Red-starred nuclear bombers probe Swedish, British and American airspace. Camouflaged “irregulars” move heavy weapons across the erstwhile border between Ukraine and Russia. U.S. paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade take up positions near Lviv, Western Ukraine to train and bolster that country’s National Guard against Eastern threats. China presses forward with building a military airfield on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea, extending its air forces’ reach toward Japan.
The world has gotten used to superpower confrontations, and has learned to live with these simmering tensions. Aggressive nations constantly flex their muscles, engaging in brinksmanship as they jostle for greater influence and domination. Such is the way of the world. What was true in the days of the prophet Daniel (and his vision of Middle Eastern superpowers symbolized as marauding beasts) is true in our day as well.
The whole world’s watching
The Passover story has many levels to it. One foundational aspect is the liberation of an enslaved Jewish people from cruel slave-drivers, the astounding and miraculous Hebrew Exodus and the subsequent settling of the nation in the Land of Israel. But on another level, the Exodus story concerns the clash of kingdoms, both in the physical realm and in the spiritual world.
The Ten Plagues were a divine son et lumière – a sound and light show – for all the nations to see, an international declaration on the part of YHVH the God of the Hebrews that He had confronted and defeated the demonic powers worshipped by the Egyptians.
- “For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments – I am YHVH!” (Exodus 12:12).
Each one of the Ten Plagues was targeting a deity to whom the Egyptians turned daily in prayer and sacrifice. Each plague revealed that those spiritual forces were powerless before YHVH the One True God, the God of Jacob.
The Egyptian goddess of fertility, Heketq (Hekt) held the frog to be her sacred symbol. YHVH inundated Egypt with a tidal wave of frogs, whose stinking corpses then filled the streets of her cities and villages. The River Nile was sacred to Khnum and also to Hapi, the spiritual being overseeing both the Upper and Lower Nile. Moses turned the waters of the Nile blood-red, showing that even these powerful beings were subject to the outstretched hand of YHVH.
Serapis the god of healing was struck dumb and powerless before YHVH, as the plague of boils filled the flesh and skin of Egyptians great and small. Even the mighty Amun-Re, god of the sun, found his golden orb blackened and confounded by the God of the Jewish people as Egypt fell into a noonday darkness.
Finally, even the glorious palace of Pharaoh was shaken. This mighty king was considered the son of Horus, the son of Hathor. Surely no one could touch the Royal Household or cause harm to the seed of the gods. Yet the slaying of the first born smote even the palace of Pharaoh. Even his dynasty was not immune on that dark Passover night. The builder of the pyramids quaked before a Desert God. Egypt trembled before the God and people of Jacob. For a future aspect of this same dynamic, see Isaiah 19:16-22.
Signs, wonders and Jewish growth
There was drama, shock and awe in the Passover Plagues. But they were definitely not an oversight or an accident. YHVH was not panicked, scrambling to find a dramatic solution to Pharaoh’s hardheartedness. The God of Israel had actually briefed Moses ahead of time, explaining to him that Pharaoh’s stubbornness would be used by YHVH to bring glory to Himself – as well as to bring judgment on the whole Egyptian nation.
- “God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions’ ” (Genesis 15:13-14)
- “But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go” (Exodus 3:19-20)
- YHVH said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says YHVH, Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, Let My son go that he may serve Me; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn” (Exodus 4:21-23)
- “But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh does not listen to you, then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring out My armies, My people the sons of Israel, from the land of Egypt by great judgments. The Egyptians shall know that I am YHVH, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst” (Exodus 7:3-5)
The God of Jacob’s strategy involved a world leader hardening his heart to God’s heart for Israel. Pharaoh’s stubbornness would lead to the whole nation of Egypt beholding the hand of God. For generations to come the world would study this scenario in theological schools and in seminaries. Countless congregations would hear sermons about these principles from pulpits the world over.
- “For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth” (Exodus 9:14)
The Ten Plagues were, from a certain biblical perspective, a divine public relations campaign to arrest the imagination of the Egyptians. Though the scenario had started out with the carnal leader of a superpower flexing his muscles, it ended up with YHVH flexing His own muscles, and with the leader of the world’s greatest superpower “going to Sunday School” – being taught a sobering lesson through the severe mercies of God.
Hook in the jaws
At one point in time the whole Passover plan looked like it was about to collapse like a house of cards. The Jewish people had nearly lost hope and could not even dare to trust Moses during the swirling activity of the Ten Plagues: “So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage” (Exodus 6:9)
But, in the timeless words of a gospel hymn “Hold On, I’m Coming!” (which in time also became a crossover hit), God challenged His people to have faith and hang on. YHVH allowed Pharaoh to hang onto power and its trappings, in order to set him up for an unusual work of Jewish deliverance.
- “But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth. Still you exalt yourself against My people by not letting them go” (Exodus 9:14 )
The hook in Pharaoh’s jaws was anchored deep in the flesh of his ancient sins. Yeshua’s beloved disciple John ticks them off one by one: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:16).
At a date in the not too distant future, Ezekiel prophesies further about jaws:
- Thus says YHVH God, Behold, I am against you, O Gog, prince of Rosh, Meshech and Tubal. I will turn you about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army, horses and horsemen, all of them splendidly attired, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them wielding swords … from the remote parts of the north with all its troops – many peoples with you … After many days you will be summoned; in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel which had been a continual waste; but its people were brought out from the nations, and they are living securely, all of them” (Ezekiel 38:2-8)
The anger and irritation of superpowers continues to move world leaders to stick out their jutting jaws – making an outstanding target that offers itself to the hooks of God, as He educates the nations about His heart and priority for Israel.
How shall we then pray?
- Pray for humility, clear revelation and courage for your country’s leaders (governmentally and spiritually) regarding the Jewish people, the apple of God’s eye
- Pray for the Jewish people’s safety and salvation – that they would step into their divine calling as a light to the nations
- Pray for God’s will to be accomplished as He lifts up leaders, softening and hardening hearts for His international purposes
Your prayers and support really do hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!
In Messiah Yeshua,
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