Images of the Savior (20 -- The Ten Plagues)
When we look to our God and Savior, with a heart of faith and eyes that have been opened by his Holy Spirit, we must be struck immediately and overwhelmingly with a sense of the diversity and excellence of his character, which joins together every trait that could be desired or admired, no matter how different one might be from another, in a manner that admits of no internal contradiction, but in such a glorious fashion that every delightful property most brilliantly complements and enhances the others around it, so that the peculiar wonder of each lovely quality is displayed in a striking and perfectly proportioned splendor. This we see in all its inexhaustible wealth in the shining face of Jesus Christ, who is at once the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (see Revelation 5:5-6); and of all the Old Testament images of the Christ, there are few that show forth this diverse excellence more abundantly than the operations of Yahweh in his bringing the children of Israel out from their bondage in the land of Egypt. In that event, we see the meek and lowly servant of the Lord, Moses, who had no brilliant oratorical ability or comely form to commend him to the people, taking on the role of God for Pharaoh and for the people of Israel. Thus Christ became a lowly and humble man, despised above all, in order to bring the true nature of the Godhead both to his people, that he might save them, and his enemies, that he might destroy them. But also, in this event, we see the dreadful Angel of the Lord passing through the land with a terrible fury, and judging all the firstborn of the people, save those who are covered with the blood of the Passover Lamb; and this Angel is also Christ, sent by the Father to judge the world (John 5:22-23; Acts 17:31); and so is the Passover Lamb, whose blood saves God's people from his own wrath, an evident type of Christ. And so, in a very diverse manner, we have a picture of a very diverse Christ, who would go about through very diverse methods to redeem his people: he is a lowly man speaking the word of God in the world and confirming his messages with signs and wonders; he is the righteous Judge, exacting vengeance on all who have opposed him; he is the innocent Lamb, giving up his life freely in exchange for the lives of his people; he is the Savior who delivers his own people while destroying their enemies; and his power is ever shown in his lowliness and humility: for his greatest deliverance of all, being a deliverance not just from Pharaoh or from the Serpent he typified, but from his own implacable and boundless wrath, was wrought by his humblest and lowliest act of all, in offering up his body as an atoning sacrifice for his people. Ah, what a Savior this is! Let us now examine the account in more detail.
We see first, that when God sent Moses to deliver his people from Egypt, he said from the beginning that he would harden the hearts of their enemies, in order that he might show more gloriously his power and wrath against them; which indeed he did, and the whole world was then shaken with his terrible acts of judgment. So also, when God sent Jesus to deliver his people indeed, bringing them out from under their bondage to the Serpent (see Hebrews 2:14-15), of whom Pharaoh was but a type, he prophesied ahead of time that he would harden the hearts of the people (Isaiah 6:9-10); and so in fact he did (see John 12:37-41). This was in order that he might effect a more glorious deliverance, the Gentiles then being shown mercy through the hardening of the Jews (Romans 11:11); and also, that he might store up a more terrible judgment, as those despising his eminent forbearance and goodness were but treasuring up greater wrath for the day of judgment (Romans 2:4-5); and so, the glory of his wrath was most fearfully displayed, and this so that the glory of his free grace and mercy might shine all the more brilliantly on the election of grace (Romans 9:22-24); just as the greatness of the signs of judgment against Egypt underscored the greatness of the mighty deliverance that was thereby wrought for Israel.
But let us consider some of the signs through which Moses effected this great deliverance and terrible judgment: first, when he had just come into the presence of Pharaoh, and commanded him to send away the people of God from his land, he again turned his rod into a snake, and back into a rod. Now, we have already observed that this sign was instructive of the cross, where the Serpent's rage would be turned by the power of God into a staff of deliverance for the people, and the source of every wonder and miracle of grace and deliverance that God should ever work in their behalf. Now, when the Egyptian magicians worked the same sign, and yet Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods, which had also become serpents, and became again a staff in his hand, God was thereby signifying that, even as his Messiah would deliver his people from the venom of the ancient Serpent, so he would deliver them from every other lesser evil that the Serpent's offspring might devise against them. If Aaron's rod could swallow up the greater snake, who itself swallowed up the lesser snakes, showing in a figure that they had all sprung from him and that he was the greater source of evil and temptation, then there is no other evil at all that could touch God's people. God turned the great Serpent, and all the little snakes that had come from him, into a staff that would work all sorts of deliverances for his people. And so today, God works every evil out for good in the lives of his people, through that great staff of deliverance, the cross of Christ (Romans 8:28). Pharaoh should have seen at once from this sign that every sort of evil he could devise against the people of God would be turned into their deliverance by this man Moses, who was therefore a most excellent type of Christ, and so was truly as God to Pharaoh.
Then, after Pharaoh had rejected this sign, and hardened his heart against God and his wonder-working servant, God began to pour out many mighty judgments upon him and his land, which were all instructive of the terrible fate awaiting those who exalt themselves against Christ. Consider these fearful acts, which increased in intensity and significance until the final and greatest judgment of all, the death of all the firstborn: first, God turned all the water of Egypt into blood, so that it killed all the fish, and stank, and provided no nourishment at all. This signified that God would turn the bloodlust of his enemies against them, and make them drink the blood of the saints, which they had spilled in their mad fury. Though they thought to gain much plunder by their violence, their livelihood would thereby be taken all away and they would be turned into a barren and stinking waste (cf. Isaiah 5:9-10; 6:11-12; 17:9; 25:2; 64:10; Jeremiah 26:18; Lamentations 5:18; Ezekiel 36:4; Micah 3:12).
Next, there came about an increase and swarming of all sorts of unclean and harmful creatures, which are a reminder of the cursed state of the earth, and serve as types of sin and guilt and all unnatural and unwholesome affections. So the land crawled first with frogs, then with lice, then with swarms of flies. Now, this signified that God would give over his enemies to their own lusts, to work out their own uncleannesses until they were quite overwhelmed by them (see Romans 1:24-25; Eph 4:18-19). Even today, there are few temporal judgments as fearsome as God's delivering sinners over to work out their own passions with unbridled licentiousness; and in all eternity, no doubt a great part of the torment of hell will be the unbounded proliferation of every unclean lust, all of which will prove their parasitic and destructive natures, and abide together with the wrath of God against such things on the heads of all who had despised God's forbearance.
Then, there came plagues upon the cattle, and sores upon men, and locusts which devoured the crops, and hail and fire from God to destroy every green thing left over. In these plagues we see that, not only will God's judgment be shown in his giving sinners over to their wickedness, but also in his depriving them of every good thing. For God did not just smite the Egyptians with frogs and lice, but he also took away from them their cattle, which were clean and useful animals, and all their crops, which were a necessary source of life. So in hell, a great part of the horror will be that God is there absent; and thus the source of every good thing, which we were made to enjoy and delight in, will be utterly cut off. Then, the fact that men were smitten with boils shows that God would actively pour out judgment upon the very persons of his enemies, and not just passively give them over to evil and deprive them of all good. And this aspect, of the personal and active nature of God's wrath, was likewise displayed by the hail and fire raining from heaven, which was reminiscent of God's destruction of Sodom (see Genesis 19:24-25), and shows the great terror of his fury against sinners.
Next, there came a judgment even more terrible and instructive, and that was the thick darkness which could be felt. Now, this sign summed up the truths conveyed by all the other signs before it: the darkness signified the pervasive presence of evil, and the absence of all good, and even of the very source of life; and that it could be felt was significant of the great wrath that would be exacted upon the persons of God's enemies and inflicted upon their alert and overwhelmed consciousness. And finally, there came the last great sign, the devotion to death by the Angel of the Lord of every firstborn: which pointed to the final day of judgment, when Christ would utterly destroy every child of the devil, and eternal death would be his last great reward. Oh, how fearful these signs of judgment are, how instructive of the great and terrible wrath of God, which Christ is even now holding over the heads of the ungodly, ready to wreak with an indescribable terror of vengeance when his patience has been exhausted! Unbeliever, procrastinator, dabbler in the outward forms of religion, all you who have seen and heard of the Savior but despise him and choose instead the unclean and parasitic fleas of trifling sin, run to the land of Goshen, hide your souls beneath the blood of the Passover Lamb! You are standing at the brink of eternity, and your fate, if you choose to reject him, is more terrible than you could ever imagine.
Many thousands of years ago, the people of Egypt were going about their lives in complacent contentment, enjoying the fruits of sin and rebellion, eating, drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage. But suddenly, the deliverer of God's people raised up his staff and poured out upon their heads the fiery wrath of God, and they were utterly undone. Today, many people are living as the Egyptians of old, eating, drinking, being merry, and not considering that they are despising God and his truth, scoffing at his glorious Messiah, and choosing their own way of sin over his great mercy and goodness. Oh, that they would be instructed by this example! For the day is soon approaching in which God will sound his trumpets of judgment and pour out his vials of wrath, and the whole world will be shaken again with his fury and dissolved with a fervent heat (see Revelation 8:6-13; 16:1-21; 2 Peter 3:10). Even now, the first rumblings of that last great judgment of the world and final deliverance of God's people can be felt. Unbeliever, flee from the wrath to come! And all you who have been covered with the blood of our passover Lamb, rejoice and lift up your heads! Redemption is coming! Soon Christ will appear in all is terrible glory to save us indeed, and bring us into the promised land where he will dwell with us forevermore. Hold out! Press on! The Kingdom is near, and soon we shall see our glorious Savior face-to-face, and nevermore fear the terrors of the night or the opposition of the enemy. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.