Not a Broken Record
The sound of a broken record is seen when the needle is unable to move unto the next section of the song. The record continues to turn but the needle is unmoved. Over time the repetition becomes background noise and once what was apparent or abrupt becomes distant or normalized. That is not what is happening in this section of Exodus. The nine great signs and wonders are not merely stuck on repeat but as they progress, they progressively get worse. This is not a broken record, although there is repetition, it is not of equal levels of severity. The repetition of the melody repeats throughout the section playing quietly at the beginning speaking of God’s power, preservation, punishment, and purpose. The same melody is sung throughout this portion, but as each chorus is sung more instruments are added, more people begin to sing. The melody increases time and time again, each time louder than the last. So that by the end you have not become accustomed and climatized to it but you cannot help but notice this melody playing boldly and loudly. In today’s passage we see what we have seen previously in the former plagues, but we see then on a whole new level. We see God shows his power and judgment by intensifying signs, hardening hearts, and setting times.
Intensifying Signs (He is most powerful)
It is hard to calculate the length of time that these signs and wonders take, if you read the passage very literally, with seven days in the first and the references to tomorrow or, early in the morning then the plagues would have happened in under three weeks, others say forty days while others explain up to a year or more. However, the timing of the plagues is not the important thing, but the actual plagues themselves. That each of these plagues is not on the same level but over the course of the ten signs and wonders they are increasingly getting worse. The Lord tells Moses in Exodus 7:3, He would multiply signs and wonders. As God instructed Adam and Eve to go forth and multiply, or promised Abraham that his small family would multiply to be as the stars of heaven and the sand on the seashore. God multiplied his signs.
Previously the magicians sought to be able to rival the signs by mimicking them however they would attest that these came about not through magical powers or trickery but by the finger of God (Ex 8:19). However, Moses tells Pharaoh that this is the hand of God (Ex 9:3). The Lord had told Moses, who relayed to Pharaoh that God would save his people with an outstretched arm/hand (Ex 6:6 cf 7:5). Even at this point we must stand in absolute amazement of what God has done. These signs and wonders are just that, they are not natural cycles, but supernatural phenomena that have shown devastating effects on the land of Egypt. This land which is known for being able to withstand drought and famine, but this time there is devastating effects. Imagine you move into a new neighborhood, you have heard great things about this neighborhood and then you turn your faucet on and out comes blood, then comes a frog infestation, then gnats, then flies. Each one is bad on itself but over the course of time you would say, I am leaving. This is the signs and wonders, each time is worse, not only from the previous one but accumulative effect.
We also see the intensifying in the signs and wonders in two other ways. First, as the hand of God brings a very severe plague upon your live stock (9:3). This word used very sever shows the intensity of this next plagues. This word is used to describe Pharaoh’s heavy heart. The sixth sign and wonder, of the death to Pharaoh’s livestock is the first plague to bring death to Pharaoh’s personal property. Other signs and wonders have brought death to fish and frogs, and have ruined the land. However, this plague is the first where death comes to Pharaoh’s personal property.
We also see the sign’s intensifying in the magicians, previously they would stand before Moses and Aaron and preform their magic to mimic the sign, but in the third plague they were unable to perform the sign and wonder of the gnats. This time, the sixth plague of the boils the magicians were unable to stand before Moses (Ex 9:11). The Lord has defeated the magicians they are not mentioned any more, they once were proud and arrogant but now they are silent.
Hardening Hearts (He is above all)
One aspect of this section of Exodus is the refrain of Pharaoh hardened his heart, or something similar. At the end of each sign and wonder we read, But Pharaoh hardened his heart. As the signs and wonders continue this refrain is not merely there as a repeat, but every time we read it Pharaoh has continued in his stubborn ways and not heeded the words of the Prophet. Now we see clearly what God said he would do in Exodus 7:3, “I [God] will harden Pharaoh’s heart.” We will see this clearly in the next sign and wonder. However, what we need to see is that at every time Pharaoh knows where these signs and wonders are coming from and every time, he refuses to let God’s people go. He continues not to listen to the Lord and his command to let his people go. Pharaoh continues to rebel. It would be like driving down a road and hitting a speed bump, now if you passed one small sign you might understand how you could not have known the bump was there. But if you were driving down the street and there were six signs and each sign gets bigger and brighter, and in the end with flashing lights. You hit the speed bump it really is because of your stubbornness to pay attention to the signs.
Now why is this important for us. We are not holding God’s people captive, oppressing them. However, we have many warnings in Scripture, and no one is able to stand before God in the last day and say, I didn’t see the sign. Paul says in Romans that man is without excuse (Rom 1:20). But closer to home we have many warnings in scripture, as those who profess to be believers need to pay attention to. You could turn to many passages but for the sake of time lets look at Hebrews 2:1-4. The writer of Hebrews urges the readers to pay close attention to what they have heard and learned about salvation through Jesus Christ. They should not drift away from this message, as doing so could lead to judgment and loss. The message of salvation was first proclaimed by the Lord and confirmed by those who heard Him. God also bore witness to it with signs, wonders, and various miracles, as well as by distributing gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His will. Pharaoh’s problem was not the plagues, the problem was that he did not listen to the Lord, as you see in Exodus 9:12. The author of Hebrews warns the New Testament believers, pay attention to what you have heard, the signs and wonders are merely witnesses God’s word. The author of Hebrews continues to emphasize that we should not harden our hearts today (Heb 3:7-19). Do you listen to God’s word? Are you paying attention? Are your drifting away from it?
Setting Times (He is in control)
The last aspect that God shows his judgement is through setting times. Throughout these plagues we see that the Lord is in control. He tells Pharaoh what is going to happen and when. You see this throughout this section of Exodus but in verse five and six we read, “And the Lord set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.” And the next day the Lord did this thing. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died” (Ex 9:5–6). Pharaoh Was warned not only many times but specifically what time everything was going to happen. Again, this shows the intensity, to be able to tell you that something was going to happen, and it happens could be seen as a fluke. But for this to happen time and time again shows who is in control. That Pharaoh first asked for the Lord to take away the frogs “tomorrow,” now every time we are told these plagues are going to come tomorrow. Showing God’s control in the situation.
We need to understand that God’s judgement is not haphazard or sporadic. In our house we seek to be consistent and just in our judgement and discipline. That every day the children know what is expected of them and what they expect from us. Now, this does not always happen, our judgments can be filled with passion, good or bad. The circumstances of the day can effect our passions and can change how we administer judgement. A day filled with stress of broken cars, leaking pipes, long emails, deadlines, and a whole slew of other things can surmount to stress in our lives, and then a child or children do something wrong, on the scale of one to ten it is small and minuscule, a one, but we treat it as a ten. However, God is not like that, we cannot control our situation nor even ourselves (the sin inside, we are still responsible). God’s judgement is not haphazard or sporadic. God has set a time for judgement to come, for Pharaoh it was tomorrow. Every sign comes when God says.
The consistency and precision of God’s judgment, as seen in the timing of the plagues on Egypt, offer us a profound lesson about the nature of God’s ultimate judgment. In the same way that God foretold the plagues to Pharaoh, setting specific times for their occurrence, He has also set a time in history for the great final day of judgment when Christ returns. Just as the plagues were not random but purposeful, serving as both warnings and acts of judgment, the final judgment will be a purposeful and deliberate act of God. It will be a day when all accounts will be settled, and God’s justice will prevail without fail.
This should remind us that our God is a God of order and intention, and His judgments are not subject to human caprice or emotional fluctuations. Unlike our own judgment, which can sometimes be influenced by the stresses and pressures of the moment, God’s judgment is perfectly righteous and consistent. We can take comfort in knowing that His timing is precise, and His actions are just. As we reflect on the plagues in Exodus and the impending final judgment, we are called to heed the warnings, seek His grace and mercy, and live in accordance with His righteous ways, knowing that God’s judgment is always purposeful and just, both in the historical accounts of the past and in the future yet to come.
In all of this we need to see the heightening of this in the life and death of Jesus Christ, that Christ came and proclaimed the word as he showed his signs and wonders, yet some people did not believe. The signs intensified which culminated in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Not only his intensifying signs but the hardening of hearts, here when confronted with the signs and wonders that he performed (Cf. Mark 3:5). And finally, Jesus warned his disciples and followers to be ready, judgement is coming. The glorious thing is that the day of judgement for those who have placed their faith in Christ is not a day of fear and dread but of rejoicing and celebration.