3 The Nile will swarm with frogs; they will come up and go into your palace, into your bedroom and on your bed, into the houses of your officials and your people, and into your ovens and kneading bowls. 4 The frogs will come up on you, your people, and all your officials.”
5 The Lord then said to Moses, “Tell Aaron: Stretch out your hand with your staff over the rivers, canals, and ponds, and cause the frogs to come up onto the land of Egypt.” 6 When Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt. 7 But the magicians did the same thing by their occult practices and brought frogs up onto the land of Egypt. (Exodus 8:3-7)
It’s almost funny. The image of countless frogs hopping amuck (if that’s even a thing); popping out of cabinets and ovens and mixing bowls sounds like a Muppet Show skit.
But put aside the comedy of the scene and consider the tragedy.
In ministry, I’ve seen a lot of people who struggle with addiction, or have someone in their family who does. One of the hardest funerals I ever preached was for the daughter of a woman in our church that had overdosed on Fentanyl-laced opiates. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know someone whose life has been torn apart by addiction. So allow me to look at this story as a metaphor for addiction.
Addiction begins with what we worship.
Charles Spurgeon noted that the Egyptian pantheon included a deity with the body of a woman and the head of a frog (In the picture at the top of this post, look at the wall behind Pharaoh). Frogs were actually preserved in jars and buried with the Pharaohs. Spurgeon wrote, “As the true God is everywhere present around us, in our bedchambers and in our streets, so will Pharaoh find every place filled with what he chooses to call divine.” (Spurgeon Study Bible, p. 82)
Our culture worships the lifestyle that goes along with alcohol and recreational drug use, and has made freedom from pain the ultimate value. As a result, we have seen so many good, responsible people become addicted to prescription pain killers because they have made pain relief divine. And what we call divine will fill every space in our lives.
Addiction tries to solve the problem with more of the problem.
The height of the absurdity in this story is verse 7, when “Pharaoh’s magicians do the same thing with their secret arts.” In other words, they try to solve the problem of frogs with–wait for it– more frogs. If they had wanted to demonstrate the superiority of their gods, wouldn’t they have gotten rid of the frogs instead?
Addiction acts the same way. It takes more and more of the substance or the behavior to achieve the same level of pain relief, or high, or whatever you are pursuing. It is the law of diminishing returns.
You can’t break the addiction if you don’t deal with what lead to it
In Exodus 8:8, “Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Appeal to the Lord to remove the frogs from me and my people.” But the truth is that Pharaoh’s biggest problem wasn’t the frogs. It was his arrogance, his hardness of heart, his cruelty toward God’s people. It was his sin. Pharaoh didn’t ask God to forgive his sin, only to get rid of the frogs.
Beloved, even if you get clean, any plan for recovery has to deal with the problem that led to the addiction in the first place.
Addiction will delay recovery as long as it can.
9 Moses said to Pharaoh, “You may have the honor of choosing. When should I appeal on behalf of you, your officials, and your people, that the frogs be taken away from you and your houses, and remain only in the Nile?”
10 “Tomorrow,” he answered. (Exodus 8:8-10)
Wait… what? If there are frogs crawling all over your bed, why in the world would you want to spend another night with them? Because that’s how addiction works. We convince ourselves that tomorrow will be the day to quit. But what happens tomorrow? You wake up with a hangover, and you decide you will take the edge off of it with just one more drink. A little hair of the dog that bit you. And later, you wonder why you ever wanted to stop this in the first place. Until the next morning. Rinse. Repeat. Spend one more night with the frogs.
You can break the addiction, but you still have to deal with the mess it leaves behind.
The story ends like this:
12 After Moses and Aaron went out from Pharaoh, Moses cried out to the Lord for help concerning the frogs that he had brought against Pharaoh. 13 The Lord did as Moses had said: the frogs in the houses, courtyards, and fields died. 14 They piled them in countless heaps, and there was a terrible odor in the land. 15 But when Pharaoh saw there was relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. (Exodus 8:12-15)
Steps 8 and 9 of the AA Big Book are all about cleaning up the frogs. Step 8: Make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Step 9: Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Until you do something about all the dead frogs, the stench is going to fill the land. It would take eight more plagues before God’s people were set free. Pharaoh lost everything in the process, up to or even including his own life, depending on how you interpret Exodus 15:4-5.
Making amends is about cleaning up the piles of frogs. An addict has to deal with the pain his addiction has caused others.
Beloved, we all have frogs that need to be gone. We all have sins we started off loving, and now they are overrunning our lives. As the song from the Eighties almost says, Might as well face it, we’re addicted to frogs.
Lord, don’t just get rid of the frogs in my life. I repent of the sins that invited in the frogs in the first place. And Lord, once you kill the frogs, give me the courage to clean up the carcasses.