On Sunday we discussed how the gospel dissolves our anger and why human anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God. For those wanted to further explore the topic, this sermon by Timothy Keller is outstanding.
So how are these 10 plagues “Good News?” What do these ten huge, supernatural disasters teach us about God? And how is the God we see in the 10 Plagues a “Good” God?
Well, in the 10 Plagues of Egypt, we see a God so jealous and loving that he goes to war to rescue his people from slavery in order to deliver them into a Promised Land. In these stories, God rightly judges Pharaoh and the Egyptians, but God does not destroy the Egyptians, which is remarkable when you think about it. The Egyptians have subjected the Hebrew people to the inhumanity of slavery for 400 years. Moreover Pharaoh ordered the murder of all Hebrew baby boys. Pharaoh has murdered hundreds of God’s grandchildren, and yet all God does is discipline him with Plagues.
Through that lens, the Plagues are far less severe than you or I would have poured out if Pharaoh had killed our grandchildren. In fact the plagues demonstrate God’s mercy and show beyond a shadow of a doubt that “YHWH is the LORD.”
At the other end of the Bible we see the God of the Plagues go to war again to save his people from slavery. Instead of sending Moses, God sends his only Son to confront the Devil and lead his people into the Promised Land. Instead of subjecting his enemies to plagues, the Son of God became a slave to all. Instead of spotless lambs on the doorframe, this time it is the Only Begotten Son, the First Born, who is sacrificed, so that the judgment of God will pass over those covered by his blood and those who eat of his flesh will live forever. Instead of leading his people into the Promised Land, the Son of God made a way for humans to enter into the very presence of God. The plagues showed that “YHWH is the LORD,” and now because of the Death and Resurrection, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess “Jesus is the LORD.”
Romans 6:20-23 teaches that we were previously slaves to sin, unable to do the right thing. We were slaves to the sin and the devil, whose business is death, and so all we grew was sin and death. But now we have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, and God’s business is holiness and eternal life – so that’s what we spend our lives building now. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Remember that your ancestors were slaves in Egypt, and so have mercy on those who are enslaved now. Remember that God fought for your ancestors and so labor to deliver those in slavery now. Remember that you ancestors were slaves in Egypt, and remember that you were a slave to a much greater Pharaoh, the Devil, but God fought for you and won your freedom on the cross. Remember, you were a slave to the Devil, but now you are a Child of God, so do not participate in the business of the devil, but give your whole life to God’s family business of making more and better disciples of Jesus.
Why call the first 3 chapters of Matthew’s Gospel, The Snow Globe Kingdom? Good question. I call them The Snow Globe Kingdom, because they are in many ways a miniature version of the entire Gospel. They present to us in introductory fashion, the major points about God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; about humanity at its best and worst; about God’s history of saving the world; about God’s mercy; and about God’s grace. We will see “in miniature” the beauty and the horror of the whole Bible.
In the first sentence, we will see a summary of God’s faithfulness, as we hear of the promises accomplished in Jesus. In the genealogy, we will see God’s judgment on arrogant, idolatrous kings, and his global mercy on repentant, scandalously sinful, pagan women. In the birth of Jesus to Mary, we will see how the Holy Spirit works on human beings, and how God overcomes the impossible. In Joseph’s response to this scandalous birth, we will see the definition of “righteousness.” In the Magi, we see human beings at their very best, idolaters worshiping false gods, and yet we will simultaneous see how God overcomes our ignorance to lead us to worship and adore gladly the King of the Jews. In Herod’s murderous, lying rage, we see ourselves at our worst, usurping, mutinous, and hostile to God, like Adam and Eve, rejecting the King/God inorder to preserve our own authority and sovereignty. In all of this, we will see a baby, named Jesus, who recapitulates the history of Israel, and the history of humanity. We will see a baby, vulnerable, loved and hated aggressively and somehow “God With Us” in our vulnerability and subject to our hostility. In all of it, we will see the bad news about ourselves and the good news about Jesus.
Because of that it reminds me of a Snow Globe, a minute, intricate, beautiful version of a Kingly Palace. I hope in these first 3 chapters to tour the grounds and the chambers of this beautiful lifesaving message.