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This blog post is Part 17 of a series entitled "From Fear To Freedom" by Pastor Jeffrey Dean Smith of Donelson First in Nashville, TN. 

Message Date: June 9, 2024

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What if right now we were to dim the lights, queue the video, and hit play, each of us watching a documentary highlighting the regrets of your past; the areas of your life you would, I presume, hope never to see the light of day; your most personal transgressions, actions, and thoughts. I know if I were the one being highlighted, my sins on display for all, this would surely not be my best day. Though Scripture assures you and me:

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

This still remains true:

God is never okay with a life of disobedience. Ever.

Have you ever paused to consider how your actions, more specifically, your indiscretions, impact the lives of others? Today we are going to see the reality of sin and its impact on an entire nation who suffers the most horrific ravaging because of the calloused heart of one prideful man - the King of Egypt. As a kid, hearing the biblical story of the plagues described in the Old Testament always left me with the thoughts of “a bad King got what a bad King deserved.” And though this is true… there too is so very much more to the story. And today, I want to introduce some additional thoughts to you that I presume, as was the case with me for so very many years, you too have not fully considered.

It too is important to note that the consequences inflicted upon the nation of Egypt by God are not afterthoughts, or reflexive actions, on the part of God. In fact, God told Moses on the Mountain of God that this would happen exactly as it does. Do you recall this moment:

Exodus 3:19-20

And again in Exodus 4, God told Moses what was to come:

Exodus 4:21

And, as a result, God again, right before these dreadful plagues unfold, tells Moses it is because of the actions of this man, because of the heart of Pharaoh, these horrendous acts will happen:

Exodus 7:1-14

As I have studied the plagues over the past 4 months, each time I study through this horrifically difficult read, I am struck with just how very prideful and determined is the Pharaoh to never bend or give in to the will of God. It is obvious to me the Pharaoh is a man who believed fully he was right. He believed he had done nothing wrong, therefore, saw no need whatsoever to give into the demands of a Hebrew, nor his God. But what we are going to see today is that, no matter how powerful, nor how in the “right” one believes to be, no one escapes the accountability of God. No one! Paul said it like this in the book of the Hebrews:

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13

Over the next few weeks, we are going to see the reality of Paul’s words playout for the Pharaoh and the entire nation of Egypt in only what I can describe as a moment in history unlike any other. Let me take some time this morning and help set the stage. As I do, I want to invite you to settle in and allow your heart to receive this unique day of study for us. Today will be a day quite uncharacteristic for us as we will examine less Scripture and have less writes. Today, I implore you to sit and listen. I presume so very many of you are familiar with this part of the story of the nation of Egypt. Today’s study is very difficult, especially if you consider this story with a fresh perspective. I tried to do exactly this this week as I read this story. 

And in actuality, we are not going to walk through the details of the plagues spoken upon the nation of Egypt until our next time together. Instead, before we study the very details of exactly what happens to both the nation of Egypt and the nation of Israel, I want us to take some time to do something I presume you have never done previous during your time of study and consideration of this very difficult moment in all of the Old Testament teachings. Let me explain…Though very familiar with the story, and though having studied the story more than 20 times over the last four months, I have not only tried to read the story this week with a fresh set of eyes, but I too have also attempted my very best to read the story as if I were in the story; as if I were one living in the nation of Egypt at this time. I tried reading as if I were the one, along with millions of my Egyptian citizens, experiencing these plagues in real time.

I want to encourage the same from you, for you to do exactly this - to place yourself into the ancient Egyptian culture and way of life, and as best you can, take in and reason with and wrestle with and work to form some type of conclusion as to the madness that is ravaging your entire way of life. I too want to bring to your attention as to why, I have clearly dissected for you the ways of the Egyptians. I have articulated in so very many ways their wealth, their wisdom, their advancements in medicine, agriculture, and even entertainment. We have examined their geography, their vast industries, and so very much more. This has been such a needed exercise for us, to prepare us, for this part of the story through which we are now walking. So I now invite you to… Imagine…

Imagine, you have grown up in the wealthy kingdom of Ancient Egypt… a land beautiful, rich in color, and vibrant in global impact. A nation considered to be a mecca for education, innovation, transportation, and hospitality. Everywhere you look and walk and shop and worship and entertain is evidence of advancements never before seen on the planet. Money. Lots of money. Prestige. Position. Arrogance. Beauty. Advancements. Leisure. Of course, like any culture, social class dictated how you and your fellow citizens live. But even the poor in Egypt often lived well above those inhabiting the world in other less modernized cultures. As an Egyptian, you daily dress in linens, consume a diet consisting mainly of grains, vegetables, and beer. You and your children play sports and board games, and you live in a home made from bricks, bricks made by the hands of several million slaves living close by in the horrific conditions of the Hebrew slave-land known as Goshen. The so very many religions recognized in your nation have created the façade that you are a protected nation; an untouchable nation; a nation of gods serving gods; worshipping gods; enthralled with gods; being led by a god; ruled by the god; the king of Egypt; the Pharaoh.

Your family is comfortable. Your surroundings are notably safe and clean. And this is all that you have known. Freedom. Splendor. The attention of the world… this has been your life. A good life. A mostly easy life. A life of an Egyptian. You enjoy time with your friends. You attend religious events together. You work hard. And you too enjoy your days off. The river of your nation, the Nile, is often a very busy place bustling with people worshipping early in the morning, swimming, bathing, and, of course, fishing. And then…there is the day that comes out of nowhere… the day your nation will speak of for many days to come… the day of reckoning for the entire nation of Egypt.

Imagine, on this day…Early in the morning, you are standing knee deep in the Nile river, enjoying a morning of reeling in Perch, Carp, or Tiger Fish. There is a northernly breeze, the aroma of the Mediterranean moving south across the waters of the river. You’ve stood exactly here many times before fishing both out of necessity to feed your family and too out of leisure as you enjoy your weekly ritual on the water…And then… you smell something. You think, is there a dead fish floating downstream? Is a carcass from a crocodile’s lunch lying half-eaten near the shore? Quickly, you realize none of these things is true. You realize the smell… is blood.You smell blood. The smell is unlike any smell; it is thick; robust; overwhelming… And then… you see blood. A lot of blood. You look down into the water and all you see is red, blood red. Where you are standing, you typically can see to the bottom of the river, which has served you well in the past being that you fish in the same waters as the Nile crocodile. But now the water is so blood red thick you can't even see your legs nor your feet. 

In great confusion, you proceed to pull in your line and make your way out of the river. You notice so many others to your north and south doing the same. You hear the sounds of people screaming… children crying standing on the river bank soaked in blood. Within minutes you begin to see fish and snakes and turtles and badgers and even crocodiles floating dead in the bloody water, eventually their carcasses washing up on the shores. You are confused. Shaken. Perplexed…You quickly gather your things and begin to make your way back to your home. You see and hear people everywhere running in confusion. Along the way, you find people who had been carrying their bowls and pitchers of water from the Nile to their homes. These people are now standing in pools of blood, as they too, in great confusion, have emptied their containers of the, once, Nile waters. Blood is splattered on the ground, on their feet, on their clothes… blood is everywhere.

Everywhere you turn, you see blood. For, even the water once in the very many trees, plants, and flowers, and too the water that gathers within the veins and cracks of the majestic stones upon which your nation was built, home after home, building after building… streams of blood flowing all around you. By the time you make your way into the city center, there's blood everywhere. The city watering station is now a flowing river of blood; you see overturned buckets all around as people had realized their normal daily routine of gathering much needed water to accomplish their daily tasks, the city pump is flowing as an open wound in mid surgery that cannot be contained, thus the blood continues to make its way into the city streets. As the blood continues flowing into the streets, the people step in it and walk through it … it has consumed the walkways and streets and courtyards… There's isn’t a place not stained by blood. You are now frantic. Uncertain. Disillusioned. Everyone everywhere is confused. Such is the case for seven more days. Sadly what you and the entire nation of Egypt do not realize, is that things are about to get bloody worse, much worse in the coming days than any of you can ever imagine. Life is about to change for all of you… forever.

A week later, the frogs arrive. Not just a few frogs. An unfathomable amount of frogs. The frogs are everywhere. In your beds, in your baths, and even in your ovens. Because the frog is considered to be a god in Egypt, you cannot kill it. Not even one of them! As quickly as the frogs disappear, the gnats arrive. And then hordes of flies… all types of insects. If this were not enough, nothing could prepare you, nor your people, for what would happen next. Dead animals… everywhere. Horses. Donkeys. Camels. Cattle. Sheep. Goats. Everywhere you look, there are dead animals. Of course, not only is this perplexing, but this devastation also immediately halts much of the production and research and manufacturing and agriculture and trade and convenience of travel throughout the entire nation. What is even more perplexing… the news begins to travel across the entire land that the slave people, the Hebrews, have remained immune to this national nightmare. No blood. No frogs. No gnats. No hordes of flies. No insects whatsoever. And no dead animals. This too is confusing, leaving you and your fellow citizens dismayed and in utter disbelief as to what is happening. Life appears to be moving forward just as it was prior to the first drop of blood for the nation of Israel. How could this be?

And then… the smell begins. You thought the smell of blood was bad. But nothing could prepare you for the smell, the stench, the awful stench of dead livestock carried by the winds off of the Mediterranean moving south throughout the entire nation of Egypt. Can you imagine things getting any worse? Nothing could've prepared you for what is happening to your homeland, the once… nation of luxury. You think to yourself, “Surely things could not get any worse.” And then… you awaken one morning to an itch. You start scratching what first appears as a reddish, or purplish, bump. The bump quickly manifests into more bumps. You now realize the bumps are boils. They are grotesque in appearance. Sore. Painful. Itching. Scars. They are now all over your body: your face, the back of your neck, your armpits, your privates, your thighs and buttocks, and miserably, even on your tongue. The pain is so bad that you can't even sleep or comfortably eat. After a few days, the bumps fill with pus growing larger and more painful until they rupture and drain. Sadly, the process incessantly repeats itself over and again.

After this, something odd begins falling from the sky. In your lifetime, you have barely even seen any rainfall from the sky; never any snow; never anything like this! This too is perplexing. Horrendous amounts of what appears to be hard, frozen water, hail, begins falling from the sky.  unlike anyone has ever seen before and unlike the nation of Egypt will ever see again. What few animals survived the death of the livestock, do not survive the weight of a relentless force of frozen water falling from the sky. Everything the hail hits, it damages, dents, or crushes. Everything in its path. And the hail keeps coming day after day after day. The hail stops falling. But the very next day, a darkness overtakes the entire land. As it approaches, at first, it appears that another storm is making its way across the hot, desert terrain. But a closer look reveals that what is approaching is not rain. It's not even hail. No, shockingly you realize… locust!

The ground turns completely black. In a matter of hours, everything is devoured: the fields, the fruit on the trees; every plant; every grain; every blade of reed along the banks of the Nile; every blade of grass. Gone. There is now nothing left of Egypt. The land has been completely ravaged. Everything is devoured. Everything is ruined. And then… darkness! And… not just darkness. A darkness that can be felt. Total darkness covers the nation of Egypt for three days, and no one can see anything or anyone. Everyone remains in their homes. Perplexed. Dumbfounded. Confused.

And what makes these three days all the more puzzling is the very clear and, now even more bright, light coming from all the places where the Israelites live. It is very apparent to you and to all of Egypt that there is something different, something special, about these people – people not covered in blood, nor consumed with frogs, gnats, flies, dead livestock, and locusts. Millions of people, Hebrew slaves, whose bodies were not covered in boils; whose skies dropped no frozen water; whose light never went to thick darkness; whose land was not ravaged.

What a story; what a story of devastation. Rightly so, our focus in this story is often of Pharaoh and on the hardness of his heart. We too, as we should, spend so very much time in our study of this moment in history on the life and calling of the man Moses. We have been doing such for 4 months and will continue in such a trajectory. But what about the Egyptian people: everyday; normal people; going about their lives? People going to and from work; in and out of the city center; kids playing in the streets…Though, yes, a nation consumed in sin, we must not move past the reality that these were people; real people; people with normal lives; people like you and me. And in a blink, their lives were devastated; distressed; desolated; destroyed, their way of living to never be the same…All because of… why? Sin. It’s important for us to pause and to note, Church:

The nation of Egypt was ravaged because of sin.

Y’all, this is the effect of sin. Maybe it doesn’t manifest itself in the same way in our lives, but the effects of sin are all too devastating and destructive. The effects of sin cannot be overstated. The effects of sin cannot be excused nor justified. What too is so very important to note Church, is that this end result for the nation of Egypt is not an isolated one. Though we read of very revealing and gruesome details in this exclusive story, the reality of the sin and its aftermath upon the nation of Egypt, Scripture confirms to us over and again the impact sin will have on our lives:

But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. Numbers 32:23

Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:15

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7

For the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23a

Sin destroys lives. 

It too is important to note that every drop of blood, every obnoxious frog, every inconvenient gnat and fly and insect, every dead animal, every blistering boil, ever drop of frozen water, every swarm of locust, and every second of darkness…this all could have been avoided if a man had chosen to turn his heart toward God. I think of the times of brokenness in my own life, at times, the heaviness of regret, the moments, oh so very moments when I chose my way over the way of obedience…. My sins may not lead to bloody footprints, dead carcasses, and darkness so thick I cannot even see across the room. But my sin does separate me from an Almighty God. My sins are no less horrific than the sins of the Pharaoh. And this is what makes this story not only timeless throughout the pages of Scripture, but too, such a treasure for my life today. 

I pray we permit this very difficult moment in history to aid as a personal reminder to us each, to us as the body of Christ, to the nation of America, to the Church, of just how seriously God views sin: the sins of our world; the sins of our leaders; the sins of a nation; your sins; my sins. 


Jeffrey Dean Smith is a husband, father to Bailey & Brynnan, author, and the Senior Pastor at Donelson First in Nashville, TN. If you are in Music City, meet Jeffrey and enjoy iced tea on the front lawn each Sunday at 10:30a.