Blood, frogs, gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness. Nine plagues God struck Egypt with before the Passover, the final, and only effective one. I would have added lice to the mix. If Moses had struck Egypt with lice, any mother of a girl with long hair would have pleaded with Pharaoh to let Israel go. They would have picketed the palace with signs and chants: Now to lice say no/ let the people go! But I digress.
The last plague, before the Passover, is darkness. Sometimes I think that the world is entering into a virtual darkness right now, the kind that hints at the real thing and causes eyes to grow wide in search of light. But then I think of World War II, and Hitler, and how only a few generations later and here we are so far from it it barely makes a dent on our conscience, and I think maybe not; the human condition appears to be capable of far more evil than we can so far comprehend. I’ve never bought into the whole ‘humanity is inherently good’ maxim. Experientially, it doesn’t ring true to me.
If you believe what the Bible says, there’s a coming darkness that we can’t possibly grasp. Revelation 16:10 is pretty clear on it if you’re inclined to look it up. I appreciate Rick Warren and many others who state it something like this: Go through your whole life saying you don’t want to have anything to do with God, and you’ll eventually get your way. Hell means total separation from God. “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be separated from God — lost forever!” (1 Corinthians 16:22) Warren’s a true evangelist and a true lover of people to say it out loud. What kind of love would lead someone who believes in hell to remain mute on the subject?
But if you do look up references to darkness in the Bible, make sure you hit a few of the more optimistic ones. Under ‘darkness’, my concordance lists far more references referring to, not just light, but interestingly, a lack of darkness: Ephesians 5:8, I John 1:9. These are awesome; in him there is no darkness at all… stuff like that.
The opposite of darkness is light, but more precisely, it’s love. And we love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). He does, you know, love you. I felt his love once. Really felt it.
It’s hard to describe. It felt like liquid tongues of love. It came unexpectedly while I was lying in bed in a dark room feeling sorry for myself. I was surrounded, but it was personal. He was personal. He was my father and he was tucking me into bed and his love was so intense I had to call him off; it was too much.
Interestingly, my first response wasn’t “I love you back,” but “I don’t deserve this.” Remember, I was feeling sorry for myself at the time and caught up in selfish scrap. I was fully engaged with sin. In retrospect though, I think this reality is what made his love so powerful to me. If I had just preached Jesus to one whole ‘people group’ his unconditional love might not have been quite so apparent. As it was, great in mercy, God blessed me at what I would have considered the most inopportune time. I was entirely unprepared and feeling butt ugly.
Of course this is where the gospel is. In our underserving state God, through Christ, loves us, saves us, and cracks the door open so that light floods in, and our little twin bed in our little four-walled room becomes so brilliant we have to squint in his presence. In a word, we find that we are most certainly not alone.
I often think back to that sweet undeserved moment. I’m not one to feel God a whole lot. I virtually never feel “touched” by him or compelled to follow some direct revelatory commandment to go to this or that place and meet so and so and there will be a yellow car so get in it and say ‘the Lord told me’, etc. etc. My love for God is a choice, and even if it’s only to avoid gnats and bloody rivers, it’s real.
Moses was a man with a staff and a burning bush as his sweet undeserved moment. He took off his shoes, while I felt the hands of God gently tuck me in, but we're walking the same story. It's a long one, but then it's so very short. So simple. God is bigger than we could ever imagine, his power is greater than we could ever imagine, his love is deeper than we could ever imagine; so deep that he reached down with his mighty right hand (Jesus Christ), gently looked us in the eyes, and said "I love you."
He first loved me and he first loved you.