The Fifth Plague: Livestock Diseased
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, the hand of the Lord will strike with a deadly pestilence your livestock in the field: 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 shall die of all that belongs to the Israelites.’ ” The Lord set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.” And on the next day the Lord did so; all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but of the livestock of the Israelites not one died. Pharaoh inquired and found that not one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let the people go.”
Paul’s Concern for the Corinthian Church
I have been a fool! You forced me to it. Indeed you should have been the ones commending me, for I am not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty works. How have you been worse off than the other churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!
Here I am, ready to come to you this third time. And I will not be a burden, because I do not want what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? Let it be assumed that I did not burden you. Nevertheless (you say) since I was crafty, I took you in by deceit. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves with the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?
Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up. For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again, my God may humble me before you, and that I may have to mourn over many who previously sinned and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practiced.”
Do you ever feel like the world is against you? Like God is picking on you in particular? We know that bad things happen to everyone but there are some days it seems like there is more to it than that. Some days it seems personal.
The Plagues in Egypt moved from the general to more specific across their span. It was not perfect, but over time it became more and more noticeable that the punishments were affecting the Egyptians and not the Hebrew people. Now, I can imagine how some of the types of livestock between the two groups would be kept in separate fields, and therefore one group could get sick while another stayed healthy… but all of them? Cattle, sheep, goats, horses, camels…? Some of these livestock were not just used for meat or milk, they were used to travel, and would have been exposed to the whole area. Even more than that, what kind of sickness affects every type of livestock all at once and is powerful enough to kill them in one day? The Egyptians would have had to buy or take livestock from the Hebrews, if they were confident enough that the sickness was gone. The Egyptian farmers would have found themselves at the economic mercy of the slaves as the price of meat and milk would have skyrocketed.
We don’t get information about what happened in Egypt after the Hebrew slaves left, but I would be surprised if they did not suffer famine, economic upheaval, and probably political uprisings as well. After all, Pharaoh’s claim to authority was tied to the idea that he was divine. Yet here this God of slaves made a fool of him before all his people, and Pharaoh could not protect them or their livelihood. God was getting personal with them and He was picking on them, specifically regarding their beliefs about who and what was in charge of the world. With each plague, God was breaking down their beliefs and lifting up evidence of His own power over the entire world.
Like Moses, Paul was a messenger of this God to a people who were not his own. No matter where he went, Paul was not home and never among true family except where Christ’s Spirit created new family through the Church. There they found a glorious new identity as planters, even perhaps as “fathers” of these new families. Yet when they left, the grumbling and complaining began. In every case (so far as I have read) it began and ended the same. Someone sinned or had sinned and would not let go of it. God had other plans, and they came into conflict with those in the Church, those outside the Church, and ultimately with God, Who wanted nothing more than to pull them out of that sin they were clinging to so dearly. We cannot fight an immortal, invisible God so sometimes we go after the messenger instead.
When you feel persecuted, who do you find yourself blaming?
Are there any places in your life you fight to maintain control over?
How would your life be different if you allowed God to rule over those areas in your life?