Moses had just asked God why He didn’t free the Israelites as He said He would, and God answers that He will. He tells Moses that He is God, He will do what He said he will do, and He lays out the plan for redemption from slavery: God tells Moses what He will do, Moses tells Aaron to tell Pharaoh, and Pharaoh will ignore them.
The plagues come: the river turns to blood, then frogs, next gnats (at this plague the magicians cannot duplicate God’s work), then flies (at this point the land of Goshen is separated and protected whereas everyone else in Egypt is under the plague), next cattle blight, boils (now it’s not just the land and the animals, but the people are afflicted, too) and the last plague in this parashah is the hail that falls as hail from the sky but burns as fire on the ground. This last plague is the worst one yet because so far only animals have died, but now anyone caught in the hail will die. In fact, Moses warns Pharaoh to make sure his people know to protect their property and themselves by staying inside.
What is wonderful about this parashah is that God lays out a plan and works it to perfection. He starts off “Even-Steven” with the magicians, who duplicate the first three miraculous works (rod to snake, Nile to blood, and frogs). I believe this was to make sure everyone was on the same page, to to speak. Then, God upped the ante by creating gnats, which the magicians could not do. Next, he raised the bar with flies that attacked everyone except His people, Israel. Not only did God prove His power to create and destroy, but He also proved His power to save and protect- He attacked the Egyptians and in the very midst of them protected His people. The bar was raised even higher when God attacked the people of Egypt with boils, so badly so that even the magicians (who represented the religion and gods of Egypt) were so stricken they couldn’t even appear in court. The hail took it to a whole new level- now not just the land and the animals were dying, but the people who were caught in the hail died, too.
Except for the Hebrews living in Goshen.
And yet, with all these wondrous miracles, Pharaoh remained unmoved by the power of God.
Many people have a similar problem, which is that they fail to recognize and stand in awe of the miracles God performs, every day. It seems that Pharaoh was looking for reasons to diminish the wonder and awesomeness of God: when the magicians duplicated God’s miracles, Pharaoh brushed Moses and Aaron aside. When the other plagues hit, each time Pharaoh confessed his wrongdoing and conceded to allow the Jews to worship if Moses would only stop the plague. But when the plague stopped, he reneged.
Perhaps one reason he didn’t take these plagues seriously was because he thought that since Moses could turn them on and off, they weren’t so much. They were controllable, they were explainable, so they weren’t really such miraculous things. Maybe?
Today we see miracles everyday, everywhere, yet we don’t acknowledge them as such. Why? Because the new religion of the day, “Science”, can explain how it happens. Human pride and human arrogance makes us believe that if we understand how something works it isn’t a miracle, or even special. Understanding of how God’s miraculous wonders (i.e., life) work lessens God in our sight, and makes us less appreciative and respectful of Him.
There is a story about when the greatest scientists in the world gathered for a meeting to discuss all the advancements in science that have been made. They are talking about how, now that we have been able to map and read the entire human genome, we will soon be able to cure all diseases and infirmities, and how with cloning we will be able to make people in the image we want. They got to the point where they told God He wasn’t needed anymore. God asked them, “Do you think you can make a human being from a lump of clay?” The scientists discussed it and replied, “Yes. We believe we can.” God says, “OK- show me!” and they go out and pick up a large lump of clay. They are about to carry it into their lab when God says, “Oh, you can’t use that- that’s my clay. You have to make your own!”
Just because we can understand how a miracle works doesn’t make it any less of a miracle. For instance, Job 36:26-29 says:
How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out. 27 “He draws up the drops of water, which distill as rain to the streams ; 28 the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind. 29 Who can understand how he spreads out the clouds, how he thunders from his pavilion?
This verse shows that they understood water goes into the sky, is stored as clouds, then falls back to Earth. Even with this basic understanding of the process, the speaker is still in awe of the fact that it is done! Today we really don’t understand it all that much better. We know about evaporation, water vapor, electromagnetic forces that cause lightning, the thunder is the rushing of wind back into the vacuum caused by the lightening, etc. We understand it, we can even create it at will, but does that make it any less miraculous? We can understand it, we can re-create it, but we didn’t create it. We didn’t create any of this. Sure, we can create a lightning bolt, but that’s because we saw the original one and figured out how it can be done. But what about the One who created it first? What about the One who thought it first?
The Jews in the desert saw manna come from nowhere, they saw water come from rocks, birds come from far way and land at their feet. Their clothes didn’t wear out and their shoes survived walking in the hot, desert sands and rocks. A million or more people, not to mention many millions of animals- all fed and watered, surviving in the most desolate and unforgiving of environments anywhere in the world. And what did they do? They kvetched, over and over, about having to leave Egypt, where they seem to have forgotten how horrible their lives were.
We think that because we see something every day, or because we understand the process, the creator of those things is not so much. Yeah, you make fire fall from the sky but so can I with a plane and a napalm bomb. So what?
So this: God is the Creator and Controller of all things. What we copy, He created. What we try to understand, He originated. What we think we know how it works, He designed from scratch. What we try to manufacture with scientific tools, He made with a thought.
Don’t be a Pharaoh, be a Job. Remain totally awe-struck and appreciative of the miracles that God does, every day. Look for them- a flower opens in the morning and closes at night; the bees know how to dance and communicate better than the most accurate GPS; the surf knows just how far it can come into the land; the prey animals are born able to run within an hour and the predators take years to learn to hunt. There are miracles all around us, inside us, above and underneath us. There are miracles we have been allowed to understand and there are miracles we will never understand. Yet, they all are still miracles and the One who has created these is still totally awesome and powerful beyond any human understanding.
Don’t take God for granted.