1 Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me. 2 For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still, 3 Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain. 4 And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel. 5 And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land. 6 And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one. 7 And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go. (Exodus 9:1–7)
For the fifth time, Pharaoh goes head to head in a losing battle against the God who created him. When we read the account of the plagues, we marvel at the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. How could he keep resisting after so many obvious miracles from the Lord?
The short answer is that Pharaoh was an unbeliever, and unbelievers simply do not believe. In the New Testament we read:
14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)
In this verse, the “natural man” is an unbeliever. He cannot understand the things of God—he even thinks that they are foolishness. The unbeliever is unable to know the things of God. He must be saved in order to do so. Until then, he is like a blind and deaf man judging a movie or a television show. He cannot really know what is truth.
Pharaoh is a perfect example of this “natural man.” God was working mighty wonders right in front of him, but he refused to believe.
THE NATURAL MAN DOES NOT UNDERSTAND…
I. GOD’S PURPOSE IN SALVATION
Exodus 9:1 Then the LORD said unto Moses, Go in unto Pharaoh, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD God of the Hebrews, Let my people go, that they may serve me.
A. Salvation Is Deliverance From Bondage
The command, “Let my people go” is used nine times in Exodus 5-10. It’s like a rallying cry from the Lord. It’s also, as we’ve mentioned before, a picture of salvation.
Just as the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt, so too we are born into this world in bondage. We are born incapable of doing truly doing good because we are in bondage to sin.
10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Romans 3:10–12)
The natural man, the unbeliever doesn’t know to seek after God—he does not understand. Oh, he may be religious, very religious—but he does not care to seek the true God. He is in bondage to sin and unbelief.
4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
So “Let my people go” teaches us that we were in bondage to sin, but it also reminds of God’s…
Moses was sent by God to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt. So also God sent Jesus to die on the cross to set people free from sin. His life was given to pay the penalty for sin that the law demanded—the curse of the law.
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. 12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. 13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (Galatians 3:10–13)
The effect of our deliverance from sin is that our spiritual eyes are opened to see and understand God. We can see miracles as what they are—miracles. We can see God’s hand moving in this world.
Pharaoh never experienced deliverance, so he could only continue on with a hardened heart. He did not understand what God’s purpose in saving his people.
Salvation is deliverance from bondage that changes a person, and salvation is for worship and service.
B. Salvation Is For Worship And Service
The purpose of God’s saving his people was so “that they may serve” him. The Hebrew word for “serve,” when it’s used in reference to God, means to worship him.
God wasn’t asking for a spiritual weekend retreat. He wanted his people to serve him and him only. When he laid down the Ten Commandments, this was crystal clear:
2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:2–3)
Since Pharaoh was considered a deity in Egypt, this included him also!
Salvation is still about worship and service. We can read that in places like Romans 12—
1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Romans 12:1)
Why are we saved? The typical answers about going to Heaven or avoiding Hell or because God loves us are true, but they miss the ultimate purpose of our salvation: to worship the Lord. To live our lives in service to him as living sacrifices.
Natural man does not want worship the Lord. If he is an atheist, the very idea is repugnant to him. If he is religious, he wants to worship a god of his own making—or he treats salvation as merely fire insurance. But they do not want worship the Lord God. Pharaoh certainly did not wish to worship the Lord God.’
The natural man does not understand God’s purpose in salvation and…
THE NATURAL MAN DOES NOT UNDERSTAND…
II. GOD’S POWER IN THE WORLD
A. The Destruction Of Egyptian Livestock
1. The Warning To Some
In the mid-80’s, an epidemic began in the United Kingdom that became known as mad cow disease. It is a disease that turned the brains of cows into sponges.
The infected cows would behave oddly, sometimes becoming very aggressive, which is how the nickname, “mad cow disease,” came to be. The infected cows had to be destroyed because no amount of cooking would purge the contaminated meat (the infection was viable up to 1,100 F).
Eventually, over four million cows were destroyed in the United Kingdom alone and 166 people had died from the disease.
We are aware of how vital it is to keep the food chain pure. So we understand a little how destructive the fifth plague would be to the Egyptians.
Exodus 9:2 For if thou refuse to let them go, and wilt hold them still,
Exodus 9:3 Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain.
The “very grievous murrain” refers to a very severe plague or pestilence. Some suggest that it could have been a disease like anthrax that naturally occurred because of all the dead frogs and flies from previous plagues. One problem with saying that is that the Lord determined the precise time the plague would start. So it’s better just to take it as a disease that God supernaturally caused.
Is it fair that God would do such a thing? Yes, it is, after all, the Pharaoh had refused to release God’s property—the Israelites—so it’s fair that Pharaoh would suffer the lose of his own property.
The plague on livestock was devastating to the Egyptians in a religious sense. Many of the gods of Egypt were based on livestock.
There was Buchis, the sacred bull. Isis, the queen goddess had cow horns on her head. Hathor was the goddess of love and beauty and was depicted as a cow. So the Egyptians had sacred cows, although they probably weren’t as attached to them as the Hindus.
It’s also interesting that when the Israelites, barely out of Egypt, decided to rebel against God, what did they make? A golden calf (Exodus 32)!
What about the Israelites during this plague? Did they have to suffer along with the Egyptians? No.
Exodus 9:4 And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel.
The Israelites were more shepherds than they were farmers—to lose their animals would have spelled doom for them. The Egyptians, however, still had large crops (at least until 9:31).
This is another reason why the plague could not have been a natural consequence of dead frogs—completely natural disasters do not discriminate who they affect and kill.
Exodus 9:5 And the LORD appointed a set time, saying, To morrow the LORD shall do this thing in the land.
Again, if this were a purely natural plague, then the Lord couldn’t have “appointed a set time.” Rather, his hand was behind whatever he did to cause the livestock to die.
2. The Plague On All?
Exodus 9:6 And the LORD did that thing on the morrow, and all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one.
The phrase “all of the cattle [livestock] of Egypt died” is problematic because in verse 10, and in verses 20-21, there is livestock again.
The natural man will look at this and cry, “See the Bible is full of errors!” So how does one explain this?
1) The word “all” could be used as a hyperbolically—to mean a large number, but not every single one. Sometimes we use “all” in this way. A teenager might complain to his parents, “but all my friends are going!”
2) It could also mean that “all” kinds of livestock were affected.
3) It could have been that just the livestock “in the field” (verse 3) were affected, but not the ones in shelters.
4) Or, perhaps there was a good deal of time between this plague and the next one—enough time for the Egyptians to buy more livestock from their neighbors.
The natural man, unless he or she is being drawn by the Spirit, just cannot accept even these explanations. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have them, because you never know what the Lord might use to penetrate a hard heart.
B. Pharaoh Hardens Despite God’s Power
Despite this fifth occasion of God’s demonstration of power, Pharaoh still refused to budge. I have come to pity this man. Few people have had so much evidence of God’s power thrown at them—it’s just incredible that he still refused to believe.
Exodus 9:7 And Pharaoh sent, and, behold, there was not one of the cattle of the Israelites dead. And the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.
Note here that the Pharaoh saw that the Israelite livestock was totally unaffected, and yet he still refused to believe. He had a front-row seat to actual miracles and he still hardened his heart.
That’s because the natural man is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). He is “blinded” by Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4). He needs light to shine into him, so that he can respond. Until that miracle takes place, no other miracle will be enough.
In the story of the beggar and the rich man who both died and went to their separate destinies, the rich man begs Abraham to send someone to warn his family of the torments he was experiencing. What was the response?
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. (Luke 16:29–31)
So this is the sad state of the natural man. We’ve seen here the frustrating disposition of the natural man. He is unable and unwilling to believe that God can deliver him even if miracles happen all around him.
CONCLUSION/CALL TO DECISION
A. How Do We Deal With The Natural Man?
What do we say to the unbeliever? It is appropriate to try and answer their arguments and questions. It’s appropriate also to share the Word of God with them, for “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
But it is also vital to pray for them. I suggest two ways to pray for the unsaved:
1) Pray for the Lord to open their hearts. We see the basis for this prayer in the story of Lydia.
14 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. (Acts 16:14)
2) Pray for the Word of God to have a free course in their hearts. Paul prays something similar in 2 Thessalonians:
1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
I suppose such a prayer might sound like this, “Lord, I pray that your Word would start to make sense in Tom’s heart.”
B. What If You Are The Natural Man?
1) If you are concerned about your salvation, but are having trouble believing in God, that is a sign that you don’t have a completely hardened heart. I would counsel you to pray and study God’s Word. Seek the answers to the questions that hold you back.
When the time is right, however, you must stop seeking and turn in trust to Jesus Christ. You must place your faith in him.
2) If you are unconcerned about your salvation, distrustful of Christians, and totally rejecting of God, then you are in a very serious situation (not that you would think so!).
I plead with you to examine the evidence. Many atheists, after a fair examination of the Bible, find that their hearts are opened. Repent, turn from rejecting God’s Son to believing in him, and you will find yourself in an eternal relationship with your Creator.
12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1:12)