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Water and Blood — A Deadly Mixture
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he refuseth to let the people go. Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; and thou shalt stand by the river’s brink against he come; and the rod which was turned to a serpent shalt thou take in thine hand. And thou shalt say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear. Thus saith the LORD, In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the water of the river. And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone. And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. And the magicians of Egypt did so with their enchantments: and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them; as the LORD had said. And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also. And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river. And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river.” (Exodus 7:14-25)
In the opening verses of this chapter, the Lord God had demonstrated the power and dominion of Christ over Satan by causing Aaron’s rod to become a serpent and making it devour the serpents Pharaoh’s sorcerers made by their enchantments. Our Lord Jesus Christ would later be symbolized by the serpent of brass lifted up in the wilderness. Here, in Exodus 7, as throughout the Word of God, we are assured that he who was made a curse for us has all power. He has conquered Satan. He shall devour Satan and all that is spawned by him.
These things were demonstrated so clearly and irrefutably that there could be no mistake regarding them. Moses was God’s prophet. The God for whom he spoke is God indeed. But Pharaoh hardened his heart, as God said he would. The Lord God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that the might perform his wonders in the land of Egypt (v. 3). In the passage now before us, Exodus 7:14-25, God the Holy Ghost describes the first of God’s wonders in the land of Ham. The waters of Egypt were turned into blood by the hand of God.
The Place of Confrontation
First, we should not fail to notice the place at which the Lord God commanded Moses to confront Pharaoh. In verse 15, he told Moses to take his rod and meet Pharaoh at the Nile River. That is significant. Prior to this, Moses had gone into Pharaoh’s palace to meet with the king; but now the Lord God compelled the king of Egypt to come down to the river to meet Moses. Pharaoh thought he was going out that morning to take a bath, or to observe his idolatrous devotions at the Nile. He had no idea what God was about to do.
Eighty years earlier Pharaoh’s daughter had come down to that same river to bathe herself, only to find a helpless baby God would have her to protect and raise as her own that he might deliver Israel at his appointed time. When I think of that fact, Revelation 12 comes to my mind.
God brought Pharaoh to the Nile River, which was for him both an object and a place of idolatrous worship, to confront him in divine judgment, judgment brought upon him by Moses, the representative of God, his law, and his justice, who was raised in the palace he occupied. Pharaoh looked upon the Nile River as the source of Egypt’s life, power, and glory, the great benefactor of his land. The God of Glory was about to make his god and his religion a curse upon him and his land. As he later did by his prophet Elijah on Mt. Carmel, God here mocked Pharaoh’s god by his prophet Moses.
Moses and Christ
There is an obvious and striking contrast between this first plague performed by Moses and the first miracle performed by the Lord Jesus, illustrating the fact that “the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). What a difference there is between the law that Moses represents and the grace that comes to sinners by Christ! All that the law brings is death. Thus Moses turned water into blood, killing everything that was in the water. But Christ brings grace to our needy souls, grace that gives life to the dead and floods our hearts with joy. Grace and truth, like wine, make the heart glad. So the first miracle by which our Savior began to show forth his glory was turning water into wine (John 2:1-11).
The message God sent Moses to deliver was clear (vv. 16-18).
“And thou shalt say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear. Thus saith the LORD, In this thou shalt know that I am the LORD: behold, I will smite with the rod that is in mine hand upon the waters which are in the river, and they shall be turned to blood. And the fish that is in the river shall die, and the river shall stink; and the Egyptians shall loathe to drink of the water of the river.”
There was no offer of mercy, no appeal was made to Pharaoh, no indication of grace was given, and no compromise was offered, just a plain command and a stark declaration of what God was about to do.
Now, look at the plague itself.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone. And Moses and Aaron did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. And the fish that was in the river died; and the river stank, and the Egyptians could not drink of the water of the river; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt” (vv. 19-21).
Water was changed to blood. These two great elements of creation are essential to life. But here Moses turned both into a curse, a deadly mixture, by divine appointment. What a curse this was! What a terrible picture of divine judgment. When water is where blood ought to be, death is at hand (Luke 14:2). And when blood is where water is supposed to be death is at hand (Luke 8:41-48).
There are spiritual lessons to be drawn from this. As you know, in the Word of God blood speaks of life and death. It specifically refers to the sin-atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. By the shedding of his blood, he poured out his life in death that he might give us life by his grace. Water is used in Scripture to represent the regenerating, sanctifying work of God the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39).
Multitudes make the deadly mistake of either putting the blood of Christ where God has put the work of the Spirit, or of putting the work of the Spirit where God has put the blood of Christ. In doing so, they attempt to nullify both the sin-atoning work of Christ and the regenerating work of God the Holy Spirit. The fact is, both the work of Christ for us, as our Redeemer, and the work of God the Holy Ghost in us in the new birth are vital. We must be redeemed; and we must be born again. Our sins must be put away; and we must be given a new nature.
Sinners are saved by the works of the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Ephesians 1:3-14). None are saved without, or apart from the work of God the Father in eternity. But the eternal election and predestination of God the Father is not all that is necessary for our salvation. The redemptive work of Christ at Calvary and the life-giving operations of God the Holy Spirit are just as essential to our salvation as the eternal purpose of God the Father in predestination. We must be saved by blood and by water. Neither the blood (the work of Christ), nor the water (the work of the Spirit) alone can save us. We must have both.
We were saved, redeemed, justified, and sanctified when the Son of God died in our place at Calvary. When he arose from the dead, all God’s elect were “quickened together with him.” When our Mediator took his seat in heaven as our Forerunner, we sat down with him. When our Savior cried, “It is finished,” salvation’s work was done. Sin was put away. Righteousness was brought in. Atonement was made. The redemption of our souls was accomplished. The purpose of God the Father is not enough to save anyone. Blood must be shed. Christ had to die, for “without shedding of blood is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).
Still, something else is required. The precious blood of Christ is not enough to make us “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” If we are saved, if we are to enter into heaven’s eternal glory, something else is necessary, just as necessary as the work of the Father and the work of the Son. — We must be saved by the blessed work of God the Holy Spirit in the blessed experience of grace (Titus 3:5-7).
It is the experience of grace that gives the sinner hope before God. God’s purpose made the salvation of his elect sure, but gives hope to no one. Christ’s death upon the cross is the singular basis of the sinner’s hope, but gives hope to none. It is “Christ in you,” formed in you by God the Holy Spirit in the experience of grace, that God says “is the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).
When Christ is formed in us by the omnipotent mercy and almighty grace of God the Holy Spirit, in the experience of grace, granting us repentance toward God, giving us faith in Christ, he makes a complete reversal of all things, restoring that which he took not away, in the complete, perfect restoration of our souls to God. It is this reversal of all things, this perfect restoration that every chosen, redeemed sinner experiences in Christ in the sweet experience of God’s saving grace.
When sinners are born of God, they are made new creatures in Christ, made “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 1:3-4; 1 John 3:5-10). In the new birth God the Holy Spirit creates in us a new life. He gives chosen, redeemed sinners and entirely new nature. He forms Christ in us, puts righteousness in us, makes us righteous, pure and holy, puts in us a spirit in which there is no guile, and makes us “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light”. This new man is “Christ in you, the hope of glory”. This is that “holiness” we must have, “without which no man shall see the Lord.” It is written, “There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27). God the Holy Ghost does not regenerate the old man in the new birth; he creates a new man in the dead sinner “in righteousness and true holiness;” and that new man is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
It takes both the precious blood of Christ and the water (grace) of the Spirit to bring us to glory.
Sinners are saved by sovereign grace,
Abounding through the Son.
And not by works of righteousness
Which their own hands have done!
It is the mercy of our God
That gives us hope within;
Both by the water and the blood
Our souls are washed from sin.
Raised from the dead, we live anew;
And justified by grace
We shall appear in glory, too,
And see our Savior’s face.
Pharaoh’s magicians also turned water into blood, or at least appeared to do so. Whether it was mere trickery and deception, or whether God gave them power to turn water into blood is really irrelevant. The fact is, God sent Pharaoh a strong delusion that he might be damned, just as he does today (2 Thessalonians 2:11-13). Though their sorcery produced a trivial thing, Pharaoh and his magicians used it as an excuse for rebellion and unbelief. They went on, vainly resisting the revelation of God and his power, though their hearts must have quaked within them. The fact is, no man can or will believe God except God the Holy Spirit create faith in him. Let us never forget that our faith in Christ is the gift and operation of God’s free grace. — “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!”
“And Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, neither did he hearken unto them” (v. 22). — He regarded not the work of the Lord and gave no thought to the work of his hands (Isaiah 5:12). — “As the Lord had said.” God still has mercy on whom he will have mercy; and he still hardens whom he will (Romans 9:16-18).
“And Pharaoh turned, and went into his house” (v. 23). He turned on his heels, turned his back against God, and went home to his palace in the darkness of a hardened heart, refusing to bow to the undeniable revelation of God. — “Neither did he set his heart to this also.” He had no more regard for this miracle of turning the waters into blood than he had to the former.
“And all the Egyptians digged round about the river for water to drink; for they could not drink of the water of the river” (v. 24). — As the Israelites had been compelled by Pharaoh to seek straw where there was none, now the Egyptians, under the judgment of God, sought water where there was none. — “For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 9:13).
“And seven days were fulfilled, after that the LORD had smitten the river” (v. 25). — All this was done in judgment upon Egypt; but let us never forget that it was done in great mercy for Israel. Let us never forget that even when darkness appears to cover the earth, even when death and destruction are seen everywhere, our God and heavenly Father is working all things together for the salvation and everlasting good of his elect. He turned the water into blood, that he might bring Israel out of Egypt. If Christ is ours, we have no reason to fear, though the very foundations of the earth crumble. If Christ undertakes our cause, our cause is sure. If he undertakes for our souls, we are safe and secure in his hands. Let us trust, and not be afraid. — All is well!