Opening Prayer: God our Father, you raised our Lord Jesus from the dead two thousand years ago and remade this world. You destroyed the power of death and sin, and you freed us to live before you in joy and thanksgiving. Conform us more to this new life now, remake us according to your Word, our Lord Jesus, for we pray in His name, Amen!
Yahweh and the Gods
It must be recognized that this showdown is not only between Moses and Pharaoh and not merely Yahweh and Pharaoh but also between Yahweh and all the gods of Egypt (Ex. 12:12). “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12, cf. Rom. 8:38-39) “Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.” (Col. 2:15) Perhaps this explains what the angel means when he describes Michal and the princes of Persia and Greece in Dan. 10. We know for a fact that Israel was afflicted with evil spirits by the time of Christ, and these demons have some power and authority in this world (e.g. Mk. 3:22, 5:7). At the same time we know that the prophets call the gods of the nations nothing, gods of stone and wood and precious metals. How do we put these things together? Paul does this for us in 1 Cor. 8:4-6. And therefore we must recognize that Yahweh is not merely doing battle with men and their card tricks; he is doing battle with the gods of Egypt.
We’ve pointed out previously that the word for serpent here is actually dragon or sea monster (7:9-10 cf. Gen. 1:21). We cannot fail to recognize this first sign is a throw back to Genesis 3. It was a dragon who deceived the woman, and now Pharaoh, the seed of that dragon has risen up again to fight against the word of the Lord. Many centuries later, Pharaoh is still referred to as a dragon (Ez. 29:3). But every dragon is ultimately a picture of the descendents of the original dragon (Rev. 12:9). It simply will not do to dismiss dragons as some kind of fairy tale legend. In the wilderness Yahweh sent “fiery serpents” to afflict Israel (Num. 21). Job describes the Leviathan as an enormous sea monster that breathes fire and smoke (Job 41:19-21). In fact, when we look at Num. 21, we see that these serpents are actually “seraph serpents”, and what Moses actually puts up on the pole in bronze for the healing of Israel is a “seraph” (Num. 21:8). This is the singular for seraphim which Isaiah sees (Is. 6), and he mentions elsewhere (Is. 14:29, 30:6). So then, this first sign is not just a fancy magic trick. Here Yahweh shows himself as the Lord of the Dragon, the God who rules the Serpent and all seraphim (7:12). Who is Yahweh? Yahweh is the God who promised enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent and ultimately to crush the head of the serpent.
The Bloody Nile
Scholars have pointed out that this sign and the ones that follow can be explained by naturally occurring phenomenon. The Nile annually floods and then recedes, and in the annual cycle, there is usually a change of color in the Nile which is reddish and bloodlike. Furthermore, generally after this there are more frogs, and when the frogs die there is an increase in lice and flies. What are we to make of this? God made heaven and earth, and we must not be afraid that God uses natural phenomena to perform miraculous deeds. If these things are attested to having happened, great, but there is a slippery slope in both directions. If God is directing these events in supernatural ways, then it doesn’t much matter if historical records show increasing frog populations after the Nile floods. It doesn’t matter much that piles of dead frogs would tend to attract lice and flies. The fact is that God is directing these events down to the minute. If that is the case, then there’s no need to examine what kind of chemical make would turn the Nile a bloody color. The text says that it turned to blood and everything died (7:21). Here we cannot forget the history of this river: this is the same body of water where the Hebrew baby boys were thrown 40 years earlier (1:22). Finally, remembering that Yahweh is carrying out holy war against the gods of Egypt, it cannot be forgotten that the Nile was worshipped as a god. Their god who gave them life and sustenance has been struck dead and now it is only giving death. Yahweh rules the dragon and the sea.
Conclusions and Applications
First, we need to recognize that we do not live in a materialistic world. Darwin and all his ugly stepchildren were wrong. We live in the world that God made which is both material and spiritual and consists of both visible and invisible elements. This means we need to recognize that actions and words are full of weight. Sin is always insanity, but we sometimes believe the lie that our actions and words somehow cannot affect others, our families, and our society (e.g. Achan, bitterness). Secondly, we need to recognize that we serve the true God and in Christ, he has triumphed over the prince of darkness, and we cannot be harmed by him. Therefore James says, “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you.” The power of the Devil and his angels has been broken. Jesus was lifted up and the god of this world was judged and cast out (Jn. 12:31-32). Finally, as Christians we need to embrace the world as God made it. It will not do for Christians to say that they will not read or watch anything with magic; no fantasy, no fairy tales. Not only does this immediately eliminate the Bible, but it also is a rejection of the world that God made. God made this world a fairy land. This world is full of mystery and wonder that cannot be explained: butterflies, dragons, unicorns, tornadoes, cell phones, etc. This world is enchanted, enchanted with the Spirit of the Triune God. The history of this world is the story of the great dragon slayer Jesus and his armies (us).
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty God, we thank you that you have always done battle with the serpent, that dragon of old. We thank you that in Jesus, you have dealt the fatal blow, and that in his death and resurrection we celebrate and share in this victory. Grant us faith to live in this world with the joy and imagination that reflects your glory and goodness. Give us this world that we might change it from glory to glory. Root out every sin in our lives that we might be able to do this, and begin this by overthrowing every lie that says our sin somehow doesn’t affect others, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!