It is an awful moment when the human will sets itself in antagonism to the Divine. If it will not bend, it must break. Here we see the setting up of a contest, so to speak, as a great and mighty king resolves to stand up in rebellion against his superior – the King of kings. If Pharaoh had been truly wise, he would have submitted himself before it was too late. But God is not unreasonable! At the outset of the great contest, He endeavored to show Pharaoh Who He was – namely, the one and only true God. One of the chief reasons for the plagues, as well as of the miracles that Moses and Aaron performed, was to establish the fact that the Hebrews’ God – Jehovah, the Redeemer – is the great Being Who rules over all creation.
The Lord, by His grace, overruled all of Moses’ objections; and so he and his brother Aaron proceeded, without further delay, in carrying out their Divine commission. Verses 10-13 give us the details of their second embassy into Pharaoh’s presence. In the Lord’s name, Moses demands the freedom of the Hebrew slaves for the purpose of worship. But the obstinate king refused again. At the command of God, Moses and Aaron worked a miracle to confirm the Divine authority by which they acted. Yet the king’s heart was hardened even further when his magicians, by their secret tricks, copied the real miracles of the men of God. Alas! None assist more in the destruction of sinners than those who resist the truth by amusing men with a counterfeit resemblance of it. Satan is to be dreaded most when he is transformed into an angel of light. The Apostle Paul says that these magicians, whose names were Jannes and Jambres, “withstood Moses” (2 Tim. 3:8). In other words, they set themselves against him, and tried to discredit him by showing that he was nothing more than a magician and conjurer like themselves.
But Pharaoh was foolish indeed to compare the puny imitations of his magicians with the mighty work of Him Who “turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish” (Ps. 105:29). After Moses and Aaron’s sign proved ineffectual to subdue the heart of the haughty monarch, the Lord enabled Moses to begin chastening Egypt with plagues. The turning of the waters of the Nile River into blood was the first of the ten plagues with which the Lord humbled Egypt, before the Israelites’ deliverance was accomplished. Aaron summoned the plague by smiting the river with his rod in the sight of Pharaoh and his attendants, for God’s true miracles are not done in the darkness, like Satan’s deceptions.
Truly, this was a dreadful plague. The sight of such vast rolling streams of blood would certainly strike horror in the minds of all who saw it. Nothing is more common than water, for the Lord’s Providence has wisely ordained that it should be available almost everywhere. But now the Egyptians must either drink blood or die of thirst. They had stained the river with the blood of the Hebrews’ children, and now God made that river all blood.
This was also a very significant plague, for Egypt had great dependence upon the Nile. When the river was smitten, it was a warning of the destruction of their whole country. The love of Christ for His people changes all their common mercies into spiritual blessings, but the anger of God towards His enemies transforms even their most valued advantages into a curse and a misery to them.
What a great lesson this plague was to the Egyptians, if only they would have paid attention to it! The river which they looked upon as an idol was no god at all. These people gave that honor to the Nile which belonged to its Maker; so the Lord covered it with disgrace, and turned it into their shame. But let us take heed also. When we misuse God’s gifts, or when we use them without ever thanking Him Who sends them; then we are in danger of having them taken away from us, or of having them turned into curses by our sinful ingratitude. Dear friends! Think now, before it is too late, of all the things that our God has given us! Think of our Bibles, our churches, and our Lord’s Days. Let us pray for grace so that they may not rise up in judgment against us, because of our failure to use them as our gracious God intended – namely, to teach us about the great things He has done for us, particularly in Christ’s work of redemption!
Lord, we here behold, in the history of the Egyptian monarch, the awful state of a hardened heart. And we see similar instances of the obstinacy of the wicked in all ages, who try to strengthen themselves against Your Almighty power. But we pray that we may not overlook the sweet instruction in this chapter. What will You not do for Your people, O Lord? Rather than allow Israel to be oppressed any longer, You will destroy the whole land of Egypt, and turn their rivers into blood. We give thanks that our Savior will not permit His people to be held in slavery to sin any longer! May we be found among those who have Him for our portion; and then we shall have no cause to fear, even though the earth may be moved, and the hills may be carried into the midst of the sea. Amen.
Join other families all around the globe! Receive the full-color, freely downloadable format of these thoughts in your email every day, and enjoy a FREE copy of my e-book A Call to Family Worship! It’s my prayer that you and your family will be equipped to receive abundant blessings from the hand of the Lord as you study His Word and worship in His presence together.
illustration by Gustave Doré | Wikimedia Commons