Archive for the ‘Exodus’ Category

Moses Meets “I AM”

Posted: September 20, 2018 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 3, “Moses Meets I AM”

We refer to the event as “Moses and the Burning Bush,” but if we think about what’s actually included in the text, the title misses the point. Obviously Moses’ attention was caught by the burning bush (as we’ll see), but the main event was the revelation, presence, and commissioning of Almighty God. Moses is certainly seen in Exodus 3, but he isn’t the main character; the “I AM” is.

The Lord God appears in the burning bush for a reason: to call Moses to the ministry appointed for him, and to reassure His people that God has heard their prayers. For 400 years, it seemed as if God had been silent…no more! God spoke, and what He said changed the world!

The book of Exodus began with the children of Israel in Egypt. No longer were they a large clan headed by a single patriarch (Jacob/Israel); they had grown into a large nation. So large, in fact, that their population growth scared the native Egyptians, and the Pharaoh instituted the first anti-Israel pogrom in history. The Hebrews were enslaved, forced into hard labor – and when that did not slow the population, the Pharaoh ordered every Hebrew newborn son killed at birth. Thankfully, the Hebrew midwives disobeyed, fearing God more than Pharaoh…but it didn’t stop the Egyptian king. He ordered a more direct approach: commanding that every newborn son be cast into the river.

Into all of this, Moses was born. Through a series of God-directed events, Moses’ life was not only preserved, but he was adopted into the royal household of Egypt with his own birth-mother serving as his nursemaid. As the years passed, Moses’ life would be preserved once more by God – this time due to Moses’ own impetuous behavior. Thinking he could act as a Hebrew deliverer, Moses killed an Egyptian who was caught beating a Hebrew. Not only was Moses’ act unappreciated by his kinsmen, it endangered him with Pharaoh, and he fled for his life. By God’s providence, Moses found safety with the priest of Midian. Moses wed one of his daughters and settled into the life of a shepherd.

Moses was 40 years old when he left Egypt, and he spent the next 40 years in Midian as a shepherd. What now? Was that it? With his background, Moses had assumed he was destined to be a national deliverer, but perhaps he was wrong. Maybe he was always meant to be a shepherd, having a quiet life like many honorable ranchers today. Maybe Moses’ initial thoughts were wrong.

They weren’t. Where Moses went wrong was where many of us go wrong: being unwilling to wait on the timing of God. He (like us) wanted to rush into things, doing it his way, and then became disillusioned when things fell apart. (Sound familiar?) What Moses needed to do was wait. Now the time was right – not just for Moses, but for all Israel. God had not forgotten any of them. He had everything perfectly planned, and things would proceed according to His own timetable.

Trust the plans of God! Don’t lose faith in Him or in His works. God is the “I AM” – there is nothing that is beyond Him!

Exodus 3

  • God’s presence and proclamation (1-10)

1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

  1. From royal court to shepherd’s field. Quite the change! According to historian Josephus, at one point Moses led the Egyptian army to victory over the Ethiopians. (Antiquities of the Jews, Chapter 10) He went from being an adopted royal son and celebrated military general, to being an infamous fugitive, and from being an infamous fugitive to an obscure shepherd living in the backwaters of the ancient near east. Moses’ 2nd 40 years were vastly different to his 1st 40 years! In Egypt, he learned his academics and worldly prowess; in Midian he learned humility and service. He went from commanding soldiers to caring for sheep. No doubt, it was his latter experience that best prepared him to lead Israel!
    1. Due to our shorter lifespans, it can be difficult for us to imagine. After all, at 80 years old, most of us are preparing to meet our Maker; we certainly don’t imagine embarking on a 3rd career! Yet for Moses at 80 years old, he was just getting started…and from a place he could have hardly imagined. Don’t discount the ways God can use you! When God wants to use someone, He does – no matter what his/her background or supposed abilities. Maybe the time you’re in today is a proving/preparing ground for something God has for you in the future. Or, maybe He’ll have you stay right where you are…that’s all up to Him. Just do the most with what you have! Glorify God right where you are, and leave the rest to Him!
  2. Although it can be a bit confusing, Jethro = Reuel, and Mount Horeb = Mount Sinai. It’s uncertain why the Bible uses different names to refer to the same people/locations, but it wasn’t all that uncommon. It’s not uncommon for us, either. In DFW, the loop can either be Interstate 635 or LBJ Freeway. Sometimes people are referred to by their titles (Doctor, Judge, President), sometimes by a nickname, and sometimes by their given name. It should be no surprise that ancient people did the same thing.
  3. Where is Horeb/Sinai? That’s a matter of much debate! Some say that it is located in the Sinai Peninsula (though the actual mountain within a particular mountain range is debated), and some say it ought to be closer to, if not in, modern-day Saudi Arabia (and again, various locations are suggested). Note: Horeb/Sinai need not be in Midian (in fact, the Bible indicates that it was not, for Jethro later left Sinai to return to his home in Midian, Exo 18:27); it just needs to be accessible to Midian. Exodus 3:1 says that Moses went “to the back of the desert,” meaning the far-off, hinder parts. It wasn’t unusual for shepherds to lead their sheep far from home (per Joseph having to travel so far away to find his brothers, Gen 37:17). Moses could have to any one of the proposed locations, with the text still being accurate.
    1. The location of Mt. Sinai was known for generations: Elijah went to Sinai when he fled Jezebel (1 Kings 19), and even Paul mentioned that Mt. Sinai was located in Arabia (Gal 4:25 – in which the Sinai Peninsula was included). In the end, does it really matter if we know the exact location of Mt. Sinai? The truth of the account does not hinge on the identification of the mountain, and having an unquestioned location only opens the door to potential idolatry. Ultimately, we do not need an archeological site for Mt. Sinai; we look forward to the heavenly Mt. Zion and the New Jerusalem!
  4. So Moses was doing what he always did for the past forty years: tending sheep in the wilderness. He had gone far from home (not unusual), but was going about his daily business. That’s when something truly unusual happened.

2 And the Angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”

  1. The Angel of YHWH appeared, but this was a very different kind of appearance. Instead of taking human form as He had with Hagar & Abraham (Gen 16, Gen 22), He appeared “in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush.” Perhaps the Angel took the form of a man from inside the fire in the bush, but the text does not specify. All it says is that the Angel appeared in the flame, and from verse 4 we know that this Angel was God. With that in mind, put it together: if God had a visible appearance to Moses, who did Moses see? Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), so this must have been a pre-incarnate appearance of God the Son. The Son did not officially (and eternally) take on human flesh until He became a baby in Mary’s womb, so He could previously appear in any fashion He chose. This time, it was a flame, and a special one at that: it was a flame of fire that did not consume the bush in which it was kindled.
  2. Now that would have stood out! (And it certainly got Moses’ attention!) Remember that Moses was in the desert/wilderness. A dried-up bush ought to have been consumed by fire in a matter of seconds, yet it endured. It persevered as though it was not harmed in the slightest. It was a visual paradox & oxymoron. Yet it was perfect! Normally, if we think of God’s holiness like fire, we would assume instant consumption and destruction. After all, the Scriptures proclaim that God is a consuming fire (Heb 12:29). So why would God be in a burning bush that was not consumed? Again: it showed preservation – protection. God is truly holy, but the delicate bush was not harmed. This is nothing less than a picture of grace! God chose to be revealed in the bush, and He chose that the bush remain, so it did. What a great picture to set the stage for His call to Moses! God chose this imperfect man Moses, just like God chose this imperfect people of Israel – and His choice was for grace, love, protection, and blessing. God is truly holy and set apart from His people, but He was inviting them to worship Him in truth, and inviting Moses to be a part of His plan. This wasn’t something any of them deserved, but it was what God chose to give.
    1. God has chosen to give us grace! Do we deserve anything from God other than His wrath? Absolutely not. We deserve to be consumed in holy fire, to be burned up in angry, yet holy, justice. But because of the grace of Jesus, we aren’t. Because of Jesus we are not consumed. Instead, we are purified – we are made holy by His wondrous work. Moses saw a picture of the grace of God; we live it!

4 So when the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”

  1. Moses did the natural thing, which was to come near and look. That was when he heard the voice of YHWH God speak to him, commanding him to remove his shoes. Not that Moses’ sandals were inherently sinful; this was a symbolic act of the sin that was inherent in Moses himself. By removing the unclean sandals, it was an act of reverence for God’s holy presence.
  2. And that’s the key. Sixty seconds prior, there was nothing special about that piece of ground. It was just mountain dirt and a dried-up bush – the same as hundreds of others Moses had passed by. What made it special? The presence of God. What had been common was now utterly holy. What had been earthly was now touched by heavenly glory. The presence of God made all the difference.
    1. How true this is on so many other levels for the Christian! Remember who you are in Christ: a child of God, both born of the Spirit and given the Spirit of adoption – a co-heir with Jesus in His inheritance. Our bodies as believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit as He actually indwells us, having sealed us for eternity. Put it all together, and what are we? Holy! No doubt we still deal with our sinful nature, struggling with the person we used to be, but in Christ we have been transformed from the inside-out – we have been made new creations. What made the difference? The presence of God. You want to talk about grace? How about this: Almighty God lives inThat’s grace!

6 Moreover He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

  1. Remember that although Moses was raised in the polytheistic royal house of Egypt, Moses had always known he was a Hebrew. His mother was his nursemaid, and as a younger man Moses attempted to act on behalf of the Hebrews. Even so, there is no indication in the Bible that Moses had any sort of previous relationship of worship with God. He knew the Hebrew history with the covenant God, but it’s impossible to know what Moses believed of that God. All of that changed in an instant! Whatever Moses may have thought about God in the past, all of a sudden he had the true God revealing Himself and speaking. The God speaking through the bush is THE God! He is the one spoken of throughout all the Hebrew history, the covenant God of Moses’ fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (And as Jesus pointed out, the fact that God IS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, is proof that all the patriarchs still live. ~ Mk 12:26)
  2. Moses’ response? Fear, and justifiably so! After all, if God gave you a visual revelation, you would be afraid to look, too! Question: What kind of fear did Moses have? There’s a difference between a healthy fear of fire, and an unhealthy fear of clowns (coulrophobia). The Hebrew word translates exactly as we might think: “fear, be in awe,” and depending on the context it could even refer to “terror” or other extreme forms of fright. Interestingly, the ancient Jews who translated the Hebrew into Greek did not use a parallel word that might suggest a similar range of emotion (φόβος ~ phobia); instead, they used a word that spoke more specifically of “reverent regard,” rather than outright terror. They seemed to believe that Moses had a healthy righteous fear of God, rather than an unhealthy fright. How can we tell the difference? Moses was afraid to look upon God, but he didn’t run away. No matter how afraid Moses may have been, he feared God enough to know he couldn’t leave. A healthy fear of God drives us to God; an unhealthy fear does not.
    1. Some people claim that God isn’t to be feared; He’s to be loved. The Bible makes no such distinction. To properly fear the Lord is to love Him, and it’s impossible to say that we love the Lord if we do not fear Him. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10), and those who love Jesus keep His commandments (Jn 14:21, implying a righteous fear and obedience). We are to fear the Lord, and we are to fear Him rightly.
    2. What does that look like? It looks like worship, reverence, respect, obedience. Those who fear the Lord delight in God’s word and commands – those who fear the Lord worship God alone, as He has revealed Himself in the Bible (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Those who fear the Lord live their lives in service of the Lord, in whatever capacity the Lord has given them to serve. Fear the Lord!

7 And the LORD said: “I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. 8 So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites.

  1. In this, God refers to Exodus 2:24. The Hebrews in Egypt had groaned and cried out in prayer because of their oppression, and God heard their prayers. God saw them, heard their cries, knew their hearts, remembering His covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In response, God promised to act. He had “come down.” Being that God is spirit and omnipresent, there is no need for God to literally & physically “descend” from heaven to earth (so to speak). This is symbolic language – God is simply saying He has “come down” in a way that the Hebrews could see. God had always been involved with their situation; now they would see His involvement…and His work would be undeniable!
  2. The end result from all their suffering would be inheritance of the Promised Land. Remember a major part of God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was the promise of the land then known as Canaan. The time had come, and the land was good! It was “flowing with milk and honey.” If the Hebrews held fast to God, they would see their home. God had not forgotten His promise; His people needed to prepare themselves to see them come to pass! (Don’t take God’s promises for granted! Don’t let your excitement for the things of God grow cold or routine!

9 Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10 Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

  1. God does not ignore evil. Again, He had heard their cries, and He saw their state. He knew the sufferings they faced, and He would act on their behalf. The Egyptians may have seemed has if they had all the power, but soon they would all learn differently! The Almighty God would be their judge!
  2. And God’s instrument in all of this would be Moses. After revealing Himself to Moses and telling him all about the things He would do for Israel, God made it clear: “Moses, you’re going to be involved!” God had a plan for this 80 year-old shepherd. It wasn’t time for retirement; it was time for redemption!
  3. Obviously that got Moses’ attention as well, and made him more than a bit nervous!
  • God’s person and power (11-15)

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

  1. It’s difficult to blame Moses for his first set of questions. Any one of us might have asked some of the same things. First, Moses recognized his lack of authority. “Who am I?” IOW: “I’m a nobody! I’m a fugitive & a current shepherd. I don’t have any qualifications for this!” And he would have been right. Who was Moses? No one, apart from God. Moses had nothing of his own to offer, and Moses (rightly) knew it. This was quite a change from 40 years earlier! Back in Egypt, Moses attempted to assert his authority, and he was roundly rejected by the Hebrews (Exo 2:14). Earlier, Moses simply assumed he could be in command, probably due to his background. This time, Moses knew better. He didn’t have anything on his own that qualified him to do anything for God, much less lead the people of God.
  2. God’s answer: Moses wasn’t going on his authority; he was going with God. God would be with him, empowering him for the task, and any questions that remained would be answered when the nation returned to Mt. Sinai. The events at Mount Horeb/Sinai would be “a sign” to the children of Israel. Not that the Hebrews would have to wait that long! God gave all kinds of authenticating signs through Moses, including the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. But just in case that wasn’t enough (!), God Himself would personally appear in glory on Mount Sinai in full view of the nation of Israel, and they would hear His voice and tremble. If they wanted to know that Almighty YHWH God had truly sent Moses, they would have their questions answered!
    1. Are we qualified to do anything for God? Not in ourselves! But when we are in Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, God goes with us and uses us for His glory!

13 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”

  1. Legitimate question. 400 years had passed since Joseph. The knowledge of the true God remained among the children of Israel, but who knows to what extent? They lived in a polytheistic world, so how would they know which god had sent Moses? How would they know that Moses served the true God of their forefathers? Moses asked for a name, and unlike with Jacob in centuries past (Gen 32:29), God gave one.

14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

  1. Who is God? He is “I AM,” the self-existent God. It is the perfect name for God to refer to Himself. Think about it: we are named by our parents, but God has no parents – He simply IS. There was not a moment He came into existence; He has always existed. Everything had a starting point with the exception of God. What better name could He call Himself, other than “I AM”? – “I AM WHO I AM” (אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה), exactly what Jesus referred to when He said to the people of Jerusalem: John 8:58–59, “(58) Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (59) Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”  Why did those Jews pick up stones? Because they understood exactly what Jesus was saying: He was equal with the Almighty I AM who spoke with Moses on the mountain. Jesus, as God the Son, is, was, and is to come – He is I AM!
    1. Is this the God you trust? Is this the God you worship? Not only do people have a tendency to invent their own god (idolatry), but when they do, they make their god too small. The true God isn’t small at all – there is nothing beyond Him, for He is beyond existence itself! The true God is the Creator, the source of all life, the source of everything that can be imagined. Even our imaginations find their origins in Him, for He gives us the capability to think & dream! (How sad we so often use it in rebellion against Him!) Beware the idolatry of a god who’s too small! God is I AM, revealed to us in Jesus Christ. There is nothing that is beyond Him!
  2. This is how God refers to Himself, but how are others to refer to Him? The same way they did back in Genesis in the lives of the patriarchs.

15 Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’

  1. God refers to Himself as I AM, which makes sense, speaking from the 1st To His covenant people, He is YHWH, commonly written in our Bibles as “the Lord.” Most English Bibles follow the tradition of the LXX, which substituted the word “Lord” (κύριος) for God’s name, which in turn followed the Hebrew tradition of not saying God’s name aloud. (The mispronunciation of “Jehovah” was a result of mistaking the Hebrew convention for this practice.) The name itself is most likely derived from the Hebrew verb for “to be,” making it the 3rd person version of the name God spoke for Himself in the 1st person. To God Himself, He is “I AM;” to His people, His name is “HE IS.” It speaks of His eternal self-existence, and alludes to His promise to always be with us, which leads into the other primary description of God: He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He is the covenant-keeping God of Israel. HE IS that God, the same “Elohim” and “El Shaddai” of the forefathers – the God who has always existed and the God who has always been with His people.
  2. This is who God is, and who He will always be. He is to be known this way forever, and He is! Even through Jesus, God is still I AM, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. None of that has changed in Jesus; Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of all the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When we worship Jesus, we worship the same God that created the world and Who called Abraham to a destiny!
  3. Of course, that destiny still needed to be fulfilled, so God went on to tell Moses how to go about it.
  • God’s plan and promise (16-22)

16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, “I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt; 17 and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, to a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’

  1. If any of this sounds familiar, it should. God had just gotten done telling Moses all of these things directly, and now He gives it to Moses to share. Moses was basically to go tell others what God had told him.
  2. Question: Couldn’t all of this have been summarized? God had already mentioned all of these people groups in verse 8. Why mention them all again? It emphasizes that the promised land was already populated. Although the land would be rich with blessing (“flowing with milk and honey”), the children of Israel would have to walk by faith in God in order to receive it. The land was undoubtedly a gift of God, by His grace and His power. There was no way that the Israelites would be able to walk into this land by themselves and claim it as their own; much work was left to be done. But if God could get them out of Egypt, He could surely get them into the Promised Land. What was impossible for men is possible with God, and it’s all due to the grace and power of God.
    1. This is salvation in a nutshell! The picture is one even the author of Hebrews paints, showing that the land of promise was a picture of rest for the Israelites, but it wasn’t the real rest. The real rest was neither the land, nor the day of rest (the Sabbath), but the true rest of God: the rest from working towards salvation (Heb 4:1-10). The true rest is Jesus! But rest is impossible to find, without Jesus. There are too many obstacles in the way, too many masters to which we are enslaved. Israel had to deal with Egypt, and then with the Canaanites; we have to deal with our sin & death, and then the ongoing threat of our fleshly nature. What can we do? Our situation is hopeless…but not in Christ! In Christ, we have rest, peace, freedom, and joy! All of it is due to His grace and His power!
  3. This was the long-term plan Moses was to share with the elders; there was also a short-term plan for the time being.

18 Then they will heed your voice; and you shall come, you and the elders of Israel, to the king of Egypt; and you shall say to him, ‘The LORD God of the Hebrews has met with us; and now, please, let us go three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’

  1. The initial plan: Moses and the Hebrew elders were to ask Pharaoh for a 3-day journey. They’d go into the wilderness, worship God and (presumably) return. Was this deceitful? It was supposed to be a test run, giving Pharaoh the opportunity to show mercy. If Pharaoh responded in kindness, then the next step would be taken at that point. As it was, God knew Pharaoh wouldn’t do it.

19 But I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not even by a mighty hand. 20 So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My wonders which I will do in its midst; and after that he will let you go.

  1. From the outset, God knew Pharaoh’s response. He knew Pharaoh would say “no,” and harden his heart against the command of God. Question: if God knew, why did God still command Moses to ask? Answer: Because God is gracious! God knows the end from the beginning, being totally outside of (or unconstrained) by time. There is not a single thing we can say or do that God has not known from before the foundation of the world. That means He knows all our decisions before we ever decide them. It does not mean that He is responsible for our bad decisions. He often gives us the opportunity to do what is right before we do what is wrong. Sometimes, He gives us over to those things (Rom 1), which will be demonstrated in the life of Pharaoh. But Pharaoh (nor any of us) can claim that God never gave us the opportunity to do what is right. God is gracious and just, and He always does what is right.
  2. Not only did God know Pharaoh’s choice, God obviously knew His own plan. God’s plan to free His people from Egypt had been eternally decreed, and He knew that it would take a terrible demonstration of His powerful wrath before Pharaoh would let Israel go. Countless lives would be lost (including Pharaoh’s own firstborn son), and the nation of Egypt brought to ruin before it would happen, but eventually, Pharaoh would let Israel go. God knew what had to be done, and He didn’t hesitate to do it.
  3. In all of this, what was it God made clear to Moses: Freedom would come, but it would only come via God’s power. God’s power brings freedom. Unless God moved in a mighty way, using “all [His] wonders,” Israel would remain enslaved. But when God moved, nothing would stand in His way.
    1. Once again, we cannot help but make the parallel to our salvation. Before we know Jesus, we are enslaved to our own sin – we are enslaved to a future of eternal death and hell. Unless God moves on our behalf in a mighty way, we’re doomed. But God’s power brings freedom! The mighty wonder Jesus performed at the cross & resurrection was the death blow to death itself, and was the miracle God performed to give us eternal life and freedom. Praise God for His mighty act!
  4. What would happen to Israel after Pharaoh let them go? God had a plan for that, too.

21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed. 22 But every woman shall ask of her neighbor, namely, of her who dwells near her house, articles of silver, articles of gold, and clothing; and you shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”

  1. God’s grace brings provision. 400 years’ worth of back-wages would be paid to Israel as they symbolically “plunder[ed] the Egyptians.” By the time the Israelites were finally leaving, the Egyptians were so glad to see them go, they were willing to give them pretty much anything the Hebrews asked for. For centuries, the Hebrews lived in Egyptian poverty; they would walk out with the wealth of kings.
  2. Be careful not to get the wrong idea. God didn’t promise gold, silver, and clothing to the Hebrews that they might live in opulent desert mansions or spend it on wild parties. God had a purpose for their wealth: the tabernacle. Much gold & silver & cloth would be required for the ark of the testimony, the lampstand, the curtains, and more. God had a plan for His people to worship Him while they were in the desert, and He ensured that they would have more than enough provision for it.

Conclusion:

Our God is utterly amazing! Appearing to Moses through the burning bush, God gave His holy presence, revealed His eternal name, and spoke of His perfect plan. Through it all, He demonstrates His grace, power, and compassion. He had not forgotten His people; He had a plan to deliver them. And when He did (using Moses), the children of Israel would know the holy grace of the Infinite God.

The same God that appeared to Moses in a burning bush is the God who appeared to us in Christ Jesus. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, and when we have seen Him, we have seen the Father. And because of Him, we are brought into the holy presence of God – we have direct relationship with the eternal God – we are participants in the might plans of God. We are His people, through Jesus, and He has given us every spiritual blessing in Him. (Eph 1:3)

So believe the I AM! Don’t lose faith in God or His promises! It can be easy for any of us to lose hope. Maybe it’s regarding a loved one who is still stubbornly unsaved…we can trust God is giving them every opportunity to know Jesus. Maybe you struggle with prayer, not knowing if God hears. He does! Even when it seems as if He’s silent, He hears the groans of His people. Maybe you doubt if God “can” work in a certain situation. He is the I AM…He can do anything! Believe Him for who He is, for who God has declared Himself to be; not according to the limits of your own expectations. Hold fast to God because HE IS God, and thankfully because of Jesus, He is OUR God.

 

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Waiting for a Deliverer

Posted: September 13, 2018 in Exodus, Uncategorized

Exodus 1-2, “Waiting for a Deliverer”

Waiting can be difficult. We used to think microwaves were fast; now we stare impatiently at the timer. We used to think email was quick; now we want text messages. Soon we’re going to be complaining about the wait before we realize what we’re waiting for! 😊 It’s one thing to wait for food; it’s another to wait out a crisis. During those times, the minutes (hours, days) seem to slow down. It’s as if time slows in proportion to the amount of our trouble, and it just can’t end soon enough.

If we experience that in surgical waiting rooms (and elsewhere), imagine what it was like for the Hebrews enslaved in Egypt! They had a promise of a future homeland, a nation, and the blessing of God, but it seemed like it never came. Years turned into decades, which turned into centuries, and nothing. What to do? They had to trust their Lord God, which meant they had to trust His timing…and that can prove to be the trickiest part of all.

Why were the children of Israel in Egypt in the first place? For that, we need to back up a bit to Genesis. Out of all of humanity, God chose one man through whom He would bring the Messiah (the promised Seed of the woman – Gen 3:15): Abraham. Abraham bore Isaac, Isaac bore Jacob, and Jacob grew into a large family which eventually faced mortal danger. (1) A physical famine threatened their lives, (2) social inter-marriage with the Canaanites threatened their existence. God save the family of Jacob/Israel from both threats through one of Jacob’s sons: Joseph. Despite enduring betrayal, slavery, and imprisonment, Joseph rose to being second-in-command of all Egypt, fully able to deliver his family from the famine, and also give them a temporary home in Egypt where they would have the opportunity to remain pure and grow into a nation.

Of course, that home was supposed to be temporary. Both Jacob and Joseph looked forward to the day their bodies would be returned to the land of promise. Canaan was God’s perpetual gift to His people, and one day all the children of Israel would return. The book of Exodus tells that story.

The Hebrew name of the book is “Now these are the names,” which is literally the first two words of Exodus 1:1 (וְאֵ֗לֶּה שְׁמוֹת֙). Our English name for the book is simply a transliteration of the Greek LXX (ἔξοδος), which seems more descriptive of the whole. Even so, the Hebrew name is not totally irrelevant. The book begins with the names of the tribes of Israel, but continues through it’s conclusion showing the birth of the nation of Israel. The tribes leave Egypt in a grand “exodus,” but the reason they leave is so they can bear the “name” of Israel in their own land as their own people worshipping their own God. Whatever you call the book, it contains a mighty history of God’s glorious deliverance of His people unto freedom.

Its author is Moses, which, though debated by liberal scholars, is unquestioned by the rest of the Bible, including the Lord Jesus. When referring to the burning bush, Jesus talks about “the book of Moses,” (Mk 12:26) – something that could be said of each of the 1st 5 books of the Bible, with the Pentateuch as whole being considered “the books of Moses.” Undoubtedly he wrote it during the 40 years of wilderness wandering, probably in the range of 1446-1400BC, recording all that God revealed to him for the benefit of the Hebrews who would eventually live in the Promised Land.

As the book begins, a need is seen for deliverance, and a man has been destined as the deliverer. The question was if anyone among Israel would look to God to provide His deliverer in His way. Too often we try to run ahead of God. We think we might know His plans, but we’re too impatient to wait upon His timing. Wait upon the Lord! He hasn’t forgotten you…of that you can be sure!

Exodus 1 – Slavery and Suffering

  • Growth of Israel (1-7)

1 Now these are the names of the children of Israel who came to Egypt; each man and his household came with Jacob: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun, and Benjamin; 4 Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher. 5 All those who were descendants of Jacob were seventy persons (for Joseph was in Egypt already).

  1. Exodus opens with a quick reminder for the context. The whole family of Israel went down to Egypt, totaling 70 persons (75, depending how you count Joseph & his family) – quite a large family, even for the day. The single man of Jacob had turned into the clan of Israel (both names used here in reminder of God’s work in Jacob’s own life), and this clan had survived the famine and following years. 

6 And Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation. 7 But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them.

  1. Time passed, the generation of the patriarchs died, and Israel was blessed with growth…exceeding growth! The wording is reminiscent of the opening chapters of Genesis, after God gave the command to mankind to be fruitful and multiply. Specifically to the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God had promised that they would grow into such numbers that they would be beyond count – like the sand of the seashore or the stars in the sky. The population explosion in Egypt was a sign that God kept His promise. (And if He proved true in part of His word, surely He would prove true in all of it!)
  2. There was so much growth, in fact, that the Hebrews became seen as a threat by the Egyptians.
  • Egypt’s fear of the Hebrews (8-14)

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; 10 come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.”

  1. In generations past, the Hebrews enjoyed a certain amount of protection and safety in the land of Egypt. Joseph had been the prime minister to Pharaoh, and the king of Egypt gave him full permission to do to his family whatever it was that needed to be done. But Joseph wasn’t there any longer. Time passed, administrations changed. Joseph’s position wasn’t hereditary, and the Hebrews were just a foreign people group living within the borders of Egypt.
  2. With a new Pharaoh came new policy. He believed it wise (“shrewd”) to subjugate the Hebrews. All of the new population could easily form an army, and soon it could be Pharaoh and the native Egyptians who were servants; not the Hebrews. Depending how one dates the book of Exodus, this attitude might be explained by the temporary rule of the Hyksos people over Egypt during the 15th-17th dynasties (1650-1550BC). The Hyksos were also a Semitic people like the Hebrews, and had actually taken control of Egypt until the native Egyptians took it back in 1550BC. If Jacob, Joseph and the others had arrived around 1880BC, then the Hebrews would have been in Egypt during the entire upheaval of the Hyksos. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that the new Pharaoh wanted to prevent the Hebrews from becoming a similar kind of threat. (Of course, the way he handled it was sinful!)
  3. None of this ought to have been a surprise to the Israelites. All of this had been prophesied from God to Abraham. Genesis 15:13–16, “(13) Then He said to Abram: “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. (14) And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. (15) Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. (16) But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”” 400 years needed to pass before the Israelites headed home, and during that time they were specifically told that they would expect suffering and subjugation. It wouldn’t make it easy to handle, but it at least provided an expiration date to their trial. For the Hebrews who had faith in the Lord, all they needed to do was remember this promise, and start counting down the years.
    1. That’s one of the glorious benefits of having God’s word written down, freely available to us to read. We can see God’s promises with our own eyes, and take comfort. We can read God’s prophecies, and be reassured things aren’t out of control. Waiting is always difficult, but it’s far better when we wait with the word of God!

11 Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh supply cities, Pithom and Raamses. 12 But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel.

  1. The Hebrews became forced labor for construction. Unlike what popular movies may depict, the Hebrews did not build the pyramids (which date to 2580BC), but they did build at least a couple of cities for the Egyptians. Although the names of the cities have caused some to place the Exodus at a much later date (middle 1200’s BC), we need to remember that city names can come from more than one source (i.e. a particular king), and that sometimes names are updated for later audiences. However the cities were named, its not enough to get sidetracked from the main point: the Hebrews, though one-time guests, were now slaves.
  2. Note: the Hebrews continued to multiply and grow. God had chosen the Hebrews for growth, and no matter how they were afflicted by the Egyptians, God’s choice did not change. God’s blessings cannot be undone!
    1. What hope this gives us in our own times of waiting & suffering! God will not reverse what He has granted us in Christ Jesus. The work He has begun in us, He will be faithful to complete (Phil 1:6) – His gifts and callings are irrevocable (Rom 11:29). He has chosen us for His own, just as we chose to surrender our lives to Jesus as Lord & Savior, and His choice will not be undone!

13 So the Egyptians made the children of Israel serve with rigor. 14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.

  1. The emphasis is on harsh, bitter service. It’s not only that the Hebrews served Egypt with the sweat of their brows, but that Egypt demanded that service with harsh ruthlessness. Just as the American experience has dealt with the issue of ruthless generational slavery of an entire race, so did the Egyptians do to the Hebrews.
    1. This is remembered in the modern Passover meal with the bitter herbs. There’s a reason that the Jews are supposed to bite into raw horseradish and wince: it reminds them of the suffering of their forefathers. That their suffering has ended reminds them to give God praise.
    2. From a Christian perspective, we ought to remember our bitter slavery as well: our former slavery to sin. It keeps us humble in our attitudes, compassionate towards those still lost, and forever grateful for the grace in which we live!
  2. Question: Was there a point to all of this rigorous labor and suffering? Why would God allow His chosen people to endure it? Answer: Among other things, it would make the Hebrews hunger for God’s freedom. It would cause them to look to God, plead for help, and beg Him for a deliverer (which the end of Chapter 2 demonstrates that they did). Just like the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, so is suffering a vehicle to bring us to Someone who offers relief. (Jesus alone!)
  3. Of course, in the midst of this, the children of Israel are still multiplying. Hard labor had not slowed the population growth, so Pharaoh decided he needed to take more forceful action.
  • Pharaoh’s order to kill the sons (15-22)

15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, of whom the name of one was Shiphrah and the name of the other Puah; 16 and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live.” 17 But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive.

  1. Pharaoh’s new plan: kill the Hebrew male children. For whatever reason, Pharaoh feared the male children more than the female (though in Chapters 1-2, it was the females that foiled his plans every time). He ordered the midwives to kill the Hebrew sons in childbirth, which might make it appear to be more of an “accident” than murder (although everyone would know the truth). Two of the midwives are named – they likely represented the other Hebrew midwives as a whole, and surely they all followed the example of the two who are mentioned.
  2. Facing a direct order from the king of the land, what did the midwives do? They directly disobeyed. They took care of the male children in the same manner that they cared for the females: desiring to deliver every single one alive & healthy. Why? The midwives “feared God” more than they feared Pharaoh.
    1. And rightly so! The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov 9:10), and these women knew that they would face an authority far higher than that of Pharaoh. Whatever it was that Pharaoh could do to them, it was nothing compared with the judgment of Almighty God. But more than terror, the midwives were motivated by their holy reverence and awe of God. They knew that God would never condone of murder, so they did what they could to preserve life.
    2. When it comes to a choice between obeying men or God, the choice is clear: we obey God! His word and command is the highest of authorities, no matter what the laws of men might proclaim. As a whole, we are to respect and obey earthly authorities, but when they come in conflict with the word of God, God’s word is to rule every time.
  3. BTW – In the midst of all of this waiting for a deliverer, the Hebrew midwives waited the right way. They did not rise up in outright defiance of Pharaoh, nor did they try to subvert the culture from the inside. They simply used the opportunity God gave them to glorify God. They would not be able to deliver the entire nation, but they could deliver the baby boys from death, even if it was one at a time.
    1. Use the opportunities God gives you! Too often, we spend our efforts trying to make our own opportunities and force our own plans, without looking at what God has right in front of us. One person says “I want to preach to thousands, just like Billy Graham!” Wonderful…but have you shared the gospel with your next door neighbor? Look around. What is it God has already given you to do? While you wait, do that.

18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?” 19 And the midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them.”

  1. Did the midwives lie? Did they have a choice? Maybe yes, maybe no. They could have been honest, and taken the punishment given them by Pharaoh…but if they had, perhaps they would have been killed & unable to save any future baby boys. Ethics ought never be judged on the basis of “the ends justifying the means,” but it seems that the midwives were caught between a rock and a hard place, and they chose the least-bad of the options.
    1. Interestingly, Moses as the author of Exodus, did not cast a moral judgment on the midwives. He simply recorded the fact of what they did. He was probably one who owed his life to the midwives’ act.
  2. Did God judge the midwives for their lie? Absolutely not! He blessed them for their faithfulness to life and His will.

20 Therefore God dealt well with the midwives, and the people multiplied and grew very mighty. 21 And so it was, because the midwives feared God, that He provided households for them.

  1. God knew the state of the midwives’ hearts, and He judged them accordingly…with blessing! To say that “He provided households for them” is to say that God gave them families of their own. Whether they were previously barren, or what their lives were like prior to that point was unknown, but God certainly blessed them going forward. They feared/worshipped God, and God treated them with His mercy and grace.
  2. God knows us, including our hearts and motives. That doesn’t give us free-reign to do whatever we want, but God also knows when we’re forced to make the least bad of terrible choices. He knows when we act for our own comfort or for His glory.

22 So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.”

  1. Pharaoh’s final plan: open infanticide. There was no more depending on the midwives – every family was responsible for drowning their own newborn sons. It was suffering on an awful scale…incomprehensible! In this, there is a foreshadowing of Passover. The final plague given to Egypt was the deaths of their firstborn sons – no doubt a direct response to the terrible order of Pharaoh.

At this point, things look absolutely awful! The Hebrews are enslaved, and their children are being systematically attacked by the evil order of Pharaoh. Once again, the nation is in danger of extinction. What can be done? God was already doing it. He had a plan for a deliverer, and that plan was set in motion with Moses.

Exodus 2 – Moses’ beginnings

  • Birth & deliverance (1-10)

1 And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi. 2 So the woman conceived and bore a son. And when she saw that he was a beautiful child, she hid him three months.

  1. The mother’s name was Jochebed (6:20). She gave birth to a son, and couldn’t bring herself to follow through with Pharaoh’s command. (Who could?!) She hid him away as long as possible. Can you imagine? She & her husband Amram would hardly have been able to even rejoice with their neighbors over the birth of their son. After all, who knows how many of them had been forced to drown their children? Jochebed kept her infant boy an absolute secret, trying to hush every cry, and anticipate any noise the baby would make. Eventually something would have to be done with the boy, but what?
  2. BTW – Did Jochebed save Moses just because he was good looking? Every mother believes their baby is beautiful, but what set this mother’s love for her son apart from any other? “Beautiful” (NKJV) is literally “good,” (ט֣וֹב). Contextually, it could mean “beautiful,” but it could also mean “fine” (ESV, NIV) or “healthy.” Some have seen a parallel to the creation account – just like God saw His creation as “good,” so did Jochebed see her baby boy. Perhaps there was something about this child that seemed stronger than the rest. Whatever it was, it stood out to her, and she knew she had to take action to save him.

3 But when she could no longer hide him, she took an ark of bulrushes for him, daubed it with asphalt and pitch, put the child in it, and laid it in the reeds by the river’s bank. 4 And his sister stood afar off, to know what would be done to him.

  1. In the end, Jochebed still put her son into the river. It was the letter of the law, even if not the intent, for she put her son in the river as carefully as possible. Just as Noah was delivered from the waters of the flood by being enclosed in an ark sealed with pitch, so was baby Moses. The three-month old infant was put in a watertight bassinette and sent downstream.
  2. Question: Was this carelessness – cruelty? It was trust. Ultimately, Jochebed had no choice other than entrust her son to God. God had obviously led her to save her child; she had to trust that God would do the same.
    1. When we wait, it is imperative we trust. Waiting without faith is maddening – there is no rock to which to cling, no foundation upon which to stand. But with faith, waiting is possible. Again, it’s not always easy, but it’s doable. A solid faith and trust in Jesus (His goodness & His word) enables us to wait.
  3. Miriam (Moses’ sister) watched from the riverbank…something soon to be used by God for her baby brother’s deliverance.

5 Then the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river. And her maidens walked along the riverside; and when she saw the ark among the reeds, she sent her maid to get it. 6 And when she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby wept. So she had compassion on him, and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”

  1. The princess recognized the baby as a Hebrew, but she still had compassion. “Compassion” could be translated as “spare.” She spared the baby boy from certain death.
  2. Note: This is an Egyptian princess – the daughter of the chief enemy of God’s people. Yet she was the one used by God to deliver the future deliverer. Can God use impossible situations for His glory? Yes! 

7 Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child for you?” 8 And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the maiden went and called the child’s mother. 9 Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.

  1. In a wonderful turn of events, Moses’ older sister Miriam calls to the Egyptian princess asking if she could find a nursemaid for the child. When all was said and done, Jochebed not only saw the salvation of her son from death, but she was able to (1) continue personally nursing him, (2) spend quality time with him in his formative years, and (3) get paid for doing it! Sometimes we think the miracles in Exodus don’t begin until Moses sees the burning bush on Mount Sinai. Not true! The first miracle in Exodus was Moses’ own deliverance & upbringing!

10 And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying, “Because I drew him out of the water.”

  1. Moses’ name involves a bit of word-play, as it sounds like the word for “drawn out.” There’s no small amount of irony here. The Egyptians looked to the Nile River as a source of life and nourishment, and from the Nile came the Hebrew prophet that would be the spokesman for one of the greatest threats they ever faced. This time, life hadn’t come from the Nile; judgment had. Not immediate…but judgment would come in the timing of God.
  2. The cross can be seen in a similar way. Some would look at the cross as a place of defeat – the place where the ministry of Jesus ended as He was nailed there and left to die. In truth, the cross is the exact opposite: a place of victory! There, the price of sin was paid and Jesus became the sacrifice for all mankind. But there is both life and judgment in the cross. To those who believe, Jesus is our source of life, forgiveness, and eternity with God in His good pleasure. To those who reject Jesus, He is their Judge.
  • Foolishness & flight from Egypt (11-15)

11 Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.

  1. Time passed, and Moses grew. What happened in the meantime, Moses (as the author) leaves unsaid. In his defense before the Jewish Sanhedrin, Stephen spoke of Moses’ wisdom & mighty deeds, but Stephen drew from historical tradition; not the Scripture. It’s not at all unreasonable to assume that Moses grew up with all the benefits of the Egyptian royal household, but we have to remember that Moses always knew that he was not an Egyptian. His own mother was his nursemaid, and although we do not know how long she played a role in his life, there’s little doubt she told him the truth from an early age. 
  2. So Moses grew up as an outsider, recognized his situation as one given by God, and rightly assumed himself to be God’s chosen deliverer of God’s people. One day, he decided to act. He saw a legitimate problem but came up with an illegitimate solution. Seeing an Egyptian abuse a Hebrew, Moses killed the Egyptian and attempted a (literal) coverup. Question: What was wrong with the act? Moses was destined to be the deliverer, but in this moment he was a vigilante – a murderer. He hadn’t done it according to God’s command, nor did he do it in God’s way. The midwives had broken the law of Pharaoh, but they kept the law of God (apart from lying). Nothing Moses did in this situation was righteous. The midwives preserved life; Moses took it. The midwives feared God; Moses says nothing of his own relationship with God at this point. This was Moses acting according to his own flesh, and it was sinful.

13 And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion?” 14 Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” So Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known!”

  1. The very next day, Moses saw a similar situation between two Hebrews. This time, he tried to be a peacemaker and failed. The Hebrews wanted nothing to do with Moses, thinking him to be entitled & self-important, with no real relevance or authority in the matter. Moses hadn’t acted with godly authority, and the Hebrews certainly didn’t recognize any evidence of it.
  2. Of course, God would make Moses “a prince and a judge over” the Hebrews…but not yet. This wasn’t the time – Moses wasn’t personally ready. Moses had been as impetuous and egotistical as the Hebrews had accused him of being, just assuming he could kill the Egyptian and get away with it. God had a work to do in Moses before Moses would be ready to do a work for God in Egypt.
  3. From Moses’ perspective, the worst part wasn’t the rejection by his own countrymen; it was the fact that the news of his crime had gone public. His life was in danger, and he needed to leave quick!

15 When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.

  1. For the 2nd time in his life, Moses was in danger of death & needed urgent deliverance. He was but one man facing down the might of the Egyptian superpower. He had no choice except to run for his life.
  2. Where did he go? The exact location Moses went is unknown, but he symbolically followed in the footsteps of his forefathers. Like his ancestor Jacob, he sat down by a well, where he would soon meet the woman he would eventually marry.
  • Deliverance in Midian (16-22)

16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters. And they came and drew water, and they filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Then the shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock.

  1. The sovereign timing of God is again on display. Moses “just happened” to show up at the exact well where these women would be, and they “just happened” to be in need of his help. There is no coincidence with the Lord…this was exactly according to His plan!
  2. Moses acted again – this time, not as a vigilante, but in justice and compassion. What exactly Moses did to “help” them (deliver them / save them ~ יָשַׁע) is unknown…but he was making progress in that it wasn’t criminal or violent. He was learning to do things God’s way – learning the lessons of humility.

18 When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “How is it that you have come so soon today?” 19 And they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and he also drew enough water for us and watered the flock.” 20 So he said to his daughters, “And where is he? Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.”

  1. Reuel/Jethro was surprised to see his daughters return so quickly, and was even more surprised that his daughters lacked in basic hospitality. A total stranger dressed like an Egyptian had saved them from their habitual trouble with the local shepherds, and they hadn’t even invited him home to dinner! 

21 Then Moses was content to live with the man, and he gave Zipporah his daughter to Moses. 22 And she bore him a son. He called his name Gershom, for he said, “I have been a stranger in a foreign land.”

  1. This was Moses’ 2nd First he was rescued from the river by Pharaoh’s daughter; now he was rescued from being a refugee by the priest of Midian. He would spend the next 40 years in the wilderness of Midian with Reuel, learning the lessons of humility and shepherding. It may have been a foreign place for him, but it was a true proving ground used by God.
  • God hears the Hebrews (23-25)

23 Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.

  1. If suffering was supposed to make Israel long for God, it worked. They “cried out” and “groaned” for God. The new Pharaoh did not lessen the load upon the Hebrews, and their suffering continued. They sighed, cried, and groaned for the Lord, pleading with Him for help.
  2. Although it may not have seemed like it at the time, their prayers did not go unanswered. God was well-aware of everything they endured, and already had a plan in place in which to deal with it. How much had God paid attention to the prayers of His people? Look at the various descriptions in vss. 24-25…

24 So God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God acknowledged them.

  1. God “heard” their sighing groans of anguish. He heard the cries of their hearts, understanding their pain.
  2. God “remembered” the promises He made to Abraham, specifically that God would bless those who blessed Abraham, and curse those who cursed him (Gen 12:3). Not that God ever forgot these promises, but He “remembered” them in that it was time to be fulfilled. Those promises once again came to the forefront of His plan.
  3. God “looked” at His children, seeing their suffering. His attention turned directly to His people, and He saw every whip that came down upon them, and every baby that was murdered in the river. Nothing escaped His attention.
  4. God “acknowledged them” – literally saying, “God knew” It wasn’t that God simply nodded in their direction; He knew every bit of the suffering of His people, and He was fixed upon them. Not a thing done unto them would go unanswered, and God would see that His people would have justice.
  5. God did that with ancient Israel, but He does that us, too. There is not a thing we endure He does not know, not a promise He does not keep, not a son or daughter of His that He ignores. He hears, remembers, sees, and knows us, too…all because of Jesus! Have you been suffering and waiting for God to act? Keep your eyes on Him, for He sees you & will act according to His promise!

Conclusion:

A nation needed a deliverer, and a man was convinced he was supposed to be that deliverer. God had raised him up and saved his life on at least two occasions for exactly that purpose. But…that didn’t mean it was yet time for Moses to act as the deliverer. The timing of God had to be right, and God was still doing a work in both the nation and the man. God was getting them both where they needed to be in order that they would be willing to be used by God for His glory. 

Some in Israel were already willing and prepared: the midwives, for example. They maintained a proper fear of God and used the opportunities given them the best way they knew how. Moses, on the other hand, still had much to learn (as did most of the Hebrews). Freedom would not come through the strength or plans of men; it would only come by the grace and power of God. They needed to look to God alone, and wait upon His will.

So do we! God has not forgotten us, so we don’t need to fear that He has by running ahead of Him doing the things that are on our own agenda, instead of His. Wait upon the Lord! Walk according to His will & His word. Some things take time, because there may be more than one thing going on. We’re often so focused on the situation outside of us that we forget about the battles on the inside. Often, God works within us to transform us before He works to transform our circumstances. He cares more about who we are than the things we endure. That’s not to say our situations aren’t important – by no means! God sees us, hears our groanings, and knows us…but He will do His work in His way according to His time. We just need to wait on Him.

Social Media is often divisive…even more so after the election and inauguration of our new president.  If we thought our country was split between left & right before the election, it’s only gotten worse.
The challenge for us as Christians, is not to react the way our culture does.  Instead of being drawn into a left/right argument or liberal/conservative camps, we need to check ourselves to see if either side is the right side.
Exodus 32:25–29, “(25) Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), (26) then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. (27) And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’ ” (28) So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. (29) Then Moses said, “Consecrate yourselves today to the Lord, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.”
You know the context: Moses had been up on Mt. Sinai for 40 days receiving the law of God & instructions for the Tabernacle.  God wanted His people to worship Him, and He graciously gave them the right method on how to do it.  Yet the people grew tired of waiting, and they demanded that Aaron give them a god they could see.  Sadly, Aaron obliged the mob (and gave the dumbest excuse in history!), and fashioned the infamous golden calf.  Of course God knew about it, proclaimed His judgment of the nation, giving Moses the opportunity to intercede for his people (which he did).  Moses then descended the mountain, ground the idol to dust, and made the people drink it.  Incredibly, even after this confrontation, some of the people persisted in their sin, and that’s when Moses calls for help.
Who did he ask for?  “Whoever is on the Lord’s side.”  Moses didn’t ask for whoever was on his side – he didn’t ask for whoever was against the idolators – he didn’t ask for people with a righteous moral stand.  Any of those qualifications would be good, but that wasn’t what Moses was looking for.  He didn’t need to rally people to a specific cause; he needed people who were aligned with the Lord God.
That’s the way it needs to be with us in our culture.  There are all sorts of causes which are good causes, but at the end of the day, we don’t need to be on the left or right; we need to be with the Lord.  It doesn’t matter whose side you’re on if it isn’t the side of Jesus.  In all of the debate over political matters, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight that perhaps neither side of the political aisle is on Jesus’ side.  And that’s where we want to be.
Sometimes that means taking a tough stand, as it was with the Levites.  They were put in the unenviable position of having to draw their swords against their brothers – to actually go out and execute God’s judgment against those who chose to persist in unrestrained sin.  Obviously God does not call us as NT believers to take up swords for physical battle – but He does call us to stand firm in spiritual battle.  We may have to hold to positions that are unpopular with our friends.  We may have to take stands against our employers.  Who knows?  At some point, we may even have to choose civil disobedience against the government.  Far better to obey God, rather than man, if forced to make a choice between the two.
But if we choose to stand with God – when we resolve to set ourselves on His side, there is a blessing.  He will strengthen us and give us not only what we need to endure, but to thrive in faith.
Let us resolve to be on the Lord’s side!
Let us also resolve to intercede for those in sin.  Although Moses was forced to take up the sword in judgment, he also pleaded for those who required forgiveness – both before & after the terrible judgment of God.  Moses would have rather had his own name blotted from God’s book, than for his people to be removed from the covenant of God.  Let’s pray for our culture – let’s pray for the lost – let’s pray for those who have sinned against God & against God’s people.
To be sure, we have much to thank God for in regards to our culture.  We have an opportunity to see much change for the better in our nation – but our trust is never in men or any elected official.  Men falter; God remains.  Let us pray that God guides those in leadership, and that those in leadership will themselves choose to be on the Lord’s side.

The Birth of a Nation

Posted: January 8, 2015 in Exodus, Route 66
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Route 66: Exodus, “The Birth of a Nation”

Every nation has a beginning – has a starting point.  For the United States, we celebrate ours on the signing of the Declaration of Independence: July 4, 1776.  For Israel, it is remembered with the celebration of the Passover.  That was the day that God purchased His people, and that was the day they exited out of Egypt.

If Genesis recounted the birth of the Hebrews as a people (among the beginnings of many other things), Exodus recounts the birth of the Hebrews as a nation.  They had to start somewhere, and they started as a relatively small clan of 70, which had come from an even smaller start of a single child of Abraham.  Exodus picks up the account showing how the clan was transformed into a nation, united under their Covenant God, and made into His worshipping people.  In the process, we continue to see the lineage of the Messiah unfold, as well as the development of the overall Biblical theme: God rights every wrong through Jesus Christ.  For the Christ/Messiah to come, He must have a nation from which to be born, and a law of which to fulfill – these are the things that see their beginnings in the book of Exodus.

BACKGROUND: Author, Title, Date
The book itself is the 2nd of what is known as the Pentateuch: the 5 books of Moses.  Tradition holds (like Genesis), it was authored by Moses, and indeed it contains the first historical mention of Moses, as well as some of his most detailed biographical information.  The authorship of Moses is debated by liberal scholars (as they do with each of the 1st 5 books of the Bible), but their objections are relatively without merit, and the vast majority of scholars throughout Jewish and Christian history have maintained that Moses wrote the books.  As to when Moses wrote them, that’s something we cannot say with certainty – though 40 years of wilderness wandering certainly gave Moses plenty of time to do it.

The historical dates that Exodus recounts are a subject of a bit more debate.  On one hand, the Bible gives us some fairly precise dating.  1 Kings 6:1, "And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord." . All we would need to do is count back 480 years from Solomon’s reign, and we’d be able to come to the date of Israel’s exodus from the land of Egypt.  If the 4th year of Solomon as 966BC, that would put the date of the exodus around 1446BC.  However, due to the specific Egyptian cities that are mentioned in Exo 1:11, other scholars conclude that these cities could not have existed prior to 1290BC.  There are two problems with this argument: (1) It is based solely on the idea that those cities had to be built by certain kings who did not live until the 1290 timeframe (which is not necessary), and (2) It goes against the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture.  To be sure, we may not know the exact calendar date that the exodus took place, but the Biblical reference of 1446BC is certainly plausible.

As to why the book itself is titled “Exodus,” it’s simply the transliteration of the title given it in the Greek LXX.  It’s certainly descriptive of the contents, as the Hebrews exit from their slavery, and begin their journey with the Lord God as His covenant people.

SIGNIFICANCE
So why should Exodus matter to us?  Because in Exodus we see the glory and faithfulness of God.  We see God’s glory in how He reveals Himself to Moses, and tells Moses His name and His character.  We see God’s faithfulness in how He brings His people out of Egypt in a grand redemption, exactly as He promised that He would.  We see God’s mercy in how does not cast away His people when they deserve it, and we see His substitution sacrifice to be given by Jesus prefigured in the Passover.  When the Christian reads Exodus, the Christian sees the goodness and glory of God.  That’s a God that leaves us in awe, and One whom we are inspired to worship!

GENERAL OUTLINE
Generally speaking, there are three main sections of Exodus, based upon the location of the nation: Israel in Egypt (Ch 1-10), Israel’s journey to Mt. Sinai (Ch 11-18), Israel at Mt. Sinai (Ch 19-40).

Thematically, however, Exodus can be broken into 5 main parts: Moses’ background and calling (Ch 1-4) – Moses’ encounters with Pharaoh & the plagues (Ch 5-10) – the Passover, Red Sea, and wilderness (Ch 11-18) – Mt. Sinai and the commandments (Ch 19-24) – the instructions and construction of the Tabernacle (Ch 25-40).  Due to Hollywood movies, we’re generally familiar with much of the 1st half of the book, but the majority of the book details not only the narrative of how the nation was born, but what God expected of the nation that He birthed.  He revealed to them His glory, and He gave them a method of worshipping Him.

TEXT
Ch 1 – Background of Hebrews in Egypt
Exodus begins where Genesis left off.  The family of Jacob/Israel had come into Egypt, having been saved by the hand of Joseph (who himself had been miraculously saved and glorified by the Sovereign Lord God).  The band of 70 Hebrews dwelt in Egypt, but separated from the Egyptian people in the land of Goshen (Gen 47:1-7), and there they were able to multiply in large numbers, remaining unmixed as a people.  Their growth in population threatened the Egyptian Pharaoh, fearing that the Hebrews would side with their enemies in times of war, so Egypt enslaved the people (who were once the invited guests of the Pharaoh), and forced them to serve in hard labor.

In one particular act of cruelty, the Pharaoh decided that the Hebrews were still too much of a population threat, and ordered the death of every male child that exited the womb (think of it as a late-term abortion).  The Hebrew midwives disobeyed Pharaoh (rightly fearing God more than their Egyptian master), and Pharaoh responded by reiterating his command, stating that every Hebrew male that was born alive ought to be thrown into the river to drown.

That takes us directly to Moses…

Ch 2 – Background of Moses
In an act of divine irony, at the birth of Moses, he was indeed thrown into the river – not to drown, but to be saved alive.  Moses’ mother placed her baby into a homemade waterproof ark, and placed him in the river.  Moses’ sister followed the floating basket carrying her brother to the point that it was picked up by Pharaoh’s daughter, who desired to keep the baby boy for herself.  Miriam quickly suggested that she find a nursemaid to be employed by the daughter of Pharaoh, and was able to bring back her & Moses’ mother for the job.

BTW – this ought to correct some misconceptions people often have of Moses.  Moses wasn’t raised not knowing who he was.  For the first years of his life, he spent every day with his natural-born mother.  We actually have no idea how long Jochebed would have remained as a servant in the house of Pharaoh tending to Moses; it could have been several years after he was weaned.  Thus Moses had always known he was a Hebrew; he just didn’t know what he was supposed to do as a Hebrew until God revealed Himself to him.

It was in his confusion that as a young man Moses tried his own plans to free his people.  Exodus 2:11–12, "(11) Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. (12) So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand." . It was bold – it was decisive – and it was stupid.  Moses saw his fellow Hebrew being oppressed (notice that Moses knew this man was a “brother” – proof he knew his Hebrew heritage), and killed the Egyptian oppressor.  Moses thought he had done it in secret, but the truth was quickly made known, and his murderous violence didn’t even win him friends among the Hebrews (2:14).  Moses had acted in his flesh & all he accomplished was making things worse for himself.  The Egyptian Pharaoh certainly wasn’t going to put up with it, and Moses had to flee for his life.

  • Have you ever jumped ahead of God in your flesh?  How did it turn out for you?

In the end, Moses fled Egypt to the land of Midian, and found a wife & a new job as a shepherd.  Basically he started over, starting with nothing…and that was exactly where God wanted him.

Ch 3-4 – Moses called by God
Moses had settled into his new life with his new family, off in the fields of Midian far from the land of Egypt, when he has an encounter like no other.  For the first time in 400 years, God revealed Himself to a Hebrew.  Unlike God did with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God did not appear in a vision or in the form of a man; He appeared as the Angel of the Lord in the form of a burning bush.  The strange sight of a bush burning while not burning up caught Moses’ attention, and that’s when God spoke to him, telling him how God had heard the cries of His people and had not forgotten them.  Moses would indeed be used by God to free the Hebrews, but it would be done according to God’s plan and God’s way, and God would receive all of the glory.

It was in this that God revealed His name to Moses – the very first time that God’s name is truly revealed and explained in all of Scripture.  Exodus 3:14–15, "(14) And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (15) Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’" .  Whenever we see the capitalized LORD in our Bibles, it is a reference to this covenant name of God: Yahweh/Jehovah = HE IS (the 3rd person of “I AM”).  This speaks to God’s origin (He has none…He is ever-existent).  This speaks to God’s promise (the LORD is the God of Moses’ fathers).  This speaks to God’s glorious victory (this is His name forever, to all generations).  When God reveals Himself as I AM (Yahweh), He reveals Himself as the One True Almighty God who is eternally faithful to His covenant promises and covenant people.

  • This is our glorious God!  This is the One we worship, and the One whom Jesus is the very image of.  We worship the ever-existent faithful God, worthy of all glory.  We are not worthy to come into His presence.  Like Moses, we ought to be taking our shoes off our feet in recognition of His holiness – yet also like Moses, we have been invited to come near to God.  When we have faith in Jesus, we are brought into the presence of God, and brought into His own family to dwell with Him forever.  That is amazing grace!

As God commands Moses to go back to Egypt, God gives Moses several miraculous signs to perform, demonstrating the power of God.  The rod that turned into a serpent, and the hand that became leprous would be mere demonstrations.  Because God knows all things, God knew that Pharaoh would not receive these signs (4:8-9), and that the more severe plagues would be sent in response.

God was ready to demonstrate His power among the Egyptians, but Moses wasn’t ready to be used by God in the process.  Moses protests not once, but twice.  First he claims that he’s no good at public speaking (which is obviously no problem for the omnipotent God), and then he simply refuses to go, asking God to find someone else.  At that point, the full anger of God is no longer concentrated upon Egypt, but upon Moses.  God had graciously invited Moses to serve and be used by God, and Moses was turning it down.  God in His grace provided Moses’ brother Aaron to serve as a mouthpiece, but Moses was God’s instrument of choice.  Moses had to come to the realization that God was God, and Moses was not.

  • Have you ever said “no” to God?  How did it turn out?  God gives us the choice to serve.  He can certainly do all things, but He does not force His will upon us.  However, that doesn’t mean God is content to leave us in rebellion.  We can kindle His anger, just like Moses.  The eternal wrath of God we had earned was placed upon Jesus, but the daily discipline of God was not.  God wants our willing service – His desire for us is to trust Him with abandon.  Are we willing to do it?

Ch 5-6 – 1st encounter with Pharaoh
Moses actually travels back to Egypt at the end of Ch. 4, and the very beginning of Ch. 5 shows Moses & Aaron’s first audience with Pharaoh.  (It wouldn’t be their last!)  Finally fully obedient to the Lord, Moses (through Aaron) tells Pharaoh the commands of God to let His people go, that they might hold a feast to Him in the wilderness (5:1).  Pharaoh was obviously not a worshipper of the one true God, and did not recognize the God of the Hebrews, and had no reason to obey.  Pharaoh accused Moses & Aaron of encouraging laziness among his slaves, and commanded that the Hebrews’ task be made even more difficult by making bricks without the provision of straw.  They would have to go out and find their own straw, and still maintain their daily quota.

Obviously this didn’t win any friends for Moses and Aaron among the Hebrews, and they brought their complaint to Moses.  (It wouldn’t be the last time!)  In response, Moses had learned his lesson from before, and instead of taking matters into his own hands, he took his problems to the Lord.  Moses knew that God had brought him here, so God would have to see it through.

  • This is typically where we have problems.  Things don’t work out the first time the way we think they ought to, so we begin our process of planning and manipulation, trying to “fix” things.  Newsflash: it’s not ours to fix.  If God builds something, God will maintain it.  If God called us to something, God will provide for it.  That obviously doesn’t mean we sit back and relax; it does mean that we don’t stress over it, but rather take it back to the Lord God in prayer.  Philippians 4:6–7, "(6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (7) and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." .  It goes back to the idea of remembering that God is God, and we’re not.  If God truly is God, then we take our problems to Him as if He IS God, and we trust God to deal with them (or show us how we ought to deal with them) accordingly.

What happened when Moses took these issues to the Lord?  God reaffirmed exactly what He was going to do with Pharaoh.  God hadn’t been taken by surprise when Pharaoh refused to obey; God knows all things in all history and future…He knew exactly what Pharaoh would do.  All Pharaoh did was give God an opportunity to show Himself strong on behalf of His people.  God had something bigger in mind than merely bringing His people out of slavery; He was giving birth to a chosen nation that would worship Him as the only God in witness to all the world.  It would be the struggle in getting them out of Egypt that would accomplish this.  It would all culminate in not only the people’s freedom, but in their redemptionExodus 6:6–8, "(6) Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. (7) I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (8) And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.’ ”" .  That was His plan for His people.  Just as a diamond takes rubbing and polish to truly shine, there would be some trials that the people would endure – but the end result would be glorious.

Ch 7-10 – The plagues
Moses and Aaron went back to Pharaoh, and began performing the signs that God had given them.  (BTW – Moses was 80 years old when all of this took place, per 7:7.  Never think you’re too old or too young to serve the Lord!)  Initially, God showed Himself more powerful than the magicians of Egypt, and eventually God showed Himself more powerful than all of the false gods of Egypt.  From the get-go, God knew that Pharaoh’s heart would be hard and would resist Him.  But in the process of Pharaoh’s rebellion, God would show Himself as the one true God among all of the rest of the Egyptians.  By the end of it, ALL the Egyptians would know that the Hebrew God is the Lord. (7:5)

There were 9 initial plagues:

  • The waters became blood.  This struck at the very symbol of the Egyptian nation: the Nile river.  All the waters in the land turned to blood – and it wasn’t limited to waters in the river alone, but even the waters that were stored in ponds and buckets.  The fish died, the river stank, and Pharaoh’s heart grew hard. (7:21-22)
  • Frogs.  The entire land was overrun with the frogs…people couldn’t even bake bread in their kitchens without having them come up in the kneading bowls.  Pharaoh asked Moses to pray that the frogs be taken away (which Moses did), but Pharaoh continued to harden his heart. (8:15)
  • Lice.  This time, the plague wasn’t on the land, but on the people and livestock.  The very dust of the earth became as lice, and it infected everyone.  Even the magicians realized that this was the finger of God, but Pharaoh’s heart was still hard. (8:19)
  • Flies. Swarms of flies invaded the land, and even the homes were full of flies.  This time, God made a difference between the Egyptians and Hebrews, as the land of Goshen remained free of the plague.  Pharaoh seemed to bend a bit, granting permission for the Hebrews to sacrifice while remaining in Egypt, and Moses refused, holding out for what God had commanded.  Pharaoh initially agreed, but then hardened his heart and changed his mind. (8:32)
  • Disease among livestock.  Again, there was a distinction between Israel and Egypt, as the livestock of Egypt became sick and died, while the livestock of Israel remained healthy.  Again, Pharaoh’s heart was hard. (9:7)
  • Boils.  This time the disease struck the people themselves as boils and sores broke out all over the bodies of the Egyptian population (as well as their livestock).  Pharaoh’s heart was still hard, but by this point God was the one hardening it (9:12).  Pharaoh had made his choice, and God was giving him over to it.
  • Hail.  God changed His message a bit to Pharaoh, still commanding him to let the Hebrews go, but acknowledging that God had sovereignly raised him up specifically for the purpose of showing the power of God in him, and giving an opportunity for God’s name to be declared in the earth (9:16).  A supernatural hailstorm was sent to Egypt, such as had never been seen before.  Fire and hail fell to the ground, as Egypt was decimated.  Pharaoh confessed the righteousness of God and his own sin, and pleaded for mercy.  Of course, once the hail ceased, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened once more.
  • Locusts.  The hail had come during one growing season; the locusts came during another.  By the time the locusts were done, there was nothing green left in the land of Egypt.  Their entire economy had been destroyed, all due to the stubbornness of Pharaoh, whose heart God continued to harden.  
  • Darkness.  The last plague was a direct strike at the false god the Egyptians thought to be the most powerful: the sun god, Ra.  For three days, the darkness was so thick over the land of Egypt that it could be felt. (10:21).  Yet again, there was a distinction with Israel, and the Hebrews had light.  Pharaoh’s heart was hardened a final time by the Lord, and he commanded Moses to depart and never return.

Ch 11-12 – The Passover
All of the nine plagues had been the preview.  They were sent to demonstrate the power of God to the Egyptians, and God had been successful.  Everyone but Pharaoh understood that God had destroyed Egypt.  Now God would break even the heart of Pharaoh.

This final plague would not only be an act of judgment, but one of redemption.  The plague of death was coming to the land, but God would provide a way of escape.  Every single home (Egyptian and Hebrew) would face the curse of death, but every single home could also be redeemed from that curse if they trusted God and placed themselves under the substitute that God provided.  A lamb was to be taken & slaughtered, and the blood was to be placed upon the doorposts of the house.  The meat of the lamb was to be roasted and eaten in entirety, and served with unleavened bread & bitter herbs, in view of the fact that the people could be called to leave at any moment.  Those who did so would find that the Lord would pass over their houses, and strike only the uncovered houses with the death of the firstborn child.

That is exactly what took place, and among those whose doorposts were not covered with the blood of a lamb, there was not a house where there was one not dead. (12:30)

  • Was it awful?  Yes.  But so was the sin and slavery that they faced.  From the very beginning, it was shown that the wages of sin is death – and that is where the Egyptians and Hebrews found themselves.  The Egyptians were the oppressors, but the Hebrews were not exempt from their own sin.  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  The Hebrews were literally enslaved to Egypt, but spiritually enslaved to their sin.  They needed redemption, and that is what God provided through the blood of the lamb.  The lamb took the death that was coming for each of them, and God could pass over in His grace.
  • This is what Jesus does for us!  He is the Passover lamb of God sent to take away the sin of the world.  His blood was shed on our account, and when we put our faith in Him, we come under His covering.  The wrath of God then passes over us – we no longer face an eternal death.  Now we have been redeemed, and are free to live and serve the Lord!

Ch 13-15 – The Red Sea
The Hebrews actually begin leaving Egypt in Ch 12, having been given gold and other wealth and provisions to them by the Egyptians.  (The Egyptians wanted them out of town as fast as possible!)  In essence, they had received 400 years of back-pay, with interest.  God commanded them to move out, and gave them regulations for remembering this moment with the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the command to redeem every firstborn that came from any womb.  This had been a pivotal moment in the history of Israel, and God ensured that they would remember it, and thus remember His act of redemption towards them.

  • That’s the function the Lord’s Supper serves for us.  It’s a memorial feast, to remember the work of God’s redemption on our behalf.  Every time we partake of the bread and cup, it is to remember that we’ve been bought with a price: the body and blood of Jesus.

The Hebrews exit out of Egypt (bringing the bones of Joseph with them, 13:19), and they are led by the very presence of God in the form of a pillar of cloud by day & pillar of fire by night.  There could be no question that God was in their midst, and God was the One who had redeemed them, calling them by name.

Eventually they come to the borders of the Red Sea, and Pharaoh had once again changed his mind and pursued the Hebrews.  The people panicked, but Moses remained calm, exhorting them to trust God.  Exodus 14:13–14, "(13) And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. (14) The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”" . (Good advice we should still follow today!)  God was not concerned about the Egyptians, as His plan was moving perfectly forward…and He commanded His people to do the same: move forward, trusting God.  At God’s command, Moses stretched out his hand, and a massive wind came all night long, causing the waters of the Red Sea to divide and become a wall to them on their right and left. (14:21-22)

  • Skeptics often question this, and some Bible teachers even claim that “Red Sea” could really be translated “Reed Sea,” and that the literal Red Sea as we know it did not truly part.  A smaller marsh simply had its water level lowered to the point that the Hebrews could cross over.  The problem is that this simply isn’t what the Bible says.  It says that the waters stood as a wall, and that the Hebrews walked across on dry land. (14:22)  In addition, the Egyptian army was completely drowned, being covered by the sea (14:28).  That’s something that simply could not happen in a marsh.  And regarding any translation issue, there really ought to be no question.  The Jews certainly understood this to be a reference to the RED Sea; not the Reed Sea.  The LXX translates this as “Red Sea” in Greek, and the inspired Scripture in the NT describes this as the Red Sea (Acts 7:36, Heb 11:29).
  • Is it a miracle?  No doubt.  But the God who created the heavens and earth can certainly work miracles if He desires.  Our entire faith is built upon the miracle of God’s own Son rising from the dead.  If we can believe that as a historical accuracy, then the parting of the Red Sea is easy.

The people obviously rejoice in their freedom and the triumph of God, and Moses sings a song of praise to the Lord, which is picked up by his sister Miriam who leads the women in a massive tambourine worship team.  (Interestingly enough, this song of Moses is listed by name in Rev 15 as a song that will be sung in heaven during the days of the Great Tribulation.)

Ch 16-18 – God’s provision in the wilderness
Technically, the account of God’s provision actually starts at the end of Ch. 15, after the conclusion of Moses’ song, as the wandering people encounter bitter waters (non-potable), and God miraculously makes them sweet to drink.  (Chapter breaks are not inspired.)  God’s provision continues in Ch. 16 with the manna.  They had come out of Egypt with all kinds of initial provisions, but eventually all their food would run out.  Yet God would not let them go hungry, and He gave them bits of bread from heaven (manna).  Jesus would later compare Himself to the manna, saying that He is the true bread from heaven (Jn 6:41) – Jesus is the ultimate provision of God.  When we partake of Jesus, we partake of life!

Water was still an issue for the people as they journeyed through the wilderness, and this was a constant point of contention.  The people simply did not trust God to provide for them.  Yet God always proved Himself faithful, and did it once more when He commanded Moses to strike a rock with his staff, and so much water burst forth from the rock that multitudes of people were able to drink to the full.

  • The NT also compares Christ to these waters, just as He was compared to the manna. Jesus is the spiritual Rock from which all Israel drank (1 Cor 10:4) – Jesus is the ultimate provision of God for us.

In one other act of provision, God actually provides personal wisdom and counsel to Moses.  Moses had taken it upon himself to hear all the complaints from all the people, and it was understandably wearing him down.  Upon the advice of his father-in-law Jethro, this burden was distributed among the elders of the various tribes.

  • It’s a very practical topic, but one that also demonstrates a spiritual principle: we are brought together in a body…we need each other.  Moses could not lead the nation alone, and neither can we function well apart from one another in the Body of Christ.  God has empowered others to help build us up, and empowered us to help build up others.

Ch 19-20 – Mt. Sinai and the 10 Commandments
Finally the people come to Mt. Sinai, and God tells them through Moses to prepare themselves for what’s about to happen.  The entire nation is about to personally witness the glory and presence of God!  They had daily experienced God’s presence through the pillars of cloud & fire – they had seen God’s power through the plagues and the Passover – but they were about to experience it in an entirely new way when God visited them on Mt. Sinai.  And they did!  Exodus 19:16–19, "(16) Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. (17) And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. (18) Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. (19) And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him by voice." . Can you imagine being there?  The awesome power and wonder of God, right before your eyes – amazing!  We WILL experience it for ourselves, when we stand in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Are you ready for that day?

It was at Mt. Sinai that God gave the basic outline of His covenant with His people.  He was coming to them as their Covenant God, and He would provide the details of the covenant relationship through the various laws and commandments.  He begins with the foundations – the things that speak of the relationship between God and man, and the relationship between men with one another: the 10 Commandments.

  • You shall have no other gods before Me.
  • You shall not make for yourself a carved image.
  • You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
  • Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  • Honor your father and your mother.
  • You shall not murder.
  • You shall not commit adultery.
  • You shall not steal.
  • You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  • You shall not covet.

In response to this outpouring of God’s holiness & revelation, the people were afraid, and they asked Moses to speak with God on their behalf.  Their response is understandable, but they missed out on a glorious opportunity.  We DO have a mediator between God & Man, but our Mediator isn’t Moses; it’s Jesus.  Jesus is the perfect mediator between God & Man because He is both God AND Man.

Ch 21-24 – Ordinances and laws
If Ch. 20 gave the basic foundation for the covenant relationship between God & man, then Chapters 21-23 give many of the rest of the judgments that would help the people of Israel function practically as a nation.  Although the list of laws is long and varied, there are several themes that continually pop up:

  • Mercy.  Servants and women are to be treated with respect; not as property.
  • Justice.  People were not to take vengeance for themselves; they were to act according to the rule of law, as commanded by God.
  • Personal responsibility.  If someone’s animal hurt someone, the owner was responsible.  If someone made a promise, they were to keep it.  It was basic common sense, but enshrined into law.
  • Holiness.  Although other books would detail far more what it meant to live as a person redeemed by God, the subject is addressed in Exodus as well.  God was to take first place in their lives, as they trusted Him.  They were to maintain the feasts of God, and live according to basic moral principles reflecting His holiness.

Israel agreed to do all of these things, and in Ch. 24, they affirm the covenant for the first of many times.

The remainder of Exodus goes into far more detail of the holiness of God, primarily through the illustration of the tabernacle.  God had called His people out of Egyptian slavery – He had redeemed them from death – He had given them a national covenant.  What next?  Now He gives them national worship.  They had the presence of God among them, and they needed to know how they could worship and approach this God.  That was the purpose of the tabernacle, and God goes to great detail in describing it.

Ch 25-27 – Instructions for the tabernacle
The layout of the tabernacle and the various pieces of tabernacle furniture are described.  Every aspect in some way can be tied to the holiness of God, the wages of sin being death, the redemption price He paid for His people, and the glory of His presence. 

The inner sanctuary furniture is described first: the ark of the testimony & mercy seat (the throne of God) – the table of showbread (the people constantly before God) – the gold lampstand (the light of Christ & oil of the Spirit).

The tent is described next with all of its various curtains (10 in all), the gold-plated walls, and the thick veil that served as a door inside the tabernacle, and outside leading in.

The various items in the outer court are described next, including the bronze altar of sacrifice & the tabernacle court/fence.

Ch 28-30 – Instructions for the priests
The instructions begin by describing the priestly garments – each item one of significance, pointing to the holiness of the Lord God & how the priest bore the responsibility of bringing the needs of the people to God.  Ultimately, it speaks how we as believers in Christ are a priesthood of believers, clothed in the righteousness of our Lord Jesus.

God goes on to describe the ritual of consecration for the priests, as they are dedicated to their work of ministry to the Lord, being touched with the blood of sacrifice.  The daily offerings they are to perform are described, as well as several pieces of furniture that they are to use: the altar of incense (prayers) – the ransom money collection (redemption) – the bronze laver (to be washed and cleansed) – the anointing oil (to be set apart by the Spirit) – the incense (for the altar & prayer).

Ch 31 – God’s gifting and God’s sign (craftsmen and Sabbath)
Just as God called certain people to serve as priests, God called and gifted certain people to serve as craftsmen in building the tabernacle.  Again, God has called us all into a Body of Christ, and there is more than one way to serve the Lord.

The Sabbath law is reiterated here.  Why?  Because everything about the tabernacle taught of the holiness of God.  So did the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was to be the outward sign of the covenant between God and His people.  It was a testimony to all of the cultures that surrounded them that the Hebrews trusted the Lord God for their provision.

  • Ultimately, the Sabbath looks forward to our rest in Christ Jesus.  We do not work for our salvation; we find our rest and peace in what Jesus has already accomplished on our behalf. 

Ch 32 – The golden calf
It was in the midst of all of this glorious revelation being given to Moses on Mt. Sinai that the sounds of war started to erupt from the Hebrew camp below.  As it turned out, it wasn’t war at all – at least, not war against a foreign nation.  The people were rebelling (warring) against God.  Weary of waiting for Moses to return from the mountain, the people decide to take things into their own hands and construct an idol that they could worship.  They even conscripted Aaron into their sin, and he built for them a golden calf, claiming that this was the god that led them out of Egypt.

Incredible blasphemy!  God was ready to consume the entire nation at that very moment, and start from scratch with Moses, when Moses interceded for the people & God relented from the harm He would bring.

  • Question: was God being fickle?  Absolutely not.  He knew exactly what He wanted to do, and He knew what He wanted Moses to do.  He wanted Moses to intercede for the people in prayer, and God responded according to what He planned to do with Moses’ prayer.
  • Prayer works!  God wants us to pray!

Moses went down the mountain to confront the mess, and received from Aaron the lamest excuse in all history.  Exodus 32:22–24, "(22) So Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. (23) For they said to me, ‘Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ (24) And I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.”" . Bottom line?  There is no excuse for sin.  When we do something bone-headed, we ought to just admit it, confess it, and seek the forgiveness of God.  The good news for all who are in Christ is that when we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin & cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 Jn 1:9)

In the end, the people faced a fierce act of discipline from the Lord, and many died in their sin.  What ought to have been a time of rejoicing and prayer became one of grief.

Ch 33-34 – The presence and person of God
It only makes sense at this point that the instruction from God would stop, and God would even threaten to take His presence away…which He does.  Moses continued to meet with the Lord, but it was obvious that the people wanted to keep their distance.  God was willing to send the Israelites along without His presence, but Moses continued to intercede for the people in prayer, knowing that it would be disastrous.  Without God in their midst, everything would fail.  Without God as their strength, they would have none at all. (Likewise with us!)

As Moses continued to meet with God, he was continually in awe of God – even requesting to see the glory of God & God answering His request!  God had to hide Moses in the rock to save his life, but Moses was allowed to catch a glimpse of the glory of God as God revealed His name and character to Moses once more.  Exodus 34:6–7, "(6) And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, (7) keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.”" .

Eventually the covenant was renewed, and Moses continued to serve as a mediator between God and the people.  Every time Moses was in the presence of God, the glory of God would literally shine off of his face, and Moses would be radiant when he came back among the people.

  • Oh that we would do the same!  Spend time in the presence of God!

Ch 35-39 – The tabernacle constructed
These chapters are highly detailed, but they follow Chapters 25-30 almost to the letter (where applicable).  Every aspect of the tabernacle is built, exactly according to commandment of God.  What God commanded, the people actually performed.  (Credit, where credit is due!)

Ch 40 – The tabernacle erected and the glory of God
Finally everything is complete, and the new nation now has a place and method to worship the true God that led them out of Egypt.  This wasn’t some dead piece of molded gold; this was a dwelling place for the Living God.  He had called His people into relationship with Him – He had redeemed the from the death that they faced – He had forgiven their sin – and He was ready to move forward with them into the rest of His promise: the land.

Conclusion:
The nation has been born, and set on its way.  Like a newborn child learning to walk, the Hebrews will stumble from time to time (and be downright rebellious) – but like a patient Father, God has given them everything they required to walk rightly.  He gave them what they needed to live in relationship with Him and worship Him in spirit and truth.  How they responded to His grace, redemption, and provision was up to them.

We look back at Exodus, and see not just a fledgling nation, but the underpinnings of our faith.  The nation is born from which our Lord Jesus will come.  The nation was redeemed in a way that pictures the work of Christ.  The impossible was made possible by the God who works the impossible.  God dwelt among His people in such a way that His presence was tangible, just as we are personally & individually filled with God the Holy Spirit.  What was pictured in Exodus is brought to completion in the Church (and will one day be manifest again in the Millennial Kingdom).

So how are you enjoying that relationship with God?  Do you understand the privilege it is to be a royal priesthood of believers? – of having Jesus as our mediator?  – getting a grasp of the redemption that Jesus has purchased for us?  These things and more ought to make our faith radically real to us.  It ought to cause us to seek God as Moses did, that the glory of God might reflect off of us as well.