All too often, Christian commentators have recast every
prophecy of judgment as a prophecy of judgment against the Jewish people. But
this week’s Parashah reminds us that while judgment most certainly does start
with the House of the Lord (Ezk. 9:6), it does not end there, for the same God
who judges Israel is Judge over the whole earth. And He does not primarily
judge the nations for failing to keep a Law that they did not know, but rather
for how they treated His people.
Nor does He judge them without warning, but rather always
sends His prophets ahead to announce what He will do (Amos 3:7). To Pharaoh, He
sent Moshe. To the Egypt and Tyre of Ezekiel’s time, He sent His warning
through that prophet. To the world of the Acharit HaYamim (the End
Days), He will send two witnesses (Rev. 11)—these on top of the book of the
Revelation that He has already sent as a warning.
God’s punishments are just, even ironic. The first plague
that He sent against the Pharaoh of the Exodus was to turn the Nile, where the
Hebrew babies had been drowned, to blood. As an angel in charge of the waters
will proclaim in the Acharit, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O
Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of
saints and prophets [and Hebrew children], and You have given them blood to
drink. They deserve it” (Rev. 16:5-6). The plagues that would begin with the
sign of blood on the great river would end in the retributive death of Pharaoh’s
own son, and the sons of all of Egypt. Likewise, since Egypt had proved a
brittle support for Israel against Babylon, the Holy One handed Egypt over to
Babylon as well.
In like manner, He will punish those who rejected His
people with rejection, and reward those who protected and comforted His people
with His protection and comfort.
Through most of history, the Eternal One’s dealings with
Man are hidden to all save those who look with spiritual eyes. But there are
times when He puts His finger into the world in such a way as no one can ignore
or explain away. He did so in the days of the Exodus, He did so in the earthly
ministry of the Messiah, and He will do so with even greater glory when the time
comes to make the kingdoms of the world the Kingdom of the Messiah, and to pass
His righteous judgment on them. We look forward to that day with awe and
expectation, occupying ourselves with the King’s business until He comes.