Old Testament Exodus Signs and Wonders

Signs and Wonders

Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1:22 that Jews demand signs (cf. Matt 12:38, 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16, 29; John 6:30). This is exactly what the Jewish people sought of the promised messiah because this is how God confirmed his word to his. People. This happens throughout the bible but we see it start here in the Book of Exodus, where a prophet is given a word to speak and the Prophet is given signs to confirm the word from God. In this passage we see that God told Moses the plan that Moses would first go to the elders of Israel and then to Pharaoh. Moses was told that Pharaoh would not listen unless he is compelled by a mighty hand, then after that Pharaoh would let God’s people go with great possessions. However, Moses asks his third question, which we will find out is really an excuse. What if the elders do not listen to me? Now God had told Moses that they would listen to him, when he said, “and they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of …” (Ex 3:18) Yet look at what Moses asks the Lord, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you’” (Ex 4:1). Moses states the opposite of what had just promised. This is not the picture we normally have of Moses, here he is and he not only doubts God’s word but he says the opposite. Moses says they will not believe or listen to him. They will question his words that the Lord appeared to him. Now before we continue, we need to point out something very important, The Lord had told Moses to say to the elders and to pharaoh, “The Lord appeared to me” (vs 16, 18). Moses, although doubting, he understands that he is merely a messenger of the Lord and has no authority to speak for himself. Moses is sent by God to be his messenger. But we also need to note that Moses is a prototype of Israel as well, he is in the wilderness questioning the truthfulness of God, just like Israel will do. Here in the passage, we see God is revealing himself to his people but also to the Egyptians. What do these signs and wonders reveal about God?

God shows his power

The great signs and wonders that God will do show his power and might. We see this clearly in chapter 3 verse 19 when the Lord explains that Pharaoh will need to be compelled by a mighty hand. In Numbers 33:4 we are told this is not merely a battle of Pharaoh verses the people of God, but it is God vs the gods of Pharaoh. God shows his power and his might through these signs. They show his power to his people so that they would believe and listen to God’s prophet Moses. We will see more of this as we see the great signs and wonders that happen in chapters 7-12, but what about these signs that are shown to Moses on the mountain. God does not seek to explain to Moses his concern that they will not listen. God is showing Moses his power and might to Moses. God does all of these signs before Moses’ eyes. Moses has no idea what the Lod is doing but he sees these great signs. Matthew Henry points out that there is no spell, charm or incantation these things happen only through God’s power. Previously God had told him he will know that all this was true when the people of God are serving God on this mountain (Ex 3:12). But he still shows Moses these signs.

The sign shows God’s power over the serpent

The first sign is the staff turning into a serpent and turning back into a staff again. This shows God’s power over the serpent. We have touched on this partially before but we should be reminded. That this has two connected meanings. The first is that often Pharaoh’s headdress, or crown often had a rearing cobra called an Uraeus. Which was a symbol of sovereignty, royalty, deity, and divine authority in ancient Egypt. Through this sign God shows that he is more powerful and mighty than Pharaoh. The second aspect is that God is more powerful than Satan. The serpent appears in Genesis chapter 3 when Adam and Eve fall. The serpent tried to crush the head of the sons of Israel by stopping the promise of the promised messiah who was going to crush his head. God shows his power over Satan, that he will fulfill his promise he made in the garden that day.

The sign shows God’s power over sickness

The second sign shows God’s power over sickness. Sickness was a result of the fall. Moses’ hand turns leprous as he puts it under his cloak. His hand turns white like snow. Now this is not what we call Leprously today or what is called Hansen’s disease. Leviticus 13 speaks of a variety of skin diseases that fall under a category labeled ‘leprously.’ Moses is told to put his hand back under his cloak and it comes out restored like it was before. God shows that his power extends not only over Satan but also sickness. Now why is this important, when we think about God’s power it extends not only over Satan to stop him and defeat him but also that he is able to restore things how they were before sickness. We see this clearly in Jesus earthly ministry he comes into the world, and he performs signs and wonders to show his power and authority. He does this most frequently through healing the sick, and in several cases people with leprously.

The sign shows God’s power over death

The third and final sign which is explained to Moses but not shown to Moses is that water from the Nile will be changed to blood. This will be an important sign that will be shown not only to the people of God but also to Pharaoh. The reason Moses does not see this on the mountain is because they are not near the Nile. The Nile River was a critical part of the Egyptian life, religiously but also practically. The Nile was the symbol and god of life. In times of drought and famine Egypt was often the place people would travel (cf. Gen 12:10) because the Nile could sustain life even without a great amount of rain. But the water is turned from life to death. We will speak of this more when we get to the signs and wonders in chapter 7. However, this is important to remember that this is the same river which once was turned into blood once before, when Pharaoh commanded his people to cast any son of Israel into the river. God will show his power over death by saving his people through the blood of the Passover lamb, but also his power over death through the death of the first born sons, and the water that will crush Pharaoh and his army as they seek to destroy his people.

God shows his power over all of these things, that the people of God know that he is a powerful God, the most powerful God. Psalm 106 explains that the people of God did not consider God’s wonderous works when they were in Egypt, however it goes on to say, “Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power” (Psalm 106:8). God shows his power over Satan, sickness and death with great signs and wonders. This is why the cross was foolishness to the Jews, because the cross shows God’s power through weakness. The signs point to the message, the hope of the gospel.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb 2:1–4).

God shows his leader

The second aspect that we see God revels himself is that he shows that Moses is his chosen leader. The signs are performed by Moses confirm that he is the chosen one sent by God to carry out this rescue mission. Moses staff is not merely a walking stick but is used as a symbol of his authority as a leader. Remember in Numbers 17 when the Lord instructs Moses to grab a staff from every tribe and write their names on it and the staff that buds will signify whom God had chosen. The staff is used in many of the signs and wonders as the means which the sign is performed (Ex 4:17), it will be called the staff of God (Ex 4:20, 17:9). God chose Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, the people of God will grumble and complain and question this many times. Psalm 105 explains, “He sent Moses, his servant, and Aaron, whom he had chosen. They performed his signs among them and miracles in the land of Ham” (Ps 105:26–27). This is why it is important when Moses misuses his staff in Numbers 20:6–13 he is unable to enter the promise land. Even with this sin Moses is still seen as the great leader as end of Deuteronomy records,

“And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” (Deut 34:10–12)

God shows his grace

The last thing that we need to understand is that through these great signs and wonders God reveals how gracious he is, to Moses, his people and even to Pharaoh. He shows grace to Moses by showing him these signs on the mountain. Moses is reluctant to go as we will see next week and have seen so far. However, God shows him grace in comforting him about who he is, the God who is all-powerful and mighty, the God who is with him, the God who keeps his promises. Secondly, it shows God’s grace to his people. Moses is sent to the Elders and they see these signs and they believe that the God of their fathers had visited them and seen their affliction and they turn to worship the one true living God (Ex 4:30-31). God shows his grace to his people by showing his power and his might. The last aspect that the Lord shows his grace is to all nations. Pharaoh had oppressed the people of God for four hundred years, God had very right to judge them for their deeds, but these signs and wonders which we will see, show forth God’s power and grace to others. When we get to Exodus 13, will see the many chances that Pharaoh is shown. But unlike the People of God who worship the Lord, Pharaoh hardens his heart. But we still see that this is shown to reveal God’s grace to all people. Psalm 105 begins explaining,

“Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered” (Psalm 105:1–5.)

We see that this is not only for the benefit of Moses, the Israelites, or others in this book, but also for us. God has revealed himself to us in all of his power and majesty that we would worship him. That we would bow down and glorify his name. as we sing in the great hymn, Immortal, invisible, God only wise:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,

in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,

most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,

almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

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