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  • Writer's pictureMark Bocanegra

“Wait... the ten plagues as missions?!”

(Explanation of first photo: Kate is forcing her non-Christian friend to pray before they 'play eat.' Notice that Kate does not serve her guest food but keeps all the ice cream for her self. Her parents take full responsibility for her excessive liking to ice cream.) I'm in a middle of sermon series in Exodus--which has been a great joy. Going through the book of Exodus has opened my eyes to God's 'missionary orientation' in his acts of deliverance. Here's an excerpt from one of my sermons: As you just noticed, we are in the middle of the ten plagues, as we continue with our sermon series on the “Gospel according to Exodus.” As I mentioned last week, we will be studying the plagues through three themes. Last week, we learned that the plagues is God’s chaotic attack to protect his people and overcome their enemies in order to bring them into a state of peace and salvation. Today’s theme is to view the plagues as God’s gracious revelation of himself and his salvation. Or said in another way, the plagues is a form of God’s love, a form of God doing evangelism or missions towards the Egyptians, in order to give them an opportunity to turn to God. Perhaps you are surprised by that—How can the chaos-causing, pain-inflicting, death-causing ten plagues be a form of love? However, let me put it this way. Do you believe disciplining children is a good and loving thing? Although I don’t enjoy disciplining my children, I know that it is the best thing for them. For example, what if my daughter likes to run off on her own. Sometimes she likes to run into the street by herself—and of course, as a father, I don’t want her to get into accident... The plagues also have a similar purpose. In fact, the Bible often does not call the plagues, ‘plagues.’ The Bible calls them “signs and wonders”. The purpose was to teach the people of Egypt who YHWH is, how much power he has, and why Egypt should submit to YHWH as their Lord. Today’s main message is this: Because God graciously gives us signs of our coming death and judgment, the power of God, and the special salvation he prepares for us, then we must fear the name of YHWH and trust in his salvation. Through these miracles, he gives graciously shows us three things: 1) A Sign of the name of YHWH, 2) A Sign of Death, and 3) A Sign of Special Division. First, the plagues are a sign of the name of YHWH. God graciously proclaims his name and kingship throughout the world, so that all peoples may turn trust and obey him for salvation. We need to recall what cause this battery of plagues. King YHWH has come to Egypt to release his prized son, the nation of Israel, from the shackles and oppression of Pharaoh, in order to bring Israel to the Promised Land. What Israel was called to do was to ‘serve’ YHWH—which meant to worship YHWH as their King and enjoy fellowship with YHWH as their ‘father.’ This is why King YHWH constantly repeats, ‘Let my people go so that they may serve me.’ However, how does Pharaoh react? In Exodus 5:2, Pharaoh says that he does not know the name, the reputation, the power of YHWH—this is why he will not let go of Israel: 2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the YHWH, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the YHWH, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” Anticipating the hardness of heart of the Egyptian people, YHWH says that he will show ‘signs’ in order to reveal his name, reveal his power, and reveal his kingship over all the earth. From today's passage, you can start to see the ‘missionary orientation’ of the plagues. It becomes most clear in Exodus 9:14-16: Ex. 9:14 For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself,1 and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. 15 For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. 16 But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. By causing and stopping the plague, God intends to proclaim his name to the ends of the earth so that they may fear and obey God. This is not only applicable to specific plagues, but it can be said for all ten plagues, as Nehemiah 9:9-10 comments: Neh. 9:9 “And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, 10 and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted arrogantly against our fathers. And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day. The ten plagues proclaimed the name of YHWH, his great power, and his absolute sovereignty in places where they have never heard of him. Also, the ten plagues were signs that allowed people other than the Israelites to trust and obey in King YHWH’s power and kingship. Furthermore, there are various instances where the ten plagues and various signs of judgment caused people to put their trust in God. Among them, I believe Rahab the Canaanite’s confession of faith from these signs and wonders is the most clear in Joshua 2. King YHWH wanted a response like Rahab’s from Egypt as well. Through the plagues, God is proclaiming his name in order that we may fear his name and kingship and trust and obey him.

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