Scripture: But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. Exodus 8:22 ESV
Observation: Like the first plague, the Lord commands Moses to go out early in the morning and confront Pharaoh by the Nile. (Pharaoh likely rose at sunrise regularly to pay homage to Egypt’s most important god of fertility, Hapi, whose habitat was the Nile.) As commanded by God, Moses speaks stern words of consequences if Pharaoh will not let Yahweh’s people go on a three-day journey into the wilderness to worship him. For swarms of flies will infest all the land of Egypt but not Goshen to demonstrate to Pharaoh the Hebrew God is much engaged with his people and is “in the midst of the earth” (verse 22 above). But stubborn Pharaoh again disregards the warning. Thus, swarms of flies overwhelm Pharaoh and his people the very next day. Bargaining with Moses to seek relief from the pestilence, the Egyptian king eventually agrees to let the Hebrews go on a three-day journey to present offerings to Yahweh, only to renege when the plague ceases.
Takeaway: In the Ancient Near East, pagan gods did not possess power beyond their worshippers’ territory. But Yahweh, who is in the midst of all the earth, would prove his omnipresent and omnipotent attributes and portend his plan: redeem the oppressed and judge the guilty. Indeed, as W.C. Kaiser notes, “the purpose of this preferential treatment to Israel was to teach Pharaoh and the Egyptians that the Lord God of Israel was in the midst of this land doing these works; it was not one of their local deities” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 355).
What does this mean to you and me? Elsewhere in biblical and secular world history, the innocent occasionally succumb to collateral damage. Nevertheless, God’s preferential treatment for his people prevails—whether under a hedge of physical or spiritual protection. Our part? Appropriate his peace when pandemics and wars erupt. How? Prayerfully abide in his presence, for our God who is all-powerful is in our midst.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you that while ancient Israel witnessed your presence in clouds by day and pillars of fire by night, in this age of the New Covenant, you dwell with us and in us through your Son and your Holy Spirit. Would you please help us prayerfully abide in your Son during times of duress, knowing that our Savior is in our midst to the end of the age? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling