Pharaoh has reneged on his promise again. God sends him another plague to get his attention. This one doesn’t directly touch him though.
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Moses is sitting under his favorite tree. He is frustrated. This is the second time Pharaoh has gone back on his word to release the people of Israel. He knows the Lord told him that this would be a long process. It’s just that he thought they had finally won their freedom after the last time. But then rethinking all that the Lord has said to him, the Lord’s prophecy about Pharaoh “driving them out” certainly didn’t fit with his last encounter with Pharaoh.
As he is pondering Israel’s struggle the Lord calls to him again with more instructions.
“Speak Lord. Your servant is listening.”
“I want you to go to Pharaoh again. This time say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold then, behold, the hand of the Lord will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the fields, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die”’ (verses 1b-4).”
“A plague on the livestock? I wonder how that will strike Pharaoh. Will this be the one that has him send us out?”
“Be patient Moses. I’m still working on him. You will know when the time is right because I will tell you beforehand.”
“Yes Lord. I will follow wherever You lead. I’m just tired of talking to a brick wall.”
“Now you know how I feel sometimes.”
Moses goes to Aaron and tells him of the Lord’s next plague for Egypt. This time they don’t have to get up super early in the morning to deliver their message yet they make sure to go before the work day starts.
As they approach the gate the guard’s eyes get big. “Not you two again! What horrors to you hold in store for us today?! Can’t you just give up? You know Pharaoh is never going to let the Hebrews go! Leave us alone!”
“I’m sorry you are caught in this struggle but the Lord will not relent until Pharaoh releases the Hebrews completely. And, YES, it WILL happen.”
The guard shakes his head and goes to announce Moses and Aaron. Minutes later they follow the guard into Pharaoh’s throne room.
“I was expecting you soon. I was hoping I had heard the last of you but I knew that was too good to be true. Let me guess, you have another word from your God. ‘Let my people go; blah, blah, blah.’”
“I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the God of the Hebrews. You have barely seen His power.”
“I tire of ‘His power.’ When is He going to give up? It is clear that I am not going to release your people. Egypt is their god. They need to worship me and give up on this ‘going into the wilderness’ idea to worship Him.”
“Not so Pharaoh. This is what the Lord says to Pharaoh today. ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, “Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold then, behold, the hand of the Lord will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the fields, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die.”’ Tomorrow you will see His hand do this very thing.”
“Leave me! What do I care about a bunch of camels?”
Moses and Aaron turn and leave. Once they have made it back outside they begin discussing this plague.
“I don’t think Pharaoh will even notice the loss of the livestock.”
“He might not directly but when his army has nothing to ride and his nobles have nothing to pull their chariots he will notice. There won’t be a horse, cow, sheep, camel, goat, or oxen standing tomorrow morning; in Egypt’s pastures that is.”
“Yah, I’m sure he will notice then.”
Moses and Aaron join in the daily labors of the Hebrews. They refuse to let their brothers labor on without adding their bodies to the help lift the burden.
The next morning dawns and all is well with the Hebrews. They go about their morning like always. As they make their way to their places of labor they notice something amiss in the streets. There are no Egyptians moving about on their horses or driving carts. Everyone is on foot and VERY surly. Moses always told the Hebrews what God had in store but knowing about it and seeing it in action are two very different things.
The Hebrews, with their donkeys pulling their carts, carry on to their assigned work areas. They do their best not to gloat as they move along easily with their burdens while the Egyptians struggle. At one establishment the come across a shop keeper who has hitched his wagon to three slaves. He will have his deliveries made NO MATTER WHAT! The slaves meet the Hebrew’s eyes as they pass. Sorrow is written clearly across the slaves faces. The group of Hebrews ALMOST give their donkey to the slaves to help them out but then who would pull their cart as they are driven to make bricks and scrounge for hay all day?
As the day goes on Pharaoh’s palace is under siege by angry Egyptians wanting to know what he plans to do about this animal shortage. He tried to ignore them at first and even thought about going through the cities to calm the people down but then he realized he didn’t even have horses to pull his chariot!
By evening most of Egypt is at a standstill or crawling along under the backs of slaves. Pharaoh has had enough! It has been confirmed that every beast of burden or flock in the care of Egypt is dead. Their corpses need to be dealt with as well as getting Egypt running again. Pharaoh sends his generals to Goshen to see how the Hebrews livestock are doing.
The chief commander reports back to Pharaoh that ALL of the Hebrews flocks and herds are healthy. There is not a dead animal among them.
“Commandeer those animals! I want them in service tomorrow morning! Drag the Hebrews along with them if they resist!”
“The Hebrews only have donkeys and oxen that are fit for burdens. They have no horses or camels. What should we do about replacing them?”
“Go and purchase what you need from our neighbors. Get Egypt running again, whatever the cost.”
That night several herds of donkeys and oxen that belong to the Hebrews are pressed into service for Pharaoh. The Hebrews fell the loss of their animals but there are still enough to meet their own labor needs. The Lord has protected them again on that front.
It cost Pharaoh quite a bit but Egypt is running again within four days. “So much for your God’s severe plague” thinks Pharaoh. “Egypt still stands strong and the Hebrews are firmly in their place.”
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Father God, thank You for a heart that sees others’ trouble. I may not be able to solve their problems but at least I can lend a helping hand or a kind word. The best thing I can do is pray for them. I’m curious why You chose to use livestock as an instrument of punishment in Your plagues. Were You going for Pharaoh’s pocket book? The animals were a BIG part of keeping the country running. They still are today but in a different way. I can’t imagine the impact of every flock and herd dying today. Prices would SKYROCKET! Your future plagues will hit them in the pocket book too. Sometimes that’s what it takes to get our attention. I feel for the animals that had to die in this instance. What a waste. But that’s not the end yet!
Where is your treasure? Pharaoh’s pocket book wasn’t as affected as the common man’s but their “treasure” was in jeopardy. ANY treasure on earth is in jeopardy. Treasure in Heaven is the only safe “treasure” there is. That “treasure” starts with a relationship with You and build each time we give of ourselves to others out of love and service to You. We may not see any dollar signs but You put those acts in a special vault to show us when we finally see You face to face. I wonder how many “items” are in my vault. I’m not trying to “get rich” but I love being able to do help where I can.