Exodus Day Twenty-Three
July 31, 2020, 5:00 AM

Exodus 10:21-23

The LORD said to Moses,
“Stretch out your hand toward heaven,
that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt.”
So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven,
and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.
They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days,
but all the people of Israel had light where they lived.

Flannery O’Connor wrote, “The Catholic novelist [O’Connor was Roman Catholic] believes that you destroy your freedom by sin; the modern reader believes, I think, that you gain it that way. There is not much possibility of understanding between the two.”

As I read this, I thought of Pharaoh’s downward spiral through the thick darkness, in bondage to his sin. Blind to his stumble. I thought of the intriguing play between the expressions, “Pharaoh hardened his heart” and “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Pharaoh thought he was free; but it wasn’t what he expected— or wanted. Even as there is a 50/50 split between Pharaoh’s free will and Divine Sovereignty as the plagues crescendo, it must be noted that “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” increases in frequency. It’s almost as if, as Pharaoh continues in his stubbornness, his heart grows colder, more distant and more stubborn. He’s “given over” in his sin to be finally destroyed by his sin. That’s a loud cautionary note being played here.

In that key, the plagues on Egypt are replayed in Psalms 78 and 105 for people of Faith. The intent behind the rehearsal seems to be, don’t pharaoh your life away. Don’t let your heart be consumed with hardness. It’s a convoluted road that cul-de-sacs in bitterness. These two psalms cite seven of the ten plagues, in different order of sequence. The chronological order of the plagues in the psalms do not seem important to the psalmists. It is the cautionary message of the plagues that’s front and center — both seven and ten being numbers of completeness in the Bible. Complete judgment for calcifying hearts! The only plague not mentioned in the Psalter is the plague of boils. I’m not sure why the psalmists chose to omit this plague. That’s an “Aha!” moment for another day, I suppose.

Below, I’ve numbered the plagues by where they are placed in the Exodus account.

Psalm 78:42-51
1. Blood
4. Flies
2. Frogs
8. Locusts
7. Hail
5. Livestock
10. Death of Firstborn

Psalm 105:28-36
9. Darkness
1. Blood
2. Frogs
3&4. Flies and Gnats
7. Hail
8. Locusts
10. Death of Firstborn

The uninspired headings in my Bible for these two psalms are “Tell the Coming Generation” (78:4); and “Tell of all His Wondrous Works” (105:2). These titles do describe the didactic purpose of these two psalms— The lesson of Egypt, Pharaoh and the Exodus. This Epic Event teaches God’s faithfulness. The need to trust that faithfulness. And what a deficiency of faithfulness will bring!

I close out the week with some very recent artwork of the Exodus Plagues for your contemplation (See Below). Sort of a different, imaginative take; but then again, artists are a richly complex lot of practitioners. The work below is entitled “The Ten Plagues of Egypt. Pestilence of Livestock.” The artist is an Israeli named Elisheva Nesis. I find the interpretation of the fifth plague of pestilence on the cattle striking— Humans in bovine pose, mixed in with various herds, in blood toned fields and sky… in masks. How contemporary! It’s as if the artist is saying the freedom with which we choose hardness of hearts, reduces us to a baser form. Less human. Darkness. I think Pharaoh would now agree. Yes?

Have a tender-hearted weekend.

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