God had heard the cries of His people who were being oppressed and exploited in Egypt. He had promised to “stretch out His hand against Egypt” with “great acts of judgment” (v.4-5) in order to free the Israelites. Pharaoh, who considered himself to be a god and stubbornly resisted the threats of the God of Israel, would only grow more hardened as the judgment came.
God had sent Moses to lead His people out of Egypt. At 80 years old, God was about to use him to do the greatest work of his life.
Moses spent forty years in Pharaoh’s court thinking he was somebody, forty years in the desert learning that he was nobody, and forty years showing what God can do with a somebody who found out he was a nobody.
-Dwight L. Moody
When Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh for the second time, Aaron threw his staff at Pharaoh’s feet and it became a slithering snake. The Egyptians revered snakes, especially the cobra, which symbolized immortality. The court magicians duplicated the sign, but Aaron’s staff-snake swallowed the others whole! The great I AM had made the magicians (identified in 2 Timothy 3:8 as Jannes and Jambres) and their hard-hearted king look foolish. Pharaoh would not listen to Moses, and he wouldn’t obey the Lord (v.16).
The next morning God sent Moses to punish Pharaoh’s disobedience with the first of ten plagues. Moses was to go to Pharaoh as he went out to the Nile River. The Egyptians worshiped the Nile as the giver of water for their crops. They also worshiped Hapi, the (false) god of the Nile. Perhaps Pharaoh was going for a ritual bath as part of his morning worship. It was interrupted by a warning from Moses, and then Aaron took the special staff and struck the water of the river (v.20).
Instantly it turned into a river of blood, killing the fish, rendering the water unfit for drinking and irrigation, and producing a horrible stench. Either by Satanic power of sleight-of-hand, the magicians duplicated the water-to-blood feat. F.B Huey notes, “They might have been more helpful by turning the blood back to water!”
Verse 23 reveals that Pharaoh was not convinced by God’s miraculous show of power. How could he have been so stubborn and prideful after such an amazing miracle?
Maybe a better question is this: How can we see clear demonstrations of God’s presence and power — an answered prayer, a life transformed by the gospel, God’s comfort in a time of grief — and refuse to trust Him and to obey His Word?
NOTE: Check out this photo sent to me by Sam Burnett. His family enlarged one of the “365 in the Word” commitment cards, signed it, and hung it next to their kitchen table. Awesome, huh?!