SIGNS AND WONDERS
The ten plagues that God sent upon the Pharaoh and the Egyptians are referred to in the Psalms as “signs
and wonders.” They are referred to by Moses in the text as “signs.”
We would be more likely to refer to them as miracles. But they obviously involve a demonstration of “the
supernatural power” of God. The demonstrations were supernatural in the sense they could not be explained
by just natural causes. Some force outside of nature cause the events to happen as they happen.
The fact that there were ten of these “signs and wonders” is probably significant. Ten is the number for
completeness or perfection in the Old Testament. We should understand that in this confrontation with
Pharaoh and the religious establishment of Egypt we have a complete demonstration of the superiority of God
over all of the Egyptian gods and a complete demonstration of His power.
These ten signs involve primarily things that were in the realm of the natural. The only one that was not exactly
natural would be the turning of the water of the Nile into blood. Some believe that this particular plague has a
natural explanation. There were occasions when the river would turn red like blood from the run-off of some of
the tributaries of the Nile. The soil from which the water would run off would color it with a red blood-like
coloring. However, we would probably be better to simply see this as blood, real blood in our text. The other
signs would be things that would happen from time to time but there were some things about this particular
demonstration. Frogs were there most of the time along with the lice, and the flies, the other phenomena. But
the supernatural aspect is indicated in three things: first, the timing; second, the intensity; and third, the
distinction that was made in the phenomena between the people of Egypt and the residents of Goshen – the
people of Israel. Some of these signs and wonders fell on the whole of the land, but some of them affected
only the Egyptians. There was no natural explanation for the timing, the intensity, and the unique distinction
that was made between two groups of people. While they often had frogs, they never had as many frogs as
they had when God sent the plague. While sores would appear on their cattle and horses from time to time, it
was never like they experienced in the plague. While they would have thunder, lightening, and hailstorms, they
never had a storm just like the one that disseminated the crops of the countryside. There were remarkable
demonstrations of the supernatural power of God.
From these demonstrations of God’s supernatural, miraculous power in these signs and wonders, there are
some important lessons that we can learn. The lessons that we can deduct from these incidents would be
applicable to all of the demonstrations of God’s
signs and wonders through out history.
I. SIGNS AND WONDERS CAN BE DUPLICATED BY THE ADVERSARY.
This is the first interesting thing that we discover in the historical record of these signs and wonders. It began
first with the minor sign and wonder that involved Aaron’s rod. When Aaron cast his rod down on the ground, it
became immediately a crawling serpent. However, Moses records that the Egyptians religious leaders were
able to do the same thing: Pharaoh then summoned wise men and succors, and the Egyptian magicians who
did the same things by their secret arts: each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. “But Aaron’s
staff swallowed up their staffs” (Exodus 7:11).
And the same thing happened with reference to the first two of the plagues that fell upon the Pharaoh and his
people. In the confrontation over the turning of the Nile into blood, Pharaoh’s religious authorities were able to
do the same thing: “But the Egyptian magicians did the same thing by their secret arts, and Pharaoh’s heart
(Exodus 7:22A). This particular sign should be seen as an attack against the God of the Nile. The river was
sacred to the Egyptians. When the God of Israel turned it into blood it was a clear demonstration of his
dominant power over this which the Egyptian people
perceived as being divine.
The Egyptians were also able to duplicate the sign of the frogs. “So Aaron stretched out his hand over the
waters of Egypt and the frogs came up and covered the land. But the magicians did the same thing by their
secret art; they also made frogs come up on the land of Egypt” (Exodus 8:7).
The lesson is clear that we ought to not immediately accept a sign or a wonder as a display of the sovereign,
supernatural power of our God. We need to remember that the adversary is also able to do miraculous “signs
and wonders.” It takes some special discernment when you are responding to some display of supernatural
power. The Adversary does have some power over the natural realm and is able to manipulate it to fulfill his
evil purposes. But our god is still superior and silvering to every other power in this universe.
II. SIGNS AND WONDERS HAVE A REDEMPTIVE PURPOSE.
God does not display signs and wonders for the amusement of human kind. He is not in the entertainment
business. When ever God does a sign and wonder it always has a redemptive, holy purpose. This purpose is
made clear in the statement’s relating to the display of His power before the Egyptian people.
In the words of instruction that God gave to Moses to share with the Pharaoh His purpose is made clear: “This
is what the Lord says, “By this you will know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 7:17). God turned the water of the Nile
in to blood so that the Pharaoh of Egypt and his people would know that the Lord, the God of the Covenant,
the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, is the true and only God.
He stated a similar purpose with reference to the plague of the frogs. “Moses replied, “It will be as you say so
that you may know there is no one like the Lord our God” (Exodus 8:10b). God sent the frogs to so infest the
land so that the Pharaoh would know there is no other God like the Lord our God.
Later, with reference to this sending of the hail, God gave this word of explanation to be shared with the
Pharaoh, “Or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your
people, so that you may know there is no one like me in all the earth” (Exodus 9:14). And then later, God says,
“But I have raised you up for this very purpose that I might show you my power and my name might be
proclaims in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16).
From these brief references, the purpose of God is clear. When God displays His supernatural might in the
realm of nature in a miraculous way He does so with a redemptive purpose. These “signs and wonders” were
designed to convince a pagan ruler and his idolatrous people that their gods were false and that the God of
Israel was the only true God. They were also designed by God to confirm and strengthen the faith of His weak
people who were just beginning to stand and to walk by faith. Whenever God gives a sign and wonder He has
some such high and holy purpose in mind.
In the New Testament the display of signs and wonders through the ministry of Jesus had the same purpose.
They were not for the entertainment of the multitudes even though the multitudes sometimes perceive them
being that. They were given as signs to confirm to the people that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the
Messiah of Israel. This is particularly made clear in the gospel of John where each of the seven miracles were
recorded by John are called “signs.” If you are interested in signs and wonders only because of you curiosity,
you are not likely to receive a sign or wonder. God does signs and wonders for high and holy purposes.
III. SIGNS AND WONDERS MAY BE DONE IN ANSWER TO PRAYER.
Not all of the ten plagues came in answer to prayer. Some of them came by God’s initiative when God gave a
command to Moses and Moses obeyed that command. This was true of the turning of the water of the Nile into
blood. It was true of most of the ten signs. However, prayer did play a part in the display of the power of God.
In connection with the plague of the frogs they came when Moses and Aaron were obedient to the Lord.
However, they left only when Moses appealed to the Lord God to remove the plague. “After Moses and Aaron
left Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the Lord about the frogs He brought on to Pharaoh and the Lord did what
Moses asked. The frogs died in the houses, in the courthouses, and in the fields. They were piled into heaps
and the land reeked of them” (Exodus 8:12-14). So the supernatural display of the power of God in the
removal of the frogs came in response to the prayer of Moses.
Later in the same chapter a similar thing happened in reference to the removal of the plague of the flies. In
fact Pharaoh said to Moses, I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the desert but you must
not go very far. Now pray for me” (Exodus 8:28). Moses responded to Pharaoh’s request by praying for him.
Then Moses left Pharaoh and prayed to the Lord and the Lord did what Moses asked: the flies left Pharaoh,
and his officials, and his people; not a fly remained” (Exodus 8:30-32). This again is a remarkable
demonstration of the place of prayer in the display of God’s miraculous power.
The involvement of Moses and Aaron in this whole incident gives us some insight into our role in dealing with
the God of all power. Our role is that of being obedient to Him and prayer. He is the one who displays the
power, we simply trust and obey and pray!
IV. SIGNS AND WONDERS HAVE LIMITED VALUE IN PRODUCING
FAITH AND OBEDIENCE.
This is the most sobering lesson that we can learn from the incidents that are recorded in these chapters. At
no point in human history has there been such a display of the power of God in such a brief period of time in
one place. There have been signs and wonders sprinkled out history as God has done His purpose. But here
in a relatively brief time there were ten mighty displays of the supernatural power of God. Bishop Usher felt like
all of them took place within a period of 30 days. Modern scholars are inclined to see them covering a longer
period than 30 days, maybe up close to a year. But whether it was in one month or in ten months it was a
remarkable display of the power of God in a relatively brief time. You would have thought that everybody in
Egypt would have been a firm believer in the God of Israel when these displays of power were finished. But we
know that was not the outcome. In fact, it was just the opposite. The Egyptians did not become committed
worshipers of and believers in the God of Israel because of these “signs and wonders.” In fact, Moses reports
to us exactly the attitude of Pharaoh as the “signs and wonders” came to a climax. “Pharaoh said, “The Lord
be with you – if I let you go, along with your women and children, clearly you are bent on evil. No! Have only the
men go; and worship the Lord, since that is what you have been asking for.” Then Moses and Aaron were
driven out of Pharaoh’s presence (Exodus 10:10,11). This preceded the terrible devastation of the land before
the locus. Instead of being humbled and broken before God the Pharaoh is still resistant and rebellious.
“Signs and wonders” have not broken his heart and converted him.
When God send the plague of darkness upon the land the response was still the same. “But the Lord
hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he was not willing to let them go. Pharaoh said to Moses, ‘Get out of my sight.
Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die’” (Exodus 10:27-28).
This is where Pharaoh found himself after nine mighty displays of the power of God.
When he did finally yield to some degree after the death of the first born in every home, it was only a
temporary yielding. The last chapter of his involvement with the people of Egypt finds him still in rebellion
against the God of the Covenant, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is still bent on doing his will rather
than God’s will. It is a mistake for us to think that if we saw some signs and wonders we might become a
greater people of faith. If we cannot become a great people of faith and obedience based on what God has
revealed in His Word, a few signs and wonders wouldn’t make a difference. It is tragically true that even
though the people of Israel saw these things of “signs and wonders” through eyes of faith, they soon forgot
about them. The very first time they ran into a crisis, they acted as though God was weak and impotent. They
did not trust and rely upon Him.
While we should be grateful for every display of the power of God, ultimately we build our faith on the character
of God as he has revealed himself in history and in Jesus Christ our Lord and not upon some phenomenal
display of His power that same as a “sign and wonder.” Where are you tonight? Do you feel like you need a
miracle? Do you feel like a sign and wonder might solve your problem. It may well be that what you need is
God—not some display of the power of God. If you have God you have everything you need for the living of
life and for the doing of His will.