Blood – The Nile River Nile
Frogs – A swarm of frogs comes up out of the Nile
Lice – Lice swarm in the air and irritate the skin of Egyptians and their animals. When these wondrous affected the water and land, the kings courtiers explained it away with official explanations. But now these signs are in the air too – and the religious courtiers can say nothing except it is the hand of YHWH the God of the Hebrews.
Flies – Horse flies bite the Egyptians and get in their eyes.
Plague – A bovine virus infects Egyptian cattle and eventually kills them. The agricultural industry is devastated.
Boils – A plague of boils afflicts the Egyptians making it too painful for them to work.
Hail – The worst hailstorm ever seen in Egypt Egypt
Locusts – A swarm of locusts covers Egypt
Darkness – Darkness hangs over the land of Egypt
These are the first nine plagues of Egypt
But pharaoh in his twisted mind, believes he is the lord of the Nile and of Egypt
Pharaoh believes all the leavers of power in the nation are in his hands. So who cares if the economic and social structure of his empire is built on the brutal oppression of foreign slaves – there is no way he is going to release them from his grip.
All too sadly, it is not hard for us to imagine people being treated as things – exploitable things, expendable things. We see it in the world around us. Economic corporations or political regimes or religious fanatics or governing individuals who think they have such control over their domain that life is cheap. These are the Pharaohs of today.
People are enslaved, forced into jobs without adequate pay, people are subjected to violence, conscription, bombed and terrorised. They can be declared illegal or alien or even have their children stolen away. They can be sold to addictions to drugs, or sex or greed or power or a perfect two-storey home with a plasma TV, IKEA furniture and a 4 wheel drive.
God hears the cry of the human spirit for true freedom
God listens to humanity groaning under the weight of such injustice and unrighteousness. Of all the voices that could capture God’s ear, God inclines it to is those who are marginalised and oppressed. God joins the Hebrew mothers and fathers weeping for their slaughtered children and then God says “Let my people go.” No he doesn’t just ask, he doesn’t just politely suggest, he demands. The holy God of all heaven and earth of all rivers and all lands demands “LET MY PEOPLE GO!”
Then step by step God acts. YHWH the God of the Hebrews demonstrates by powerful signs that he alone and not Pharaoh has power over life and death, over the water and the land and the air. In any contest with the deities of Egypt
But Pharaoh does not listen
He does not heed the cries of the poor or fear the word of God. Pharaoh has a hard heart, a tough hide a thick head. From Pharaoh's point-of-view, the combination of an unwillingness to remove an essential source of labor and viewing himself as a deity on Earth - outweighed any fear that a plague would be worse for the national economy and his political stability than releasing the captives.
Don’t pay any heed to what Pharaoh says – he shows time and time again that his political promises are not to be trusted. He never negotiates in good faith. He says he will let the slaves go free – but breaks his promise every time!
An addiction in the point of crisis will tell you ‘yes you need help, give me up’ but as soon as the pressure off, the demons return to take a greater hold of your life. Don’t read his lips, watch his hands and you will see that the Pharaoh does nothing to lift his evil oppression from the necks of his slaves.
The tenth plague
More action is needed. So God warns of one final plague:
“I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgements: I am the LORD. The blood you paint on your doors shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood I will pass over you and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt
The final plague that befell the Egyptians was the slaying of the firstborn son of every Egyptian family, including the firstborn son in the Pharaoh's family. This plague caused the greatest emotional outcry from the Egyptian people, and finally convinced the Pharaoh to let the Hebrews leave Egypt
The journey from slavery to freedom begins
Through August we are going to continue reading from Exodus and following the story of God saving his people, rescuing them from oppression and calling them to form a new community centred on worshipping God and following his ways.
For Moses their great heroic leader, the story began as Roger talked about last week, with his call at the burning bush. From that moment Moses does not turn back from his calling.
But for the rest of the nation it starts here. God says “this month shall mark for you the beginning of months, it shall be the first month of the year for you.” This is now the beginning of a brand new day. Today is the beginning of the rest of your life.
Imagine Moses’ message of imminent liberation
How would it have been received as it spread through the slave ghettos and mud pits of Egypt
After a long campaign for freedom, this is finally the moment. If you want to follow God out of bondage in Egypt
First check with your neighbours if anyone needs to share. We are going to have a feast and there has to be enough roast lamb to go around. Sheep are a valued commodity in an agricultural economy but no one is going to be excluded on the basis of ability to pay.
Now take your special lamb or a kid – a baby sheep or a baby goat it doesn’t matter. Which ever you have, but it has to be a good one. There is nothing more important than what is going to happen here. You don’t need to save your best lamb for something else. This is the moment!
Keep the lamb tied up at your place for a while. Don’t let it run with the flocks. As you hand feed it twice a day maybe you start to get attached to it as a pet and you will think of the true cost of sacrifices. Maybe separating this lamb from the others will remind you that you too have been called out to serve a special purpose to bring a blessing to others.
Now slaughter the lamb for the feast and collect the blood as it drains out. Don’t tip it down the drain don’t poor it out on the ground where no one will see it, paint it right there on the front to your house. Take a brush and mark it here, here and here with red.
This is going to be entirely public. Your overlords, your neighbours, your friends, your family will all see your door. Anyone who cares to see, will know that you are now renouncing the evil within the culture of domination. You will no longer obey your oppressive overlords for you follow a new lord. You obey the commands of YHWH. You will no longer participate in any system of slavery.
You once were slaves to that system
If you are honest with yourself, you had been participating in this evil process of slavery. Sure you were a victim of the system, but you were also complicit in it. There were threats or consequences if you refused to work the way economic, political and national powers demanded but eventually you internalised these threats. You believed their lie that this is all you could hope for. Unless you unquestioningly did it their way you were going to be ostracised further.
It is broken human nature to believe that we need our addictions even when we know they are bad for us. They starved your soul and you said at least they feed us leaks and onions.
Well tonight is not going to be just leaks and onions by the Nile, we are going to feast on lamb and bread and herbs and we are not going to stop until we have eaten it all up.
We are going to eat with our loins girded our sandals on and our staff in hand – our bags packed, our shoes and socks on and our car keys ready.
It is time for action. After tonight there is going to be no doubt that this is not just about one man or one government or about one economy. This is about a nation that is spiritual bankrupt for God clearly says this the worst of all judgements is on the gods of Egypt
Two things amazed me about the beginning of the exodus:
I was surprised to discover that the first act of this Passover liberation event was one of hospitality. Since our theme this year is “who is my neighbour” the word “neighbour” jumped straight off the page in a way it never has before as I read. “Join with your closest neighbour and the lamb shall be divided according the proportion of the people who eat it.”
God is calling us on a journey of salvation. He wants to set us free from all that destroys life and holds us captive. And what is the first step? Where does God send us first? Next door and straight across the street. Wow the first step is as simple and as hard as that.
If we are going to live these liberated lives we have to be able to live them first and foremost right in the neighbourhoods where we are.
#2 Paint the door red
I was amazed by the public significance of painting the blood around the door. God told the people it would be a sign for them. Not a sign for God but a sign for them.
Maybe this spoke to me because our house has a red door. When we give directions to people we tell them the house with the red door in front of the eucalyptus trees.
What would it mean for people following God’s call today to paint their door red? What clearer sign could there be that they were no longer part of a community of death and oppression, but were forming a new one of liberation and life?
An example from more recent history is Saint Maria Skobtsova
I am inspired by the life of this Latvian nun, born Liza Skobtsova, in 1891. She painted her door red in many ways.
She was a published poet a mother and a wife. But after the death of a daughter and two failed marriage she became a nun in the Russian orthodox church taking on the name Maria.
Her moto was: "Every person is an icon of God” So she always tried accept others unconditionally since there were created in the image of God and revealed something of God incarnate in the world.
During the Russian civil war she became mayor of her town to protect its citizens and preserve essential services while the reds fought the whites.
But being a woman, an intellectual and a mayor meant she attracted attention. She was arrested and put on trial for her life. She escaped execution twice. Once by convincing the guard that she was a close personal friend of Lenin’s wife. – I think she was lying!
Maria underwent a very real exodus fleeing this persecution to the west. She arrived as a refugee in Paris
“We have no enormous cathedrals, [jewel] encrusted Gospel books, no monastery walls. We have lost our environment. Is this some chance misfortune? No. In the context of spiritual life, there is no chance. Rather there are signs which we must understand and paths which we must follow. Our calling is a great one, since we are called to freedom.”
Then the Nazi’s invaded Paris and Mother Maria had to paint her door red once more.
In 1942, when the order came from Berlin that all Jews must wear a yellow Star of David on clothes so they could be singled out for persecution and worse. Mother Maria riled against Christians said it was none of their business.
"Don't you realize that the battle is being waged against Christianity?” she said “If we were true Christians we would all wear the Star."
So she did. She said she would not participate in a society that segregated and attacked an ethnic or religious minority. She said her freedom was a gift from God that no power on earth could take away and she would use it to serve whoever was the least.
In 1943 when the mass arrests followed, she risked her life posing as a garbage collector smuggling Jewish children who had been earmarked for Auschwitz
Mother Maria Skobtsova painted her door red. She wore her yellow star. She was arrested too and sent as prisoner 19,263 to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. For two years she endured the inhumane conditions but it rapidly took a toll on her health. She became emaciated, infested with lice, and her eyes were festering. Some days her fellow inmates had to hide her in a roof cavity because any inmates discovered unable to do heavy work were being executed.
Mother Maria was eventually sent to the gas chamber and martyred on Good Friday March 30, 1943. It was only days before the Red Army came and liberated the camp but by going forward that day, she took the place of another who would have been killed to make up the quota of executions.
What if we painted our doors red?
What if we said every person is an icon of God and we will not participate in any form of oppression that denies that?
What if we painted our door red and refused to seek vengeance on our enemies and demanded that even terrorists have human rights?
What if we painted our door red and said aspirational voters are aspiring after the wrong things because what does it profit a person if they gain the whole world on their credit card but lose their soul?
What if we painted our door red and said loving our neighbours by actually meeting them and cooking them a meal was more important to community than building another fence, installing another security system and gossiping about the latest ethnic group to move into the neighbourhood?
What if we painted our door red and said human relationships have to have an integrity and we will keep our word and honour marriages and not seek false intimacy in pornography or false gain through dishonesty?
What if we painted our door red by saying our teenagers will not be pressured into going straight to university from school but rather encouraged to volunteer a year serving in a mission to the world’s poor?
There are many ways that we could be a community with a red door that says – we no longer conform to the standards of this world but are being transformed by the saving power of God. A God who listens to the cry of the oppressed. A God who is truly lord of life and death.
There would be no hiding. And we would be on our way to freedom.
God calls us from slaver to freedom – will we follow where he leads?