The Bloody Beginning
Lord, on this Ash Wednesday, I am reminded that You fashioned me from the dust of the earth, and to dust I shall return.
Read EXODUS 7:14–24
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is unyielding; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he goes out to the river. Confront him on the bank of the Nile, and take in your hand the staff that was changed into a snake. 16 Then say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has sent me to say to you: Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness. But until now you have not listened. 17 This is what the Lord says: By this you will know that I am the Lord: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile will die, and the river will stink; the Egyptians will not be able to drink its water.’”
19 The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over the streams and canals, over the ponds and all the reservoirs—and they will turn to blood.’ Blood will be everywhere in Egypt, even in vessels of wood and stone.”
20 Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded. He raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile, and all the water was changed into blood. 21 The fish in the Nile died, and the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt.
22 But the Egyptian magicians did the same things by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said. 23 Instead, he turned and went into his palace, and did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile to get drinking water, because they could not drink the water of the river.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
The sacred river Nile turning blood red is a sign to the Egyptians that the Hebrew God is not only over politics and history, but nature as well! Ignore him at your peril.
The next few chapters of Exodus, dealing with ten God-sent plagues, do not make easy reading, particularly for those of us—and my guess is that includes most of us—who prefer to talk about love and forgiveness rather than about justice and judgment. Before we begin to look at the plagues, however, there are a number of things to take into account.
First, this was not just a leader but also a whole society systematically persecuting—even to the point of genocide—a significant minority of their population. This had to be stopped in the same way that, in more recent times, Hitler and other modern Pharaoh equivalents needed to be stopped. Even when individual societies tolerate such dreadful injustices and world powers do little about it, in the end God will intervene; and cruel and unjust empires will fall. Second, attempts to resolve the situation through diplomatic means had been tried more than once with only negative results. Third, at least six of the plagues, possibly all except the last, were announced in advance, giving Pharaoh and the Egyptians a chance to avoid these consequences of their intransigence.
The account of the first plague is typical. God speaks to Moses. Moses relays the message, making sure that Pharaoh knows it is God’s words he is recounting. Pharaoh ignores it. God does what he says and everyone suffers the consequences. The first plague made the Nile, which sat at the heart of the Egyptian economic system, undrinkable. However, Pharaoh’s own team of magicians could do that (22), and, in any case, water was available through digging wells along the river (24), so presumably Pharaoh and his officials were not personally affected much. Therefore, perhaps unsurprisingly, Pharaoh continued to set aside this threat to his authority.
When has God spoken to you though some mighty acts? When has he spoken to your through more gentle touches? How did you handle these times?
Lord, help me to listen to You and to speak out against anything in our society that mirrors Pharaoh’s cruelty and injustice.