Our passage this week is a confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh. God has sent Moses and Aaron back to Pharaoh to command him to let the people of Israel go. The Lord knows that Pharaoh is going to ask for a miraculous sign to corroborate the authority and power behind this demand. So he instructs Moses: “When Pharaoh says prove yourselves…say to Aaron, “Take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh, that it may become a serpent.”

Aaron does so, and the staff becomes a serpent. The magicians of Pharaoh are summoned to combat this power, and they also cast down staffs that become serpents. The serpent of Moses, however, swallows up the serpents of Pharaoh’s servants.

This contest shows us the sovereignty of God over the idols of men. The cobra was the national emblem of Egypt. Pharaoh had an enraged cobra on the front of the crown he wore. Egypt believed the power of their gods was behind it. All the idols of men are religious. They are given god-like qualities in the minds of people who embrace them. They provide power, pleasure, security, pride, and such in the minds of their followers. They end in destruction however.

Pharaoh and Egypt equated the power of their military with the deadliness of the cobra. They believed their gods could defeat any other gods. When God’s serpent swallows up Pharaoh’s, it represents the utter defeat of the power of Egypt’s god. Their god was shown to be no god at all. We have to beware of idols. They are a renouncing of the one true God.

There are endless idols. Someone once said the hearts of men are idol factories. If you are a Christian, you have renounced idols for Christ. Nevertheless, you must still battle them. You know to trust in them is futile and blasphemous, but it is difficult to put them to death. Those who don’t know Christ trust in their idols instead. Idols are preferable to sinners because you can make your god however suits you.  That is the allure and the danger. It is a lie.

When we are confronted with the truth of the Lord, we are either humbled or hardened with respect to our idols. Pharaoh was hardened. He will defy God to cling to his idols. It will lead to his destruction. People mock God with idols. Things will be different at the end. Then it will be clear the futility in idolatry. Idols blind us to that destiny.

The miracles in the Bible can help to show the path to repenting of idolatry. It is plain in this miracle that the swallowing of Pharaoh’s serpents is foreboding; a clear sign of judgment to come. Our biggest problems are not in having enough money, power, happiness, pleasure, or whatever. Our biggest problems are sin and death. We need reconciliation with God.

God says we are not acceptable to him because of our sin. Miracles in the gospels point to our need of a miraculous salvation. For example, Jesus did miracles of healing the blind, the deaf, lame, even raising people from the dead. Look at these things closely.

These miracles point to spiritual realities we must have: we need the Lord to open sin-blinded eyes, unstop sin-deafened ears. We need healing to be able to walk with God, and God to give us new hearts; raise us spiritually from the dead. The right job, right amount of money or power, right relationship, right accomplishments, right circumstances or right whatever cannot do this for you. Only the Lord can.

If you do not have Christ truly, you will have to account for all your sin and idolatry. It will stand as a written testimony against you, as it did for Pharaoh. You will die in your sins. This is what the Lord says.  This is what this story is warning us away from.

On the other hand, if you have Christ, you can stand in the presence of God, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. All the written testimony against you will be wiped away in the sacrifice of Christ. You have an eternal inheritance with the one, true God. You can endure whatever circumstances, be content whether you have plenty or very little, and you can endeavor to love both God and your neighbor in view of so great a salvation. Keep yourself free of idols.