The magicians tried with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; so there were gnats on man and beast.
There is a joke about the scientist and God. The scientist tells God that it must be sad to know that science can do anything God can do – healing and all. The scientist boasts that his own knowledge is so extensive that he can create life just like God did. The scientist bets he could even create a bird just as beautiful as anything God could make. God smiles and says, “You’re on.” So, God grabs a handful of dirt, shapes it into something resembling a bird, then blows on it and the outer shell of dust puffs away to reveal a gorgeous bird that then flies away. The scientist, seeing what he’s up against, marshals all of his knowledge and gets his lab together and prepares to make something just as amazing as what he just saw. He grabs a handful of dust and God interrupts him. “You have to make your own dirt.”
In the account of God versus Pharaoh’s magicians, the magicians reach the point of not being able to replicate what God has done. Turn their staves into snakes? Not a problem. Change water into blood? Easy. Bring frogs up out of the river? Can do. Turn dust into small insects (the verse says gnats, but the footnotes tell me it could also be lice)? Um… no. All pretenders to Gods throne reach a point where their mimicry can go no further. Can a Twelve Step Program change someone’s life? Within reason. Can it do it instantaneously? Nope. Yet I personally know people who were addicts that were instantly and completely delivered from their bondage to whatever the addiction was. Science can most certainly cure diseases and sometimes go so far as to restore lost limbs and senses, but the process is long and laborious. God can do these things in a moment.
This is one place where the question of whether or not the seven days in Genesis is literal or metaphorical comes into play for me. It is not so much a question of whether either answer impacts my salvation, because I do not see how it would, but rather an impact on how big I believe my God to be. Can He create everything in seven days or does He require eons? Can He make something look as though it had been around for a particular amount of time or do things actually have to age that much? Since I have no trouble with Jesus turning water into wine, I have no trouble believing that God can make something have a particular apparent age. Water must become part of a grape, be pressed, mixed, and fermented before it becomes wine. All of that takes time. Time which Jesus simply incorporated into the wine He created from water. God can easily give something an apparent age. Short answer: I believe they are literal days.
Back to the magicians and their inability to replicate God’s miracle. All pretenders to God’s throne reach this point. The false religion cannot give me the peace I crave in my deepest being, because only God can reach that place with the peace that transcends my understanding. Influence and position do not give me the control I want, because what I really want to control is myself. Fame and notoriety do not, it would appear, fill the ache to be loved or there would be no celebrities looking for more attention. And science, though often very well-intentioned, has its limits.
Right now, I see my countrymen and women making gods of their politician of choice. I, too, want good things for my country. She has been a home and a haven to me for nearly four decades. She is not perfect, but my perfect home is yet to come. But I am aware — and am reminded as I read through the conflict between Pharaoh and his magicians against God — that there is no pretender to God’s throne who can do for me what God is not only able, but ready and willing to do for me. I want peace and God offers peace that is not troubled by adverse circumstances. I want hope and God offers a hope that goes beyond the here and now and stretches off into eternity. I want change and God offers to change me from the inside out. I want something new and God offers to make me a new creation who is destined for a new heaven and new earth and … well, all things new.
Father, thank You that You are not only able, but are ready and willing to do for me and for anyone who asks the things that our soul yearns for. In the midst of the chaos of this political season, You are unchanged and You are the One Who is, ultimately, in charge of everything. You, and You alone, are able to do what You do. Please forgive me my sins and transgressions and renew me. Please make firm in my mind and heart and soul that You are God and there is none like You.