Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Our Lord Reigns: God's plagues versus the Egyptian gods' power

Alright so this blog is actually a little bit of a lesson. In my Bible study we are currently studying Exodus, and this week we started reading about the plagues. I found out that each of the plagues attacked the powers of at least one Egyptian god, so I thought I'd play a matching game and figure out which plague goes with which god! Here's what I've got so far:

1. Nile River Turned to Blood:
For starters, the Egyptians worshipped the Nile itself, because it was the center of their lifestyle. By ruining the Nile God proved his superiority over Hapi, the god of the Nile and one of the major gods in the Egyptian pantheon, and over the other lesser Nile gods. He also killed all the fish of the Nile, thus defeating any gods or goddesses associated with fish, including Hathor and Neith.

2. Frogs:
Several Egyptian deities were thought to take the form of frogs, therefore the frog was considered sacred. Egyptians considered an abundance of frogs to be a sign of plenty (it makes sense that an large number of creatures who prefer moist environments would be revered in a culture that lives in a hot, dry climate), so the appearance of thousands of frogs should have been a good sign. Unfortunately for them, the frogs all died. This  was definitely a hit on Heket, the frog headed goddess, and Isis, who sometimes took the form of a frog. These goddesses represented fertility. The death of their symbol represents the complete opposite, showing yet again God's supremacy.

3. Lice:
The lice were created from the "dust of the earth." This is a clear attack on Geb, another of the major gods, because not only is he god over the dust of the earth, according to the Egyptians he IS the dust of the earth. His body was the ground on which they walked. To make his body into the lice that made each and every Egyptian unclean is a definite insult to the Egyptian religion. This also insulted Seth, an earth god, and Kheper, god of beetles and flies.

4. Flies:
This one is another insult to Kheper, who did not answer the Egyptians prayers for a respite from the creepy-crawlies. It also attacks all the gods of the air, many of which reportedly used flies as their ears. The flies attacked everyone but the Hebrews, which is a clear sign of holiness.

5. Death of Livestock:
This plague came with awful consequences to the Egyptians and created doubt in many gods, from Apis, the sacred bull, to the Hathor, the cow-headed goddess. It also created a huge economic disaster, since it left them without food, transportation, military supplies, farming animals, and other economic goods produced by livestock. Meanwhile, the Hebrews are doing just fine.

6. Boils:
Imagine the emotional and physical scars this left. In ancient Egypt, medicine and magic were considered the same, so the fact that the magicians fled from Moses' sight because they couldn't get rid of the boils is a huge blow to the Egyptians. These men and other healers were considered conduits of Thoth, the god of magic and healing, Isis, goddess of medicine, Hike, god of magic, and many others. If they are powerless, so are the gods they serve. They couldn't even offer sacrifices, since only the clean may serve the gods. Boils represented punishment from sin in Egyptian society, but did Pharaoh, the living god, not think that keeping the Hebrews was right?

7. Hail:
This plague destroyed all the barley and flax, the crops that the Egyptians used in libations (alcohol) and clothing, but left some of the wheat, which was purely for food. This took away the comforts and vanities of the Egyptians, but still gave them the option of surviving. It also proved God the true deity over Nut, the sky goddess, Reshpu, the god of rain, and many other gods, including Shu and Tefnet. This also destroyed trust in the weather shamans who called on these gods to make the weather constantly favorable. Of course, this lie was easily sustained until this point, since Egypt had the most predictable weather imaginable. The hail ruined that illusion of the shamans' power.

8. Locusts:
When Pharaoh still refused to let the Hebrews left, God took away the Egyptians' sustenance with locusts. All the prayers to Seth, god of crops, and Min, protector of crops, fell on deaf ears, proving once more that the Hebrew God listens, while the Egyptian gods either do not listen or do not exist. In essence, Pharaoh's stubbornness led the Egyptians to the brink of starvation.

9. Darkness:
With three days of darkness, God proved that He reigns supreme over even the highest of Egyptian gods, Re. He was the most worshipped of all, yet he was powerless to stop the Hebrew God from covering his light. To the Egyptians, darkness represents hopelessness. They could not even trust Pharaoh, the "son of Re," to save them. By this time the Egyptian pantheon of gods is completely crushed.

10. Death of the Firstborn:
The firstborn of each family were considered the most important and most blessed of the children. They were dedicated to the gods. This plague was a clear affront to Pharaoh's own divinity, since he could not even save his son, who was also considered divine and therefore protected by Re and various other gods. The pantheon of gods is destroyed, and the leader of Egypt is disgraced.

Through these ten plagues God proved His sovereignty. He proved that He is the sole God. He proved that His people truly are set apart from the world. Not only has He proved his power to those who enslaved the Hebrews, He reminded His people that He is in control. It's amazing how we forget that, even today.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

God at Work

It's amazing how we talk about how good God is all the time, but we don't really realize it or comprehend it. I JUST realized how good He was in an answer to my prayers (and surely the prayers of many others) in the past few years.

God not only answers prayers, He goes above and beyond any expectations we, in our tiny minds, could possibly imagine. Several years ago a friend of mine just dropped off the map. She was at church every week, then she just...wasn't. There was no one I felt I could ask about her. I heard somewhere that she had moved out of her parents house (she was still in high school), and I didn't know where she was or what she was doing. All I could do was pray that wherever she was, God would be working in her heart.

She moved back in with her parents, and that was that. I was glad she moved back, but I never thanked God for that miracle. I am now, because I see that He not only worked in her heart to bring her back home, He has made her into a leader and an inspiration for others. He has blessed us with her presence and I could not be more thankful for that. I never thought that simple prayers for a prodigal daughter to return home would be part of such a rich and beautiful chapter of God's story.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I am constantly made aware of small ways in which followers of Christ are made ineffective. I see these things in myself, then I turn and see these things in the church in general. It's amazing how tiny things, especially words, can make us into worthless witnesses.

For example, take the word "mistake." I hear everyone from pastors to newborn Christians use the word mistake in place of sin, as if the two words are synonyms. The definitions of the two, however, are quite divergent (if you haven't noticed yet, I really like definitions lol). A sin is a "willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle or law." A mistake is "a misunderstanding or misconception."

To replace the word sin with mistake is to downgrade the magnitude of the action. A sin is to act against God that requires full acknowledgment and repentance from the sinner. On the other hand, a mistake seems to lessen the burden on the shoulders of the perpetrator. By saying we made a mistake, we merely say "oops, sorry God" rather than dropping to our knees and asking forgiveness when we know we do not deserve it.

The worst part about our easygoing approach to sin is the damage it does to our personal view of Jesus. It's so hard to appreciate a Savior if we downsize that from which He saved us. We make mountains into molehills. When He came to earth, He came to save us from mountains we could not move ourselves. Mountains that stand between us and God. Molehills never kept a traveler from a destination.

If we continue to talk about "mistakes" we made in the past, what kind of Savior do we present to the world? I'd rather present the true One, the One who died to save us from our sin, not from simple mistakes. In the process I must own up to my sins, but that is a small cost.