THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-25-90 7:30 p.m.
We welcome the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. You’re now part of our precious congregation, the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Difference Between.
I read my text, which I will be expounding on at the end of the message. It’s in Exodus 11:7: ". . . that ye may know how that the Lord doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel." Now tonight, we’re going to have an exposition of these chapters: 5 through 12; and we begin with this text in chapter 5, verse 22:
And Moses returned unto the Lord and said, "Lord, wherefore hast Thou so evil entreated this people? Why is it that Thou has sent me?
For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast Thou delivered Thy people at all."
This is Moses’ despair, and he throws himself upon the mercies of God. You see what happened was when he came with the announcement that he was delivering the people from the oppression of their taskmasters, chapter 5, verse 7 and 9, Pharaoh says:
Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick as heretofore. Let them go and gather straw for themselves.
And the tale of bricks – the number of the bricks – which they did make heretofore, he shall lay upon them. Ye shall not diminish ought thereof. For [they] be idle; therefore, they cry saying, "Let us go and sacrifice to our God."
Let there more work be laid upon the men, that they may labor therein, and let them not regard vain words.
So instead of his coming as a blessing to those dear and oppressed people, his coming brought burdensome grief to all the families of God’s children. Now that’s chapter 5.
You look at how chapter 6 begins: "Then" – that’s the first word – "Then the Lord said unto Moses, ‘Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh . . . ‘" And I want you to look at this cluster of "I wills." You have one there that I’ve just read, the first verse of chapter 6. I want you to see what "I will."
Now look at the cluster of "wills" in verses 6, 7, and 8. "Wherefore say unto the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians’" [Exodus 6:6]. All right again, "I will rid you of their bondage" [Exodus 6:6]. Look again, "I will redeem you with a stretched out hand and with great judgments" [Exodus 6:6]. Verse 7: "I will take you to Me for a people" [Exodus 6:7]. And look again: "I will be to you a God, and ye shall know that I am the Lord which bringeth you out from the burdens of the Egyptians" [Exodus 6:7]. Look in – now verse : "I will bring you into the land concerning which I swore to give it to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob; and I will give it to you for an inheritance: I am the Lord" [Exodus 6:8].
God doesn’t fail ever to promise us that He’ll see us through. No matter the providence, no matter the hurt, no matter the burden, no matter the grief, no matter the providences that overwhelm us, God says, "I’ll see you through" [2 Corinthians 1:8-11; Philippians 4:13; Hebrews 13:5]. And the same Lord that spoke then is the same Lord that speaks to us [Hebrews 13:8].
Now I want you to look at verse 3 in chapter 7: "I will harden Pharaoh’s heart." Remember that Pharaoh hardened his own heart first. Look in chapter 8, verse 15: "But when Pharaoh saw that there was respite, he hardened his heart and hearkened not unto them, as the Lord had said." Now look in verse 32 of that same chapter 8: "And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also." Now look in chapter 9 at verse 34: "And when Pharaoh saw that the rain, and the hail, and the thunders were ceased, he sinned yet more; and hardened his heart, he and his servants."
There is something about the mysterious power of evil in human life that is everlastingly true. It obtains throughout all of the experiences of life. When God gives us permission to be free to choose, and a man chooses to go from evil to evil, he becomes that evil himself. You can say "no" to God and "no" to God and "no" to God until finally you become a negation yourself. You become that evil. It’s a strange depravity of human life. That’s why we need God’s grace; and that’s why we need to be aware of the danger of fighting against God – of turning aside from the call and will of God for our lives.
Finally, my father believed in the unpardonable sin [Matthew 12:30-32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:8-10]; and he used to speak to me about that, and he’d illustrate it in the lives of men that I knew even as a boy. You can say "no" and "no" and "no" and "no" to God until finally you become that negation. There’s nothing in your heart that responds – nothing in your life that is sensitive to the will and call and purpose of God. How desperately do we need the Lord’s voice in our lives, and to listen to what God speaks to us, and to the work and ministry of faith and devotion to which He’s called us!
Now I want you to look at a text in chapter 12, verse 12. Chapter 12, verse 12: He says, "I will pass through the land of Egypt this night. I will smite all the firstborn in the land, both man and beast." Now, "and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. I am the Lord" [Exodus 12:12]. What happened in the plagues? They had a purpose. They were the humiliation of the gods that the Egyptians were worshiping.
That text in Exodus 12:12 is the answer to the second verse in chapter 5. Pharaoh said, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go" [Exodus 5:2]. And those plagues were judgments upon the gods that the Egyptians worshiped.
For example, the first plague when the Nile was made blood [Exodus 7:14-25]: they worshiped the Nile. It was a stream from the hands of the goddess of life and water, and God made that Nile blood. The fourth one in sending flies [Exodus 8:20-32]: I suppose there’s nobody that’s ever traveled that didn’t try to pick up somewhere a scarab, a little thing that symbolize a beetle. They worshiped them in Egypt, and so many people that travel abroad will try to pick up one of those ancient scarabs. When God sent the flies, it was a contemptuous casting down of the god represented by that sacred beetle; or when He sent in the fifth plague, He sent the murrain on the cattle [Exodus 9:1-6].
Mrs. C. asked me last night, "What was the name of the sacred bull of Egypt?" It was Apis, and they worshiped Apis. They’d have those beautiful temples, and on the inside of that beautiful temple, in the sacred holy of holies, would be a sacred bull; and they worshiped that bull. That fifth plague was against Apis. And then that ninth one, when God darkened the sun in Egypt [Exodus 9:21-29], their great god was named Ra: Ra, R-A. Ra: that was the sun god, and the Lord God darkened it. He was helpless, this so-called god Ra, before the might of the Almighty.
So all of those plagues, all of them, were against the gods that the Egyptians worshiped; and the Lord was holding them in tremendous contempt. In chapter 7, verse 19, the first plague: the Nile is turned to blood; the second plague, chapter 8, verse 2: the frogs that come down. Their slimy bodies: they are filthy and dirty, and they make stench in the land [Exodus 8:14]. The third plague, chapter 8, verse 16: the lice. Their priests were covered with lice [Exodus 8:18-19]. They were filthy – these that supposedly represented the great gods of the Egyptians. The fourth plague, chapter 8, verse[s] [21-22]: the flies, the scarabs I’ve just mentioned; the fifth plague, chapter 9, verse 3: the murrain against the god of the bull Apis; and the sixth plague, chapter 9, verse 9: the boils and the blains; and the seventh plague, chapter 9 and verse 18: the hail that destroyed the land; and the eighth plague, chapter 10, verse 4: the locusts. Heretofore, the plagues have been against the animals. Now, it’s against the produce of the land. And the ninth plague: the darkness in that land of radiant sunlight [Exodus 10:21]. There is that awful experience of the darkness that enclosed the people for three days and three nights.
Then of course, chapter 11, which is a brief chapter and is a pause before the awful tenth plague when the firstborn was slain in all of the land [Exodus 12:12]. You know, when I look at that eleventh chapter before that awesome judgment of death upon the firstborn of man and beast, I just – I’ve tried to imagine the human response to a tragedy like that. Every family, every one of them, the firstborn dies; in the field, all the cattle. Everywhere there is death, death; and before that awesome judgment is this little short eleventh chapter of the Book of Exodus.
When I look at that, I think of the eighth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, "There was silence in heaven" [Revelation 8:1]. It starts off with that: "There was silence in heaven." At the opening of the seventh seal, and before the blowing of the seven trumpets of judgment, there was silence in heaven [Revelation 8:1-2, 7]. That’s like this. Before that incomparable disaster and tragedy and sorrow of the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, there is this little short chapter just before [Exodus 11].
Now in that chapter is this text I’ve just read: "That ye may know how that the Lord God doth put a difference between the Egyptians and Israel" [Exodus 11:7]. I want to speak of that in our lives. God puts a difference between us and these who know not the Lord as our Savior. There’s a difference in lifestyle. You can’t hide it. If you are a child of God, if you are a Christian, you are different from the world. You don’t talk like it. You don’t drink like them. You don’t live like them, and you don’t enjoy things like them.
There was the beatenest thing this afternoon over there at the "Y." One of the leaders of the "Y" brought a card, a placard, and he said, "Before I put this up, I want to ask you about it." And I looked at that placard, an announcement, and I said to him, "It is highly offensive to me, highly offensive." To the world, there was a kick in it, I’m sure, but to me there was an offense in the language. You don’t talk like them. God puts a difference between you and the world.
It’s like this stuff on television – and I don’t go to the picture show, but I read about it. Oh, how Hollywood and how the world loves that nudity and that foul language and all of the violence! And, dear people, looking at the televised programs in our hotel room in London, I am amazed at how they are over there in Europe. No wonder that land is godless. It is unbelievable how they have forsaken the decency of the Christian life. God puts a difference.
Could I pause to say something crazy here about the difference between? When I was in the seminary, there were three of us who went to hear Paderewski play the piano. It was in the civic auditorium, and the thing was packed to the last seat. Well, the three of us, my two friends and I, were seated there and there was a vacant seat on the aisle right next to me. My two friends here, and I was seated; and then, there was a vacant seat there – the only one in that vast auditorium, that civic center, that seat right there. And we began to speculate about who’s going to come and sit down there. I want you to know that just before Paderewski came out to play, there swished into the auditorium the most gorgeous female creature you ever looked at in your life. Oh, she was dressed like a million dollars, and she came and sat down there by me in that vacant seat!
Well, that was one of the most interesting little coincidences that I ever felt in my life. So I said in my heart, "Now I’m going to get acquainted with that beautiful, gorgeous creature, but I’m not going to let her know I’m a preacher." So when Paderewski had done his first section of his playing and left for an interlude, I looked over to her and I said to her, and with a gesture of my hand, I said to her, "Look. Isn’t this the biggest congregation you ever saw in your life?" She looked around and said, "Yes, yes." Then, "Congregation? Congregation? You – you must be a preacher." That ruined that. Oh, dear.
There’s a difference between: you don’t talk like them if you love God. Your own vocabulary and your nomenclature is different. You’re not like them. Your lifestyle is altogether different. I marvel at some of my neighbors out there where we live. It never occurs to them that Sunday is a sacred day. I, all of my life, have got up in the morning on Sunday and dressed and gone to church. I would be lost without it. They never think of it. I cannot understand. It’s a difference. God makes a difference in your life when you are a child of God.
Now I have to conclude. God makes a difference in death and in eternity. God says there’s a great abyss between these that are saved and these that are lost [Luke 16:26]. God makes that difference, and Jesus so solemnly spoke of that [Luke 16:19-31]. Sometimes He’d speak of it like the wheat and the tares [Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43]. They grow up together in the earth, but at the Judgment Day they’re separated. We live in the same world, but we’re going to two different places. Sometimes He’d speak of it like the fish caught in a net, and the good is kept and the bad is thrown away [Matthew 13:47-50]. Sometimes He’d speak of it like the ten virgins: five of them were prepared for the coming of the bridegroom, and five of them were lost unprepared [Matthew 25:1-12]. O God, how we pray that when the great and final day ultimately comes, the Lord will find us prepared, ready, welcoming the return of our glorious and wonderful Savior!
God makes a difference. In the story that I’ve just read, there was a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night [Exodus 13:21-22]. And the Bible says it was darkness to the Egyptians, but it was light and glory to the people of God [Exodus 10:21-23]. It’s like that Red Sea through which they passed. For Israel, it was an avenue, an escape, to heavenly life and the promised land, but to the Egyptians it was death [Exodus 14:1-31]. God makes that difference. What is life to us is death to them.
O God, that there might be in us that ableness and that power to show these who are lost the way of salvation that they might be saved, that they come with us. I do not understand why anyone would hesitate to receive from God’s hands the rich blessings of life. Everything good God purposes for those who love Him [Psalm 34:10, 84:11; Jeremiah 29:11; James 1:17].
And that’s our appeal tonight: maybe someone here, in this presence, who’s never accepted Jesus as Savior – what a blessing to open your heart to Him. He died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, according to the Word and revelation of God [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He was buried, and He was raised again according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:4]. Raised, the Bible says, for our justification [Romans 4:23-25] – to see to it that we make it to heaven.
O God, what a wonderful Lord you are, and how You bless our hearts and bless our lives and give us every rich benedictory amendment that only heaven could afford! Maybe there’s someone here to put his life with us in the church, or a family you to come. In a moment Fred McNabb will lead us in the singing of an invitation hymn, and while we sing the hymn, I’ll be standing here at the front. You come and stand by me; and a thousand times welcome while we all stand and sing our hymn of appeal.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN
Harden heart of Pharoah
1. Water turned to
5. Murrain that
killed the cattle
10. Death of firstborn sons
Difference between plagues 1 through 9 and plague 10
1. Brief interlude
between 9 and 10
2. Tenth plague
worse than all