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An Explosion of Miracles
“And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch forth mine hand upon Egypt, and bring out the children of Israel from among them. And Moses and Aaron did as the LORD commanded them, so did they —— But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. And Pharaoh said unto him, Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die. And Moses said, Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.”
Exodus chapters 6–10 set before us an explosion of miracles performed by Moses and Aaron against Pharaoh and the Egyptians. They begin with Aaron’s rod becoming a serpent and proceed to describe the first nine plagues that God unleashed on Pharaoh and the people of Egypt. The whole land of Egypt was made to tremble beneath the successive strokes of God’s rod. Everyone, from Pharaoh on his throne to the servant in the field, was made to feel the terrible weight of divine judgment.
“He sent Moses his servant; and Aaron whom he had chosen. They showed his signs among them, and wonders in the land of Ham. He sent darkness, and made it dark; and they rebelled not against his word. He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish. Their land brought forth frogs in abundance, in the chambers of their kings. He spake, and there came divers sorts of flies, and lice in all their coasts. He gave them hail for rain, and flaming fire in their land. He smote their vines also and their fig trees; and brake the trees of their coasts. He spake, and the locusts came, and caterpillars, and that without number, And did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground.” (Psalm 105:26-35)
That is an explosion of miracles. Yet, Pharaoh, in his arrogance of heart and enmity against God, defied the most high God. And, as a just consequence of his rebellion, he was given over to judicial blindness and hardness of heart.
“And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the LORD had spoken unto Moses. And the LORD said unto Moses, Rise up early in the morning, and stand before Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people; that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” (Exodus 9:12-16)
What should we learn from the things recorded in these five chapters?
The first thing that comes to my mind, as I read these chapters, is the fact that the salvation of God’s elect is sure. I am reminded of the inspiring visions given to John in the Book of Revelation. In that blessed book we see the last proud oppressor of Christ’s people bringing down upon himself and upon all who follow him the seven vials of the wrath of the Almighty.
It is God’s purpose to save his Israel. All who dare oppose the purpose of God and set themselves against his church shall be taken out of the way. Divine grace must find its object. All who stand in the way shall be removed from the way. Whether it be Egypt, Babylon, antichrist, or Satan himself, all shall be taken out of the way. God’s providence clears the path for his grace. His enemies and ours shall reap, throughout the ages, the bitter fruit of having exalted themselves against “the Lord God of the Hebrews.” He has promised his chosen, “no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper,” and his infallible faithfulness will assuredly make good what his infinite grace hath promised. — Every chosen redeemed sinner shall be saved. — Every saved sinner shall be kept and brought at last into his heavenly glory to possess his predestined inheritance with Christ.
Thus, in Pharaoh’s case, when he persisted in holding God’s people in bondage, the vials of divine wrath were poured forth upon him. The land of Egypt was covered, throughout its length and breadth, with darkness, disease, desolation, and death. So will it be with the man of sin, that last great oppressor who has emerged from the bottomless pit, armed with satanic power, to crush beneath his “foot of pride” the favored objects of Jehovah’s love. Satan and the man of sin shall be overturned, his kingdom devastated by the seven last plagues, and, finally, plunged, not in the Red Sea, but “in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.” And all whose names are found in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world shall be found with Christ in his glory (Revelation 17: 8; 20: 10).
Not one jot or one tittle of what God has promised shall fail. He will accomplish all. Notwithstanding all that has been, is, and shall be said and done to the contrary, God remembers his promises, and he will fulfil them. They are all “yea and amen in Christ Jesus.” No power of earth or hell can ever thwart, reverse, or even hinder God’s purpose of grace. The eternal God has sworn, and the blood of the everlasting covenant has ratified the covenant. Who, then, shall make it void? Heaven and earth shall pass away; but God’s eternal word of predestination and promise shall never pass away. — Truly, “there is none like unto the God of Jeshurun, who rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellence on the sky. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms, and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them. Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places” (Deuteronomy 33:26-29).
Miracles and Revelation
Whenever we read about men performing miracles in the Word of God, the question arises, — “Should we expect such miracles today?”
The vast majority of people tell us that the miracles described in the Bible never took place at all, or that those things that appear to be miracles can be explained scientifically. Such people simply refuse to acknowledge that God really rules the universe. They may claim to be Christians and claim to believe in God; but their religion is a delusion. To deny that God rules the universe absolutely is to deny that God is. There is no difference between the denial of God’s absolute sovereignty and atheism.
There are others who do not hesitate to say we should always “expect a miracle.” They tell us that if we do not see miracles, if preachers do not perform miracles, it is because we do not have sufficient faith and the preacher lacks the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
A careful reading of Holy Scripture shows that all the miracles in Scripture fall into four distinct periods. They were all performed either during Moses’ era, or the days of Elijah and Elisha, during the time of the Babylonian captivity, or during the days of Christ and his apostles. These were all times of crisis in which God was moving in a special way to further his cause. Put them all together and they represent a very small portion of all the years covered by the Bible. In a word, miracles took place intermittently. Those who get caught up with the performance of miracles always miss the spiritual truths and messages they were performed to portray. It was not the miracle that was important, but the message conveyed by the miracle.
Having said that, let me be crystal clear in asserting that the apostolic age of miracles, signs and wonders, and speaking in tongues ceased with the fulfillment of divine revelation, with the full revelation of God given in Holy Scripture. Because we have the complete Revelation of God in his Word, we have no need for and must not expect the performance of miracles today. We have something far better than miracles. We have God’s inspired Word (2 Peter 1:16-21).
There have been none with the gift and ability to speak in tongues and perform miracles by the Spirit of God since the days of the apostles. Those who yet pretend to possess such supernatural gifts are nothing but pretenders. They are not the servants of Christ. The Holy Spirit tells us, with unmistakable clarity, that those who pretend to have prophetic and apostolic gifts today are not the servants of Christ, but of antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:7-10). Let me show you what these wonders performed by Moses teach us about our God and his great salvation.
When Moses and Aaron made their second appearance before Pharaoh, “they were standing,” as Roger Ellsworth puts it, “on the front edge of one of history’s most dazzling displays of God’s sovereignty and glory.” The Lord God first demonstrated his sovereignty when Pharaoh demanded that Moses give him a sign (7:10-13). When Pharaoh made that demand, Aaron did “as the Lord had commanded.” He threw his rod to the ground, and it immediately turned into a serpent. Pharaoh’s magicians did the same thing with their rods by “their enchantments.” But Aaron’s serpent swallowed the serpents of Pharaoh’s magicians.
Remember, the serpent was the emblem of Pharaoh’s power. His head-dress featured a raised cobra. The fact that Aaron’s serpent devoured the other serpents amounted to nothing less than the Lord God declaring his supremacy over Pharaoh.
The ten plagues were God’s assertion of his supremacy over all the gods of Egypt. The first plague consisted of the water of the Nile being turned to blood. The Egyptians worshipped the Nile. By turning its water to blood, God demonstrated his supremacy over the Nile and made their own god repugnant and repulsive to them.
One after another more plagues came: — frogs, lice, flies, diseased livestock, boils, hail and fire, locusts, and darkness that was felt. With each plague, the God of Israel declared himself to be the God of gods, in total control of the gods of Egypt that were powerless before him. The sovereign God, who demonstrated his might over the gods of Egypt, is the God with whom we have to do. We will either bow before him and worship him, or he will take us out of the way forever.
The plagues God sent upon Egypt demonstrated more than his sovereignty. They were his just judgments upon the Egyptians for their cruel treatment of the Israelites and for their slaughter of male babies (Exodus 1:22). Men commonly think that because God does not send judgment immediately he never will (Psalm 10:11, 13; 59:7; 94:7). How foolish! No one ever gets away with sin. God’s judgment will come. The wheels of justice grind slow; but they grind to powder!
The plagues the Lord sent upon Egypt were miniature pictures of that which he will send upon unbelievers at the last day (Revelation 16). In that day people will cry for the rocks and mountains to cover them and hide them from the face of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16); but there will be no escape. Divine judgment is always a matter of strict justice. It is always judgment executed upon each according to that which he has done.
We labor diligently, preaching the gospel, “warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28), urging all to flee the wrath of God, urging all to flee to Christ the sinner’s only Refuge. But, unless God by an act of omnipotent mercy prevents it, fallen man stops his ears and hardens his heart, just like Pharaoh. Soon, every rebel will discover, to his everlasting ruin, that “the soul that sinneth, it shall die,” that God “will by no means clear the guilty,” “for the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”.
The chapters before us also remind us of the reality that Satan ever counterfeits the work of God. This is evident when we see Pharaoh’s magicians turn their rods into serpents (Exodus 7:11). Satan is a powerful and clever foe. His servants perform signs and wonders by which they deceive many (2 Thessalonians 2:9). And they transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, teaching sinners to perform righteousness, rather than trust Christ for righteousness. This was a matter of great concern to Paul; and it should be a matter of great concern to us (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 13-15).
The most Satanic opposition to God’s gospel, is the imitation of it by a “form of godliness,” a form of godliness that denies “the power thereof.” Yet, we must not fail to remember the blessed assurance God has given us concerning Pharaoh’s magicians. The Spirit of God tells us their names in 2 Timothy, where Paul speaks of those perilous times that must come (2 Timothy 3:1-9), assuring us that “as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith…they shall proceed no further.” All they can do is oppose God’s cause. They cannot overthrow, or even hinder it!
These successive miracles of the serpent and the plagues that followed display something else. They give us a vivid portrayal of the incredible hardness of the human heart. The hardness of Pharaoh’s heart is described in three ways. In some places we are simply told that it “was hardened,” or grew hard (7:13, 22; 8:19; 9:7). In other places we are told that, “Pharaoh hardened his heart” (8:15, 32; 9:24). And in other places we are told that, “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (9:12; 10:20, 27). Putting them together, this is what we are taught by these three things.
1. God has purposed all things, even the damnation of the wicked.
2. When people harden their hearts against Christ, God often judges them by hardening their hearts even more. And…
3. When sinners harden their hearts against him, they bring upon themselves the wrath of God.
God did not create the evil in Pharaoh. We dare not charge the holy Lord God with sin (James 1:13-16). What a solemn warning this is to all who hear the gospel and harden their hearts against it (Proverbs 1:23-33; 2 Corinthians 2:14-16; 5:20-6:2).
We should be grateful that the accounts of Aaron’s serpent and the plagues yield yet another truth. They show us that God is gracious, always gracious toward his elect. Israel had been in such desperate conditions for such a long time that they must have often felt as if God had forsaken them and had forgotten them, and that he did not care about them. As the plagues began to unfold, Israel began to see that God was showing himself strong on their behalf.
You and I often have to deal with the same feelings. Don’t we? How often we feel like crying, “Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” (Psalm 77:8-9). When evil mounts up around us and troubles seem to prevail over us, when our hearts are broken with heaviness and our souls are cast down, we want to cry out, “O Lord God, Where are you?” In such times let us resist Satan’s snare, remembering that our God is today exactly where he has always been — ON HIS THRONE (Psalm 115:1-3; 135:6). He is doing us good in his good pleasure, working out his everlasting purpose of grace toward us in Christ (Romans 8:28-31).
God never forgets his own. He will in his own time and way deliver us from all evil. It is not ours to figure God out. It is ours to trust him and serve him while we wait for that day when dark things will be made plain (Isaiah 40:28-31).