God is not in the entertainment business nor is He engaged in putting on cosmic fireworks displays of His signs and wonders. God does everything for a purpose. God communicates with mankind many ways, running the gamut from admonition through His Word and teachers all the way to the most public and horrific displays of signs and wonders. But they all have the same thing in common: They’re intended to focus us on His Word and message, NOT on the signs and wonders themselves.
In fact, if we studied all the uses of signs and wonders throughout the Bible we would learn that they’re most often intended for non-believers rather than believers. That’s because their main goal is to prompt attention to God’s message that the witnesses of such events will hear and repent. They’re not a guarantee that anyone will hear and repent, only a very forceful punctuation leading to the potential opening of one’s ears. The signs and wonders performed by God as recorded in Exodus had
Read verses 1-7
Q: Why does God harden Pharaoh’s heart?
A: “...that I may multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt”. (v.3)
Q: What will be Pharaoh’s response to the signs and wonders?
A: He “does not listen”. (v.4) It’s important to note that it’s not about the signs and wonders by themselves, but the message that accompanies them. Signs and wonders are not the message but rather punctuate and reinforce the message.
Q: What will God do in response to Pharaoh’s refusal to listen?
A: “I will...bring out My hosts, My people...from the land of Egypt with great judgments”. (v.4) God’s response to closed ears is judgment. But it’s important to note that He is not promising immediate relief to Israel from Egypt, but outlining a process that both sides will witness and go through in one way or another.
Q: What is the ultimate purpose of God’s signs and wonders carrying out His judgment that leads to the release of Israel? How does this explain the nature of what is really going on in this situation?
A: “The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord”. It’s an indication that what is really at issue is a spiritual issue: The acknowledgment of the One True God.
Q: If Israel represents Believers and Egypt non-Believers, for whom are signs and wonders aimed and why?
A: They’re aimed at non-believers because their purpose is to bring attention to the message of acknowledging and turning to God. Believers should already be “listening” as evidenced by their obedience to God’s Word, so signs and wonders are not necessary for them in the same way. For believers, they reinforce the faith in God they already have shown by their obedience. For non-believers they’re a drastic attempt to get them to listen.
Read verses 8-13
Q: Would you classify this event as one of the plagues?
A: No. It’s a sign—an “attesting miracle”—meant to testify to God’s authority and power.
Q: Why doesn’t God immediately begin with the plagues?
A: He first provides the opportunity to recognize and come to Him by recognizing the power of His Word. Signs often accompany God’s messengers (i.e., Jesus, the Apostles, etc.) to provide a testimony to that message. Judgments are reserved and doled out by God as a result of not “listening” to the message and accompanying attesting miracles.
Q: What should we learn from the magicians’ response?
A: The false prophets and teachers of Satan have the ability to duplicate many signs, although they are not as strong as God’s signs. One of the chief ways to tell the difference between the two is examining the accompanying message as to whether or not it adheres to God’s Word.
Q: According to the example of Pharaoh, what is the definition of a “hardened” heart?
A: “He did not listen to them”. (v.13)
Read verses 14-25
Q: In examining v.16, how do we know the true purpose of signs and wonders?
A: Because Pharaoh is not accused by God of not believing in the signs but that “you have not listened until now”. The purpose of signs and wonders is to draw attention to the message.
Q: What is the message that God wants Pharaoh to adopt?
A: According to v.17, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord”. It’s the acknowledgment and recognition of God’s sovereignty.
Q: How do we know that this sign was not just a coincidence, something that happened to occur at the same time as a natural disaster hitting the Nile?
A: Because of v.19, that all water was temporarily turned to blood, even the water already in household pots and pans.
Q: What is the symbolism of blood and the message it might communicate in this situation?
A: Blood represents death. Therefore the message is a strong lesson about the consequences of choosing to ignore God’s Word.
Q: How did the magicians find fresh water to themselves change to blood to show that they could counterfeit this sign as well?
A: As indicated in v.24, fresh water could be found by digging for it. It shows that although they may have been able to duplicate the sign, they could only do it to a very small and limited degree compared to what God did through Moses and Aaron.
Q: In spite of the overwhelmingly larger size of God’s sign than that of the magicians, what was Pharaoh’s response?
A: “He did not listen to them”. (v.22)
Read verses 8:1-15
Q: What is the significant difference between this sign and those displayed previously?
A: Although this one could be counterfeited, it could not be withdrawn without divine intervention. Pharaoh had to ask God to end it.
Q: How is this one different from the previous in the way it ends?
A: Whereas the others BEGAN as a sign from God, this one ENDS as a sign from God in asking Pharaoh to choose the time of its ending. It has a double-emphasis in its testimony not only as to its divine origins but its divine ending.
Q: What is the condition Moses sets as to the ending of the plague and how does it fit in with our discussion of the purpose of signs and wonders?
A: In v.10 Moses states, “May it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.” It’s a subtle way of stating that Pharaoh should heed God’s Word just as God will now heed his.
Q: What was wrong with Pharaoh’s “word”?
A: It only lasted as long was there was a problem. As soon as the problem went away, he reneged and did not keep his word.
Q: How would you describe Pharaoh’s “faith” or “righteousness”?
A: It existed only so long as to get out of a problem; it does not last nor is it sincere.
Read verses 16-19
Q: What is immediately different about the manner in which this plague is carried out versus the previous signs?
A: There is no initial confrontation with Pharaoh. God initiates the plague without a formal declaration to Pharaoh.
Q: What is different here regarding the role and abilities of Pharaoh’s magicians?
A: This is the first sign or wonder they have not been able to duplicate to some degree. This causes them to testify, “This is the finger of God”. (v.19) They recognize God at work.
Q: What is slightly different about Pharaoh’s response?
A: He’s not just closing his ears to Moses and Aaron, but is refusing to listen to his own agents. The unbelief of the one man—Pharaoh—is not necessarily shared by all the other Egyptians.
Read verses 20-24
Q: How would you characterize the change in God’s stance and approach beginning with this plague? What is the lesson God might be trying to teach?
A: God is escalating the power and emphasis of His signs by directing them solely against Egypt and exempting Israel. It’s the stark difference between obedience to His Word and rejection of it.
Q: Why is Israel exempt? Is it simply a matter of God playing favorites?
A: To this point, EVERYONE was equally affected by the plagues. However, the Israelites responded to the message the signs punctuated; therefore it’s not Israel that needs convincing but Egypt, the ones not responding correctly. You might say that Israel is passing the test of faith whereas Egypt is not.
Q: What is God’s purpose?
A: “...in order that you [Pharaoh] will know that I am in the midst of the land.” (v.23) The issue is recognition and acknowledgment of God’s presence and authority.
Q: How did God give proof of this in the way this plague was carried out versus the previous?
A: Whereas the previous plagues were initiated through Moses and Aaron, this one was not. It was instigated directly by God.
Can you see—even in judgment—all the ways that God tries to the very last to reach people? Why does God employ such wide and yet subtlety different approaches?
Can you see that the reason some people continue to struggle spiritually is because they refuse to listen to God? How can you assist such people? How will you pray for them?
Are you—or anyone you know—in the “early” stages of disobedience where He is still using words or signs to coax you into listening to Him? Why is it going to require God elevating things to the level of judgments before you or they listen?
Can you see that the desire to see signs and wonders is an indication of a wrong and disobedient heart? Why?
There are many parallels to the events and judgments of Egypt and the final events and judgments of the End Times. List and discuss as many as possible:
God sent two witnesses to Pharaoh; in the Last Days He sends His two witnesses to the world.
The signs and wonders escalate in their intensity.
Just as some of the signs and wonders were counterfeited by Pharaoh’s magicians, so some will be counterfeited by Satan and his followers in the Last days.
Although there will be a wide variety of responses, the general response is unbelief in spite of witnessing great signs and wonders.
The beginning signs and wonders affect everyone on earth, but just as at one point Israel is exempted, so God’s chosen are exempted beginning at a certain point according to Revelation.
Just as Israel is taken out—raptured, if you will—from Egypt, so the church is taken out of the earth.
The signs and wonders are not a test of knowledge, but a test of faith.