Scripture Reading: Exodus 8:16-32 (NRSV)
Within this text today, we have the first account where the Egyptian magicians are unable to reproduce the power of God.
Gnats are certainly awful, especially when you are trying to breathe. As we think of gnats and flies, they are not so bothersome today because we can seal our houses up so tight. This would not have been the case in ancient Egypt.
After the Nile turning to blood and the frogs and the gnats and flies, it seems that the people of Egypt would have to be wondering why these things keep happening. Even today, these events would create a panic.
Pharaoh knows and even agrees a second time to let the people go to sacrifice in the wilderness but once again he goes back on his word when Moses releases the land from the flies.
It is as if Pharaoh can't help himself. Giving up the Hebrew people as slaves would change their whole economy and each time the plague ceases, he may have talked himself into believing that it couldn't have been as bad as it seemed. Surely it wouldn't happen again.
From our perspective, it seems as if Pharaoh is refusing to do what is right. But from an ancient perspective, he is trying to look out for the best interests of his people. Having slaves meant that his own people would not have to work as hard. Within their understanding, they wouldn't have afforded foreigners the same rights and privileges that we would today.
To share this understanding, imagine what you would do for your own family that you wouldn't do for a stranger. This gives helps us understand how tribal we still are in many respects.
Think about conflict in the world today. It could be global or national or local. Where do you see lines being drawn over these basic tribal understandings? How is God calling us to erase these lines?
Photo by magdalena_b from Flickr's creative commons.