The third plague was of gnats or lice, depending on which translation you read. More to the point is the fact that Aaron caused the plague by striking the dust of the ground with his staff. This is because it was a direct attack on one of their demi-gods, like each of the plagues was.
Khepri was the god associated with the scarab beetle. It lays its eggs in the balls of dung and the young dung bugs emerge from the dung ball fully formed. Through reasoning too arcane to interest me at all, they associated all that with creation, rebirth and the sun. Khepri was the god of the morning, and Ra of the midday and some other one the god of the afternoon.
So to an Egyptian versed in the theology of the day, they fully understood that Moses and Aaron were overtly, publicly, defiantly proclaiming that their Yahweh God was superior to this god of the Egyptians when they struck the abode of the dung bug god.
Not only did Yahweh come through in a big way, but the magicians had to concede that they were completely outclassed this time. They had kind of, sort of kept up with Moses and his God for two rounds, but on the third pitch, they fanned.
They were so completely beaten, they did not even try to spin it but overtly told Pharaoh that “This is the finger of God.”
As concession speeches go, that one was elegant for being utterly comprehensive while completely conceding the field to Yahweh. They did not even try to compete in the future.
The point that grabs me is that God choose not to blow the Egyptians out of the water on the first play. He allowed them to nurture the fantasy – for a season – that they could play in the big leagues. Then He upped the ante and they folded ignominiously.
We humans have trouble with that. We tend to feel betrayed when He lets the enemy bat first and run up the score. Often we feel abandoned. And ‘way too often we leave the playing field early because we are pretty sure He has too.
But that is not necessarily the right interpretation of a losing score.
About 15 years ago, I was in England and I learned a profound lesson about this. I had come down from my room a bit early and arrived in the hotel lobby before my host. While waiting for him, I flicked a glance at the two TV screens and saw that one of them was broadcasting a cricket game.
I know the game exists and very little more. I was horrified when I noticed that the score was 515 to zero. I could not imagine that kind of carnage in any game. Where is the sportsmanship?
When my thoroughly English host appeared, I gingerly pointed out the score. He understood my discomfort and with that exquisitely condescending attitude the Brits dominate when it comes to explaining their culture to dumb Yanks, he told me two things.
A cricket game takes about five days. The score was so high simply because his side had not come to bat yet.
Then with a consummate confidence that marked me for the rest of my life, he said, “Come back tomorrow when we get to bat.”
That became a picture of God to me.
He is more confident than a Brit when He is playing His game. In spite of the fact that it gives me the willies, He is quite willing to let the devil bat first. 515 to nothing does not intimidate God in the least. Nor is God worried about the fact that I am worried over His letting the enemy run up the score.
And that is what He did here. He was toying with the Egyptians, like a cat torments a rat it has caught. He knew exactly what magic the Egyptians knew and what they did not. He deliberately allowed them to pretend they were keeping the score tied, just to egg them on.
Then, like the cat that tires of the game and eats the rat, God decided He was quite done with humoring them, and He went to bat and as they do in cricket, He ran the score up and up and up and up.
Long before the game was over, it was clear that the Egyptians were utterly out of their league pitching to The Almighty, the God of the lowly Hebrews.
Today’s prayers are about the God who is the Finisher.
Copyright October 2015 by Arthur Burk
From Calgary, fresh off the plane