The Hebrews watched as the plagues of Israel consumed the whole of Egypt. They watch God lead them in a cloud by day and a fire by night. They watched the Red Sea part and swallow the advancing armies hoping to kill or reenslave them. Yet, fresh off the heels of all of these things, they lost their nerve when Moses, their leader and messenger from God, had been gone for a few moments longer than expected. In the place of God Almighty, they erected a golden calf to worship saying these were the true gods that brought them out of Egypt. An enraged Moses came down from the mountain to see utter chaos. Aaron fumbles through his excuses and the people of Israel are punished. Moses declares that each person must pick a side – You are either for the Lord or against him. (Ex 32:26)
So much destruction occurs in these few chapters of our reading today as angel ominous trumpeting announces another terrifying event on earth. Cities are destroyed from earthquakes, fire, sulphur, and smoke destroy a large percentage of the population, and a plague occurs that tortures to the point of death, but never comes. It isn’t a pretty site – unleashed by ultimate permission giver. It will be an understatement that many will have their faith tested during these times, and begin seeking any answer to the misery they see unfolding before them. When there is no great parting of the Red Sea proclaiming the Lord is in this moment, so many will begin to look to new creatures, whether literal, people, or nations, to follow for immediate comfort or distraction. In fact, war will be raged against anyone who tries to serve the Lord during this time or who shares the testimony of Jesus (Rev 12:17). The only way to survive it seems, is to worship a beast and take its mark so you may buy or sell.
“The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk.” – Revelation 9:20
“The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom.” – Revelation 13:15-18a
There is much to study in these scriptures about what the unfolding of these events may look like in our coming world, but the implications of these passages are as simple as the charge from Moses. When I struggle, whose side am I on? If there isn’t immediate relief from the pain, whose side am I on? If it keeps me from my dreams, whose side am I on? When it costs me my reputation or position, whose side am I on? If it costs me my friends, my family, my children, or my life, whose side am I on? Even if you don’t live long enough to set your eyes on the terrifyingly terrific events laid out by the trumpets, you must make a decision before you cross the path of the lesser trials in your own life. A claim must be laid for the Lord in your heart, and you must begin setting yourself apart. Otherwise, your faith will be crushed at the first crosswind of complication. Indecision will place you in the queue of those ready to receive their mark on the path of least resistance. You may receive a momentary benefit from your idol, but it ultimately places you opposite of God. Much like the fate of the Israelites who stood against Moses, destruction comes for those who stand against the Lord Almighty. Draw a line. Pick a side. Ready yourself for the fight of your life.
“If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” – Matt 5:29,30
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Revelation 9-13.
Tomorrow we continue with chapters 14-18.