The Egyptians took great pride in seeing themselves as the sovereign superpower of the world. Their empire was vast, their military was dominant, their economy was booming, and their religion seemed profitable.
However, the Egyptians were engaged in the painful process of re-education. They found themselves at war with a King with whom they could not compete, and they were discovering how they had greatly over-estimated, not only their own sovereignty, but that of their gods — Hapi, Osiris, Nu, Khnum, Isis; Apophis, Amon Re, Thoth, and Pharaoh.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had come their way. He was determined to glorify his name and deliver his people. One by one, he began targeting and systematically taking down Egypt’s gods. James Boice commented:
In order to understand these plagues, we need to understand that they were directed against the gods and goddesses of Egypt and were intended to show the superiority of the God of Israel to the Egyptian gods. There were about eighty major deities in Egypt, all clustered about the three great natural forces of Egyptian life: the Nile river, the land, and the sky. It does not surprise us, therefore, that the plagues God sent against Egypt in this historic battle follow this three-force pattern. The first two plagues were against the God of the Nile. The next four were against the land gods. The final four plagues were against the gods of the sky, culminating in the death of the firstborn.
You see, it was Pharaoh who arrogantly asked the question:
… “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” (Exodus 5:2)
Pharaoh asked the question, and God gave his answer:
… “I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.” (Exodus 12:12)
And anyone with theological insight could see what God did:
They set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. On the day after the Passover, the people of Israel went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the LORD had struck down among them. On their gods also the LORD executed judgments …. (Numbers 33:3-5)
What transpired was a holy war. Egypt had many worshipers who bowed before numerous idols, but there was only one God, and he was leaving no doubt as to his identity and sovereignty. Yahweh was taking names and cutting out knees. He would be the last God standing, and in the process of removing his competition, he was doing a favor to all with eyes to see and ears to hear. Brutally, but graciously, God was proclaiming to the watching world, “You need a better god!”
Friends, we are all religious idol-makers who become idol-swappers. We place our trust in false saviors, and when they fail to carry their weight we trade them for better gods.
Some of our false deities are of the religious variety. (I.e. Orthodox Judaism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhists, Baha’i Worshipers, Christian Scientists, Wiccans, Hindus, etc …)
However, we who proclaim our trust in the Trinitarian God of Christianity, we too can find ourselves worshiping and trusting false saviors. (I.e. Church, Minister, Teachers, Traditions, Ceremonies, Disciplines, Doctrinal accumulation, Self-improvement, United States of America, Political Parties, Income, Savings, Spouse, Children, Happy Family, Reputation, Health, Pleasure, etc …)
However, there is good news for all who are God’s friends. God continues to be the idol-smashing Deity who brutally but graciously takes down his competitors. It hurts horribly when our idols fail us. It is brutal when those people, institutions, or things in which we have trusted prove to be lacking. But let us realize this — God is the one who is blessing us by taking out our false-gods. In doing so he is imploring with love, “You need a better god! You need Me!”
Therefore, while our hearts are pounding, our minds are whirling, and our eyes are leaking, let us repent of our idolatry. God is helping us. He is loving us. He is humbling us. Can’t we hear him calling us back to him? He is the better God. He is the only God. Oh how he loves, lives, dies, watches, prays, protects, preserves, satisfies, and calls back his people. So turn with me from our pathetic deities. Freshly, let’s seek to enjoy and glorify him alone. He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. And he will never allow us — his bride — to be satisfied in the arms of another. He is the Jealous God who takes out competitors that his children might thrive in his arms alone.