The Lord said to Moses, “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely. 2 Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.” 3 And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.
4 So Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, 5 and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. 6 There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. 7 But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ 8 And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you.’ And after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. 9 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”
10 Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land. (Exodus 11)
God, the Creator, who is holy beyond all human comprehension, does not owe His creatures, who are rebellious beyond all comprehension, anything. Yet, He has furnished men many times over down through history, even at the very beginning, with warnings of judgment should we transgress His commands. Yet, time and time again, sinful men have failed to make use of these warnings and avoid the disaster they were told would come upon them. The rebellion of this Pharaoh would be utterly incomprehensible if we did not have the biblical doctrine of the depravity of man. How can someone still ignore the warnings of God after the absolute desolation that the land of Egypt underwent, with these nine severest of judgments coming to pass? How can one still not believe the Word of God after such brutal defeat? Pharaoh was raised up as an example, but there have been many who have followed after him. The depravity of man is such that sinners would continue to rebel all the way to their eternal damnation unless the grace of God intervened with power. In his rebellion Pharaoh continued to harden his heart unto his death, just as God also hardened Pharaoh’s heart that His name might be known throughout all the land.
There are many who believe God’s warnings to be empty. Against all history and evidence, there are many who believe there to be nothing to the warnings of God’s judgment on sinners. It does not matter how plainly a verse says it, or how plainly God’s judgment is upon them, they yet mock and scoff at the idea that God would actually judge sinful men. But God’s warnings are not empty like the little boy who cried wolf. God is not so weak that He cannot deliver on what He was warned. Be assured that God’s warnings are promises. All that He says He will bring to pass. And He is able to carry out all that He has designed.
How many men there are today who have been warned of death, and that after death comes judgment, and yet they do not care at all? It is the one sure thing in life common to every person that one day we will die, and yet so many live as if they will never die.
In our text today is this final warning of death that God gives to Pharaoh through Moses. Pharaoh was warned from the very start of this, that if he did not let Yahweh’s firstborn, Israel, go, then God would kill Pharaoh’s firstborn. God has performed these nine wondrous judgments to show His power and Word, and now God sends one last warning until death strikes the land. The three cycles of plagues each intensified as they have been building up to this final judgment of death on the firstborn son. After this warning, there are no more left for Pharaoh.
Likewise, throughout history, God has spoken in various ways and at various times, but now, as it says in Hebrews, God has spoken through His Son. The death, resurrection, and ascension of His only Son is the final Word to man. All Scripture testifies of Him and Scripture is complete, and so we have received God’s final Word until Christ comes again to judge the quick and the dead. So all men everywhere, whether kings and rulers or servants and peasants, are called to come to Jesus Christ, to take and eat of the Bread of Life, and drink of the Living Water, or else you will perish and be lost forever. And you don’t know when you are going to die. It could be in 80 years, it could be tonight. It is nothing but foolish presumption to count on even your next breath. “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.”
God’s warnings are promises, but so is God’s gospel. Just as all God’s judgments come to pass, so does His salvation. Just as God continued to warn Pharaoh, so God continued to say that He was going to deliver Israel up out of the land of Egypt. And so they both were just as sure to come to pass as they did. So just as sure as you are going to die, so also will you depart from the body to be with Christ if you are His. Just as your body will waste away, so also will it be resurrected on the last day, if you belong to Jesus Christ. Just as sure as you are a sinner, will your sins be washed away and though they be as scarlet shall they be made white as snow, should you take your sins to Jesus Christ. Just as sure as you deserve God’s judgment, you will receive God’s grace, if you call upon the name of the Lord. Just as Pharaoh had no reason to doubt God’s judgments, so Israel had no reason to doubt God’s salvation. All that God says, comes to pass.
Battle for the Future
Pharaoh has been engaging in a fruitless battle for dominion and for the future. Ever since the Pharaoh who first enslaved the people, then persecuted the Hebrew baby boys, up to the Pharaoh who is refusing to let the people go, seeking to negotiate the terms of their release by keeping back some for himself, the Pharaoh’s have sought dominion apart from God, and a future without God. They were fearful of the fruitfulness, productivity, and blessing of God upon the Hebrew people because their own people could not match it, so they sought to take dominion and the future by force, declaring war on God by enslaving and persecuting His people. Thus, their end was sealed. The future belongs to God and His people. And God’s people do not take it by force, but receive it through fruitfulness and humility before God and in God’s time.
We are reminded of this again when the Israelites are told to ask their Egyptian neighbors for their gold and their silver, and they would receive it. This could be seen as a picture of the Mosaic law which calls for masters to give their slaves gifts when they are given their freedom, so that they may be set up so as not to return to slavery. So here God sets up the future for His people as they are freed with gifts of silver and gold and wealth as they are driven out from slavery.
Here we find a type of the believer, when He comes to Christ and is freed from His sin, He is given the seal of the Holy Spirit through whom the believer can do good works and live unto God and bear fruits of the Spirit. Christ sets us free and gives us all that we need to live unto Him.
We also see the future being given to God’s people with the death of the firstborn of Egypt. Pharaoh tried to control the future by killing the Hebrew boys. But in God’s judgment, it is Egypt’s firstborn sons that are killed, taking away Egypt’s future, as Israel is freed. God is the one who controls the future, not man. Any attempt by man to control the future will end in defeat.
The nature of man has not changed, as there are the ungodly today who seek to control the future through various means of population control, whether it be various political policies, abortion, or surgical mutilation of children. These atrocities will not stand. The future will not be given to them and they will not achieve dominion through these means. As powerless as we may feel in the face of such evil, we know that God will not stand by forever. He has not surrendered the future or given up dominion that belongs to Him. Evil empires are no threat to God. Jesus Christ reigns and the earth belongs to Him, and the fullness thereof.
The Legitimacy of Representation
So God gives this final warning of judgment before He comes into the midst of the land at midnight, and the angel of death strikes Egypt down. In this final warning, He warns that none will escape. Every household will be afflicted, all of Pharaoh’s house, from him and his servants, to the lowliest of servant girls and even the firstborn of the cattle. This shows that the entirety of the household is judged. The masters, servants, and possessions of cattle.
Here we see the legitimacy of representation in how God deals with nations, societies, and homes. Pharaoh was the representative of all Egypt, religiously and civilly. All under him are judged, even though he was the one with the authority to release Israel, they all perished with him.
We must remember two things here. One, is that this is how God generally deals with societies of men in history, because, when we all stand before God on the day of judgment, each person will stand alone before Him, and each person will either be in or out of Christ. Our position in Christ is not based upon our nation, or church, or family, but simply us and Christ. But in time and history God deals not only with individuals but also with societies of men. The second thing to remember is that none who were judged were judged wrongly. None who were judged were innocent. All deserved death. Not only that, but think of all the opportunities we have talked about throughout these plagues, where Egyptians also had opportunities to avoid judgment and join themselves with the people of God and be saved. Some did. Some did not.
So God is turning the tables of history through these judgments. God often turns the tables through historical judgments. He also does this in the fact that, as verse 3 says, God will give favor to the people in the sight of the Egyptians. Thus, they will give them their gold and silver, and allow them to go unharmed, indeed beg them to go. This is a stark difference from when the Hebrews, since they were shepherds, were an abomination to the Egyptians. This is a great difference from when the Hebrews were a stench in the sight of the Egyptians when they first asked to go and worship their God. Now they are given favor in the sight of the people.
This is also a fulfillment of God’s promise to Moses when God spoke to Moses at the burning bush. At the burning bush, in Exodus 3:21-22, God told Moses, “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”
So the Church is to be reminded that at any time when we may have disfavor with the ungodly, or receive persecution of various kinds, that at any moment, God may grant His Church favor in their sight, to fulfill His purposes. There are many missionary stories in which missionaries have endured hard times of disfavor from those they seek to reach, and then finally, in God’s time, they are given favor in the eyes of the people or the leaders, that they may become an audience for the gospel and receive Christ. Or so that Christians may freely gather, or freely do good works to their neighbor, or set up things like hospitals, homeless shelters and kitchens, and so be given favor. So let us never lose heart.
The tables are not only turned from disfavor to favor, but also they are turned in the fact of suffering. We do not rejoice in the suffering of others, but it is a fact that it was the Hebrews who first cried out to God as their baby boys were sentenced to death years earlier, and now God promises that the cries of Egypt, when their firstborn die, will be so great as has never been heard in the land. It is not wise to persecute God’s people or to bring harm to Christ’s Church, for He will defend His bride. Indeed, the ancient serpent, the great persecutor of the church, is sentenced to suffer forever in the place of torment prepared for him.
In all of this God is making a distinction and separation between Israel and Egypt.
But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ (Ex. 11:7)
We know that God’s ultimate purpose here was to make a separation and a distinct people for the preserving of the line of the seed of the woman to bring about the one who would bruise the serpent’s head. And it is through this serpent crusher, that a distinction is made throughout history between the godly and the ungodly. God is making a people for Himself through Jesus Christ, and this people, is to be distinct from the world. Christians are called out of their lives of slavery to sin to live unto God. For Israel, their future required separation from Egypt, as they were given separate laws of ceremony and society to live as a distinct people in the land that God was giving them. Israel’s distinction was particularly typical as it required a physical separation of domain. The Church today is not required to live lives of land separation, for we are to go unto all nations. Dominion requires separation, but today this means ethical and moral separation from the ungodly. Dominion requires this kind of separation. This means that Christians cannot send their children to public schools to be trained and educated in an unbelieving worldview of moral subjectivity and expect to win the future and take dominion. This means that Christians cannot lie, cheat, and steal in business, politics, or society like the ungodly and expect to win the future. This means that Christians cannot live lives of sexual immorality like the ungodly and expect to take dominion. It means that Christians cannot live lives, like the ungodly, of intentional marriage sterility under normal circumstances and expect to have dominion. It means that Christians cannot be given over to idolatry and love of the world and expect to win the world. Dominion requires moral and ethical separation from the ungodly – to be consecrated to Christ, to live by His law, and to worship Him in purity, sincerity, and humility. And this is what Jesus is working in us by His grace as He continues to make a distinction between His people and the world.
Moses a Type of Christ
So God gave favor to the people in the sight of the Egyptians, but also Moses was seen as particularly great in their sight. After all, this is God’s representative through whom these judgments and wonders came. They even are going to come and bow before him and beg him to leave. Not only the people, but Pharaoh’s servants will view Moses in this way and bow before him. So it is that the humble Moses who at first could not speak on his own before Pharaoh, is now made great in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in all the land. So it is that God opposes the proud – Pharaoh – but gives grace to the humble – Moses. So James tells us, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
I cannot help but see a picture of Christ here in the exaltation and triumph of Moses over his foes. Jesus Christ, the humble one, went into the land of death where He was great in the sight of His enemies and even the demons bowed in fear before Him begging to be freed and released from His presence. Even at the name of Jesus of Nazareth the demons shudder and tremble in fear before Him.
Notice even the anger of Moses toward Pharaoh. The end of verse 8 says that he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. Nothing in the text condemns Moses of sinful anger, and he is not depicted as losing self-control, in this instance, so my assumption then is that it is righteous anger at the utter rebellion, sin, and defiance to the living God that Moses burns with. As Moses is a type of Christ, we might also think of the righteous self-controlled anger that Jesus had at times in His ministry toward the rebellion, tyranny, and hardness of heart that people like the Pharisees displayed. Or how Jesus cleansed the temple, driving out the corruption of the temple exchange in judgment.
As Jesus inspects our lives, may He not be angered to find a rebellious and hard heart, but may He be pleased to find a humble heart submitted to His Word in sincerity, willing to have every remaining sin and idol driven out from our lives by Him. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
The Wonders of God
Verse 10 says that Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh. Now this is something interesting that is important as we strive to think more and more biblically as we grow in maturity as Christians. Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh. What were these wonders? They were of course all of these judgments that we have seen. This is important because we often think of God’s wonders only in terms of the cheerful and happy things that He does like His grace, mercy, and salvation. Indeed those are the greatest of His wonders. But biblically speaking, God’s judgments are also called “wonders.” God’s judgments are wonders that should cause us to see and meditate upon His majesty, His power, His glory, justice, holiness, etc. These are the wonders we sing about in the Psalms as well as God’s mercy, kindness, faithfulness, and gracious loving kindness in Jesus Christ.
Dogs Encompass Christ
Finally, let us consider one more wonderful thing.
But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ (Ex. 11:7)
Not even a dog will growl against the people as they leave Egypt. Certainly we see God’s providence in making a distinction between His people that even the dogs recognize and respect. When dogs growl or bite or surround you or even eat you, it is seen as judgment in Scripture. Think about Jezebel and how she was fed to the dogs. The evil Jezebel was thrown from her high window to the ground and the dogs encompassed her to devour her as judgment. But not so with God’s people, the dogs will not even growl at them as they depart. If the dogs eat anything it will not be this day, and it will not be the Israelites. But this judgment would not be stayed forever. There would come a day when the dogs would encircle and snarl at God’s Son. The Lord Jesus when He was suffering on the cross was not spared from this judgment. In Psalm 22, the great Psalm of Christ’s suffering on the cross, it says in verse 16, “For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet…” Romans 8:32, God did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all… The dogs encompassed Christ on the cross, so that they would not even but growl at us, His people. This is our Exodus. The dogs encircled Christ that we might go free. Though Christ was innocent and without sin, and though we are great sinners deserving of death, God did not withhold His own Son from the dogs, that we might be redeemed, that we might be brought out from our slavery and sin and be His people. Christ gave Himself to the dogs, so that His bride might go free. The Son went down, that the girl might go free. And in their devouring of Him, they were devoured, as Christ burst through the jaws of death, ascending on high, leading a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men (Eph. 4:8). What a wonder of all wonders this is! And He has done it in the sight of all. Amen.