In 1967, when I was ten, my mom enrolled me in the two-week Vacation Bible School at our hometown Methodist church in Vandalia, Illinois. We weren’t yet Methodists but we had friends who were members of that congregation. I remember that we studied Moses and the Exodus. The Six Day War was happening, and so it was timely that our VBS teachers took us on a field trip to a synagogue. In rural Illinois, the closest temple was a half-hour away: Temple Solomon in Centralia, Illinois. Although I don’t remember much about the visit, that field trip planted in me a seed of interest in interfaith understanding as well as Old Testament scripture.
If we think of anything in the Bible as having “biblical proportions,” the plagues of Egypt are surely among the first things we remember.
It would be better to call the plagues “signs and wonders” of God’s power, since not all of them have to do with illness. The signs are blood, frogs, gnats, flies, pestilence, boils, hail and thunder, locusts, darkness, and the death of the first born.
One of my favorite books for Bible study, The Torah: A Modern Commentary, indicates that Jewish tradition has grouped the signs in different ways. (1) Grouped 4-4-1-1, the signs appear as nuisances, then serious attacks, then one of terror, and the last is death.
They can also be grouped 2-2-2-2-2. The first two deal with the Nile, the next two deal with insects, the next two deal with disease, the next two deal with crops, and the last two deal with darkness and death.
Another, popular Jewish tradition, is to group them as 3-3-3-1. In each group of three, Moses meets Pharaoh out in the open, then Moses meets Pharaoh with a warning, and then the third plague has no previous warning.
The Torah commentator also indicates that the stories give no indication how much time passes for all the plagues, although one year is traditional.
We’ve met other Pharaohs in the biblical stories. Abram and Sarai met Pharaoh during a time of famine (Genesis 12:10-20). The story of Joseph and Pharaoh is famous (Genesis 41). Still another Pharaoh oppressed the Israelites and ordered the murder of their baby boys (Exodus 1:8-22).
1.Do you remember the first time you learned about Moses and Pharaoh? If so, what was the circumstance?
2.Do you find Egyptian history interesting? Have you visited Egyptian exhibitions in museums? My wife Beth, for instance, waited in line to see the traveling “Treasures of Tutankhamun” exhibition during the late 1970s.
The plague stories begin in chapter 7, but let’s start with chapter 5.
Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh, and told him that the Lord, the God of Israel, comments Pharaoh to let the people do, so they may celebrate a festival to God in the wilderness.
Pharaoh declared that he did not know this Lord and would not comply. In fact, as long as Moses and Aaron wanted to take them away from their work, Pharaoh gave them more work! The people would have to gather straw for bricks, and they were beaten when they could not complete their daily assignment.
The Israelite supervisors blamed Moses and Aaron for this situation, and in turn the brothers complained to God that God had done nothing.
God told Moses that God would respond to Pharaoh by a mighty hand. God had been known to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as God Almighty—El Shaddai—and now known to Moses by God’s holy Name, God had heard the suffering of the people and would save them.
Moses reminded God that the Israelites had not listened to him, and Pharaoh would not listen to him because of his (Moses’) poor speech. God nevertheless ordered Moses and Aaron to return to Pharaoh.
The narrative pauses for a moment as the text gives the genealogies of Reuben, then of Simeon, and then of Levi. The text gives the generations of Levi’s three sons, including Levi’s great-grandsons Aaron and Moses. Without giving Moses’ sons, the texts names Aaron’s four sons, and the fact that Phinehas was the son of Aaron’s son Eleazar.
Returning to the story, the Lord told Moses “I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.” The Lord would multiply signs and wonders in Egypt so that the Egyptians would know the Lord is God. As an aside, the narrative notes that Aaron is 83 and Moses is 80.
First the brothers go to Pharaoh, and when Pharaoh refuged to free the Israelites, Aaron threw down his staff (as instructed) and it became a snake. The Pharaoh’s magicians were able to do the same thing---but Aaron’s staff-snake swallowed those snakes. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.
The plagues—the signs and wonders—begin at this point (7:14).
God tells Moses that Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, so Moses must go to him when he is by the river in the morning. Moses must place the same staff into the water and announce to Pharaoh that by this, he shall know God is the Lord. Moses and Aaron did so, and as God had said, the Nile turned to blood and stank, and all the fish died.
The Pharaoh’s magicians were able to do the same thing, and Pharaoh remained hard-hearted. Egyptians dug for water so they could have water to drink. Seven days went by.
God told Moses that a plague of frogs would be next. Aaron stretched his hand out, and frogs came up all over Egypt. But again, the magicians were able to do the same thing. Pharoah promised to let the people go, and also the frogs all died, leaving a stink across the land. But Pharaoh became hard-hearted again.
Next, Aaron stretched out his hand, struck the earth with his staff, and gnats became the third plague. This time, the magicians would not replicate the sign. The magicians warned Pharaoh, but still he would not listen.
The fourth plague was flies. Moses warned Pharaoh that the land of Goshen, where the Israelites live, would not be affected. Pharaoh told Moses that the people could go into the wilderness for three days and offer sacrifices to God. Pharaoh also asked Moses to pray for him.
Of course, Pharaoh reneged, once the flies were gone. The fifth plague followed: a pestilence that would killed the Egyptian livestock but which would spare the Israelites’. This happened, but still the Pharaoh changed his mind.
The sixth plague was boils. Standing before Pharaoh, Moses and Aaron took soot from the kilt and threw it in the air, as God had instructed. Egyptians and animals alike were infected, but still Pharaoh stood his ground.
The seventh plague was hail. God instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh that God would send further plagues so that God would show his power to Pharaoh and make his (God’s) name famous. Pharaoh would know there is no God like God. God would send hail the next day, and anyone who don’t want himself or his slaves and livestock harmed must find shelter. The Egyptians who, by now, feared God did so.
The next day, Moses stretched out his staff, and hail, thunder and fire fell upon Egypt—except for the land of Goshen, where the Israelites stayed. Although the wheat was late that year and was not damaged, the Egyptian flax and barley were destroyed.
Pharaoh seems to have a complete change of heart and begged Moses to make the plague stopped. Moses did so—but Pharaoh reneged on his promise.
The eighth plague was locusts. The same pattern: Moses and Aaron brought God’s warning to Pharaoh. Pharaoh allowed the Israelite men to go worship God, but not the rest of the Israelites.
Subsequently, the land became black with locusts, which attacked every tree and plant In Egypt. Pharaoh expressed repentance and begged for a respite. God then sent a west wind which drove to locusts into the Red Sea. But Pharaoh changed again
The ninth plague was darkness for three days, so that the Egyptians couldn’t see anything or one another—although the Israelites still had light. Pharaoh promises Moses to let the people go—but they must leave their herds and flocks behind. Moses responded that the Israelites needed their animals.
Again, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. He told Moses, “Get away from me! Take care that you do not see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” Moses said, “Just as you say! I will never see your face again.”
Finally, God told Moses of one more plague: the death of the first-born.
The story pauses as God gives Moses and Aaron commands about the Passover. We can see differences among Passover instructions in the two parts of Exodus 12, and also in Deuteronomy 16:1-8. The Jewish celebration of Passover includes components of these scriptures for the traditional service. (2) What is crucial for the Passover is the commemoration of God’s liberation of the people from Egyptian slavery. Moses instructs the elders of Israel to take the blood of the Passover lamb, dip a bunch of hyssop into the basement, and touch the two doorposts and lintel with the blood. The destroyer would pass over the houses of the Israelites but will strike the Egyptian households.
This section of the Exodus story concludes:
Of course, there is more drama to come---and, in fact, even more important aspects of the overall story, the splitting of the sea and the giving of the Covenant, are about to unfold.
1.As you read these chapters, what “pops out” for you? Do you have a gut reaction to certain aspects? If you were already familiar with the story, did anything surprise you this time?
2.In several stories across the Bible, disease is attributed directly to God. Today, we know about the nature of diseases and their spread. Does it bother you to say, “We can no longer believe that God causes illness, but this is how the Bible authors understood illness.”
In this and the next two sections, I’d like to lead us into deeper understanding of the Bible, to help us grow in faith.
Because few of us come to the Bible without some knowledge of its contents, it is easy to forget that the Moses stories are our first “big” introduction to God’s advocacy of his people Israel. We learned at the outset of Genesis that God created the heavens and earth, and that God has the power to bring destruction and punishment as well as creation (Noah’s flood, the confusion of languages at Babel). We also learn in Genesis that God chose Abram and Sarai to be ancestors of a great nation. We follow the Genesis stories as God is involved in the very imperfect lives of Abraham’s sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons—Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Jacob’s daughter and twelve sons. We learn how Jacob and his children ended up in Israel, and then Exodus tells us that the Israelites came to be slaves. But now, God intervenes and chooses Moses and Aaron—Jacob’s great-great-grandsons—to lead the people to freedom via God’s signs and wonders.
For our own faith (perhaps to speak the obvious), it is this God whom we worship and praise and to whom we look in times of both health and crisis. We are looking to God right now as we struggle with pandemic and also with tenacious social ills like racism and social inequality.
1.Some Christians think of faith in personal terms; they want to lead people to a personal decision for Christ. Some Christians emphasize the social side of faith: God calls us to address social problems (for instance, we should as Christians address root problems of poverty, racism, etc.). How do you think about faith? Can these two emphases be separated?
2.In your relationship with God, what were times when you were astonished by God’s grace? What were times when you felt disappointed? What were times that you saw only in hindsight how God had touched your life?
3.How often do you turn to the Old Testament for insights into your Christian faith?
As I said above, the Exodus and the subsequent Covenant are the outcomes of the plague stories.
A dear friend who is an Orthodox maharat explains the importance of the Exodus for Jews:
The memory of the Exodus is prevalent throughout Jewish ritual. For instance, when we bless the wine for Kiddush on Friday nights for Shabbat, we say, “It is the first among the holy festivals, commemorating the exodus from Egypt.” The Exodus is directly connected to being slaves [in Egypt], but has more of evoking the memory of suffering and the redemption from God than suffering and thus the call to protect others. Just about every holiday [Jews] have includes some reference to the Exodus.
Christians do not celebrate this holiday, but its meaning carries over strongly to Christian theology. As the lambs’ blood provided salvation for the Israelites from the angel of death, the blood of Jesus (the Lamb of God) provides salvation from death. Since the first Lord’s Supper was likely a Passover meal, our Eucharist contains theological elements of the Passover, as well as with the “blood of the Covenant” in Exodus 24:6-8 and Zechariah 9:11.
But Christians should seek to understand how the Exodus broadly informs their faith. The Bible scholar R. E. Nixon writes that the Exodus is "the great moment at which Yahweh is revealed as who He truly is....It is through this mighty deed of salvation that Israel came to know Him in his essential nature." Furthermore, he writes, the Exodus and the Covenant comprised the events that truly begin Israel's scriptural history, and by which everything earlier in the scriptures is understood. (3)
We find many references to the Exodus throughout the Old Testament. We also find many references and “typologies” in the New Testament: Zechariah's "Benedictus," Jesus' very name (Joshua) and parallels in his life to Moses (his endangered life as an infant, his parents' exile to and return from Egypt), Jesus' forty days in the wilderness (compared to the Israelites' forty years), the parallel between Moses and the mountain and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the parallel of the wilderness manna and Jesus' bread of life, and others. Even the preaching of Paul models the work of Christ upon the Exodus story; as N. T. Wright writes, "[In Romans 5-11] Paul has retold the story of the exodus, the freedom story, demonstrating that the Egypt of sin and death has been decisively defeated through the death of the Messiah, and that the Spirit is now leading God's redeemed people to their promised inheritance.” (4)
A look at Jesus’ ministry shows how his own “signs and wonders” proved his identity as the Christ—as the same God proved God’s identity in the signs and wonders in Egypt. Rather than signs of punishment, these signs were indicators of God’s compassion for the suffering. John’s Gospel, for instance, has seven signs of Christ: changing water into wine at Cana (2:1-11), healing the royal official’s son (4:46-54), healing the paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda (5:1-15), feeing the 5000 (6:5-14), walking on water (6:16-21), healing the man born blind (9:1-7), and raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-45).
Another connection to the Exodus is Passover (Pesach). The meal contains elements that recall the Egyptian experience. Because the Israelites could take only unleavened bread, Jews celebrating Passover remove all traces of leavened bread from the home. On the table, a vegetable dipped in salt symbolizes the tears of the Israelites shed in their slavery. Bitter herbs also represent the bitterness of slavery. As part of the Passover, the story of the Exodus is retold.
To summarize: the plagues made the Exodus possible, and the Exodus is the great “model” of God’s power and salvation---which we, in turn, count on in our faith journey’s through health and sickness alike!
1.How much do you know about the Passover holiday? Look up the holiday and study the holiday’s aspects.
2.How might you incorporate the Exodus into your identity as a Christian?
3.What “signs and wonders” might God be showing in our contemporary world?
As movie ready as the Exodus is, it is not the climax of the story. The climax is the covenant that God established with his people beginning at Exodus 19 and following.
I love Judaism and have been influenced and inspired by Jews, Jewish devotion, and the Jewish commitment to “repair of the world” (tikkun olam). I feel sad when I read my own sacred scriptures when Jews and Judaism are caricatured and harshly labeled, depicted as a legalistic and substandard religion. Many Christians to this day think that Judaism is a religion in which one must earn God’s mercy via rigorous observance of laws---something no religion has ever taught, let alone Judaism. Such scriptural language reflects the intense discussion of the first century, concerning the nature of Judaism in light of belief (of some Jews of the time) that Jesus is the Jewish mashiach, or "Messiah".
In Judaism, life with God is guided by Torah. In Deuteronomy, the people are called to remember that God rescued them from Egypt (Deut. 1:30, 4:20 4:34, 4:37, 5:6, 6:12, et al). The basis of many of the mitzvot is the Egyptian experience, for instance:
These reminders are also found in Deuteronomy 16:12, 24:18, and other passages easily found with a concordance.
It may be difficult for us Gentile Christians to study the Torah laws—not originally addressed to us, after all. Some Christians cherry-pick the laws in order to express disapproval of others. We may imagine ourselves as rescued sinners, analogous to the Isrealite slaves, but even that self-recognition may not teach us the empathy that these Deuteronomy verses emphasize.
But it would do us well to study the Torah mitzvot that have to do with repairing the world. My newer Harper Study Bible has a list of “Major Social Concerns in the Covenant” (5). The list is copyrighted, but here are just a few of the scriptures listed there:
Because the Israelites had the centuries-long experience of hardship and distress, they can expression compassion for persons who suffer, who are strangers, and who are otherwise needful of compassion and tangible help.
Compared to the Exodus story, Christians do tend to focus upon God's rescue (salvation) of us through Christ, the water of baptism, the meal of the Lord's supper, and the covenant of Christ, rather than the Passover meal, the escape through the sea, and the Sinai covenant. The phrase “new covenant” is found in Luke 22:20, 1 Cor. 11:25, Heb. 8:6-13, and others.
But God establishes covenants with a demand: that people must be devoted to God, to be holy, to reject things that would distance us from God, to orient ourselves toward God. Holiness, in turn, is not just an individual quality but one that demands justice in society. John Wesley famously declared, “There is no holiness but social holiness.”
Back to the plague story: the plagues led to the Exodus and very quickly to the Covenant, which calls God’s people to faithfulness.
1.A covenant is an agreement. The biblical covenants are between God and his people: God will love and provide for his people, and his people will glorify God with their worship and actions. God is eternally faithful to such covenant agreements, even when we are not. How strongly does the covenant figure in your everyday faith and discipleship?
2.Do you look forward to the Lord’s Supper at your church? Some people do, some How meaningful is it for your faith?
Let’s deal with an elephant in the room of these stories: the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. Isn’t God manipulating Pharaoh, by allowing him to repent and then hardening his heart, so that more plagues can come?
A short answer would be: Yes, God used Pharaoh to carry out a divine plan. God wished to show the power of God so that the Egyptians and especially the Israelites would know that God is the Lord (e.g., Exodus 7:5).
We must remember that Pharaoh was not simply a stubborn leader, loath to lose face. Pharaoh was “son of Ra (or Re),” a religious identity. The god Ra created the cosmic order (ma‘at) and Pharaoh as Ra Incarnate maintained the natural order as well as Egyptian society. Pharaoh clearly did not want to fail in his role as ruler of the cosmic order, nor as ruler of the Egyptian kingdom. (6) In the minds of Pharaoh and the Egyptians—and likely to the Israelites as well—the plagues were a struggle between deities.
In an important way, God did not force Pharaoh to do something that he couldn’t have done anyway. We should remember that Pharaoh did acknowledge his guilt (Ex. 9:27, 10:16), asked Moses for intercession (8:8, 8:28, 9:28, 10:17), and Moses prayed for him (8:12, 8:30, 9:33, 10:17). (7) But when push came to shove, Pharaoh could not release the Israelites without losing his identity as son of Re. That’s no small dilemma! God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but Pharaoh’s heart was predisposed to be hardened.
This is a mystery of grace and free will! John Wesley taught prevenient grace: the grace that guides us toward faith. God is involved in our lives, but we also have free will to respond. Grace and free will are always a both-and proposition.
Yet, as I said above, God did use Pharaoh to accomplish a purpose: to take the side of the Israelites and free them from slavery via a series of signs and wonders. In theory, the Israelites could always look back to those signs and wonders and base their faith in God’s miracles and advocacy. But the Israelites were notoriously prone to worry and “murmur.” Similarly, the Christians to whom the Apostle Paul wrote struggled to have genuine faith. Nevertheless, God accomplished a great thing to which generations have looked in faith.
In much lesser ways, don’t we all act like Pharaoh from time to time? We repent of something, but then we feel better about the situation and do the same thing again. A failure of resolve, to follow through with promises to God, are universal examples of human foolishness.
But we look to God in faith, at God’s blessings in our lives and in the biblical narrative. If we are sick, or if a loved one is sick, we don’t know at the time of the crisis what the outcome will be. But we can always look to the Lord and know that the Lord never leaves us under any circumstances.
1.Think about times when you were sorry for something, made certain promises to God, but when you felt better, nothing really changed.
2.In the U.S., we have no religious qualifications for public office. Would you ever vote for a highly qualified and principled atheist? Why or why not?
Like free will, God’s allowance of suffering is a perennially difficult and distressing topic.
For instance, why did God allow the Israelites to suffer under Egyptian slavery for 400 years? The text does not say. Why, indeed, has God allowed the sin of racism to persist in the United States and its colonial antecedents for 400 years and counting? Why does God allow the horrors that we humans so often perpetrate? Why does God allow other kinds of suffering?
In the case of the plagues: why did innocent people (and animals) suffer because of the Pharaoh’s obstinance?
One answer is, that is the way things happen! Innocent people suffer on account of the decisions of their leaders, and those repercussions can last many generations. It’s a tragic truth about life in general. But as a society, the Egyptians used the Israelites in slavery, and thus the kingdom was complicit in Israelite suffering.
Another answer is: God had a plan to use Egyptian was an unforgettable example of the divine power. This was a unique situation.
The great Jewish philosopher Maimonides about the problem of suffering. (8) Older Jewish traditions had considered suffering as a divine decision to lead a person to righteousness. Psalms 94:12-13 and 119:21 (as well as Hebrews 12:5-11 in the New Testament) reflect this teaching.
But Maimonides distinguished among types of suffering: those natural causes that are part of physical, mortal existence, those caused by social ills (like war and poverty), and the suffering we bring on ourselves. Maimonides left no room for what in Hebrew is called yisurin shel ahavah, “chastisements of love,” and so the doctrine lost favor within Judaism, especially since the Holocaust.
The Bible does uphold the sovereignty of God over all things: for instance, Exodus 9:29, Psalm 77:16-19, 1 Kings 8:35-36, and Nahum 1:5-6. In his sermon, “The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes,” John Wesley adds Psalm 104:32 and Ps. 97:5, as well as Ps. 18:7, 114:7, Isa. 13:11, 13, Isa. 24:1, 18-20, Isa 29:6, to show biblical praises for God’s supreme divine power, somehow present within natural circumstances. (9)
But Wesley’s sermon raises even more urgently the question of God and natural disasters---where is God when they occur, and why does God allow them to occur? Wesley stresses that God uses earthquakes to punish sin and to awaken people to repentance. Wesley gives examples to show how good and bad people alike suffer and are killed in disasters like earthquakes, which is all the more reason to repent and strengthen our relationship with God.
Although Wesley reasons from Scripture, the awakening of repentance is a too human-centered and simplistic way to interpret the providence of God within these natural occurrences (although one wouldn’t rule out circumstances in which the Spirit did indeed awaken in someone a new relationship with God due to crisis). You’d never tell a farmer, discouraged about crops amid a too-wet summer, that God had arranged rainstorms in order to awaken the farmer and surrounding community to repentance for some sin.
Short of the final redemption, suffering and death happens to everyone, regardless of whether we deserve it or not. It’s human to wonder where God is amid tragedy, though all of us are mortal and live among many, many potential dangers, just in the course of living. God intervenes in many situations, but we do not see a divine role or perceive a divine purpose in other circumstances.
A scripture that answers the question of “Where is God?” is Matthew 25:31-46. God (in his passage, Christ) is with the suffering, and therefore that's where we need to be, too.
1.If someone came to you and said, “I think God is punishing me for something, because I lost my job” (or “because my medical tests came back that I’m really sick).” What would you say?
2.What are a few ministries of your church, which contribute to the well-being of people in need?
3.The Bible has stories where innocent people—or people uninvolved in the main events of the story—suffer. The death of the first-born of Egypt is one such story. The slaughter of the innocents by Herod is another (Matthew 2:16-18). How do you explain such suffering?
Our faith calls us to seek God’s help in time of personal crisis, but also to seek God’s help for other people who are suffering. Intercessory prayer is one thing we can always do, day or night, on behalf of others. I like this Oswald Chambers quotation:
Another thing is to pray for and to support, are those are the social structures that aim at the well-being of all: health care and also economic opportunity, food and shelter, safe environments, and so on. The Epistle of James reminds us that faith and works—along with compassion for the suffering—always go together. It is necessary that we look after our own health, but if we are only individualistic about health (“Why should I wear a mask?” “Look at those fools who are wearing masks!”), we entirely miss the vision of wholeness and compassion that the Bible teaches.
We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on communities of color. Systemic racism leads to disparity of insurance coverage and the quality and availability of health care. (11) As we consider not only illness but social challenges, we are inspired to think about ways that racism is its own kind of “plague.”
In his book Covenant, Community, and the Common Good, ethicist Eric Mount lists things in which people in society share a common interest: available and affordable health care, education, food and shelter, public safety, economic opportunity, and other things. Based on the idea that all people are created in the image of God, Mount argues that we must care for one another—and for the common good—as we are in community with others. (12)
1.How important to you is intercessory prayer? Do you regularly pray for others? Do you share your concerns with your pastor or with a prayer chain?
2.Universal health care is a controversial topic. Where do you stand on the issue? Imagine that someone told you, “Our flawed health care system is a reason why Covid-19 has been so serious in the U.S.” What would you say in response?
Surprisingly, perhaps, the Egyptian plagues are not as significant in the rest of the Bible. And we have Revelation 16, which uses similar images as Exodus. Read that chapter, and you see how the Egyptian plagues are used among the many visions of the End times.
We also have Psalm 78:41-55 and Psalm 105:26-38, which similarly call attention to God’s wonders in liberating the Israelites, as well as their tendency to forget the Lord’s blessings.
We forget, too! As a person with high-functioning depression, I sometimes react to situations with worry and downheartedness. But at the same time, I do remember that God has brought me and my family and friends through many difficult situations. I never criticize the ancient Israelites for their distress. Their circumstances were so much more dire than mine: the need for water, food, and shelter for several thousand people in an inhospitable region.
As we grow in grace, we call on God, and calling on God becomes a habit (as Oswald Chambers noted above). We learn to crises of illness and social injustice with “the mind of God.” We still struggle for faith but we’re more likely to turn to God automatically.
1.Make a list of all the ways that God stood by you “through thick and thin.” Consider writing a psalm/poem about it. (Your poem doesn’t have to be excellent poetry, unless you want it to be; this is just for yourself.)
One of my college professors, James Stuart, has written: “Every society, in order to be effective and to survive, must be able to meet most of the needs of its members… [S]uch institutional factors as unemployment, economic inequalities, rising crime rates, loss of credibility, poor services and poverty can lead to deep and disruptive social problems which will undermine not only personal health but also social health. A society that experiences a crisis in a number of these institutional areas at one time is in serious danger of fragmenting to a point where it can no longer function in any meaningful way.” (13) We are experiencing that kind of crisis today!
Let us continue to look to the Lord, who did signs and wonders in Egypt long ago, for healing and for guidance.
Gracious God, we give thanks for the chance to study Scripture. We give thanks for health. We ask you for healing for those who are sick, either with COVID-19 or some other illness. We ask you for healing for our blindness toward the needs of others. We pray for ourselves, for our families, and for our nation and other nations during these difficult times. We ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1 W. Gunther Plaut, ed., The Torah: A Modern Commentary (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981), 430-431.
2 The Torah, 431.
3 The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2, D-G, (New York, Doubleday, 1992), 377.
4 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Vol. 2, Second Half-Volume (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1957), 220.
5 The Torah, 1391.
6 John Wesley’s sermon “The Cause and Cure of Earthquakes”: http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-sermons-of-john-wesley-1872-edition/sermon-129-the-cause-and-cure-of-earthquakes/ Accessed June 15, 2020.
7 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, https://utmost.org/intercessory-prayer/ Accessed June 22, 2020.
8 Aaron Williams and Adrian Bianco, “How the coronavirus exposed health disparities in communities of color.” The Washington Post, updated May 26, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/investigations/coronavirus-race-data-map/ Accessed June 12, 2020. Christine Ro, “Coronavirus: Why some racial groups are more vulnerable.” BBC.com, 20th April, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200420-coronavirus-why-some-racial-groups-are-more-vulnerable Accessed June 12, 2020.
9 Eric Mount, Jr., Covenant, Community, and the Common Good: An Interpretation of Christian Ethics (Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press, 1999), 32-33.
10 R. E. Nixon, "The Exodus in the New Testament," originally published by the Tyndale Press: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/exodus_nixon.pdf Accessed June 20, 2020.
11 N. T. Wright, "The Letter to the Romans," The New Interpreter's Bible, vol. 10 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), 585, also 510-511.
12 NRSV Harper Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 274.
13 James Stuart, Making Meaning, Finding Health (Wellington, New Zealand: St. Andrew’s Trust for the Study of Religion & Society, 1999), 50-51.