Lord of the flies

Devotional thoughts for July 2021

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... where I discuss the thinking that led to this article.)

Then the Lord said to Moses … confront Pharaoh as he goes to the river and say to him… “Let my people go, so that they may worship me. If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you… [but] I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. I will make a distinction between my people and your people.” (Exodus 8:20–23, NIV)

I began my working life in the 60s. Those were different times... and to say they were “less sensitive” times would be an understatement. Being berated for mistakes or underperformance was expected — and on a bad day, members of the crew might threaten to beat you! But I find one of those day’s classic insults useful in apologetics, so I’ll share it with you (… and the snowflakes among you might want to divert your eyes until this sentence is over). “You aren’t a total loss. We can always use you as a bad example!”

Today, Pharaoh is our bad example. I mean, who did Pharaoh think he was! Did he believe his own press? His people believed he was a god... or at least, that was the party line. But here’s the thing about being human: we know that we aren’t gods... and we know it with every breath. So, why did he take on Yahweh… a God who — by the time this plague of flies came around — was looking like the One True God?

What made this plague a miracle and not just a plague was where the flies swarmed — and where they didn’t swarm. They didn’t swarm where the Jews lived. That’s the miracle. God said he wanted to show a difference between the world’s people and his people... and although it’s not reported specifically in the narrative, I’m sure the Egyptians found out that there were no flies in Goshen. Considering the purpose of this miracle, that would be a big part of it.

But Pharaoh wasn’t done showing his mortality. He tried to nickel and dime God. God wanted his people a three-day journey out of Egypt, Pharaoh tried to bargain with God like God was a vendor at a bizarre. He would let them go one day’s journey and not three. Pharoah agreed — then reneged. So God slapped him, and he had to go to Moses and bargain for relief.

In Pharaoh’s defense, this would be an appropriate tactic for the kind of god he was used to dealing with… the gods of the land — and himself! These were no gods at all, of course, but even their legends showed them to be petty, and their history showed them to be impotent.

This was not true of our God, though — and that was the point. Just as there was a difference between Moses’ God and the other gods, so would there be a difference between the Jews and other people. This is a theme with God. He calls us Christians to be distinct from the world, too. It’s a “God’s people” thing, not a Jewish thing (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).


(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20210628 Lord of the flies ).

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