I feel that something may have finally clicked while reading the Gospel reading for today.
Exodus 7: This chapter starts with God telling Moses to take Aaron and see the Pharaoh. God tells Moses to have Aaron turn the staff into a snake in front of the Pharaoh as well as turn the Nile water into blood and kill off all the fish. Turning the water into blood is the first plague (the text refers to this as marvels, not plagues). Pharaoh’s magicians are able to match this, so his “heart hardens” as God said it would. Before turning the water into blood Aaron also turns his staff into a snake. I find it interesting that Aaron is the one doing these things, not Moses. I know that Moses said earlier that he couldn’t speak well, but here it seems like he’s more like a figurehead. I know that doesn’t end up being the case, but if you just look at this chapter, it definitely seems to be this way.
The notes include something pretty interesting when introducing the nine marvels: “Although each of the first nine alone might reflect a natural occurrence, the intensity and rapid-fire timing are not natural; grouped together, they are a vivid expression of God’s extraordinary power, as is the wholly supernatural tenth event, the slaying of the firstborn” (p. 91). It seems like they are trying to use reason here to potentially explain what happens. I see why they are doing this, but I personally don’t think it’s necessary.
It’s also interesting to note that the phrase “let my people go” is used a total of seven times in the marvels. Here are the seven times: (1) first time they see Pharaoh, (2) first marvel (water into blood), (3) second marvel (frogs), (4) fourth marvel (flies), (5) fifth marvel (pestilence), (6) seventh marvel (hail), and (7) eighth marvel (locusts). The notes indicate this about the seven times this phrase is used: “this sevenfold usage emphases the theme of securing freedom for the Israelites” (p. 92).
Exodus 8: Next three marvels (plagues) occur in this chapter: frogs, gnats, and flies. In each case Pharaoh “hardens his heart.” At one point it seems like he is going to give in (after the frogs), but that ends pretty quickly. God killed off all the frogs, but the Egyptians had to gather up the dead frogs. Additionally, the magicians are unable to repeat the gnats and they exclaim “This is the finger of God” (Ex. 8.19). But, Pharaoh still fights it. With respect to the flies, God protects his people from the flies to demonstrate his power. The notes point out that starting at the fourth marvel Moses takes the lead instead of Aaron for the remaining ones.
Exodus 9: The fifth (pestilence), sixth (boils), and seventh (hail) marvels occur in this chapter. God kills all the animals in the fifth one, but only the Egyptian livestock. It’s interesting that after the sixth marvel (boils), the text says “But the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh” (Ex. 9.12) instead of “Pharaoh hardened his heart.” God seemed to want Pharaoh to continue to resist until he got to the last plague. That’s pretty harsh.
Luke 17: While reading this chapter I think something may have finally clicked. Of course this could change tomorrow, but I’ll run with it for now. First, there’s another reference to the number seven here when Jesus talks about the importance of forgiving sinners if they repent: “‘And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive’” (Luke 17.4). Definitely a challenge, but this makes sense.
Ok, so on to why I feel something finally clicked. It came while reading about Jesus questioning how his apostles address their slaves. He challenges them. Not only does he challenge others, but he also challenges his closest followers. He clearly makes them uncomfortable. My evidence for this is what he says to them: “‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? ⁸ Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? ⁹ Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?’” (Luke 17.7-9) This had to make them uncomfortable and possibly question why they are following him. So, to me this means that Jesus is challenging all of us. It’s important for us to recognize the importance of helping those who are less fortunate. This isn’t just a religious thing. This is a societal thing. Non-believers still help others.
This chapter ended with Jesus explaining to his disciples that one day he would no longer be with them and that he would go through great suffering. He then talked about what happened when Noah got on the Ark or when Lot left Sodom. Jesus told them the day he leaves would be similar. I gotta admit, this would freak me out!
One last thing, I noticed that there was no verse 36 in this chapter. It went from 35 to 37. There is a footnote in the text and it says this: “Other ancient authorities add verse 36, ‘Two will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left’” (p. 1864). The notes from the scholar say this: “: This verse is a scribal addition to Luke to incorporate a saying from Mt 24.20” (p. 1864).