God isn’t going to do a quick job with the Egyptians; He’s going to take it slow. The point isn’t merely rescue, but renown (Exodus 7:5). God doesn’t just win the game, He shows off, and humiliates His foes. God could’ve had checkmate on the first move, but takes out every other piece before He takes the queen, and leaves the king standing to behold it all.
In all the signs, including the staff being turned into a serpent and swallowing the other serpents, God is mocking their gods. Picture King Tut. Between his head is a uraeus, a cobra with a raised hood. This was part of the headdress of the Pharaohs, a symbol of power and authority, likely associated with the goddess Wadjet, oen of the protectors of Pharaoh and Egypt. One ancient text says of Pharaoh, “His gods are over him; his uraeus serpents are over his head.” A later Egyptian relief says of Pharaoh Shoshenq “Thy war-mace, it struck down thy foes… they serpent-crest was mighty among them.”
Pharaoh asks for proof (Exodus 7:9). Is there a real and legitimate authority behind Moses and Aaron’s talk of Yahweh? The staff, a symbol of God’s authority and power, is thrown to the ground and becomes a serpent. The magician-priests of Egypt do the same, but they are swallowed. The message is clear. Imagine a sorcerer-king came from another nation to the U.S. with demands and as proof of his smaller and “primitive” nation’s superiority, he unleashed an eagle that swallowed all the bald eagles in the States. Something like that is happening. God is not just demonstrating His power, He is shaming their’s. God is shaming their glory.
When God redeems His people He does so in style with glory. His aim isn’t just rescue, but renown. He shames His enemies.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. —Colossians 2:13–15
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. —Psalm 8:1–2
He shames, for His glory in His people’s redemption.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” —1 Corinthians 1:18–31
Why intentionally delay checkmate? Glory!