Flies Only Fly Where He Wants1
The plagues and the Exodus. These are famous displays of the power of God. There is much to be amazed at from this time in history. But I want to focus in this short post on the flies and the chariot wheels. Yes, those pesky flies, and yes, just the chariot wheels in the story. These might seem like they aren’t anywhere near the main point of the story, but God used these flies and chariot wheels for his glory. And what I want to meditate on here is how he did so and why it's so intriguing for us today.
How Many Did It Take?
We'll start with the flies. How many flies did it take to fill the houses of Egypt—the populated superpower of the day—with flies? God said to Pharaoh,
“Let my people go, that they may serve me. Or else, if you will not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants and your people, and into your houses. And the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand” (Exodus 8:20-21).
Think of all the flies the Lord had at his beck and call if Pharaoh wouldn’t let them go. He gathered all of them. The omnipotence of the Lord isn’t always displayed with mountain-moving. Fly-gathering will do as well.
Yet the gathering of flies is not even what led me to amazement. It was the next verse: “But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the Lord in the midst of the earth” (Exodus 8:22). So what's God’s goal? That people may know he is “the Lord in the midst of the earth.” And what's his means to that goal? Individual fly control.
We can imagine the scene that took place after Pharaoh wouldn’t let God’s people go. The flies swarm the Egyptian houses. There are flies everywhere. It’s an infestation. Yet the Israelites breathe free. Not one swarm goes near their houses.
But think what this means: These are sporadic flies. Millions of them. Probably even billions. Perhaps God used an east wind like he did at the Exodus to gather the flies. Or perhaps he used some sort of horrific smell to bring them in. We don’t know. But once these millions of flies are in Egypt, now what? The whole scene, with billions of individual flies flying around, must be chaos, right?
Not at all. God does not just gather the millions of flies, he controls each one. The Lord isn’t just the one who does spatially "large" miracles of nature, he does spatially "small" ones as well (although this distinction of size can be quite unhelpful). For how else could it be, in a country will millions or billions of flies, that “no swarms of flies” happen to fly near his people? How else could he keep the flies away from certain houses?
There’s only one way: purposeful control over each fly. As active as he was in gathering the flies into Egypt, so he was in controlling them within Egypt, each and every one.
That's fly control in the plagues. And God's meticulous control is seen in the famous Exodus event as well. Many know that the Lord parted the seas by an east wind. And then, as he promised, he fought a victory for the Israelites. The Egyptians and their many chariots don’t make it out of the Red Sea.
But how did this come about? Yes, God did a spatially "large" natural miracle: he performed a wonder of wonders by parting the Red Sea. But he also did many spatially "small" miracles. They were ‘small’ in material size, but just as significant.
Pharaoh was coming with “six hundred chosen chariots and all the other chariots of Egypt with officers over all of them” (Exodus 14:7). (If the ‘chosen chariots’ numbered six hundred, then how many ‘normal’ chariots could there have been!? This was thousands of chariots.) This army of chariots chased the Israelites into that dry, parted sea. “The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:23). All of them. But the Lord fought for the Israelites, as the Egyptians would soon witness.
So how did he do so? By “clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily” (Exodus 14:25). Thousands of chariots. Numerous wheels clogged. This is his meticulous control.
Now, as for what this exactly looked like, we can't be too sure. This word for "clogging" is a difficult word to translate. Translations vary on the exact verbiage. But whether he clogged, jammed, twisted, swerved, or removed their wheels (ESV, NIV, NLT, NASB, KJV, respectively), the point stands: this Lord, fighting for his people, did something significant enough to these thousands of racing and spinning wheels to cause them to get stuck. Each wheel was racing fast, but the Lord Almighty was in control of each one.
He’s the sovereign over the seas; the controller of chariot wheels.
This Is His Power
The point is that these spatially ‘small’—as you can see by now, this adjective truly is a poor way of speaking of them—miracles are just as wondrous as the big ones. In fact, one could argue that in some ways they even more are so. It is one thing to cause a giant wind to gust; it is another to be simultaneously involved in thousands of speeding chariot wheels at once. It is one thing to gather millions of flies; it is another to simultaneously control each one. But the argument is silly; his power remains.
Yet that is exactly the final point for us to make. These spatially ‘smaller’ miracles show God’s power. The idea of the "power of God" can sometimes only insinuate, in our minds, something done on a large, manifestly strong scale. For example, God breaks down the walls of Jericho. What power!
But the word in both Hebrew, Greek, and even English just means "ability." God is omnipotent (all-powerful) because he is able to do whatever he pleases. Nothing is too hard for him. He can do whatever, whenever. He is able. He is powerful.
So, the controlling of one individual fly is not any less powerful than gathering millions of them. The clogging of thousands of chariot wheels isn’t any less powerful than parting the sea. Both require the exclusive power of God. Both display the unique ability of God.
This means the power of God is not only displayed when there is a stunning, spatially "large" miracle. His power is not only revealed in cloud-by-day and fire-by-night displays. It is most certainly revealed there. These wonders display his marvelous abilities. God’s power is also displayed in spatially "small" miracles, too. Who else can control billions of individual flies at once? Who else can clog thousands of racing chariots wheels? These shows his attractive God-like ability as well.
In fact, the power of God might be evident in the room you’re in right now—in the seemingly sporadic, yet sovereignly controlled, flying of a fly.