The Finger of God

The Finger of God January 23, 2023

Scripture:       

Exodus, chapters 6-8; Luke, chapter 23

Exodus 8:16-19 (NLT):

So the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Raise your staff and strike the ground. The dust will turn into swarms of gnats throughout the land of Egypt.’” So Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord had commanded them. When Aaron raised his hand and struck the ground with his staff, gnats infested the entire land, covering the Egyptians and their animals. All the dust in the land of Egypt turned into gnats. Pharaoh’s magicians tried to do the same thing with their secret arts, but this time they failed. And the gnats covered everyone, people and animals alike.

“This is the finger of God!” the magicians exclaimed to Pharaoh. But Pharaoh’s heart remained hard. He wouldn’t listen to them, just as the Lord had predicted.

Observations:

The plague of gnats was the third plague which God sent on the land of Egypt.  Pharaoh’s magicians had duplicated the first two plagues – turning water to blood, and the infestation of frogs. So long as his magicians could do what Moses and Aaron were doing, Pharaoh had no reason to listen to them.  “He refused to listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had predicted” (8:15b).

However, when gnats spread throughout the land, the situation changed – because the magicians couldn’t copy that. Pharaoh’s magicians tried to do the same thing with their secret arts, but this time they failed. Because they couldn’t do the same thing, they had to come up with an explanation for it. And they did: This is the finger of God!

Pharaoh didn’t believe it – at least, he didn’t believe it enough to change his heart. Pharaoh’s heart remained hard.  He wouldn’t listen to them, just as the Lord had predicted.  Pharaoh’s unbelief continued even after this. When God sent the plague of flies, in the last part of chapter 8, he excluded the land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived. That got Pharaoh’s attention – for a moment – but as soon as the flies were gone, “Pharaoh again became stubborn and refused to let the people go” (8:32).

Application:

Every day, Christians attribute all sorts of actions and events to God. We believe that God is the Sovereign of the universe, and ultimately he is in charge of everything.  Every day, unbelievers attribute those things to other forces – human decision, or the laws of nature. Most things can be explained without acknowledging God – and many people do just that.

However, there comes a time when things happen that cannot be explained.  Everyone makes a “leap of faith” in one direction or another. Some people talk about “fate” or “karma” or “the universe.”  Others accept scientific theories which cannot be proven, because they do not want to acknowledge any superior force or being.  Still others point to gods or goddesses of their own making. Of course, those of us who are followers of Jesus point toward God – “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Finger of God

In this passage, the magicians didn’t hesitate to acknowledge it: This is the finger of God! That doesn’t mean that they had an understanding of who that God is, and it doesn’t mean they were willing to worship him. But they at least acknowledged a power greater than their own, a power they could not explain.  Pharaoh, however, refused to take that step. Instead of believing, or even acknowledging the possibility that God was behind this, he hardened his heart.

As followers of Jesus, we interact with people who are at all different stages on this continuum of belief. Some harden themselves, even to the point of belligerency – like Pharaoh. Others accept the idea of some greater “force” or “power” in the universe, but believe that it’s up to everyone to figure that out on their own. History is full of examples of those “homemade” explanations.  Only the message of the Bible stands the test of time.

Whether we look at big events or the personal miracles that occur each day, the finger of God is all over the history of humanity. Rejecting him is not the mark of a superior intelligence; it is simply the choice of one type of faith over another. No other faith, no other explanation, offers meaning and purpose and hope. The finger of God is not only on the world; his fingerprints are on us.

Prayer:

Father, thank you for reminding us of your active involvement in our world – in ways both large and small. Help us to live in the hope that you give us, that there is meaning and purpose to it all. Thank you for reminding us that you are at work for our good in every circumstance.  That doesn’t mean that every situation is good; it simply means that you’re at work for our good.

Thank you for also reminding us that your good is not always accomplished in ways that are pleasant for us. The Israelites had to live with the blood, the frogs, and the gnats just as the Egyptians did. Help us to remember that your ways are right, and to trust you each day.  Help us to recognize “the finger of God” in all the things that we experience each day.  Amen.

 


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