God himself calls the plagues "great acts of judgment" (Ex 7:4). And he had even predicted this long before to Abraham:
Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out... Genesis 15:13-14, ESVGod tells Abraham what he is going to do in the future concerning two nations! "I will bring judgment on the nation they serve." So the plague account reveals to us that God is a righteous judge of the wicked. In the midst of the drama and chaos of the plagues - the animal kingdom unleashed on the world's greatest superpower of its day - weather destruction, disease and three days of darkness - in the midst of this is a two-fold purpose of God guiding history for his glory: God is rescuing his people and he is judging the wicked. What a relevant revelation for us today!
The very fact that we can read Exodus and be warned that God judges sinners is a display of mercy and grace to us! Warnings of God's judgment are acts of kindness and grace. There is opportunity for us to repent.
What about Jesus? What would he have thought about the plagues? I ask this because some seem to think that the God of the Old Testament was mean, and Jesus came as the 'nice God.' But the Bible teaches us that it was the God of the Old Testament himself who became flesh in the Person of Christ (His name is God with us...). And it is Jesus - the Lamb of God - who unleashes the plagues in the book of Revelation! Men are depicted as crying out for rocks to fall on them and hide them from the "wrath of the Lamb" (Rev 6:16-17).
Jesus is the Judge! He said, "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22). Paul wrote that God "commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31; See also 2 Cor 5:10 and 2 Tim 4:1). On the last page of the Bible Jesus says, "Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done" (Rev 22:12). Just as Egypt faced judgment in the plagues, judgment is coming for all. (Hebrews 9:27)
The truth that God righteously judges sinners is not good news for us...for we are sinners. Jesus referred to us as 'evil' (Luke 11:13). And just like Pharaoh, who hardened his heart against God (and was hardened by God), "because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed" (Romans 2:5). Wow!
But the amazing news for us is this: Not only is it true that Jesus is the Judge, but it is also true that Jesus was judged by God at the cross for the sins of his people (Isaiah 53:5-6). At the cross, the fury of the plagues poured down from God upon his sinless Son - because he had taken our sins upon himself. Jesus became a curse (Gal 3:13) and became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21) and drank the cup of the Father's wrath, as our substitute! He payed the price for our sins with his blood so that we could be forgiven, and eternally enjoy God!!!
Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. HE DOES NOT COME INTO JUDGMENT, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24). The believer does not come into judgment...ever!
How do the plagues upon Egypt apply to us? They show us that God is a holy God who judges sinners with 'great acts of judgment.' We are taught by this the fear of the Lord. And the Old Testament points us to Christ, who stood in our place and received our judgment as he died for sinners on the cross. Christ rose from the grave, ascended to the Father, and is coming again to judge. God commands us to repent of our sins and believe on Christ. Those who are not in Christ must face the judgment of God. Run to him!
If you are in Christ through faith, take a moment to praise the Lord for his gracious warnings of judgment. And praise him for Christ, the sin-bearer, who took our judgment at the cross! There is no more judgment for us, because in Christ, "It is finished!" Hallelujah!