This week’s reading: Exodus 10-20
In a mighty display of power and authority, Moses and Aaron changed history for both the Israelites and the Egyptians in Exodus 10-20. Pharaoh, as ultimate authority in Egypt, bound the Hebrews from leaving by his official capacity. Moses, by God’s authority, released plague upon plague in Egypt to prove:
1. God is real.
2. God is on the Israelites’ side.
3. God’s request for a sacrificial gathering in the wilderness was not to be dismissed by anyone, including the seat of Egypt.
As the tug of war for freedom of the Hebrew slaves unfolds, Moses and Aaron consistently request their release at God’s command and are denied by Pharaoh. Each time, a plague of judgement hits Egypt, a public spectacle by God for Egypt to encounter the One True God:
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.(9:13-16)
Despite Moses’ warnings, Pharaoh wouldn’t shift with the plan. In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh wasn’t just head of state, he was god for the nation. If he submitted to God Almighty, he would lose a substantial power base to rule his nation and shame the legacy of his royal family. Thus despite all the plagues, Pharaoh wouldn’t budge in his resolve.
The plagues God released against Egypt included:
• All the water in Egypt turned into blood for seven days, including wells and the Nile
• Frogs invade every household in Egypt
• Gnats, lice or fleas, as many as the dust, invade Egypt
• Swarms of flies filled the houses and land of Egypt but not Goshen
• Livestock were destroyed by plague, everywhere except Goshen
• Festering boils afflicted both people and their animals across Egypt but not Goshen
• Thunder, lightning and hail destroyed the flax and barley crops throughout Egypt except Goshen. Some theologians believe it was hail and fire combined.
• Locusts devoured the rest of the crops left in Egypt, with the exception of Goshen
• Total darkness covered Egypt for three long days, though Goshen had sunlight
• Every first born son and animal died throughout all of Egypt except for the Jews who applied the Passover lamb’s blood over their doorpost
God gave a clear message of “large and in charge” with each of the plagues, as He vanquished all “power” of the Egyptian gods.
(Check this link to see how the plagues corresponded to the Egyptian gods. http://www.biblecharts.org/oldtestament/thetenplagues.pdf )
With each plague, Pharoah refused to submit to God, despite the economic cost to the nation. When I read the story of Exodus, I think of how entrenched belief systems, whether true or false, affect every part of life, including family relationships, social friendships, business contacts, even cultural traditions. Religion most often occurs in community. Worship of the One True God required a shift that would affect every aspect of Pharoah’s life and Egypt’s culture, a transition which Pharoah refused to accept. Thus the plagues continued, with the culmination of death in every Egyptian home, even as Pharoah’s father’s decree eighty years earlier had exacted a death sentence for boys in every Hebrew home.
Prior to Passover night, God’s provision to His people required intense and intentional prophetic acts which are followed globally by Jews even today. Passover takes place on the fourteenth day of the first month of the Jewish calendar, just as it did in Egypt that first brutal evening. With their cloaks tucked in for flight and sandals tied, the Jews huddled in families, quickly eating the roasted lamb, a yearling and unblemished, with its blood applied on the top and sides of their home as a marker of life while Death roamed Egypt, intent on devouring every firstborn child in the land.
By midnight, every home in Egypt were wailing over their dead.
Pharoah summoned Moses and Aaron and released the Hebrews, though he asked for a blessing by God as they went. At God’s command, the Hebrews went to their Egyptian neighbours and asked for silver, gold and clothing, which all quickly complied. Then the exodus began, a massive group of six hundred thousand men, plus women and children and herds of livestock, four hundred and thirty years to the day Jacob entered with his eleven sons at Joseph’s invitation.
They didn’t go alone. The Angel of the Lord headed the procession, described in Exodus 13 as “the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night from before the people.(13:21-22) To see their route, click on this link:http://www.bible.ca/archeology/maps-bible-archeology-exodus-route.jpg
Many slaves, Egyptians and people of other descent headed out with the Hebrews, intent on freedom on whatever terms God would require. Only circumcised men could partake of the Passover and it is conceivable that Jewish conversion was a mandate of any foreigner’s exit strategy. For three days, this million plus group tramped through the sandy desert plains, intent on worshiping the One True God, Jehovah. At God’s command, suddenly they turned back to camp at Migdol, luring Pharaoh to come and get them at God’s instruction.
As he had with every plague, Pharoah changed his mind about his labour force taking a worship holiday. Quickly, he amassed the Egyptian army and began a blood thirsty campaign to hunt down the Hebrews, certain they were trapped in the wilderness, between the mountains and the Red Sea. At the sound of the six hundred plus chariots of Pharoah’s army, the Israelties shrieked in fear, accusing Moses of trapping them, freaking out that their oppressors had returned for their slaughter. Moses assured the crowd, “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. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace”( 14:13-14).
Sure enough, God warred for His people. Supernatural warfare was witnessed by all, both Egyptian and Hebrew, as God moved a pillar of fire between the Egyptians and the Hebrew masses, giving light to the chosen people and darkness to their oppressors. The Angel of the Lord stood between their back and the Egyptian army, an impassable defense. God told Moses to extend his rod towards the sea and all night, sent a strong east wind to blow, establishing a dry path for the Israelites to cut through between the massive waters.
Quickly, the people crossed through the Red Sea, as the pillar of fire kept the Egyptians at bay. God intervened with the Egyptians, even breaking chariot wheels to slow down their pursuit. Once all had crossed over, the pillar of fire crossed back to the Israeli camp and at Pharoah’s orders, the army pursued them through the path in the sea. God told Moses to stretch out his hand over the waters so that the army would be vanquished. Soon after, drowned Egyptians filled the seashore and the Israelites sung victory songs as their oppression was finished, once and for all.
The people will hear and be afraid; Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; The mighty men of Moab, Trembling will take hold of them; All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away. Fear and dread will fall on them; By the greatness of Your arm They will be as still as a stone, Till Your people pass over, O Lord, Till the people pass over Whom You have purchased. You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made For Your own dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. “The Lord shall reign forever and ever.”(15:14-18)
You can hear the corporate sigh of relief as the slaves move from powerless to powerful, once everyone in the camp recognized that God Almighty, the all powerful Jehovah God was on their side. The drowned army must have been quite the sight, as the reality that mighty Egypt was crushed and would not pursue them further hit the camp. Though they would freak out once more when their water shortage grew to crisis proportions within days, at this point in history, praise and thanksgiving erupts as Miriam and the women took up tambourines and the people danced in grateful victory for the rescue God had given His people.
With confidence, the people moved forward to worship God towards Sinai, as Moses had been promised. When they found bitter waters at Marah, God showed Moses a tree to make the waters sweet. Carefully, God instructed His people about His expectations, saying “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”( 15:26).
Jehovah Ropha, the God who heals, remained with His people and brought them to Elim to take a much needed rest. Though God knew the rebellion that would take place in the near future, with compassion and power, He overshadowed the camp, carefully fulfilling the covenant made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and now Moses. Within days, the Ten Commandments would be etched on the tablets, the massive rebellion and molding of the golden calf would occur, and the people would divide into obedient and rebellious positions. Still heavenly provision called manna would be provided to the hungry day after day regardless of sin or obedience. Water was always given when none could be found and God stayed near, a pillar of cloud to lead during the day and fire to lead during the night.
Love had come down in power and God’s only request was obedience throughout the journey. Regardless of obedience or rebellion, God never abandoned His people, and lovingly cared for them, with acts of supernatural provision throughout the forty years of wilderness.
Let’s pray: O Father God, how You moved in power to rescue your people! Father, move our hearts to pray for the nations, that those oppressed may find freedom in You. Lord Jesus, perfect Passover Lamb of God, thank You for taking the sins of the world, accepting death in atonement for our sins! How can we ever express enough worship for what You have done for our world? Holy Spirit, lead us in obedience to the Father, that we may walk before our God each and every day, as His beloved children, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus! How our praise resounds and blends with the women who danced upon the Red Sea shores, “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously!” How we love you God for all you have done to bring us out of slavery to sin and death and into abundant life with You!
Next week’s reading: Exodus 21-29
1. Have you ever seen the power of God in your life? Do you recognize His authority? Can you see God’s Hand in your city? In your nation? As we read the account of God’s supernatural intervention to free His people, His power and authority are on full display, and not just those nations, even ours. Cry out for God to intervene and set His people free in the nations where they are oppressed for their beliefs. For a comprehensive look at this issue, check out Operation Mobilization at http://www.om.org or Voice of the Martyrs at http://www.persecution.com.
2. God required obedience from His people as part of their ongoing relationship in exchange for healing. Have you experienced healing from God? What is your testimony, or faithful account of God in your life?
3. Passover is a crucial story carefully rehearsed by Jews all over the globe year after year. What stories do you tell your family or children about God Almighty? How does the power of testimony affect your faith?
4. Moses and Aaron approached Pharaoh on God’s behalf to let His people go. Have you approached local government about issues that affect your religious freedom? Why or why not?
5. God showed compassion to the Israelites, providing food and water throughout their journey regardless of their compliance or rebellion. How does this aspect of God, the kindness and long-suffering of God affect your trust in Him? Has your perspective shifted? Why or Why not?