In the Times of Plague
A prayer poem byJon Elvrum
These are times of great disarray
it might appear that God
has for a time, turned away.
Eli. Eli! Lama sabacthani!
There is death, and doubt,
there is arrogance and terror
there is confusion
there is lying
and disreputable behavior
It seems that God does not know what to do, or where we are.
God knows exactly where we are.
We are standing by a bloody Nile,
no longer a river, but a torn artery
hemorrhaging blood, not water,
Dead, stinking fish line the shore
Pharoah is unimpressed.
After all, he thinks that he is God,
What would impress him
was not a dead fish.
Pharoah is an arrogant man.
Dead fish are not enough.
A week passed and Moses returned to Pharoah
He restated the case:
Let my people go and
worship their Lord!
Pharoah was unpersuaded.
Frogs were the next plague.
Not annoying groups
of 10 or 15 frogs in a blockage
of a pathway, or a closet,
but millions of frogs, hopping along roadsides,
in rooms, covering all floors,
covering beds and chairs
and tables, rolling across bare feet,
lurking inside sandals,
A cacaphony of frog sounds
interfering with sleep and speech;
frogs crawling through food plates
"Let them go!" Pharoah said,
but as the Lord restored the land,
and sent all the frogs
back to the Nile,
Pharoah hardened his heart
and reversed his promise
to allow the Hebrews to go.
He was the Pharoah!
The truth was
whatever he said it was.
His truth was another's lie.
He was God, in his own eyes!
So, the Lord sent swarms of gnats, great swarms,
so that it felt like night, dark, black midnight,
impossible to see where one was going, stumbling and falling.
So thick were the swarms
that they clogged up the noses and stung the throats.
Animals gasping everywhere,
Pharoah's magicians failed
and were unable to do what the Lord had done.
They warned Pharoah, told him,
"God's finger is in this!"
Pharoah's heart grew hard,
and he ignored these false profits
just as the Lord said he would.
And so, the next day, the Lord
sent flies...by the millions,
maybe billions of buzzing flies,
stinging flies, unrelenting flies.
The Lord spared his people
by protecting the area of Goshen
making it safe from all the flies,
Goshen was where Hebrews
had dwelled since the days of Joseph.
In time Pharoah chose to lie
again, he said the people
could go and worship their God.
Moses went before the Lord to
pray that the plague would end, and the Lord ended it so that
not one fly remained. But Pharoah had lied again!
Pharoah hardened his heart and refused to let them leave.
The fifth plague came very soon.
Pharoah remained stubborn and hard-hearted. The Lord sent a plague
against the farm animals, at the same time placing a protection,
a covering over all the animals of the Hebrews,
and so, their flocks and herds were safe.
Pharoah learned that while all the Egyptian animals were destroyed,
not a single Hebrew animal was lost.
In spite of this, Pharoah's heart remained hardened
and he continued to deny the Hebrews permission
to go and worship in desert.
Proud, and arrogant, cruel, evil, this man
who thought of himself as God,
as a holy man, is revealed as powerless and inept.
He did not relent even in the face of more plagues.
He was a very stubborn man.
The sixth plague was delivered. Moses and Aaron were instructed to take
handfuls of soot into Pharoah's presence.
They were to fling the soot
into the air, and where the fine black powder touched skin,
fierce and festering boils appeared on the necks and faces
and other exposed skin, developing painful boils.
The Pharoah's magicians could not avoid the boils
and they were left powerless in Pharoah's service.
The seventh plague came upon Pharoah's people, attended by
a stark promise to Pharoah from the Lord, Jehovah God.
the Lordtold Pharoah that now, he would be dealing with Pharoah
and his officials directly. Future plagues
remain to come, they are fully the result of Pharoah's intransigence,
his stubborn unwillingness to recognize and accept
the power of the Lord God, Jehovah God,
and the Lord sees that Pharoah continues
to exalt himself against the Lord's people,.
This time the Lord is very specific.
Tomorrow at this hour I will cause the heaviest hail
that has ever fallen on Egypt from the day it was founded until now. [Exodus 9:18]
The Lord counsels Egyptians further: if you blieve me,
take your animals, your families, your servants,
and take them to a secure place out of the elements,
and they will be saved because you have believed me.
And then Lord instructed Moses, and everything in Egypt
that had been left uncovered was destroyed.
Animal and human suffered alike, no property in Egypt was unaffected.
Only in Goshen, where Hebrews dwelled
was there no damage.
Pharoah did what he usually does. He lies.
He confesses to Moses that God is right,
and pharoah and his people have sinned against the Lord.
Moses accepts his false answer
and signals to the Lord, Pharoah's reply.
As soon as the hail and winds and rain cease,
Pharoah turns his back on his promise and once again
hardens his heart,
refusing to release the Hebrews.
We see, when a man plays God
even for a little while he loses
more of himself, every day.
Eventually he becomes completely lost,
irredeemable outside of the full power of almighty God.
The eighth plague is a terrible plague to consider,
especially in an enhanced, advanced agricultural society,
which Egypt clearly was. The eighth plague was locusts.
It is difficult to explain to modern readers about locust
They have been mostly contained by pesticide use in these days, so it is difficult to imagine
mile long, mile wide living carpets of voracious grasshopper-looking creatures,
literally eating every single scrap of grass or grain lying in a field, every tree in their path is
food to them. Nothing will remain.
Nothing of value remains. Where this path is taken, only devastation remains.
This is the eighth plague.
Men are not Gods.
Nor ever will be.
God, our God, knows all
that can be known
and all that is beyond us.
Pharoah, when he had seen the devastation wrought by locusts,
reached out to Moses and Aaron, beseeching them, praying for his forgiveness,
and once again promising that the people
will be allowed to go out into the desert to worship.
At Moses prayer, the Lord created a strong west wind
and blew all the locusts out,
out into the Red Sea,
where they perished, every one,
The ninth plague was darkness.. Not just darkness, but darkness you could feel ...
cold and oppresive, dense thick darkness, like pea soup, or marine fog.
In this darkness, for three long days, no one could see one another.
This is the darkness that attends depression...humorless, daunting, terrifying,
seemingly unending and from which there is no apparent way out.
It seems that this time Pharoah is going to let them go.
But Pharoah presses them to leave their livestock behind,
and Moses holds out for all the people and all their belongings
to be allowed to leave at the same time. The Lord hardens Pharaohs heart again,
and once more he refuses to let them go.
In a final cry Pharoah swears to Moses that if Moses should ever see Pharoah's face again,
on that day Moses will die. And Moses says to Pharoah,
"As you wish. I will never see your face again".
And so, the first passover is set to take place. The Lord tells Moses and Aaron
that Pharoah will not speak with them again,
but the Lord says the leaders of if Egypt will come
and ask the Hebrews to leave at once.
The tenth plague
will claim the first born in every house.
The Hebrews are instructed to visit all the Egyptians with whom they have found favor
and ask for some token of gold or silver for them to take when they leave.
Many are friendly with Egyptians, and have maintained good relationships.
At the same time, the Passover lamb is established
as a basic celebration meal, and importantly, the blood collected from the Passover Lamb
is to be painted on to the doorposts and lintels of the doorway,
so the house can be recognized by the Lord, and when He sees this blood,
He will pass over it. No one in this place will die.
As for Pharoah, he never did see Moses face again. But life in the times of the plagues
goes forward even under great duress, and in the control of men
who imagine themselves to be Gods, yet who are always broken down
by history and shown to be nothing but men, weak and afraid,
men who seek to control by fear, or by the exercise of raw power.
In difficult times God is always present, always willing,
and always God,
who when we learn to trust is always able.
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