Talk given at Brambletye 1 Venture Camp 2013

8 Aug

I delivered this talk to a group of over 50 young people aged between 11 and 14 at the CPAS Venture Camp Brambletye 1, speaking to Exodus chapter 11. The references to other people and their talks relates to the other talks before mine:

Has anyone ever done anything wrong? (hands shot up)

What happened when you were found out? (I asked one of the leaders and the essence of the answer was that punishment was the result)

Well today’s reading from the Bible tells us about what happens when Pharaoh does something wrong and what punishment he receives.

Let’s fill in what has happened since we left Moses at the end of Anna’s talk (the talk from the previous night). We left Moses as an 80 year old shepherd who has been sent by God to free God’s people, the Israelites, from slavery in Egypt and to take them to the Promised Land.

In chapter 5 we see Moses going with his brother, Aaron, to speak to Pharaoh, saying “The Lord, the God of Israel, says “Let my people go!”” And Pharaoh says “No!” In fact, he says more than just “No!” He says “I don’t know who God is” And then he makes the Israelites work even harder!

Then in chapter 6 God says “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. Because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.” But it took a while!

First God turns Aaron’s staff into a snake in front of Pharaoh. Then 9 plagues are sent. And before each plague was sent, Moses and Aaron go before Pharaoh and ask him to let the Israelites go. And each time Pharaoh says no. So the following plagues came upon Egypt:

• Blood

Plague of blood lego

• Frogs

Plague of frogs lego

• Gnats

Plague of gnats lego

• Flies

Plague of flies lego

• Livestock

Plague of livestock lego

• Boils

Plague of boils lego

• Hail

Plague of hail lego

• Locusts

Plague of locusts lego

• Darkness

Plague of darkness

In each of these plagues, only the Egyptians were harmed. No Israelites suffered from these plagues. Sometimes, while they were happening, Pharaoh said he would let the Israelites go, but in the end he decided to say no to God’s command after each and every plague.

Pharaoh said that he didn’t know who God is, and so like Anna told us yesterday about God telling Moses who He was, God is now showing Pharaoh who He is and how powerful He is. Pharaoh might be able to make the Israelites work harder, but God controls the whole earth and can protect those that He wanted to protect. Each time that Pharaoh said no, the punishment got worse. At first it was a bit inconvenient, then it became annoying, then it started to cost, then it started to hurt, then it started to kill. The last 2 of the plagues I have mentioned showed God’s absolute power. The locusts killed all the crops, the very thing that, if you remember the story of Joseph and his 11 brothers, brought the Israelites to Egypt in the first place. This showed that in the same way that God made things happen He could make them stop happening. The darkness stopped the Egyptians from doing anything, yet the Israelites have light where they lived. God showed that He even has control over who gets sunlight and who doesn’t!

And so, finally, we come to our reading. God tells Moses to tell Pharaoh about the final plague on Egypt. All their first born will die! Not just a few, not a lot, not even most. All! All first born children and animals will die, as God shows Pharaoh just who is in control. Time and again Pharaoh has gone against God’s will. Each time he has been told that if he doesn’t do as God commands then there will be a punishment. And each time God keeps His word and punishes Egypt for its disobedience. And again we see that God will show that there is a difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians, that the Egyptians will be punished while the Israelites remain protected from the plague (v7). So why such a harsh punishment? Why so many deaths? Why all the plagues? What’s so bad about not letting the Israelites go? Well, we must first realise what Pharaoh has been doing when he has said no to Moses he was, as I have just said, going against God’s will. And there is something that we need to realise about God’s will, it is perfect.

• For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

• And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

So if God asks us to do something, these verses tell us that because His will is perfect and He wants only good things for us, we should know that what God asks us to do is for our own good. He has our best interests at heart. So when Pharaoh says “No!” he is going against God’s perfect will for his life. And so we are back at the question I asked at the start, because by going against God’s will Pharaoh is doing something which we call sin. Sin is when we go against God’s will. And it’s not like it’s something that only a few do, as Jim pointed out when he was interviewed last night. We all get things wrong, we all sin. (click) Indeed, the Bible tells us this in Romans chapter 3, verse 23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

So, just like Pharaoh, we all at various times in our lives go against God and His perfect will for our lives. And this is a big problem, because of something else that is written in Romans. In Romans chapter 6, verse 23, it says “For the wages of sin is death”. So the punishment for going against God’s will, no matter how small it might seem to us, is death. And, just as we see in our reading tonight, God’s final punishment on Pharaoh is the death of the first born of all Egyptians, including Pharaoh’s own eldest son.

Now this may seem incredibly harsh, but we have to remember that God is holy and perfect. And just as we cannot reach the standard God asks for, so He cannot reduce the requirements of us. If God were to allow anything into His presence that is less than perfect then God’s presence would no longer be perfect. Just like when you add colouring to water, and the water is no longer clear, so God’s pure and perfect presence would be stained by our sin. So when we are judged for our lives God won’t be saying that almost perfect will get you in, only perfect will do. And it’s not like there is a way to escape the punishment. God has told us that sin will be punished and He shows us that we can trust that when He says He will do something that He follows it through, just as we have seen with all the other plagues before this.

So we have seen that the Bible tells is that God’s will is perfect and that there are consequences for going against God’s will. And that means that it’s looking pretty bad for Pharaoh right now, and we’ll see what happens to him over the next couple of nights. But it also looks pretty bad for us, doesn’t it. Because, as we have seen, the Bible tells is that everyone sins and that the punishment for sin is death. So does this mean we are all going to die? Well, as you will remember from a moment ago, we saw the verse from Romans 6 “For the wages of sin is death” but that is only the first half of the verse. You see it follows on by saying “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And this is great news for us, because it means that we have a chance of being saved from the death that we deserve. Because of Jesus we are saved. He has taken the punishment we were supposed to have when He died on the Cross. And so we are able to live free of the threat of death and instead live our lives for Jesus every day.

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