Hail; Part 2
The seventh sign and wonder are the longest narrative section of the first nine signs and wonders. Although this sign and wonder sounds somewhat mild, hail can be devastating. It would have been a hard time to be an Egyptian insurance broker during this time, the claims about the decrease in property value because of the smell of rotting fish and decaying frogs. The infestation of flies and gnats were great for Egyptian pest control services. But then came death and disease. As the warning went out of the Egyptian Weather Service warning of the impending storm that would come and instructing people to get inside and bring their livestock under cover. Those who feared the Lord did so, but those who did not fear the Lord did not listen. The sky darkened as clouds rolled in, bring with them deep growling thunder, lightning that descended from the heavens striking the ground and causing fires to spread. But the devastating part of this storm came in the form of hailstones. Although we have no statistics from this storm even in recent years we are able to see how hail can being destruction but also death. The largest hailstone recorded was just over two pounds in Bangladesh in 1986. In 1888 in India hail stones the size of oranges and cricket balls (smaller than a baseball) killed a total of 246 people and 1600 cattle. The national weather service explains that any hail stone over one inch in diameter is considered severe. Although it hard to create accurate information because hail is not perfectly spherical a hail stone under half an inch (larger than a pea but smaller than a marble) can reach speeds of about 20 miles per hour, but a hail stone just over three inches (large apple) can reach speeds of about 110 miles per hour.
As the Egyptian insurance broker, Yaqub from State Farm sat in his office that day wishing he had chosen a different career. As he hears the large thuds from these enormous hail stones that fall to the ground. We read about the destruction in verse 25, “The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field.” Now not everything was destroyed as you see in verses 31 and 32. In the tenth plague the servants of Pharaoh will explain that all of the signs and wonders that Egypt is ruined (Ex 10:7). The Lord has been making himself known to Pharaoh, with his patience and power so that all the nations will know who the Lord is. This once in a 1000-year storm has done just that. Pharaoh now knows the name of the Lord. The second portion of this sign and wonder focuses on Pharaoh’s response. This one is different from the last plagues.
What comes out of Pharaoh’s mouth is astonishing in verse 27-28, “Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, “This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Plead with the Lord, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer” (Ex 9:27–28). Pharaoh repents, so it seems. A glorious confession that we see. He acknowledges he sins, he acknowledges the Lord is right and he and the people are wrong, and he promises to let the people go. Finally, after seven signs and wonders Pharaoh’s heart has been softened and he has repented of his sin and is going to let the people go. Now this is not the first time Pharaoh has said he would let the people go he has done so he has done so in the second sign and wonder but he changed his mind after there was some respite (Ex 8:8, 15). He has promised to let them go with conditions of serving the Lord in the land (Ex 8:25) or not going to far away (Ex 8:28). However, this time is different, in that Pharaoh speaks of his sin and also the Lord being right. On the surface we would say this is true repentance, he says all the right words, but we know that there are more plagues coming, we know that in verse 35 we are told that he does not let the people go because his heart was hardened. So what can we learn about this response from Pharaoh. As we looked at last time the patience of God is not everlasting, it has a time when his anger comes. The patience of God is to lead to repentance (2 Pet 3:9; Rom 2:4).
No Fear of the Lord
Moses rightly understands what is happening. This is not the first time Pharaoh has made a promise and will not fulfill it. Moses tells Pharaoh he will plead to the Lord for him to get the hail to stop but he states in verse 30, “I know that you do not yet fear the Lord.” How does he know this, divine revelation that Moses was told but we are not. Actually, we are told that some of Pharaoh’s servants fear the Lord, how do we know they feared the Lord because they listened to God when he warned them about the hail coming down on them and the devastation that was about to come. Although Pharaoh said all the right words, he did not fear God enough to listen to him. Now when we think of fear we often think of being scared of something. When we speak of the fear of the Lord we can have a misguided view of what this means. There are two types of fears that we can have the first is the over exaggerated, we might can this hyper fear. The person who is afraid of anything with more than four legs, even the sight on an insect yards away is enough for them to crumble, this is what would often add the word phobia to the end. The second is a healthy fear. Two people can be afraid of heights, the hyper fear is crippling to the person, however the person with a healthy fear of heights realizes that falling from such a height could lead to death.
When we speak of the fear of the Lord we are not speaking of being petrified of him, but we have a healthy understanding. The Psalmist explains, like the author of Proverbs, that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10) Fear is an exercise a practice we should have. The is the beginning of knowledge (Prv 1:7). Jesus explains that we should not fear the person who kills the body, but we are to fear God, “But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:5) The healthy fear understands that God is all-powerful, almighty, all-knowing, ever present, holy, just, true, and will one day judge all mankind. But an exaggerated fear of God, which can be used in hyper religious, fundamentalist houses, uses (hyper) fear to seek to get a particular behavior out of a person. Yet, God is simple, and what that means is that you cannot take one attribute out of God and focus on that. He does not have parts, like a body. We come to God with awe and reverence, but we can come to him.
In the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis Mr. Beaver is telling the children about Aslan, “Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” The healthy fear of God understands that God is all the things mentioned before, and he is gracious, merciful, loving, and filled with goodness. Hence we obey his commandments, not out of fear of destruction, but out of a healthy understanding of who God is. All powerful God who has given us commandments to be able to walk in this world to glorify and enjoy him forever. Pharaoh had nothing of this fear of the Lord. The midwives, feared the Lord above Pharaoh, because they understood that the God who cares for the sparrow sold for 40% of a penny cares for them, they have no reason to fear Pharaoh who could harm the body (Luke 12:4-7). Pharaoh did not fear God. He might of feared the repercussions of the plagues, btu not God.
The other aspect that we see in this passage is that although Pharaoh uses all the right words in his repentance, he did not really mean it. Although this passage is longer than all the other signs and wonders it ends the same way, in verse 34-35 Moses writes, “But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses” (Ex 9:34–35). He had stated his sin, his rebellion and promised to let the people go but when the time came his stubborn heart was greater than his foolish promise. Now that is not to say that when we repent and then we never ever do that sin again, but this shows the heart problem of Pharaoh, he is moved by his own desires and greed. He is ruled by his sinful heart. That true repentance brings forth true tears of the depth of despair that we have. How often men and women, boys and girls, live like this. They say sorry with their mouth but are not sorrowful in their heart. They need to finish the sentence; they are sorry that got caught. They are sorry that they have to be punished. Like King Saul who is sorry that the kingdom will be torn from his hand and given to his neighbor. Or the sorrow of Judas, who merely sought to undo his action rather than true grief for his action. Or the Prodigal son, not the one who left but the one who stayed, he was sorrowful for his father not giving him an animal for a party, but he was not sorry for the way that he had treated his father. We do all of these don’t we, we often have a moment of short-lived grief in our lives about our sin, but do we truly and honestly grieve over our sin. The sin which remains in our hearts that separates us from God. The Sin which is rebellion against God himself, the one who made us, takes care of us, and died for us. There is no such thing as a small sin, every sin deserves the wrath and curse of God.
Listen to the confession of another king, King David, after stealing and sleeping with Bathsheba the wife of Uriah the Hittite and murdering Uriah the Hittite. When he is confronted by the prophet Nathan he cries out,
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice. Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:7–12)
This is not merely a Band-Aid, but this is major surgery. We will get to the understanding of the purging of hyssop in the Passover, but notice this is not merely a washing you hands before dinner situation. But this is I am dirty and filthy inside and out, O Lord. A healthy fear of the Lord. David walks into the hospital for sinners and says, send me straight to surgery, I need a new heart. I need to be washed, cleansed, sanctified. Do we have this response to our sine, or merely out of regular habit, forgive me, sorry. Do we hate the sin that is within our hearts? Do we seek for the day when the cancer of sin we have inherited from Adam is finally removed from our body and that nothing will be tainted any more. Do we pray that God would create in us a new heart. The old man is dying, and the new man made looks more like our elder brother Jesus Christ.
We tend to think that the signs and wonders in the book of Exodus are just a once in a life time event. That’s not what the Bible teaches. We do not have time to unpack these connections in great depth, but turn to Revelation chapter 16.
Chapter 16 has seven bowls of wrath. These bowls of wrath are poured out on the earth. You can see the connection to the signs and wonders in Exodus. The first bowl is painful boils and sores, the second the sea turned to blood and everything living dies in the sea, the third is poured into the rivers and springs and is turned to blood, the fourth is poured onto the sun and scorched people, the fifth the kingdom of the beast is plunged into darkness, the sixth the river Euphrates is dried out and out of the river comes demonic spirits like frogs, and the seventh and final bowl of wrath is poured out and is like the seventh plague in the book of Exodus, there is great earthquakes, lighting, and great hailstones, one hundred pounds each. Twice in this imaginary found in Revelation 16 is the reminder of what happened to Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, they see the signs and wonders and they do not repent (Rev 16:9, 11).