Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Plague of Biblical Proportions!!!


It was a dark and stormy night -- well, not really, but don't the best stories start that way?  It was raining, but it was early morning, and no one but Bishop and I were stirring.  I sat down for a little quiet time.  And it was quiet -- almost.  Nothing but the ticking of the clock (for those of you born after 1995, that's what clocks used to do before all those little time displays on every household appliance drained your electricity at a rate of about $70 a year!) and the purring of the dog (yes, bullies do purr) and the soft buzzing of THAT INFERNAL MOSQUITO PLAGUING ME!  Now, the experts say that only the males buzz, and only the females bite, but who wants to take chances like that?  Well, it got me to thinking...

Whether you believe, or have even read any part of the Bible, unless you’ve spent your life living under Gibraltar, you know about THE plagues -- frogs, locusts, flies, blood, etc. 

In short, the hindstory is this:  God’s people moved to Egypt during a famine, in search of food.  Many years later God raised up Moses to take His people from that place to a land of promise, but the pharaoh in that day wasn’t about to let them slip away quietly in the night.  As intimidated as he was by the shear size of this nation, he was even more reluctant to relinquish his free labor; he considered slavery and selective extermination to be a much more practical solution.  God promised Moses that He would be right there beside him when Moses informed Pharaoh of the Israelites' departure.  He promised to do miracles among the Egyptians -- miracles so prodigious and consequential that Pharaoh would command the Israelites to leave his land. Needless to say, Moses was intimidated by such a monumental calling, so for his sake, and certainly Pharaoh’s as well God started out “small” -- a staff turned serpent.  As for Pharaoh, he was not impressed; he had a throng of magicians, mediums and soothsayers at his disposal.  They replicated the dramatic demonstration, and all was well -- as far as Pharaoh believed.  

Interesting thing about human nature, if it is familiar, if we can explain it, if we can in some fashion “tame” it, we can live with it.  It can eat us alive, but if we delude ourselves into thinking we have some control over it, we’ll put up with it.  Take addiction, for instance.  Most addicts know their whatever-it-is is killing them; they know they need to do something about it.  As long, however, as they can tell themselves it is an act of will and not of weakness, they will ride that lightning to their deaths. 

Pharaoh, though venerated by Egyptians, was woefully human.  If you know how this moment in history unfolds, you know that plagues came, promises were made, plagues left, and life under Pharaoh returned to business as usual.  What’s truly interesting to me, though, is the very first plague.  The Plague of Blood. 

The Bible says that the blood was everywhere!  Anything with water in it -- puddles, bowls, the Nile, Pharaoh’s fish bowl.  And the stench!  If you’ve ever lived by a creek, you know that after one of those summer rains when the water runs high, and the stuff on the creek bed gets all churned up, and the humidity reaches about  eighty percent -- well, you know.  Now imagine that same stench laced with the metallic, rotting smell of blood.  Whoa! 

But Pharaoh?  As long as his magicians could imitate it, could gain control over it, he was willing to let it ride.  They did, and he did.  Exodus 7:23 says, "Pharaoh returned to his palace and put the whole thing out of his mind."  Fish are dying, the water is so foul no one -- not even Pharaoh or his household -- can drink, or bathe, or water their animals, and he puts the whole thing out of his mind?!  Seven days pass and Pharaoh does nothing but rest in the comfort of knowing he has not been upstaged, that he too, wields power -- even to desolate -- and that makes it OK.
 
Control is an illusion -- at least for us.  We think we can control our habits; we think we can control how others treat us or how others "use" us; we think we can render ourselves impervious to harm -- bullies, or the bullies of disease, accidents, natural disasters.  Our society believes information and education are the answer to almost every disorder that plagues us.  If we can find out why this happens...If we can isolate the gene that...If we can legislate or design a way to protect...  None of us enjoys sickness or suffering, death and grief, but calling in our magicians to bring them into submission via science and enlightenment doesn't make them
go away.  The real plague is sin and the idolatry of self.
 
Pharaoh considered himself, at least, as good as God.  Eventually the unexpected, inexorable death of his beloved firstborn son rendered him helpless and pliable -- just where God, a great God, a perfect and loving God wants each of us, in order to give us His best.  Sure, in today's society we don't quit, we don't submit.  But when you give it all to a loving, faithful, omniscient and omnipotent God Who wants to make you and give you the very best, why attempt it in your own strength?
 
Hey, is that Nothing I hear?

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