Have you ever imagined what the world looked, smelt and sounded like during the time of Moses? Have you imagined what it must have been like to witness the plagues that God sent on the land of Egypt…the splitting of the Red Sea, the colossal pillars of fire and cloud and the armies of locusts so vast that anything similar was never seen before or since?
I bet you have.
Read Exodus 7-11 quickly, refresh your memory and dive with me into the world of ancient Egypt.
One last question: Have you ever wondered why it was that Jannes and Jambres, (Pharaoh’s official ‘magicians’), were able to contend with Moses by mimicking God’s show of power?
I have always understood their ‘replica plagues’ to have happened by supernatural power in just the same way that I understood all the plagues of God Almighty to also be supernatural.
So what *on earth* was going on?
The supernatural world is good and it is evil and demonic power is as real (though not as glorious) as the angelic.
Demonic power (*any spiritual power other than the Spirit of God and His angelic armies*) is the fascination of all world cultures because every human being is an image-bearer of God and yet the majority of people on the planet are not (yet) saved. Doesn’t everyone gravitate toward the supernatural in some form? I think they do – either in fanatical ways, or atheistic ways, or nominally compromised ways, or dark, fearful ways, or in darkness-masquerading-as-light ways.
This is especially obvious in the movie industry….indeed, we have an imbalance in the Force, Luke.
Go and browse the Blu-rays in your local store and clock the sheer number of dark and twisted supernatural films that are available – they easily outweigh anything else, maybe by as much as 50%.
Satan on a Leash
But Jannes and Jambres were on a leash because Satan and the demonic power they operated in were also on a leash much like in the account of Job.
Notice that these magicians of dark, supernatural power (think Sauron rather than Gandalf), were only able to imitate God to a point. The extent of their supernatural power included turning water into blood, summoning plagues of frogs and even temporarily turning a wooden staff into a snake. Beyond this, Jannes and Jambres were totally stumped.
The Glory of a Gnat
OK – one more question: why was it that these men were able to perform other miracles but not the plague of gnats? This question smacked me about the chops this week.
This is what I think:
Unlike all of the other plagues that were mimicked, the transformation of the dust of the earth into a plague of gnats was a creative miracle. Turning water into blood was not the same, nor was the calling forth of frogs from the River Nile. (I’ll come back to the snake incident a moment).
When Moses performed the miracle with the gnats, it was the creative, supernatural power of God that was being displayed. There was no way that Satan was going to get to play with that – this is where his leash jerked him back.
Only God gets to create and speak life into nothing. Only God has all authority in heaven and on Earth. Can you imagine Satan being allowed to speak life into dust and create, God-glorifying, Adamic life? No chance. This is why the magicians, in Exodus 8:19 when they saw the power of God, said
“…This is the finger of God…”
I’ve asked myself why it was, then, that the Egyptians were able to first follow suit when Moses turned his staff into a snake.
Interestingly, in the ancient pagan world, snakes represented the creative life force. This would not have been lost on the magicians as their miscarriage of creation was literally swallowed up by the snake of Moses. The devil can’t even create one single gnat.
The only One with authority to create life, to breathe life, is God; the only man in this Exodus scene who had the glory of wielding prophetic creative power…was Moses.
This is why, among a thousand million of them, there is unfathomable glory in a single, minuscule gnat and why something as small as this can be used to demonstrate the infinite difference between the supernatural power of God and the supernatural power of Satan.
Shouldn’t there be more films reflecting this?
Don’t we need an awakening and a shift in the Force? [Star Wars metaphor….over]
10 thoughts on “The Supernatural Glory Of God in a Single Gnat”
Great thoughts Nick! I heard a sermon recently where the preacher challenged “the creatives” in the church to write, paint, draw, film, edit, sing, dance and act with a “BAPTISED IMAGINATION” (one that displays the glory of God in the arts). Tolkien, CSLewis and Bono are possible examples of this.
With much emphasis on the mission also movement perhaps there need to be more collaborative creative movements of artisan souls (like Erwin McManus) exploring how God’s power, glory and name can credibly enter the arts, education, business, etc?
That’s true, Stu…
The redemption of the arts , the creative process and musical/digital/media worlds (even the creative slide) is a glorious thought!
So much of what we now understand to be ‘creative’ is a mere shadow of what’s to come in eternity – it’s difficult to imagine – that even the goose-bump glimpses of brilliance that satisfy us now (like Bono or Tolkien) are only really tantamount to Lewis’ ‘mud pie slums’ from The Weight of Glory.
That’s supposed to be encouraging to press on deeper and higher rather than to be ungrateful!
I’ll check McManus out – thanks!
What do you think of the apparent contradiction between the creation of gnats and snakes in this piece?
Thanks for reading/commenting!
I love this idea of redeeming the arts and other sectors for the kingdom. I’m sure if followers of Christ put their minds to it then we could write very compelling stories for the glory of God.
Me and my brother discuss this topic every other day and thank you for referring Erwin McManus, I will also look him up.
This is really good Nick! I like you explanation.
I found it curious that the magicians were able to do a few miracles, but I didn’t understand why not all.
I don’t really get your Star Wars references 😛
I don’t know if you consider the last Superman movie as dark & twisted, but I felt it was the story of the Bible: the Father sends His Son to save the world 🙂
And yes, there should be more movies/arts displaying His creation and genius.
Thanks for reading, Roxana!
The Star Wars analogy – (I’ll explain soon over a sugar-free desert 😉).
I’m still trying to make my mind up about whether this article is contradictory or not:
That Jammes and Jambres created a snake out of a wooden staff before the plagues started may seem to blow my thoughts out of the water.
But I can’t help but think there is still a distinction here between a creative miracle that essentially was put to death (a miscarriage of a creative miracle) and the wonder of creating a mind-blowing plague of gnats that went on to live fully and glorify the Creator.
I’ve seen the Superman film and remember enjoying it! It had a strong story-line, eh.
I’m meaning the plethora of films that really are dark and messed up, fascinated with one extremely warped view of the spiritual realm. It’s everywhere and yet the ‘heavenly realm’ is nothing like this in reality!
Awesome thoughts bro! I also agree that the arts and entertainment need to be redeemed. This will need kingdom minded followers and not church minded followers (a discussion for another day perhaps).
Many shows and tv series are often one sided (leaning onto the ‘darkside’) when they refer to spiritual matters. For example ‘supernatural’ (tv series) which draws on the biblical narrative for it’s source material tends to be one sided.
I do agree with you that there is a clear separation of God’s power and the enemy’s. Jesus is the creative life force of all creation, so there are things that He can do that the enemy can’t unless by authorization from God himself. I tend to think of it this way: God can create and the enemy can manipulate/mimic what has been created. There’s another curious verse you’ll recall that in Matthew 3:9 which is similar to the gnats when Jesus warns the Jews that God can/will create children for himself from the stones if they do not want to be obedient.
I came across a bunch of interesting biblical commentaries talking about serpents while helping my mom with her theology studies. I think if one wants to resolve the apparent contradiction then one needs to unpacked the usage of serpents as a symbol in the biblical narrative:
1)The most obvious passage of a serpent was in The Garden.
2) Jacob’s blessing of Dan was also interesting because he prophesying that Dan will be a serpent in a way.
3)The serpent was a powerful symbol for the ancient Egyptians, Pharaoh himself (who was god) had a crown with a serpent on it. I imagine that his magicians had some kind of power derived from the demonic to control serpents. Some commentaries state the magicians did snake charming to copy the miracle but I believe that they really did turn rods into serpents.
4) We also know that God sent ‘fiery serpents’ among the Israelites due to their disobedience but also raises up the symbol of a serpent to heal them (that by their obedience they may be healed). Christ also refers to the same incident, referring to himself that he will also be raised up and will bring healing; a foreshadow of salvation.
So did God allow the magicians to mimic the miracle of a rod transforming into serpent as an assault to the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs and magic? Your most powerful symbol reduced to nothing as mine swallows up yours? Also foreshadowing how the same rod would ultimately be used to swallow up the armies of Egypt in the Red Sea? It seems that there’s a build up: the thing which the enemy used for evil, God ultimately uses it for his purpose.
Sorry for the long response, it’s just that you’ve opened up a very interesting discussion 🙂
I like the idea (already articulated by someone above in the comments) that God allows the magicians to do what they do in order to prove his power is greater. I live by a belief that GOD IS IN CONTROL: this is largely formed by a belief in the sovereignty of God. We know from later in the exodus account that Gods fame spread to neighbouring nations because of what he did in releasing the Hebrews from Egypt. If he is sovereign and wanted to show his power was omnipotent then it would make sense for him to allow others to do supernatural stuff.
In another thought, perhaps the supernatural is more like Star Wars and more available than we believe with our western ‘enlightened’ mindsets. I’ve not fully concluded anything in that department yet.
One thing I am sure of though: that the Supernatural glory of God is over and above the supercilious gory of Hollywood 😀
God is of course Sovereign and in control (Satan on a leash). The Prince of Egypt film (which is very beautiful) portrays the magicians as achieving their ‘miracles’ by sleight of hand. That doesn’t follow the scale of the text though – hence always understanding that there was demonic power afoot.
The main question in my mind is as I think about the difference between Jannes and Jambres calling frogs out of the Nile/turning water into blood and the actual creation of life which seemed to be where their powers stopped with the Gnats.
Was there there something different going on with the plague of gnats compared to the snake that appears to be ‘created’ with the magicians’ staffs? Or, as Luke says, maybe there was some sleight of hand…
Love your thoughts in this, mate…thanks for your time with it!
Your point that a lot of the ‘supernatural’ movies/tv series actually draw inspiration from biblical narrative is a good one – only to then go and skew the delivery of their final product! What is it about a dark, unhealthy bias that we prefer as opposed to a more balanced portrayal of light vs darkness (as in the Frank Peretti pastice “The Heavenlies” that I posted on FB yesterday)? Actually, I think Lord of the Rings is a good “Holywood example” that portrays the struggle very well!
The points about the serpent are really helpful! Like you say, it wasn’t random that it was a snake that Moses’ staff was transformed into…it was a hard-hitting point, prophetic fore-shadow about how the ‘plague discourse’ was going to unfold. The build up of tension that you mention is bang on but I hadn’t linked the swallowing up of the magician’s snakes with the swallowing up of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. This is really good!
I’d love to have been a fly on the wall (excuse the pun) during the ancient Egyptian era and seen & heard what it all looked like.
It’d have been merciless and brutal and very frightening, I’m sure.