Monday, February 6, 2017

Double Trouble

One of the more interesting stories of God's provision and power in the Old Testament is the story of the plagues that He brought upon Egypt in attempting to prove to Pharaoh that these were His people and He was, indeed, their God.

When we read about the plagues, a few things strike us essentially right away. But some of the narrative seems to sneak right by us. Take, for example, the royal magicians. 

Through the first several plagues, God shows His power through Moses and Aaron, who, with a simple strike of their staff, turn the water in the Nile into blood and bring a weight of frogs upon all the land of Egypt, among other things. Then Pharaoh, in his stubbornness and in his unwillingness to admit that there might be a power in the universe greater than himself, calls in his magicians. And they, too, strike the water and turn it into blood. They, too, bring a weight of frogs upon the land.

The narrative is meant to question the power of God. It's no big thing, Pharaoh argues, that God can do these things. It's not even a big thing that He has done them. The magicians can - and now, they have - do the same things. Most of us read these stories, and this jumps right out at us. We understand what this was meant to do.

But do we understand what's really happened here? In attempting to show that God is no big deal, that whatever He can do, we can do better, the Egyptian magicians have just made things exponentially worse. There were tons of frogs. Now, there are tons and tons of frogs. 

Imagine being somewhere in Egypt not privy to this display of bravado. Imagine being in your own house or in the marketplace or out in the fields somewhere. All of a sudden, the whole place is teeming with frogs. Tons of them. Frogs covering everything! Before you can even figure out what's going on, there are more frogs! Tons more frogs. There is not, I don't think, a universe in which the average Egyptian follows the narrative that is occurring in the high places of their country. There is not an Egyptian among them who sees the first set of frogs and thinks, "The God of the Hebrews is doing this to us!" and then, when the second wave hits, declares, "Oh, it's no big thing. We have done this, too." There are simply frogs, then more frogs, and far too many frogs.

This is the kind of trouble that we get ourselves into all the time. We know that there are certain things in our lives, in our stories, that God is solely responsible for. We know there are things that He's done and things that He's doing. But in all our bravado, in our desperate need to prove ourselves powerful, we declare that we can do the same. It's no big thing; we, too, can produce frogs out of nowhere. 

But what we've really done is just bury ourselves deeper. Because what's very interesting here is that for all the frogs that the magicians made appear, they could not make a single one disappear. They could bring the plague upon the land with their power and special abilities, but they were powerless to clear it out. Pharaoh had to have the men of God pray in order for the frogs to go away. He had to turn to the very God he had been so interested in disproving in order to find relief not only from what God had brought upon him, but from what he had brought upon himself.

I believe we could rightfully call this "double trouble."

There are many things that we can take from this story, a lot that we can learn. But we have to first see what's really going on here and understand how this story continues to be our story. We are still trying, in our own ways, to be just as god as God - just as powerful, just as poignant, just as impressive or spectacular or even right. And we've convinced ourselves that the best way to do this is to double our troubles, to bring even more frogs upon our land. 

We're in deeper than we ever imagined....

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