don't seem to listen to you? Especially when you try to share the Good News with them? Do you feel like you are unskilled in speech? Well, it's not about Moshe, is it? It's about the power of God, not only in the plagues, but in the people. At the beginning of the portion, Moses relies on Aaron to speak for him to Pharaoh. But by the end of the portion, Moses is speaking directly to Pharaoh himself, at first with deference: Exodus 8:9, "Moses said to Pharaoh, "The honor is yours to tell me: when shall I entreat for you and your servants and your people, that the frogs be destroyed?" Pharaoh says "Tomorrow!" Moses obliges; Pharaoh hardens his heart, but something else happens within Moses. Ex 8:25-26, "Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, "Go, sacrifice to your God within the land." But Moses said, "It is not right to do so..." What just happened here?


Pharaoh calls both Moses and Aaron, but now it's Moses doing the talking.... From now on, he starts talking with some holy chutzpah! It was Moses who spoke he portion I chanted, proclaiming the power of God through all the earth. And in Ex 9:28-30, "Moses said to [Pharaoh], "As soon as I go out of the city, I will spread out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease and there will be hail no longer, that you may know that the earth is the LORD'S. "But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the LORD God."" What brought about this transformation from weakness to strength in Moses? Each time, Moses brought the word of the Lord to Pharaoh, Moses grew in trust and confidence. Can that happen to you? Can it happen when you keep bringing the Good News to others? Did it matter to Moses how Pharaoh and his servants were responding to his message? Not really. What did matter? That Hashem kept speaking to him and sending him with his message. Could that work for you?


If you could grow in trust and confidence just like Moses did, I want to encourage you to join Pericles, Denise and Ray Valentine, learning "The Way of the Master" (based on the Ten Commandments- Moses would appreciate that, I'm sure! Pericles, when you proclaiming the Good News, did you gain some trust and confidence? How about you, Denise? That's saying something, isn't it? But you have to keep going, just like Moshe did, just like Yeshua and his disciples did, don't you? I also want to encourage you to join Michael Sandt and Chris Granat in the P.A.L. Havurah group, starting next Shabbat at 3pm-learn how to bless people in our community with God's power and love. Chris, when you started going out to share God's power and love with others, did you feel more like Moses at the beginning of the portion? Were you concerned that people wouldn't listen to you? What happened when you kept going out, as the Lord directed you? Michael, have you noticed any transformation in yourself as you keep offering to pray for people? Anybody else want some? Then see Chris or Michael, or Pericles or Denise....


I'd like to close by making a few New Year's Day observations about our congregation. It's been a year in which many people have had to make decisions about whether to stay or leave. Many members have left: the Labrunas, the Landises, the Powells, the Zimmermans, Lucy Bradley, Rick Gonzalez... When people leave, I mourn and cry out to the Lord. I know that some of you sorrow over it, too. Nancy Hahn last month gave a powerful word, challenging you to decide if you belong here, and if you know you do, commit yourself, and be faithful! Here is what the Lord has spoken into my heart about it: the Lord has been pruning away those who are called to be elsewhere, because they have another vision. Pruning cuts away what doesn't bear fruit, so that the vine has more strength to bear fruit. Even as the Lord has pruned some branches away, he has grafted new branches in: Here is what the Lord has spoken into my heart about it: the congregation will bear more fruit. Many new regulars are in the discipleship class, including (please stand) Nancy Hahn, Fay and Carl Stein, Donia Preston, Joel Scheirer, Darlene Sweigert, Emma Delatore, Sandy Z. and whenever she is coming through in her truck, Kathy Van Dyke! Sue Schmitt & Ira Goldstein plan to become members in January. Kris Goldstein plans to follow Ira. Scott and Anita Smith plan to start a membership class for our youth and young adults. Three of our youth are returning today from IHOP's One Thing.... Blaine & Lucy Kahle, Bill & Lois Stauffer, and Tina Crouthamel became members are in discipleship. Discipleship is beginning to flourish: we now have 19 people in discipleship, and some of them are looking to disciple others. If you want to grow stronger in your walk with the Lord, just like Moses and just like the disciples of Yeshua who turned the world upside down, I urge you to pray about discipleship, and express a desire to me or one of those involved in discipleship. I look forward to the day when there will many new believers coming into the congregation, because we are inviting and welcoming them, and they, too become disciples, just like Ira Goldstein. I believe this coming year will be a year of growth and transformation.    V'eemru?


On September 1, I will officially retire from Lehigh University as a Professor Emeritus, at last putting my trust in the Lord to provide support for my family and my ministry to you and the wider community. The Lord spoke to me about full time ministry 18 years ago, so I guess it's about time....


I am exploring the possibility of establishing a community house, where people can live as community within the congregation. 3131 Chew St is a community, but I'd like to see something yet more intentional.


The leadership team continues to explore the possibility of a new building. Pericles and I went to a seminar called "Solomon's Construction Plans" and learned a lot; I shared my notes with the leadership team and once we've done a bit more processing, I expect we'll invite a few more members for input. I expect we'll all hear more about these things as the Lord reveals more to us about them.... Let us seek the Lord for His purposes and proclaim His message! V'eemru?


While Pharaoh was hardening his heart, other people were making up their own hearts and minds, too. Pharaoh's servants through in their lot with him and the other gods of Egypt, and alas, a lot of them drowned in the sea. On the other hand, the Israelites went from complaining about Moses to following him out of Egypt. Moreover, many others went with them. Exodus 12:38, "A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock."


A purpose of the plagues was to proclaim Bad News to those who were hardening their hearts, and Good News to those who were softening their hearts. Is there anyone here who is ready to soften your heart to the Good News of Messiah? As great as was God's display of power and mercy in Egypt, even greater was His display of power and mercy though Messiah Yeshua. In His great compassion, Yeshua healed thousands of sick, gave sight to the blind, lifted up the lame to walk, raising the dead, and brought joy to so many people who had felt unworthy and unlovely until he came to them-touching the unclean leper, forgiving the sinful adulteress. And then, Yeshua died, as the prophets of Israel foretold hundreds of years before, to become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and my sin and your sin, too.


Is there anyone here who needs to soften your heart to Messiah Yeshua? Today, do not be like Pharaoh and his servants! Messiah is offering you deliverance and freedom! Is there anyone here who is willing at receive His Holy Spirit in your heart?


Let's pray.... Father, we pray for the people to whom You are revealing Yourself today. I ask you all to call to mind anyone yo know who needs to receive the Good News of Yeshua. Mention them now by name. Mention any names you put in the jar, or anyone else. Adonai, you have proclaimed your power and your mercy through the name of Messiah Yeshua! As You proclaim Your name, help them to see that they must let go of their own gods, and surrender to the One whose name has been and will be proclaimed throughout all the earth. Thank you, Lord, for making a distinction between Your own people and those who pursue other gods. May we who are Your own proclaim Your name with holy chutzpah and power throughout all the earth. May we rejoice to see a few Pharaohs let themselves go, to follow You, and becoming your talmidim. Hasatan, you liar, Let my people go!" V'eemru?