Life of Moses
Lord of the Flies…
(Orig. 3/9/3; 11.16.14)
Note: the lesson’s title is a word play borrowed from Golding’s dystopian novel Lord of the Flies. While it is not intended to as a reference to the Jewish term for Satan…Baalzebub…Lord of the Flies, paradoxically the religious leadership derogatorily refers to Jesus as the Lord of the Flies. See Mark 3:23 and Matt. 12:25ff.
Ever heard a child scream, cry and plead for a second chance? I promise I will never do it again! I promise! I promise! Please don’t make me sit in time out! Please don’t punish me! I will never ever ever again! You ever screamed or cried this out to God yourself? I promise, God, if you will answer this one request, I will never ask for anything again! And so the parent or God issues a reprieve…a stay of execution, and then what? No pain, no real repentance? Where is the fine line between manipulation and true repentance?
In this story, Pharaoh, the great ruler of Egypt, seems to be doing a great bit of seemingly disingenious whining and crying out to God or Moses to relent from his affliction onto the Egyptians of these back-to-back plagues.
Read the Passage three times…(Note: since this is so long you might want to only read this twice).
Ask Questions (no answers)…
16 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, `Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.”
Were the gnats always in the dust, just waiting to hatch? Was there something about the weather or breeding conditions that year that produced an extra ordinary amount of larvae or something—kind of like the locusts we had several years ago—it happens every some many years? Or did God just turn dust into gnats?
17 They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came upon men and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats.
Where they a pesky gnat that irritated people and animals alike?
18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals.
Why could they not imitate this miracle as the others? What does this say about this miracle or their powers? Or Moses’ powers or God?
19 The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.
The work of God? Someone bigger than us? Another god? Note: the author reminds that nothing is unusual about Pharaoh’s behavior. God said it would be this way.
20 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning and confront Pharaoh as he goes to the water and say to him, `This is what the LORD says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me.
To the water again. Same warning again. Same message.
21 If you do not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you and your officials, on your people and into your houses. The houses of the Egyptians will be full of flies, and even the ground where they are.
This could be irritating. Had all the blood and dead fish and frogs cause a lot more flies to live and therefore breed? What does it mean: “even the ground where they are”?
22 “`But on that day 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.
How will Goshen be protected? Why physically will there be no flies there?
23 I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This miraculous sign will occur tomorrow.'”
24 And the LORD did this. Dense swarms of flies poured into Pharaoh’s palace and into the houses of his officials, and throughout Egypt the land was ruined by the flies.
How was the land ruined?
25 Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God here in the land.”
Pharaoh tries to bargain with God.
26 But Moses said, “That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the LORD our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us?
Why would their sacrifices be detestable? There is no law yet. But even if there is a law, in the desert where there will be soon, why would these sacrifices be detestable and worthy of stoning to the Egyptians? Wrong animals? Wrong method? Wrong God?
27 We must take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, as he commands us.”
Why the three-day journey? Is that how long it takes to get to the mountain of God? Is that just far enough from Egypt to not catch the attention of the Egyptians and therefore be stoned by them for offering destestable sacrifices?
28 Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the LORD your God in the desert, but you must not go very far. Now pray for me.”
How far, and pray for what? The flies to die? Is this a compromise? Is Moses accepting the compromise?
29 Moses answered, “As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the LORD, and tomorrow the flies will leave Pharaoh and his officials and his people. Only be sure that Pharaoh does not act deceitfully again by not letting the people go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.”
30 Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD,
31 and the LORD did what Moses asked: The flies left Pharaoh and his officials and his people; not a fly remained.
32 But this time also Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not let the people go.
No pain; no change?
(Note: There are a lot of verses here; don’t get too bogged down. Keep it moving, even if you need to move on the next question.)
Who’s? LORD, Moses, Aaron, magicians, Pharaoh, God, my people, Egyptians, your people (the significant who’s are gone by v. 23).
Where’s? (the Where’s tend to be more significant) throughout the land of Egypt, on men and animals, into your houses, land of Goshen, where my people live, in this land, Pharaoh’s palace, into the house of his officials, throughout Egypt, here in this land, into the desert, very far
When’s? (time also seems significant here. Each action is a response to another, like a great chess match) then the Lord said, and when Aaron stretched out, but when the magicians, then the Lord said, get up early in the morning, on that day I will deal, Then Pharaoh summoned, a three-day journey, as soon as I leave you, tomorrow, then Moses left, but this time also…
Two Week’s ago…Pharaoh is unmoved even when Moses and Aaron turn the river and all water into blood for seven days.
Last Week…Although initially willing to allow the people to leave when his land is plagued by frogs, once relieved of the burden, Pharaoh hardens his heart and recants his word.
- The LORD inflicts a plague of gnats upon Egypt, including Pharaoh’s palace and all his officials’ homes. 16-17
- Pharaoh’s magicians are unable to imitate this miracle and declare to Pharaoh that this is the work of God. 18-19
- The LORD tells Moses to go to Pharaoh and to once again command him to allow God’s people to leave Egypt so they can worship him. 20
- He also tells Moses to warn Pharaoh that if he does not release the LORD’s people he will also send a plague of flies, just as he sent the blood, frogs and gnats, upon the entire land. 21
- But he will deal differently with the land of Goshen where the LORD’s people live. The flies will not harm them. In doing this, God is making a distinction between his people, who worship him, and the Egyptians, who do not. 22-23.
- The LORD does inflict flies upon Pharaoh and his people, ruining the land. 24
- Then Pharaoh finally sends for Moses and offers a deal/his compromise. Sacrifice to your God here. 25
- But Moses turns down the deal. The Egyptians would not stand for it. They would feel it detestable and stone the Israelites. 26-27
- Pharaoh backs down and promises to let them go into the desert to offer sacrifices to God, if Moses would pray for him. 28
- Moses promises to do this, but also warns Pharaoh to not deceitfully back down from his agreement and refuse to let them go again. 29
- Once again Moses prays and the LORD kills all the flies. 30-31
- But once again, when all the flies and gnats are gone, Pharaoh hardens his heart and backs down from his agreement. 32
The LORD inflicts the land with gnats. The magicians are unable to imitate the miracle and attribute this power to God. Once again Moses commands Pharaoh to let God’s people to go, and if he does not, then the land will be inflicted with another plague, flies. But God’s people will not be inflicted so that there will be no mistaking that God is in charge here. Once again, after the land is inflicted with flies, Pharaoh sends for Moses and attempts to bargain with Moses. When this fails, Pharaoh promises to let God’s people go if the flies are removed. Once again, when the flies are gone, Pharaoh hardens his heart and changes his mind.
Once again Pharaoh does not get it; when he gets his way, he fails to uphold his end of the deal.
Why’s? Why did God include this passage in his timeless word? Or What do I learn about God? Life? People? Myself?
- Men can be stubborn.
- Men try to negotiate/bargain with God.
- God is not afraid to send pain into our lives to get our attention.
- When people are in pain, they want to get out of pain, and are willing to do anything. Then when there is no pain, they may change their minds.
- God gives people many chances.
- God knows that we may say one thing, but do another…that we have not really hit bottom and are ready to really change.
- God makes a distinction between his people and those who refuse to worship him to show that he is in charge and that he cares for his children.
- God hears our prayers.
So What’s? How does this truth personally apply to one of my life’s struggles?
Struggle…Just out of sync a bit and being comfortable with it. Worked on my computer all Monday and Tuesday after it kept going the fritz last Sunday. Finally, had to send it in to Apple. They returned it Friday, but didn’t get the power cord back to Saturday afternoon. It completely threw me off. I have come very attached to it. It is my number one tool. Fortunately, I did get it back, but it is so late that now I am trying to decide what to do about Sunday. I have completely lost all the momentum I was trying to build up to work ahead on my teachings. Either this was Satan, or God allowing Satan to put stumbling blocks into my path, or simple science or technology. If it simple science, it shows how far I have to go.
On the other hand, it sure is peculiar that after staying up all last Saturday night working on my power point presentation and everything working fine all through the night, that it goes on the fritz in the middle of the presentation. Apple ultimately replaced the logic board, whatever that is. Then I was going up to pick it up on Friday night, but had a four-hour counseling appointment. Then after I did pick it up, I got home and there was no power cord. In other words, I was delayed almost another full day. And that is just with respect to my laptop.
Attempts to use my desktop met with similar fates due to lack of memory, software. When we were finally able to resolve memory, we could not locate software (all my work has been done on newer software; it doesn’t work too well going backwards to older software. Too much gobbledygook). Needless to say, my whole week was thrown off.
Add to this, that I am still just trying to find a rhythm with my church Body. What do they need? How do I motivate them? What do I motivate them towards? How are they doing when they are away from each other and in the world? Are they sharp? Standing for their faith?
Principle or Truth…
God allows pain into our lives to get our attention; sometimes it takes many seemingly trials and failures—such as Moses with Pharaoh. But you keep on being obedient, despite the setbacks.
I am a work in progress. I am on the slow-growth program. Especially with my teaching and the use of all these new-fangled media tools. I am still going to make lots of mistakes, spend sleepless nights and generally embarrass myself as I seek to continue to improve at the art of being a teacher, especially of God’s truth. Don’t get discouraged. Keep plugging away, whether it be with figuring out how to use my computer, Powerpoint and the video projection system, as well as the artistic and logical arrangement of material. Someday I will get it.
The same applies to meeting the needs of my flock. Keep teaching, observing, listening, praying, asking questions, evaluating, listening to my elders, and don’t panic. Things are not as worse as they usually seem, nor as bad. We did not get here overnight. We will not change overnight. Keep working the system. Learning from my failures and successes. But never become over-confident. Remain humble. Always learning. Never satisfied.
Tonight, keep it simple as I finish preparing my teaching and serving the Body tomorrow. Man it is beautiful outside. 70’s…it is time to play.
Thanksgiving…Sunday went well. Great discussion of: 1) what it means to Spiritually or metaphorically wash one another’s feet—i.e. hold one another Spiritually accountable? 2) Why it was so important to the early NT church’s survival and growth, as well as, the church throughout its history and even today? So that it would not succumb to the same religious anemia and hypocrisy from it had come out of. 3) Why is it so hard to do? Because superficiality is the norm and vulnerability is challenging. 4) And how does all this apply to Fellowship today? Once the body was unleashed, the comments came in flying in so fast and furious that I had to quit writing what they were saying on the board and just take it in. Powerful stuff. I think they get it.
Then on Monday and Tuesday, I got to go to Kansas City and get a personal driving tour of the Battles of Independence and Westport from a published Civil War author who is writing a driving tour book on the battles. In the process, we rediscovered and landmarked portions of the old Byrum’s Ford Road which was used by North and South in fighting the battles of Bloody Hill and Westport. And on Veteran’s Day I actually crawled through the bush honeysuckle in order to scale the now hidden rocky ledge that served as a high ground fortication both sides during the battle and where many Civil War soldiers gave their last full measure. I have been very blessed.
My spiritual daughter is still in recovery—two weeks! She has NOT left! Yay!
Was able to do some quality Spiriutal counseling…
Finally, we just got the green light to move Rhonda’s mom closer to us into a licensed care facility.
Struggle…Kinda raw from what was at the time a very confusing event. I thought I did some good work, but there were some unforseen repercussions. Now I understand better, perhaps completely, but at the time, I didn’t see it coming, and it caught me off guard. Lots of feelings and emotions. Snow storm approaching and I don’t know how that will affect Sunday, especially our worship concert on Sunday night. Hopefully minimally. Still have some things to get done before Sunday as well. Also, while I am happy to move Rhonda’s mother closer, I also understand that our lives and time might radically change. Time, seemingly, is already at a premium, and it seems very difficult to find time to write. Thus how will this major life change affect my pastoring and/or writing? In the end, I/we will just have to trust God in this change.
Truth…The difficulty of truly discerning either your own or someone else’ real Spiritual bottom or brokenness.
Application…Just because we/I are trying to do what is right, good or spiritually beneficial, doesn’t mean we will seem immediate good results. Some results, while still of God, may even be seemnigly negative or painful, but that doesn’t mean that they are still not of God. Washing feet is not without its risks. Just experienced one. I did what I felt was right, experienced painful collateral damage, patiently waited, and witnessed God heal. I saw the Spirit of God use a painful misunderstanding, momentary separation and finally tearful reconciliation to reveal and heal in ways that I could not have imagined. What I saw as painful and seemingly unnecessary, in the momentary scheme of things, turned out to be divinely necessary and healing. I mean I could NOT see it! I stepped into a trap, and yet God used it to heal deep down in areas of the soul that few are ever allowed to glimpse. And I saw NONE of it coming. And yet I trusted, and God was glorified. What someone meant for evil at some time in the long distance past, God meant for good eventually in what would become the long distance future. I needed my feet wash, and instead, someone allowed me to wash their feet with heart and tears. Stick a fork in me, I am ready to go to heaven. Taste and see that the LORD is good, or that I AM (Creator God) is intrinsically beneficially to his creature’s human soul (Psalm 34:8). I am stunned! I praise your Spirit, O God! I praise your Spirit and his nuanced leading. I have drunk at your well, and my soul is saturated with wonder!
Joseph M. Cross
What about you? Struggle? Truth? Application?
What about your students? Their struggles (list a few; think about several of your students)?
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.