“Into the Wilderness”
A Sermon Series in the Book of Exodus
Let’s play “Real or AI”
For every one of God’s truths there is a counterfeit. How can we, as His people, know the difference between the truth of God’s Word and the counterfeit the Evil One offers? This is what we will talk about today.
The Miracle of The Staff to Snake (vv. 8-13)
8 Then the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, 9 “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Prove yourselves by working a miracle,’ then you shall say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.’” 10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent.
“All the main themes of the next five chapters of Exodus: the obedience of Moses and Aaron, the counterfeit miracles of Satan and his servants, the superior power of God and his rod, and the perpetual hardening of Pharoah’s heart. All of Satan and his plans will be ‘swallowed up.’”
We see in (v. 10) a Moses that has changed, “So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded” He didn’t argue, or give excuses, he did just as God commanded.
The pharaoh says, “Prove yourselves by working a miracle,” – Does God give miracles today to prove Himself? God does not perform random acts of omnipotence but instead displays his miraculous power in order to confirm the truth of his Word. Pharaoh is asking for a miracle as proof that Moses and Aaron are telling the truth, the Word of God.
Religious leaders of Jesus’ day did this same thing, Matthew 12:38 “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” The ultimate sign to prove that God’s Word is true is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; which shall not be repeated. The resurrection is the last miracle we need to confirm the gospel truth that Jesus died to save sinners.
11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. 12 For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. 13 Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said.
There are different ways we could interpret this passage. (1) These magicians were the same as today’s magicians. Through misdirection, slight of hand, and trickery they fool the audience into thinking they see something that they don’t really see. But this is not what we see Moses’ staff became a serpent, and the Egyptian magicians also made their staffs become serpents. The same idea of later when the Nile is turned to blood. Was it really red algae, or a flooding of a particular red soil that made the water look red?
(2) So, Another interpretation would be that these Egyptian magicians really did have some kind magical power. The snake was a symbol of Egyptian power, to when Moses threw down the staff and picked it up again – it would have been very obvious that the Hebrew God was challenging the Egyptian god. It would be like a person goes into the oval office in Washington DC and wrings a bald eagle’s neck. It was a statement. But the text indicates that their trick was a version of what Moses and Aaron did. The Evil One does have power – to try to excuse it away robs it of its’ danger.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” Evil has power and it’s alure is very attractive.
There are two powers going head-to-head, and both show their miracle. If you have already “refused to love the truth,” when the counterfeit is given, you will go with what your heart really wants – your sin.
God never said that what He had given Moses as a sign of his authenticity as a prophet could not be duplicated. But the means that they come about the same end was “by their secret arts.” Satan is not capable of creating anything new he must take what God has created and pollute it and pervert it to meet his purposes.
Christ came to save the world from sin and to teach the truth, the Anti-Christ will come to tell lies and to keep people from salvation. Sex within the bounds of marriage is a blessing, sex outside of marriage is sin because it is not how God designed it to be.
Then the Lord’s staff swallows up the magician’s staff. And with that event, the duel begins between God and Satan. The one who truly deserves to be praised, and served verses the false god who only offers slavery and death. At this display of force, pharaoh’s heart is hardened.
Is this fair, that God would harden a man’s heart? Is he making him incapable of obeying him, is it right then to judge him? Scripture is clear that God makes no man to sin.
Every man’s heart is in God’s hand and it is God that restrains him from sin, not forces him into it. However, when a person resists and resists long enough the worst thing that could happen to them is for God to let them go and allow them to do all that their heart truly desires. Romans 1:24-25 “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
Like a dog on a leash pulling away from its’ owner, the owner just let’s go of the leash and the dog runs toward what his heart desires. Man at his core/heart level is wicked and corrupt and only desires to do evil. Therefore, God in his mercy and grace restrains them. It is a choice we make to run away from God – to harden our hearts toward God.
2 Samuel 6:6 “Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts?” So, when it says that God hardened their hearts, it means that in his omnipotence he kept pharaoh’s heart in the hardened state – he couldn’t change his mind. All grace was removed and his heart was able to fully pursue what it truly desired.
Many Scriptures tell us that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Ezekiel 18:23 “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” Ezekiel 33:11 “Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise vas some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
The atheists says, “give me more evidence. Then I will believe.” “The real issue is not the evidence, but what a person does with it. The Israelites were given the same signs that Pharoah was given (see Exodus 4), and they believed and were saved. But pharaoh later perished, which is what happens to everyone who follows Satan.”
People are condemned to their own depravity because they do not believe in God’s truth.
The Miracle of the Nile To Blood (vv. 14-24)
14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. 15 Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water. Stand on the bank of the Nile to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that turned into a serpent. 16 And you shall say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness.” But so far, you have not obeyed. 17 Thus says the LORD, “By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood. 18 The fish in the Nile shall die, and the Nile will stink, and the Egyptians will grow weary of drinking water from the Nile.”’” 19 And the LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, their canals, and their ponds, and all their pools of water, so that they may become blood, and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’” 20 Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. 21 And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. 22 But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts. So Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. 23 Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. 24 And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile.
This is the first of what the Bible calls “signs and wonders,” We use the word plague, from the Latin meaning “blow or wound,” because this is what God says, “I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it.” (3:20)
“In order to understand these plagues we need to understand that they were directed against the gods and goddesses of Egypt and were intended to show superiority to the God of Israel to the Egyptian gods. There were about eighty deities in Egypt, all clustered about the three great natural forces of Egyptian life: the Nile River, the land, and the sky. It does not surprise us, therefore that the plagues God sent against Egypt in this historic battle follow this three-force pattern. The first two plagues were against the gods of the Nile. The next four were against land gods. The final four plagues were against the gods of the sky, culminating in the death of the firstborn.”
Later in Numbers 33:4 Egypt is mentioned, “On their gods also the LORD executed judgments.” God is showing that He is the ultimate God, all-powerful, and He is the only one worthy of mankind’s worship.
The annual flooding of the Nile brought new life and sustenance to over 1,000 miles of Egyptian-dominated settlements, and the watery event was perceived by the Egyptians as the best evidence that the gods of the Nile were pleased. Moses through Aaron struck the Nile and it turned to blood. The river was their lifeblood, the basis for their entire civilization. It was their means of transportation, they ate the fish for the river, the river watered their crops (without the Nile they would be in a desert), it would flood annually leaving behind a rich layer of new soil, they drank the water – everything revolved around the Nile.
Many times this is how God gets our attention and causes us to look toward Him. He takes away those things that we thought we would always have, those things that we take for granted. For the Egyptians it was the Nile. This is something that they thought would always be there, something that had always been, like air.
Then the Egyptian magicians “did the same by their secret arts.” What I find interesting is that if they were to look around all the water had been turned to blood. Now they manage to find some water left, but in their effort to one-up God, they turn that water to blood as well. Who really won? What it not make much more sense to turn the blood back into water?
The chapter closes with a picture of the Egyptian people digging along the Nile, trying to find fresh drinkable water – the once great Nile River is now a picture of death and filth. The people are left to their own resources when their gods fail them. Pharoah “ turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart.” His heart is hard and this is just the beginning of showing all of Egypt’s gods to be false.
A Chinese boy who wanted to learn about jade went to study with a talented old teacher. This gentle man put a piece of the precious stone into his hand and told him to hold it tight. Then he began to talk of philosophy, men, women, the sun and almost everything under it. After an hour he took back the stone and sent the boy home. The procedure was repeated for several weeks. The boy became frustrated. When would he be told about the jade? He was too polite, however, to question the wisdom of his venerable teacher. Then one day, when the old man put a stone into his hands, the boy cried out instinctively, ‘That’s not jade!'”
How will we know the truth from Satan’s lies? We have the answer in our hands, like the jade in the boy’s hand. When we study it, and live – when the lies and counterfeits come we know instantly that these are not real.
Don’t be fooled into living a counterfeit Christian life, live the real thing. God desires to show and prove Himself to you, don’t harden your heart.
This morning, don’t harden your heart to the truth of God’s love and mercy. Open your life to his will and calling for you.
The first desire for your life is the same as it as for the Pharaoh. Believe His word and let go of what is keeping you out of His will. Whatever sin it is, having a relationship with God is far better. A-B-C
 Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching God’s Word, Exodus (Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Publishing, 2015) 182.
 Ryken, 190.
 Ryken, 192. Ryken is quoting Boice.