Two Sorts of Helplessness

Alec Motyer

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“ . . . there is no one like me in all the earth.” (9:14)

The first two of the ten plagues of Egypt were relatively benign warnings. The next five display the mounting severity of the Lord’s supernatural visitations: disruption of life by gnats (8:16-19) and flies (8:20-32), loss of income with the death of livestock (9:1-7) and loss of health with the plague of boils (9:8-12), and then the wholesale destruction of the hailstorm (9:13-26). How great the Lord is, with every imaginable force at his command!

Yet how mercifully quick to relent (8:30-31; 9:33), ready to save (Isaiah 38:20), and slow to anger (Jonah 4:2) he is as well. Correspondingly, Moses, clear in pronouncing judgment, is also wonderfully prompt to intercede for his enemies (8:29; 9:29). But his own reverent obedience before the Lord of all the earth is seen in his refusal to compromise on God’s demands (8:25-27).

Two fresh emphases in this section underscore the truth about God’s power in judgment and in grace. First is the helplessness of the magicians. Earlier (7:22 and 8:7) all they could do was imitate the Lord’s acts; they could not resist or reverse them. But now they are helpless (8:18) and are themselves gripped by divine judgment (9:11). Secondly, the Lord’s equally helpless people are a protected species in the day of his wrath (8:22-23; 9:4).


Lord, make us your intercessors for a world under judgment.