Dear church,

“There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt.” Not a household would be left unscathed. The dead would be brought out in the morning. What did they do with all the bodies?

This is the carnage of plagues. Death and mayhem come with them. 

But this seems, sometimes, like too much. Did God really have to strike down all the firstborn in every house? So much innocent life was taken away. No one deserves such a thing, surely.

I read and pondered this and worked on a splinter I’d found in my finger. 

It was an unfortunate splinter – right on the tip of my pointer finger. It was Sunday morning, and I needed that finger to play the piano. The splinter came while moving firewood into the church building. You never know when you’ll get snagged.

I didn’t notice it at first. It was just a little painful, but it was painful enough I knew something foreign was in there, practically hidden from view. We know our bodies. We usually are good judges when things aren’t as they should be. 

So I worked at it. But it was too small. I picked and pulled. You know how it is. Once you find a splinter, you can’t leave it alone.

“There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt …” Maybe God should have just taken the Pharaoh out instead. The rest of the Egyptians seemed to be coming around to the idea God was serious about freedom for the Hebrew people. Without the Pharaoh, perhaps the other leaders in the nation would simply release the slaves. 

The big first aid kit in the church building has a splinter removing tool, something I’d never seen before. It’s a disposable piece of metal designed for just the problem I had. So I went to work with it. I kept picking at that splinter.

It’s never OK to take innocent life. We know that. God surely knows that, too. This harsh tenth plague gives skeptics something to point at, something to needle God about. Maybe the God of the New Testament is a little nicer than this Old Testament God after all.

I kept working on that splinter. And then … success! Finally. It’s amazing how small a splinter can be to cause such discomfort. All I had to do was keep working at it.

I kept picking at God about that “great cry” and the lives lost in Egypt and the bodies piled up. It’s not right. I know that. You know that. …

I don’t think God knows that. 

Something idolatrous creeps into us when we begin to judge God, when we find some uncomfortable thing in his actions or in his Word and we start to pick at it, trying to remove it from our sight. 

It’s idolatrous because we’ve opted to put our righteous thoughts and feelings above God’s. The creature becomes the judge of the Creator. 

God told Job, who also liked to pick and pull, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2 and following). That’s what we speak when we are around God – “words without knowledge.” 

And the apostle Paul warned us about this. “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (Romans 9:20).

Idolaters put something else over against God. They declare their wisdom to be infallible. God must fall in line.

But God thoughts are higher than ours. His purposes are good.

And while we do not have the right to take human life, God does. The Creator can do whatever he pleases. After all, it is his creation. 

We are left either with faith or the lack of it. Christians trust God can take life and still be good and morally pure. We also are left with the reality that human life is not innocent. We ought not to venture into conversations with God about who deserves what. 

My splinter was gone. I put a band-aid on my finger. I decided to quit picking at God, too. 

Chris

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