Every year in our country, there are seasons when we have to be on our toes for what insurance companies call “acts of God.” For those living on the east coast, hurricane season comes every June 1 to the end of November. On the other coast, wildfire season falls between mid-summer and early autumn. From about May to June, the middle of our nation is susceptible to tornadoes. Americans are tough and determined. We weep, but soon pick up the broken pieces to dream and build again.
Recently, at our home, we had an “act of God” experience. A sudden wind storm hit our neighborhood. A powerful gust threw our large trampoline like a tennis ball into my neighbor’s truck. In the insurance world, an act of God is an informal way to describe a mishap outside human control. It can’t be prevented or predicted.
In our study through the life of Moses, we now come to the ten plagues. Our English word “plague” comes from the Greek word plaga, which means “to strike.” The Egyptian taskmasters often struck the exposed backs of their Hebrew slaves with whips. In Exodus 5:14, the Israelite foremen were beaten for not meeting their quota of bricks. In a series of acts of God, the most sophisticated and powerful nation in the ancient world would be stricken and brought to complete ruin. However, there’s a big difference between acts of God with State Farm and what happened in ancient Egypt. Each plague was predicted. Each was preventable if Pharaoh would have only obeyed God’s command to let his people go.
Scholars see a pattern in the plague narratives found in Exodus 7-10. The first nine plagues are usually grouped together because they increase in severity and lead to the final act that set Israel free. Also, the first nine are organized in three groups of three because the first, fourth, and seventh plagues each begin with Moses confronting Pharaoh early in the morning.
In our modern age, many see the plagues as just another example of a harsh, cruel, angry God. But let’s remember, God graciously gave the wicked king ample warning over and over again. And at the start of each new plague cycle, Pharaoh had a face to face, early morning appointment with God’s prophet. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” But after each encounter, we find the same predictable response. Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen (Exodus 7:13, 7:22, 7:15, 8:32, 9:7, 9:12, 9:35, 10:20, 10:27).