Getting the Message: Exodus 7:14-25By CHRIS SHELTON,
In our passage this week we see the first plague of the Exodus. In it, the Lord turns the waters of the Nile into blood. Before this, the staff of Moses was changed into a serpent and swallowed up the staffs of the Egyptian magicians, a foreboding picture of coming judgment. In the first plague the judgment has commenced.
The plagues the Lord bring against Egypt manifest the futility of Egyptian idolatry and are judgments against that idolatry. The Lord chooses to strike the Nile River because it was worshipped by the Egyptians. They believed the river gave birth to Egypt and sustained Egypt. Moses is to meet Pharaoh with staff in hand in the morning by the river. We are to understand Moses is challenging the king’s
morning idolatrous devotions at the Nile.
This is idolatry, worshipping the creation (the river) rather than the Creator, who provides the Nile and its benefits. Idolatry isn’t simply a harmless mistake or misunderstanding. It is connected to satanic deception and sinful rebellion.
The first two commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me, and you shall not make for yourself graven images,” teach us the ungodliness of idolatry. Idolatry mixes self-promotion and sinful indulgence along with perceived self-preservation. It is a deadly mixture. When we elevate anything above the place of God, we deny God.
Idolatry is a corrupting, twisting, deforming thing to the soul. Salvation in Christ not only gives believers a right judicial standing with God (forgiveness and righteousness in Christ), it also returns our souls to finding satisfaction and security in the only place they can truly be found, knowing God and serving him.
Idolatry/sin ruins everything. The Garden of Eden was a great blessing for Adam. He was given the honor of stewarding it for God. Everything was good. The greatest blessing though was his communion with God; his knowing God. When Adam elevated the benefits of the garden above that of knowing God, he elevated himself above God and immediately his relationship with God was ruined. We next see him hiding from God, the creation cursed.
Marriage was also given to Adam and Eve as a great blessing. It was given for mutual support, encouragement, enjoyment, and love. When sin enters into it, there are mutual accusations, passing blame to one another. There are mutual demands upon the other, self-interest rises above love, and the relationship is marred or spoiled. Rather than being stewards of the relationship for God, men and women are prone to exercise self-centeredness and manipulation.
We sin against our own happiness when we practice idolatry. People are wearied by the futility, bitterness, lusts, greed, anxiety and other sinful weights infused into the soul by idolatry. You cannot extract out of a person or thing that which only God can provide. When you try to, it is destructive. It brings God’s judgment.
Idolatry may lead to misery and death, but the converse is true as well. The return of the soul to the worship of God in spirit and truth leads to happiness and life. In verse 16 God says that Pharaoh is to let “my” people go in order to serve me. The Lord says “my” people “serve” me. In other words, God is delivering them out of Egypt to serve and worship him. This is salvation.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord said “My people will know me, and they will return to me with all their heart.” This is the promise of salvation in Christ. The way of happiness is forgiveness in Christ and knowing God through him. In faith, we turn from idolatry to seeking God’s glory. When Jesus says seek first the kingdom of heaven he means to live to glorify God, to seek his will as it is in heaven.
To continue in idolatry is to suffer the curse of the serpent and lick the dust. Worldly people cannot be heavenly minded. The apostle John warned Christians at the end of his first epistle: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”