Sermon for Sunday, May 16th, 2021 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Exo 10:1-20 ESV] 1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” 3 So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. 4 For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, 5 and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, 6 and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.'” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh. 7 Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” 8 So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. But which ones are to go?” 9 Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” 10 But he said to them, “The LORD be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. 11 No! Go, the men among you, and serve the LORD, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence. 12 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.” 13 So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. 14 The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. 15 They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. 16 Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. 17 Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the LORD your God only to remove this death from me.” 18 So he went out from Pharaoh and pleaded with the LORD. 19 And the LORD turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea. Not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. 20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.
New Testament reading:
[1Pe 5:6-11 ESV] 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
[Mat 8:23-27 ESV] 23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
The brooding Pharaoh, his heart hardened, is now plagued by a brood of locusts. This is the 8th plague.
In the news this year there has been talk about the coming of “Brood X.” Perhaps in this COVID-era it can feel as if we are living through a series of plagues just like the Egyptians did. While we seem to have dodged a bullet with the so-called “Killer Hornets,” but now it is promised that the 17-year Cicadas are near. And there are many “broods” of them which arise at various intervals and in various years and in various locations. This year’s group is called “Brood X” and it is supposed to be a quite considerable, if not the largest of all the broods.
You no doubt have seen swarms of Cicadas before. I recall Cicadas twice in my life. Once I was amazed at their great numbers as a kid when I saw these orange creatures covering the ground. And then about 8 years ago I was amazed at the sound of the creatures as they all joined in a chorus together in the forest. Though each bug individually is quite small, together their sound can be 100 decibels; about the level of a motorcycle engine.
These creatures are loud, destructive, and simply annoying.
I. The Plague of Locusts
But surely the coming of Brood X will pale in comparison to the plague of locusts God unleashed upon the Egyptians.
This plague is essentially defined by the shear number of the locusts. In fact, you can hardly think of locusts without the connotation of great masses of them.
These were swarms unlike anything the Egyptians had ever seen. While locusts had come and gone before, never were they in these great of numbers.
And the effect was devastating.
You recall that when the plague of hail came it destroyed only the crops that were then up (the flax and the barley), but other crops (the wheat and the emmer) had not yet come into season and thus were temporarily saved. But now, with the locusts, even those remaining crops are destroyed. The food supply is in peril
And Pharaoh broods; he thinks unhappily about his circumstances.
In this plague of locusts we have many of those elements that are commonly noted throughout the plagues.
– God gives a warning to Pharaoh through Moses and Aaron.
– God then, by his miraculous might, sends the plague on Egypt.
– Pharaoh pleads with with Moses and Aaron to have God take away the plague.
– God fulfills the request.
– But Pharaoh again hardens his heart and does not humble himself before the Lord.
II. Pharaoh’s Actions
Today I want to look more closely at Pharaoh’s actions particular in this plague.
First there is another attempt at compromise, rather than listening to the command of God. [Repeat: an attempt at compromise, rather than listening to the command of God.]
Pharaoh said to Moses and Aaron – “Go, serve the Lord your God. But which ones are to go?”
So Moses clarified saying, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the Lord.”
But just like before when Pharaoh had said “Don’t go 3 days away, only go a short distance into the desert” now he says “Only the men may go.” Not the women, not the children. Only the men.
Pharaoh not listening. He does not hear the command of God, but wants to retain control himself. He refuses to admit that God is in control, and sets himself up as the determiner of what God really meant.
But it is clear that when God said “let my people go” he meant “all of them.” But Pharaoh compromises and says only the men can go. He wants to keep the women and children behind as essentially hostages.
Moses, on the other hand, has it as his job to give the Word of the Lord to Pharaoh. He’s not allowed to compromise or to negotiate. Moses is to do what God commands.
God does not want negotiation with us, He commands obedience.
When, this time, Pharaoh does not obey God, God send the plague of locusts.
We are up to 8 plagues now. And you might wonder, how much is enough? What will it take for Pharaoh to listen? The truth is, sinful man will not and can not listen to God so long as his heart is hardened. It requires the work of the Holy Spirit working in man to soften the heart.
B. False Repentance
So first we have Pharaoh attempting to compromise.
Now, once the plague has come, Pharaoh feigns obedience; he pretends to repent.
Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said to them “I have sinned again the Lord your God, and against you.”
Then the Lord took away the locusts, but Pharaoh again hardened his heart and did not let the people of Israel go.
We see that Pharaoh’s repentance was a false repentance. He admitted sin, but only in an attempt to deceive God and have the plagues ended. He had no contrition. His heart was not softened. And he still did not let the people go.
Application 1: Beware of Easy-believism.
Pharaoh provides here a good example here as I warn of the error of what is called easy-believism. [easy-believism] This is the lie that says merely saying “I believe” or “I repent” is sufficient in the eyes of God.
Now, to be clear, I’m a big proponent of Sola Fide – the doctrine of salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ. We are saved by the grace of God in the death of Jesus Christ and it is through the gift of faith that we take hold of that salvation. We add no works to it. We are saved when we believe that Jesus Christ is Lord.
When one truly believes in the Lord, they assent to the truth of His words, not merely saying with their lips that “Jesus is Lord” but believing that as true in their heart.
Romans 10:9 says that “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord AND believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
And it is from such true heart-belief that Christians then seek to do the will of God and are sanctified through the Holy Spirit. Easy-believism has it that you can simply say “Jesus is Lord” and then walk away from the church and the Christian life assured of your salvation. But the one who has true faith desires the things of the Lord, not thereby adding anything to the salvation already won for us by Christ, but glorifying God in his actions and in his life.
Easy-believism is hypocrisy. It is not belief at all, but like Pharaoh, it is subterfuge, deception.
So to be a member of a confessional Presbyterian church it is necessary that you make “a credible confession of faith.” It is not sufficient to lackadaisically say “Sure, I believe.” Belief in Jesus Christ is not a passing fad, but a life-changing commitment. Neither myself as a minister nor the elders of the church are able to peer into your heart, but when one asks to join the church we are called to decide whether the confession of faith is credible. We are to protect the body of Christ against hypocrisy. And to teach the necessity of genuine faith in the Lord.
There is a book about a missionary in Northern India and Pakistan. And a man came to his mission and said “I believe, baptize me.” And the missionary pastor at first thought “surely I should baptize him.” Someone on his staff, however, said “let’s wait a bit and think about this.” But the man came back and again said “I believe, baptize me.” Again the missionary pastor thought “surely I should baptize him.” But soon word came his way that this man in fact had been baptized before, even a dozen times. The man, it turned out, would go from mission to mission seeking his own financial gain; getting money and food from the Christians while pretending to one. His profession of faith was not genuine. He did not truly believe.
We find that Pharaoh lacks genuine faith; he is clearly not in God’s good graces with his pretend repentance. And God will bring yet more plagues upon him.
So that is our first application: beware of easy-believism.
Application 2: Obedience Matters to God.
Our second application is must like: obedience matters to God.
Obedience comes from a changed heart.
In some translations of John 14:15 we find that Jesus said,“If you love me, keep my commandments.”
But better is the translation of our Pew Bible, the ESV, which says “If you love me, you WILL keep my commandments.”
With a changed heart, and a desire for the Lord, we WILL obey him.
Now it is sadly true that in this life we still sin. But it is also true that God works obedience into our hearts, and that because of Christ’s full obedience, active and passive, in his life and his death on the cross, we have been forgiven. God reckons us not as sinners, but as obedient saints. All for the sake of Jesus Christ.
Obedience matters to God.
It matters so much that it was His plan for Jesus Christ to obey the law and to obey even unto death, for your sake and for mine. That we may be obedient.
Application 3: Tell it to your children.
Now, there is a third application I’d like to briefly look at. “Tell it to your children.”
What are we to tell? We are to tell the works of God.
See in the beginning of our passage it reads:
1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”
This is, in part, why the story of the Exodus is recounted. The Israelites are to know for all generations that God saved them from Egypt. And especially the Passover—which we’ll get to in a couple chapters—is remembered from generation to generation. Now that Passover promise is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and we celebrate God’s grace each Lord’s Day and indeed each day of our lives.
Just as the Israelites were to tell their children and grandchildren of the Lord, so we are to do the same. The schools aren’t going to tell your children about Jesus. The most important figure in world history and the most important book in world history are absent from these places of “learning.” The learning is selective.
Parents, grandparents, are to teach their children. We are to read and explain the Bible to all who come into our care, teaching them the ways of the Lord, His commands for us, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ, as the way of living in joy and peace following his Word.
Tell it on the mountain, to each and every person, yes. But also, tell it to your children.
I want to note then one final point as I conclude today.
Did you see how the locusts came and how they left again? God brought them in with a wind. (Ex 10:13) and again with a wind he drove them out. (10:19). God controls the wind. No Egyptians god of the wind has any power. God controls the wind.
What does this bring to your mind? Remember Jesus on the boat with his disciples, and they find him sleeping despite a great storm bearing down upon them? And when Jesus woke up he rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm. And the men marveled, saying “What sort of man is this that even the winds and sea obey him?
What sort of man? A divine one. Jesus is God in the flesh. God controlled the wind in the Exodus. The son of the living God controlled the wind on the Sea of Galilee. And his power extends even over life and death. He is the living resurrected Christ who gives us salvation and commands us to obey him, showing our love for him. And indeed we love the Lord, and so we pray for the strength and the holiness to follow him—to obey him—day by day and minute by minute. Following the Lord, we do not brood as Pharaoh does. We have joy and obey him because of that joy and for that joy. The Lord has saved us for loving him and finding in him joy that lasts forever. It is Christ’s name that I pray. Amen.