The First Plague: Water Turned to Blood
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water; stand by at the river bank to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was turned into a snake. Say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.” But until now you have not listened. Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord.” See, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to blood. The fish in the river shall die, the river itself shall stink, and the Egyptians shall be unable to drink water from the Nile.’ ” The Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over its rivers, its canals, and its ponds, and all its pools of water—so that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout the whole land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’ ”
Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and of his officials he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the river was turned into blood, and the fish in the river died. The river stank so that the Egyptians could not drink its water, and there was blood throughout the whole land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians had to dig along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the river.
Seven days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.”
Jesus and Beelzebul1
Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see. All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.” He knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
The Gospel message has been sometimes reduced to Good News -> Bad News -> Good News [(although some leave out the initial Good News)(https://www.gotquestions.org/bad-news-good-news.html). The initial Good News is that God created us to be good. The Bad News is that we chose to reject God and our place in the world. The second Good News is that God sent Jesus into the world to forgive and redeem us, giving us a second chance and the grace to do better through the Holy Spirit.
That is the forest view, oversimplified, a bit rough, and a bit crude. It cuts through sweeping landscapes of fields and forests, river valleys and barren canyons, mountains and minefields. God’s grace is not a line graph or a V-shape, it is a continent whose physical features tell a story, not a formula and we cheapen our worship and witness of God when we reduce Him to what He does rather than who He is. (The way we often confuse human beings with human doings)
There are more than two instances of Good News. Even in God’s judgment, sometimes even in punishment, there is Good News to be found. Consider the first of the plagues against Egypt. All their water turned to blood. God started off small, but very visible. Everyone would have noticed their water had gone bad. However, it was only the fish who were killed, and the livelihoods of the fishermen disrupted.
The imagery was strong and undeniable though. Just as you killed the Hebrew children in the previous generation, so now you will literally bathe in and drink blood. For the Egyptians, who had similar values of cleanliness, this would have been one of the worst kinds of uncleanliness they could face. In one day, God showed the entire nation to be unclean because of the sins of their past.
The Good news of this judgment is that God gives us warnings. He does not leave us without conscience or concept of law and order and often times He spells out our wrongdoings plain as day. When trying to discern God’s will I have found that while God may be slow to say yes, His “no’s” are very quick and clear. A cruel god would leave us to fend for ourselves. One aspect of the Good News is that God does not expect us to figure it out all on our own.
But there is an even greater Good News. God does does not let wrongs go on forever. He rights them. Jesus Himself had no second thoughts about casting evil spirits out of people. Unlike His contemporaries, Jesus saw these people who often did horrible things as a result of their spiritual oppression, not as criminals, but as sick persons in need of a doctor. This may have inspired the notion that the Church is a hospital for sinners. I’m not completely in favor of that metaphor, but if it is the one we are working with, we need to follow Jesus’ own example and make sure it is a place that people actually get well. Jesus never intended the Church to just be a waiting room. Cures often involve drastic, even traumatic measures. Hospitals do more than hand out little pills. They surgically remove tumors, administer injections, and in extreme cases even amputate limbs and transplant body organs. Hospitals get the bad out and put the good in. So does God.
What good news is God sharing with you today?
- (Mk 3:19b—30; Lk 11:14–23) ↩