The plagues show us the worthlessness of idolatry. Every time God flexed his muscles, he exposed the weakness of Egypt’s gods. But the main Egyptian idol, the top dog running the show, was Pharaoh. They believed he was the son of Ra, the god of the sun. They called him “perfect god” and thought he could do no wrong.
Pharaoh’s most important responsibility was to maintain order, or what Egyptian’s called Ma’at. The idea of Ma’at was fundamental. After all, Egypt was the center of the world, and everything around was riddled with disorder and chaos.
Pharaoh sat helplessly as the order of Egypt unraveled. In the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2, God brought beauty out of chaos with the spoken word. But in the plagues we find God doing a work of de-creation, as nature turned on itself until darkness covered everything. Each plague was a psychological blow, exposing his total ineptitude as a god.
Every time we ignore the voice of God to follow our way, we put ourselves in God’s place. We are blessed with many talents, and do many things well, but we make miserable gods.
I think of one of our founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, with his amazing gifts and God-given powers. Born out of wedlock in the British West Indies (1755), his father abandoned him when he was 10. Tragically, his mother died a few years later. He started working as a clerk in a warehouse at 11, and the owners quickly noticed his gifts. Some friends got together and sent him to New York to get a proper education at King’s College. He arrived just before the revolution and distinguished himself in the army, catching the attention of General George Washington. He made young Hamilton a lieutenant cornel and put him in charge of his staff and correspondence. After the war, he wrote the Federalist Papers and worked with James Madison to frame our Constitution. And, when Washington became president, he appointed Hamilton as the first Treasury Secretary.
In his early 30’s he sat on top of the world. He had the trust and ear of the president, and was married to an adoring wife named Eliza, who gave birth to their eight children. Many believed he would follow Washington as America’s second president. His enemies, spread the rumor he secretly aspired to make himself king.
But when he was just 35, his lovely wife took the kids to stay with family in New York. As Hamilton worked from home in Philadelphia, a 23-year-old Maria Reynolds knocked on the door. She asked for financial help claiming her husband had deserted and abused her. He made an appointment with her for later that evening. When he showed up with some money, she invited him into her bedroom, and that started what became known as the Hamilton Reynolds Affair (1791-1792).
Throughout their year fling, she wrote him many letters begging to see him, and each time, like a lamb to the slaughter he went. But, once trapped in the relationship, Maria’s husband, James Reynolds began writing threatening letters to Hamilton. He promised to tell Mrs. Hamilton and the world he if he didn’t pay up. Still, he fell for Maria every time she wrote and continued to payoff her husband to the tune of about $1,300 (about $30,000 today). Many Historians believe all of it was a grand extortion scheme by the couple from the beginning. The great Hamilton was brilliant, courageous, diligent, and strategic, but he too blinded by desire to stop. When the word finally came out, it slowly destroyed his influence. His star rose like a Roman candle and fizzled away. In the end, he was shot to death in a humiliating duel with Aaron Burr (1804) at 49 years of age (For more see Chernow’s book, Alexander Hamilton).
A well-ordered life begins with the right priorities. We must put God in his rightful place. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”