Theme: “Be Holy, Because I Am Holy”
This week’s lessons focus on the faithfulness of God, and call us to remember his many mercies toward us and to praise him for them.
Scripture: Psalm 105:1-45
As we saw in yesterday’s study, in order to understand the plagues against Egypt we need to know that they were intended to show the superiority of the God of Israel to the Egyptian gods. The first two plagues were against the gods of the Nile. The next four were against the land gods. The final four plagues, which we will look at today, were directed against the gods of the sky.
6. Thunder, hail and lightning (vv. 32, 33; Exod. 9:13-35). This was the first of four plagues directed against the gods and goddesses of the sky. It does not hail in Egypt, and there is almost no rain. The city of Cairo has only two inches of rainfall annually, and there are years in the southern parts of Egypt when no rain falls at all. Now the skies filled with clouds. The Bible says, “So the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt; hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation. Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields—both men and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree. The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were” (Exodus 9:23-26). Shu, the god of the atmosphere; Horus and Month, the bird gods; and Nut, the sky goddess, were ineffective.
7. The plague of locusts (vv. 34, 35; Exod. 10:1-20). The locusts devoured all that had been left in the fields or had regrown after the destruction by hail. Where was Nepri, the goddess of grain? Anubis, the guardian of the fields? Min, the deity of harvests?
8. The death of the firstborn (v. 36; Exod. 11:1-12:30). The last plague, both here and in Exodus, was the worst of all. The king was told that at midnight God would pass through the land to kill the firstborn son of every household, from the family of Pharaoh to that of the humblest slave girl and that even the firstborn of the cattle would die. It was a terrible judgment but a fitting one in view of Pharaoh’s earlier slaughter of Israel’s male children and the many long years of Jewish slavery. After this judgment, it was no surprise that “Egypt was glad when they left” (v. 38) and that the people were even sent away with gifts of gold and silver by the Egyptians (v. 37).
Never was God’s word to man more plain, pointed, personal or powerful, yet it took ten plagues to win Israel’s freedom, and even then Pharaoh was unconverted. Do not be discouraged if people reject your witness. It will accomplish what God intends it to accomplish, for the word of God is never spoken without its intended effect.
The last stanza of this psalm (vv. 37–45) follows Israel through the years of desert wandering until God actually brought the people into Canaan, thereby fulfilling the promise made to Abraham. We can hardly miss this as the psalmist’s major concern. For after mentioning the three great miracles of God’s provision for the people during the desert years—the cloud that protected them from the fierce desert sun, the quail and manna given to them as food, and the provision of water from the rock—the writer mentions Abraham again, as he did earlier, saying that God “…remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham” (v. 42). The point is that nothing was lacking of all that God had promised. So his people, Abraham’s descendants, should “give thanks,” “call on his name” and “make known among the nations what he has done” (v. 1). Shouldn’t we, who have received even greater blessings than they, do the same?
And there is one more thought—a very important one. It occurs at the very end of the psalm where it is said that God gave Israel the lands of the nations “that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws” (v. 45), in other words, that they might obey his commandments.
Derek Kidner has a wonderfully sharp comment on this closing verse in which he relates it to exactly the same point in the New Testament. He writes, “The final verse shows why grace abounded; not that sin might also abound, but (to quote a New Testament equivalent of verse 45), ‘that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit’ (Rom. 8:4, Av).”1 This is the ultimate point of God’s covenant with us after all, not that those upon whom God sets his covenant love might be merely a select or unusual people, but that they might be holy, as he is.
Peter understood it. He wrote, “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15, 16). Are you? Are any of us?
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), p.377.
What plague did God send that was the worst of all? Why?
How did God protect the Israelites through the desert? What did the psalmist call on the people to do?
What is the ultimate point of God’s covenant with his people?
Why does grace abound?
Reflection: How can knowing that God will judge those who reject him help you in your witness?
Key Point: Do not be discouraged if people reject your witness. It will accomplish what God intends it to accomplish, for the word of God is never spoken without its intended effect.
For Further Study: Another important thing we learn from the Psalms is the attributes of God, and how he demonstrates those characteristics to people. Consider using James Boice’s sermons in the Psalms for your next Sunday school or group study. Order your copy of the three-volume paperback set, and take 25% off the regular price.