READING EXODUS 8
So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. 7 But the magicians did the same by their secret arts, and brought frogs up on the land of Egypt.
16 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.’” 17 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. 18 The magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, but they could not. There were gnats on both humans and animals. 19 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. Exodus 8:6-7, 16-19 (IEB)
Walter Brueggemann points out that the first plague the Egyptian magicians can’t mimic is gnats. They can call up frogs but not gnats. What’s the difference? Well, who would want to conjure up gnats, anyway?
Even the Egyptian magicians this time said, “This is the finger of God!” But pharaoh’s heart was still hardened.
When is the first time you noticed that God did something that you really couldn’t produce yourself? The condition of a hardened heart continues through life believing most everything you do is in your control, just like Pharaoh.
One problem arises when we read this story and too quickly blame Pharaoh for hardening his heart when all along the story invites us to soften our hearts, to consider how we are forbidding worship for ourselves and others, refusing to give God credit for the gnats.
How do we forbid worship? When we weigh our treasures, what we have to lose, and hold that treasure tightly and refuse to openly trust, honor, and worship you!
We forbid others to worship as you are leading them, judging their motives, styles, forms, and looking down on worshippers with fervor, candor, naivete. We become pharaohs, hardening our hearts toward worshippers, demanding they worship in our land, the way we feel comfortable, in ways that keep us warmed and fed but risking nothing, even oppressing captives and not setting them free to worship.
Lord, the frogs and gnats aren’t the focus here, but you hardened Pharaoh’s heart and brought these plagues to show your power, so Egypt and the world would ultimately say, “This is the finger of God!” We often carp about how You is in our lives, claim to be faithful to Him, but we harden our hearts when it comes to giving You glory for something even so small as a gnat.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg’s wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.