Ironically, today’s Our Daily Bread referred to Matthew 16:1–4 that begins, “The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.” As I read Exodus 7, I have a little empathy for these leaders. God gave Moses the ability to perform signs for Pharaoh, why wouldn’t Jesus do the same? It’s a shallow question since those around Jesus, certainly by the time of Matthew 16, have seen miracles that are far greater than the signs Moses performed, but I’m trying to understand how the Jewish leaders of their time were so blind to the Messiah that stood in front of them. I think we need to wrestle with this or risk becoming 21st century Pharisees today! It’s easy to stand behind our doctrine, dogma, Systematic Theology and advanced degrees, but perhaps this has blinded us to Matthew 22, 25 & 28 callings that Jesus clearly provides. (end of rant…back to Exodus).
Why all the signs and wonders? Why the plagues and swarming insects?
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. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth. Exodus 9:15-16
I learn many things by reading this narrative: 1) God is faithful, 2) God is mighty and 3) God desires to have a relationship with us. Two plagues were recreated by the magicians with whatever “arts” they could wield (blood and frogs), but by the third (gnats) they were finished. After the plagues of flies and livestock, “those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside” (Exodus 9:20) when they hear Moses and Aaron speak of the plague of hail. Pharaoh doesn’t relent as we know, but hearts inside Egypt are being changed, albeit rather forcefully. For their culture, perhaps, this is appropriate. The Pharaoh rules with an iron fist, commanding life and death for his subjects, so my guess is this is the language they can understand.
God’s ways are indeed mysterious and many times not easy to comprehend until we have the privilege of looking back. If history teaches, we should learn from these stories. Teach me, Lord. I sit here listening.