Scripture: The magicians tried by their secret arts to produce gnats, but they could not. So there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the LORD had said. Exodus 8:18-19 ESV
Observation: This third plague marks three diversions from the first two: no association with the Nile, no forewarning to Pharaoh (perhaps because Pharaoh went back on his word), and an abrupt start (8:16). However, the common thread is the initiation tool: Aaron’s staff (8:17). As with the first two plagues, God commands Aaron to stretch out his staff over the resource from which the plague erupts. But this time, it’s the dust of the earth from which a pestilence of gnats swarms and incessantly irritate man and beast alike. And unlike the first two plagues, Pharaoh’s magicians cannot replicate the feat (verse 18 above). Not only does this supernatural event exceed their trickery (as displayed with the first two plagues), but the magicians, unlike Pharaoh, recognize the swarm of gnats came from the might of the Hebrew God—specifically from “the finger of God” (8:19).
The expression “finger of God” is used to mark the two most essential covenants of our biblical narrative:
- Mosaic Covenant: Yahweh scribes the ten commandments in stone tablets. Exodus 31:18 and Deuteronomy 9:10
- Covenant of Grace: Jesus rebuts the Pharisee’s accusations that he performs his miracles by the power of Beelzebul. He retorts that a divided kingdom cannot stand (as would be the case if demons sourced his healing ministry), but if it is by the “finger of God” that he casts out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon them. Luke 11:20
So While Pharaoh’s ego gets the best of him, his magicians can see the evidence of a greater God at work in their midst. And so will the people of God in the soon-coming Exodus.
Takeaway: There are multiple examples in the historical writings of judges and kings regarding Israel’s enemies realizing they are fighting against a greater force than human armies. When they heed the signs and retreat, they live to fight another day. But when they ignore “the finger of God,” they suffer catastrophic losses of life and land.
Indeed, when we miss, or worse, flout, the Lord’s warning signs, it can sometimes result in a swift and disastrous end—as Belshazzar discovered when the finger of Yahweh pronounced the immediate collapse of his Babylonian Empire and his assassination (Daniel 5). But when we pay attention to the evidence, the finger of God, and make course corrections, the Holy Spirit will lead us away from sins snare to higher ground. And even if there are lingering consequences, our Lord will grant us the strength and courage to press on with his hope and peace.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you are not a distant deity who leaves us to fin for ourselves, but you are a good and gracious God who draws near us and reveals your power and might in our everyday circumstances. Would you please help us to pay attention to your “finger” that identifies your presence and points us in the right direction that we might live abundant lives for your glory? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling