The Lord was ready to reestablish God’s covenant with Israel. God was eager to invite the Israelites to worship in the ways of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But Pharaoh would have none of it. When Moses released the plagues of gnats and flies, the situation became incredibly uncomfortable for the Egyptians. God was very intentional about plaguing Egypt while sparing Israel. By now, Pharaoh’s magicians were starting to suspect the hand of God, rather than cheap parlor tricks. But, it seems, the harder God became on Egypt, the tighter Pharaoh’s control over Israel became. Forget fleeing from slavery – now Pharaoh wouldn’t even let them go three days’ journey to worship their newly rediscovered God. The stakes grew higher as God’s anger simmered, and Pharaoh’s grip tightened, with Israel caught in the middle. Still, God’s hand was stayed from harming the Israelites, even as they lived in and among the Egyptians and their turmoil.
It seems as though God missed the Israelites terribly. They had become distant over 400 years of living in Egypt, and had become accustomed to the Egyptian way of living, including worshiping Egyptian gods. Even so, their cries were heard by a God long forgotten – a God that had not forgotten them. Once the relationship was reestablished, God would stop at nothing to rekindle the love affair with Israel. At first wanting not much more than the Israelites’ freedom to worship, God’s passion for Israel grew, and soon freeing them completely from the grip of Egypt became of utmost importance.
Our God is as passionate about us today as God was about Israel then. I have had at least one period in my life when God was forgotten – more accurately, God was ignored. But God’s passion for me kept me never far from God. When finally I felt the desire to rediscover a long forgotten God, the relationship was rekindled with fire. I fell madly in love with God once again, but this time with even more maturity than before I had grown in faith. And it was clear God was still madly in love with me, too. Like any pair in love, we often fight, but with every new understanding comes a new fire. And comfort in the knowledge that God will never stop pursuing our fiery, passionate, and loving relationship.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the earth, so that it may become gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt.’” And they did so; Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and gnats came on humans and animals alike; all the dust of the earth turned into gnats throughout the whole land of Egypt. The magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, but they could not. There were gnats on both humans and animals. And the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God!” But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had said.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Rise early in the morning and present yourself before Pharaoh, as he goes out to the water, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For if you will not let my people go, I will send swarms of flies on you, your officials, and your people, and into your houses; and the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies; so also the land where they live. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people live, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I the Lord am in this land. Thus I will make a distinction between my people and your people. This sign shall appear tomorrow.’” The Lord did so, and great swarms of flies came into the house of Pharaoh and into his officials’ houses; in all of Egypt the land was ruined because of the flies. Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron, and said, “Go, sacrifice to your God within the land.” But Moses said, “It would not be right to do so; for the sacrifices that we offer to the Lord our God are offensive to the Egyptians. If we offer in the sight of the Egyptians sacrifices that are offensive to them, will they not stone us? We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the Lord our God as he commands us.” So Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness, provided you do not go very far away. Pray for me.” Then Moses said, “As soon as I leave you, I will pray to the Lord that the swarms of flies may depart tomorrow from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; only do not let Pharaoh again deal falsely by not letting the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.” So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord. And the Lord did as Moses asked: he removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his officials, and from his people; not one remained. But Pharaoh hardened his heart this time also, and would not let the people go.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, the hand of the Lord will strike with a deadly pestilence your livestock in the field: the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing shall die of all that belongs to the Israelites.’” The Lord set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.” And on the next day the Lord did so; all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but of the livestock of the Israelites not one died. Pharaoh inquired and found that not one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let the people go.
Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Take handfuls of soot from the kiln, and let Moses throw it in the air in the sight of Pharaoh. It shall become fine dust all over the land of Egypt, and shall cause festering boils on humans and animals throughout the whole land of Egypt.” So they took soot from the kiln, and stood before Pharaoh, and Moses threw it in the air, and it caused festering boils on humans and animals. The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils afflicted the magicians as well as all the Egyptians. But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he would not listen to them, just as the Lord had spoken to Moses.