Posts Tagged 'Exodus'

Only One Way

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In our politically correct hobbled society, the real challenge for the faithful is explaining the concept upon which both the Old and New Testaments rests: the exclusivity of true faith. In Exodus 20, we read the Ten Commandments. In the original Hebrew, they aren’t “commandments” but “statements,” and the first two statements God made are these:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2, 3 NIV)

That last statement galls many in a society that preaches a kind of moral equivalence of all world religions. One religion is just as valid as the other. One god is just as valid as another. Yet this is not what the one true God says.

And God spoke all these words… (Exodus 20:1 NIV)

It wasn’t Moses who concocted the notion of monotheism, it was God Himself who stated it: He is the ONLY God and man is to worship ONLY Him. There isn’t a lot of inclusivism in God’s first statement.

Over in the New Testament, the Son of God said something similar:

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6 NIV)

God didn’t get any more inclusive during the centuries between Moses and Jesus, that’s for sure! There is only one way, not many ways to God. However, as exclusive as true faith may be, it is open to anybody who would simply believe.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16 – 18 NIV)

Exodus 20:2

The Ten Commandments is a document that has changed the world for the better. As important and as influential as the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence may be, they are eclipsed by the Ten Commandments. According to God Himself, the fact man ought to worship only Him is the first step toward making the world a better place in which to live.

Depending on whether you are a Jew or a Christian, the first commandment will be different. Remember, in the original Hebrew, these are statements not commandments, and the first statement God made is this declaration:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Exodus 20:2 NIV)

All the other commandments (or statements) rest on this one. It states in unambiguous terms that it is God who is speaking, not Moses or any other man; that what follows are God’s statements and not somebody’s opinions. This was important for the Israelites to know because, as God went on to state, it was He who delivered them from bondage in Egypt, not some human being, and because of that, the Israelites were in His debt. Because He did such a great thing for them, they needed to pay attention to His wishes, and His wishes included living by the following commandments.

This was a revolutionary concept which we call Ethical Monotheism; the notion that there is one God (Monotheism) and He is the Source of ethics and morality – or He dictates what is right and what is wrong. Why was this revolutionary? Just stop and consider the time in which Moses gave Israel God’s Ten Commandments: man was worshipping all kinds of gods, from gods that controlled the weather to gods that looked like animals. Every religion had their own code of right and wrong. What the people of God needed was what God provided: an objective morality that transcended human ideas and opinions.

If you take even the quickest glance at the Commandments, you’ll notice that most of them have to do with how we treat others. That’s included in the definition of Ethical Monotheism. God is concerned with how believers treat their fellow man. Not a single commandment has to do with what a believer should do for God. For three centuries, the Israelites had been exposed to the religion of Egypt which was all about what man should do for his gods. In the centuries to come, they would be surrounded by other pagan religions that also taught that man had to do many things to satisfy his gods – things like feeding them or sacrificing other people to them. But the Ten Commandments declared that what the one true God wants most of all is that His people treat all people well. Yes, even those commandments about not having false gods or not carrying God’s name in vain are about morality because how we treat God cannot be divorced from how we treat other people.

A new world

It’s not that God was building a new religion with His Ten Commandments or statements, it’s that He was building a new society that would mirror His vision of what real freedom was. Just how important is freedom to God? It’s the salient point of the Ten Commandments!  He began, not with a declaration that He created the universe – an impressive act to be sure – but with the declaration that He set His people free from slavery. That’s how much God hates slavery and how important He thinks freedom is.

Jesus thought freedom was pretty important, too. But for the Christian, it isn’t freedom from slavery to another man per se, it’s freedom from sin and all kinds of oppression.

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31, 32 NIV)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

The authors of the Magna Carta and the Founding Fathers of America based their views of freedom on the Biblical fact that God wants all men to be free. That’s why, for example, the Liberty Bell has only one sentence on it, and it’s not a quote from Washington or Madison, but part of a verse from the Bible:

Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. (Leviticus 25:10 KJV)

God, the author and giver of the Ten Commandments, makes it clear that the way to a free society; the way for any human being to live in freedom, is by simply following His Commandments or statements. In other words, freedom God’s way has nothing to do with being able to do whatever you feel like doing. If the Ten commandments teaches anything, it’s that real freedom comes from exercising self-control.

Exodus 2:3

The second Commandment, by Jewish reckoning is this one:

You shall have no other gods before me.

It goes on to forbid the making and worshipping of idols or images. On the surface, it sounds like God is discouraging the reverence of things like totem poles or icons or statues, or the worship of false gods like the weather or fertility gods, or the Greek and Roman gods and so on. However, that’s a very limited view of this commandment. In our time, most people don’t worship the weather, although we talk about it all the time. Most people don’t worship statues or Zeus or Ra. But this Commandment is not irrelevant, in fact there’s a reason why it’s Commandment number one or two, depending on whether you are a Christian or a Jew. In our sophisticated age, there are just as many false gods as there were during the days of Moses. Things like money, popularity, power, celebrity, politics, education, beauty, love, art, flag, family, talent, health, the environment, all these things are the false gods of today, and the worship of false gods is the greatest hindrance to peace and goodwill on the earth.

In a sense, the rest of the Commandments descend from this one. God makes it plain that He and He alone is the only God and that He is alone is to be worshipped. But this should not be taken as a prideful or demeaning statement. It’s a logical one. If there’s only one God, then He is the one God who deserves to be worshipped. Furthermore, think about these things:

One God means there is one human race. Though we may all look different and speak different languages, we have all come from one Creator, or one Heavenly Father. In that sense, every human being is the brother or sister of every other human being.

Because we have the same Father, all people are equal; no one nationality or society is intrinsically more valuable than the other. That doesn’t mean every society is the same or every society is a good society. It means that in God’s eyes, no matter where you may live, what language you may speak, or what the color of your skin is, you are important to God and you are known personally by God.

And the fact that there is one God means that there is one moral standard for all people. These Ten Commandments, for example, were given by God to the Israelites, but since they came from God, they are good for all people. So if adultery is wrong here, then it is wrong over there. And because there is only one God, you can’t go to another god to get justification for your adultery.

A similar thought is expressed throughout the New Testament.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it. (John 3:16, 17 TLB)

By “world” in these verses, “people” is meant, not the planet on which they live. God loves the people of the world so much, He sent His only Son to save them.  He wants very much to save them – to spare them the condemnation to come.

Both Testaments also insist that when man worships anything or anybody other than the one true God, bad things will surely result. This isn’t a religious superstition, it’s the ground rule God has established. Some of those bad things are obvious. When man worships power or money or race, his life becomes corrupt and he hurts those around him. Even the worship of very good things, like family or art or even classical music can inspire great evil. The example often cited for this is the movie A Clockwork Orange. In it, men rape and murder while classical music is playing. Education is another god of this age. But some of the most educated men in Germany came up with Hitler’s “final solution,” proving a great education is no guarantee of good character. Love is a gift from God, but it can become a false god that harms people. Think about how love of country, for example, when exalted above love of God, has resulted in horrible evil being committed against others.

This is why keeping God in the very center of our lives is so important. Worship of the one true God brings perspective to our sometimes very confusing lives. It may seem strange to you that this Commandment to worship the one true God results in better human beings and a better community, but it really shouldn’t. Like any parent, our Heavenly Father takes great joy in seeing His children live decent, moral, and ethical lives. And like any parent does, when His children behave, God blesses them.

Yes, Biblical faith is exclusive. There is only one God and only way to reach Him – through a living relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. The freest people on earth are those who have been set free from the bondage to sin by Christ.

So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free. (John 8:36 TLB)

Exodus, 7

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Exodus 20:1-18

We come now to the time God gave several suggestions to Moses to pass along to the Israelites. If the events of Exodus 20 had taken place today, that’s how I’d introduce a study of the Ten Commandments. Modern man doesn’t take well to being told what to do or how to live, but that’s exactly what happened in Exodus 20.

After crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites headed for Mount Sinai. Things were about to change drastically. A weakened Egypt had been left behind and won’t be a concern to Israel for over 300 years. In its place, however, would be new enemies and challenges for God’s people to face. These new enemies included Semitic people who had settled in the areas surrounding Canaan, and who would naturally resist the influx of millions of Israelites.

The first such enemy God’s people encountered were the Amalekites:

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. (Exodus 17:8 NIV84)

The enmity between the Amalekites and the Israelites carried on for so long, it became a tradition. In fact, the animosity Israel held for the Amalekites was stronger than that for any other of their many enemies. This may be because the Amalekites were the first to make war with them, when they were least equipped to fight back. Later, in Deuteronomy, this is how Moses summarized the skirmish:

Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and cut off all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. (Deuteronomy 25:17-18 NIV84)

The Amalekites seemed strong to the people of Israel, and in a prophecy given by Balaam, an non-Israelite, he described them this way:

Then Balaam saw Amalek and uttered his oracle: “Amalek was first among the nations,but he will come to ruin at last.” (Numbers 24:20 NIV84)

That phrase, “first among the nations,” means that the Amalekites were just as powerful and intimidating as Israel thought they were. They were easily the most formidable nation they would encounter en route to the Promised Land.

And this is a major reason for the events of Exodus 20. Before the giving of the Law, Israel was a very loose knit, rag tag band of fugitives. In very short order, they needed to learn how to be a community. The Law was the bond that would hold them together.

The Ten Commandments were given first, but they are only a small part of the Law. But, in fact, they were the very foundation of the Jewish faith. Later on the Israelites were given the rest of the Law, and in its totality, it revealed that man is a sinner in need of a Savior.

Israel commanded to love God, Exodus 20:1-11

The reason for the Law, vs. 1

And God spoke all these words… (Exodus 20:1 NIV84)

The foundational “rules for living” of the Mosaic Covenant, the Law, were absolutely necessary for a people who had lived as slaves for generations. They were ill prepared to work together or make decisions.

The Ten Commandments went way beyond legalism. God was vitally interested in helping His people grow and mature into a functioning community – a cohesive nation that would be able work together and who would keep Him at the forefront of everything they did, and everywhere they went.

Further, what follows were not Moses’ words, but God’s. Moses wasn’t up on the mountain concocting the Ten Commandments from his imagination; he received them directly from the mind and heart of Yahweh.

God’s relationship with His people, vs. 2

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2 NIV84)

Right at the beginning, God made it crystal clear what His relationship was to His people: He was their God. He cared about them, and He cared for them. This would be important for them to remember. They, like Christians today, would be tempted to wander from God during the “good times” and moan and complain during the “difficult times.” God would appear to be unloving and unkind at times. But those are misconceptions on man’s part based on his faulty reasoning. God would repeat what He did for His people over and over again, making sure they wouldn’t forget.

Christians should never forget what God has done for them, either. It’s easy for that to happen when the cares of life get heaped upon us. Regular Bible reading and fellowship with other believers is vitally important to our spiritual well-being. We, like the Israelites before us, are prone to forget about God or blame God for things He has nothing to do with.

The Commandments

No other Gods, vs. 3

This very first commandment is the basis of all the rest, and it should have been obvious to the Israelites. After all, the whole reason for the plagues on Egypt was to refute the nonsensical notion that there were other gods. This was, however, a revelation to the Hebrews. They had no theological textbooks to consult nor holy scrolls to study. This was “big news.” But notice the wording carefully:

You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3 NIV84)

The word “before” means “side by side with me” or “in addition to me.” In other words – and this is very important – it wasn’t that God was worried that His people might give Him up and replace Him, but rather that they would add other gods to their faith or take other gods and idols seriously.

Noted Bible scholar George Rawlinson commented:

The first commandment prohibits every species of mental idolatry, and all inordinate attachment to earthly and sensible things.

He’s right about that. There can be no true, lasting happiness or satisfaction apart from God. He alone is the Source of those things. Anybody who seeks those things elsewhere is smashing this first commandment.

No graven images, vs. 4-6

Some Christians think this commandment can’t possibly apply to us today. They need to read what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:5-

Away then with sinful, earthly things; deaden the evil desires lurking within you; have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires; don’t worship the good things of life, for that is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5 TLB)

Anything you devote yourself to, especially in abandonment, becomes a “god” to you, whether you realize it or not. The reason for this commandment is given:

I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…(Exodus 20:5a (NIV84)

He is jealous, in the sense that He will not allow the respect, reverence, and devotion due Him to be given to another.

It’s not insignificant that both punishment and obedience are spelled out in verses 5 and 6. Some wonder about the judgment upon the children of disobedient parents. These judgments, though, are only temporal (Ezekiel 18:14-17) and apply to the consequences of disease or physical ailments and other things that follow evil actions and sinful decisions.

Yes, love for God should be reason enough to follow this commandment, but if it isn’t, fear of harming your child provides an “in-your-face” check on your actions.

God’s name in vain, vs. 7

According to J. Clement Connell, to take God’s name in vain means:

...to call upon unreality, that is, that which is not an expression of divine character, by means of the divine name.

Got that? Me neither. Well, what Connell was trying to say, and what this commandment deals with is something very basic: dishonesty, which is something God hates. It is dishonest for someone to use God’s name to cover up an evil heart, or to make himself appear better than he really is. People who run around talking about their faith in Jesus, or how much God has blessed them, while they have virtually no relationship with Him, the Church, and produce little evidence of salvation apart from their words, are breaking this commandment.

Also included would be false swearing or flippant use of the divine name and even profanity involving God’s name.

The Sabbath is holy, vs. 8-11

The word “remember” suggests that it is easy for God’s people to forget about this one. God’s most holy day was to be remembered continually, even during the other days of the week.

The reason for observing the Sabbath is that God created the material universe in 6 days and He rested on the seventh. The Scriptures don’t say what should be done on the Sabbath, only what shouldn’t. It’s obvious that God had set aside one day for His people to stop their secular pursuits (work, material gain, etc.) so that they could spend more time on spiritual things, like worship and other spiritual activities. Our Lord condemned the legalism that eventually corrupted the Sabbath in His day, but He never suggested it be done away with. It was given for man’s good (Mark 2:23-28), not just for the good of Israel.

As Christians, we don’t observe the Jewish Sabbath. The observance of the Lord’s Day, Sunday (the first day of our week) preserves the moral principle laid down in this fourth commandment. Yes, no matter how much you don’t want to believe it, Christians are supposed to observe the Lord’s Day regularly, not just at Christmas and Easter. We are to take the Lord’s day just as seriously as the Hebrews were to take their Sabbath.

William Wilberforce wrote:

O what a blessing is Sunday, interposed between the waves of worldly business like the divine path of the Israelites through the sea! There is nothing in which I would advise you to be more strictly conscientious than in keeping the Sabbath day holy. I can truly declare that to me the Sabbath has been invaluable.

Can you say that?  If you are like most 21st century American Christians, you’d be lying if you did.

Honor your parents, vs. 12

With this commandment, the focus switches from the believer’s relationship with God to our relationship with each other. A good commentary on this commandment is found in Leviticus:

You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:32, ESV)

As you fear God, so you should honor and respect your parents.

Never at a loss words, Calvin’s comments here are powerful:

“Children obey your parents” (Ephesians 6:1). Why does the apostle use the “obey” instead of “honor,” which has a greater meaning? It is because obedience is the evidence of that honor which children owe their parents, and is therefore more earnestly enforced.

Don’t kill, vs. 13

Liberals like to use this commandment to justify their anti-war and anti-capital punishments stances. In fact, this verse has nothing to do with serving in the military or the execution of a criminal. A nation is given authority to protect human life by taking human life. This sixth commandment has to do with willful murder.

Rick Warren, the preacher a lot of us like to criticize, is 100% right when he said:

The Bible says that all people, not just believers, possess part of the image of God; that is why murder and abortion are wrong.

No adultery, vs. 14

Sexual purity is behind this commandment. Adultery involves married people, obviously. Fornication involves those who are unmarried. But both are sexual relationships outside the bonds of marriage and are absolutely forbidden by God. So serious is adultery, that under the Mosaic Law, a couple caught in the act were to be stoned to death. Yes, the Bible takes sexual sin very, very seriously. Jesus made it clear that adultery begins in the human heart.

John MacArthur wrote:

No sin a person commits has more built in pitfalls, problems, and destructiveness than sexual sin. It has broken marriages, shattered more homes, caused more heartache and disease, and destroyed more lives than alcohol and drugs combined. It causes lying, stealing, cheating, and killing, as well as bitterness, hatred, slander, gossip, and unforgiveness.

Don’t steal, vs. 15

It’s not by accident that the commandment against stealing follows on the heels of not committing adultery. They are related: if you allowed to commit adultery, then you should be allowed to steal another’s personal property. Both are forbidden. Americans like to think they invented personal property rights.  They did not.  God did.

No dishonesty, vs. 16

In other words, don’t lie. We noted already how much God hates dishonesty. Stealing may rob a man of his property, a lie can rob a man of his reputation. Your word should always be true and dependable.

No coveting, vs. 17

The tenth and final commandment underscores the four preceding ones because it deals with the purposes of the heart. Killing, adultery, stealing, and lying are sins of the inner man – they begin in the heart. It is in the heart where all rebellion begins.

The apostle Paul recognized that this was the real purpose of the Law:

What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” (Romans 7:7a NIV84)

A lot of people may never actually be guilty of outward acts of sin or rebellion, but nevertheless feel condemned when they consider their inward thoughts.

The effect of God’s visit, Exodus 20:18-23

God had given the children of Israel the Ten Commandments, which were to be the moral code by which they were to live their lives. There would be more to come. God will eventually give them many other elements of the Law that would govern the religious and social aspects of their lives.

When the Israelites saw and heard the display from Mount Sinai, they were afraid. This fear was probably for many reasons, including the fact that the Law presented a very high standard by which to live. The Law presented a very disciplined lifestyle that was completely different to what they had seen in Egypt and would see as they entered the Promised Land. The Law demanded perfection. Therein is the problem with it and why the people were afraid. If one is depending on the Law to save them, forget it! Nobody is perfect enough to keep the Law. Ultimately, the Law pointed to the need for grace, which would be revealed in Jesus Christ.

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Exodus, 6

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Exodus 14

The Israelites had been living temporarily in Egypt for some 400 years. During part of that sojourn, they had become slaves. The Egyptians had grown to fear these “foreigners” because they had grown from a handful to millions. From guests to involuntary laborers.

In the course of time, God sent them a deliverer: Moses. It was his job, along with his brother Aaron and a select few, to lead the dispirited Hebrews out of their bondage to a life of freedom.

They had been slaves. During the plagues, they had been observers. Now, though, it was time for them to act as a nation – a unified, united nation.

This would prove to be no small task, indeed.

God’s people fear destruction, Exodus 14:1-12

The Lord’s strategy, vs. 1-5

Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. (Exodus 14:2 NIV84)

Who knows where these places were located? Nobody, that’s who. It’s just not possible to know exactly where the Red Sea crossing took place. What we do know is that at some point before they even got out of Egyptian territory, they faced a large body of water with no bridge across it.

The Lord had Moses lead the people in a kind of zigzag direction. To the people, this probably made no sense. But the Lord was in control, and He knew what He was doing. J. C. Ryle wrote:

Nothing whatever, whether great or small, can happen to a believer, without God’s ordering and permission. There is no such thing as “chance,” “luck,” or “accident” in the Christian’s journey through this world. All is arranged and appointed by God. And all things are “working together” for the believer’s good.

Do you think Ryle is overstating it a bit? Perhaps he is. His point, however, is well taken. No matter what’s going in your life, God has allowed it for a reason and if you keep faith, you will emerge blessed.

Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ (Exodus 14:3 NIV84)

The Lord always has a plan; He’s always working an angle that will result in the best for His children. Rarely, if ever, do we see see that angle. Even when we do, it’s hard to understand. This is where faith comes into play. God has a plan, and it’s in our best interest to go along with it.

“And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this. (Exodus 14:4 NIV84)

Israel did just that. Now, you might think that the Egyptians had experienced enough disasters in recent days as their dear leader opposed Moses at every turn, but it wasn’t over yet. He knew he had been duped. Remember, as far as he was concerned, Moses and his people were just going out into the desert to worship their God and offer sacrifices. But the truth was dawning on Pharaoh.

When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” (Exodus 14:5 NIV84)

Pride, anger, and greed moved Pharaoh roused Pharaoh to action.

Meanwhile, out in the desert, the Israelites had no idea what was about to happen to them.

The decision to chase, vs. 6-9

The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. (Exodus 14:8 NIV84)

The Lord’s people weren’t just sauntering about the desert, the were “marching boldly!” That’s a funny way to put it. They didn’t know where they going, but they were bold about getting there.

And why not? They had been miraculously delivered out of Egypt; they had seen the work of God, up close and personal.

The crack Egyptian army, including 600 chariots, was on the move, closing in on the Israelites. You can imagine what kind of damage could be inflicted on that defenseless mass of humanity.

Fear strikes the Israelites, vs. 10-12

When the unarmed, undisciplined, and helpless Israelites glanced back and glimpsed the mighty Egyptian approaching, they reacted predictably.

As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:10-12 NIV84)

It looked like a hopeless situation, and the people cried out in fear and desperation. For them, apparently, forced labor in Egypt was preferable to being trampled or run through in the desert. “Better red, than dead.”

A lot of Christians are like these Israelites. They’ve been freed from their bondage to sin as the Israelites had been freed from their bondage to slavery, and yet unbelief fills their hearts. How long had it been since the Hebrews’ deliverance? Yet in that short span of time, they were full of fear and doubt. For all intents and purposes, the recipients of God’s mighty blessings had forgotten all about them. They had supported their leaders and gone along with them, but now, when the going was getting tough, they wanted to get going, back to Egypt.

What we have here is a distinct lack of commitment.

God assures His people, Exodus 14:13-18

Stand still, vs. 13, 14

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14 NIV84)

That’s some plan! Sometimes God’s plans don’t make a lot of sense to us. How common it is for our faith to weaken or maybe break at the very moment we need it the most: the moment God is about to do His greatest work.

We don’t know how much Moses was shaking beneath his robes as he spoke these words, but the instructions he gave his people were clear: the Lord will work for His people, all they had to do was accept and receive His salvation. They just had to stand still and let Him do the work.

There is a time for God’s people to work, and there is a time for them stand back and let God work. Sometimes God Himself works with man, other times He does all the work. The secret to successful – and less stressful – Christian living is learning when and how to co-operate with God.

Moses corrected, vs. 15

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” (Exodus 14:15 NIV84)

The bit just before verse 15 and just after verse 14 is missing. We may speculate that after Moses had spoken to the people, he turned to face God and cry out to Him. Well, as far as God was concerned, the time for praying was past. It was now time for Moses and his people to, as it were, shut their mouths and put their faith to work.  It was as though God were saying to Moses, Stop praying and get on with it, man!

Action commanded, vs. 16

Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. (Exodus 14:16 NIV84)

This was Moses’ job. The people were to just stand back and watch. This was to be a march of faith. Parting the Red Sea and walking across on dry land is stuff of faith. Fearful praying was over; steps of faith were needed if the people were to move forward. George Whitfield wrote:

Press forward. Do not stop, do not linger in your journey, but strive for the mark set before you.

Indeed. Good advice.

The final trap for Pharaoh, vs. 17, 18

All the time the people of Israel spent worrying and fretting that God had let them down was such a waste of time. But then, any time we worry and fret about what God is doing or not doing is a waste of time. While the people were worrying and fretting, God was doing something productive: He was working out His plan and purpose for His people. And for the Egyptians.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls! It was tolling like crazy for Pharaoh and his army. His hard heart caused him to presume upon God. He assumed that he would be able to follow Israel through the Red Sea on dry land that had been provided by God for His people. He couldn’t have been more wrong. God’s plan was to destroy this Egyptian army, and in doing so, display His glory, not to the Pharaoh or the Egyptian army, but to the rest of Egypt. It was too late for the army, but the rest of Egypt deserved to know who the God of Israel was.

God miraculously delivers His people, Exodus 14:19-31

The cloud and the wind, vs. 19-22

The “angel of God” was probably a “theophany,” a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. He had been leading the Israelites but now He was about move to the rear of the camp to protect them.

The presence of Christ is truly a double-edged sword. To the Israelites, His presence led them and gave the light. To the Egyptians, it confounded them and shrouded them in darkness.

God is still in the leading business today. He led the Israelites three ways. He led through Moses, a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. Today, we don’t see the fire and clouds, but God does send anointed leaders and He has filled all believers with the Holy Spirit. The light of His Word also lights our way. The Israelites couldn’t lose if they just followed The Lord. Neither can we.

The Egyptian army destroyed, vs. 23-25

He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.” (Exodus 14:25 NIV84)

These chariots were not some cheap Chinese import. The were part of the state-of-the-art Egyptian armory; the envy of the military world. At some point during the night, the Egyptians decided to resume their pursuit of the Israelites. They were pretty much in the dark, so it’s likely they had no idea they were marching onto the dry sea bed. They also had no idea they were marching to their doom.

Once more, the Egyptians were forced to acknowledge the power of God.

The waters close, vs. 26-30

No matter how you read these verses, they record a miracle. Moses was obedient and empowered to do the work, but God’s power made it all happen. For wheel or for woe, the Egyptians knew the power of God.
Not that it did them any good, mind you. The Israelites, on the other hand, also saw the glorious power of God and, at least for a while, came to fear Him.

And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. (Exodus 14:31 NIV84)

Moses, however, was changed forever. As Israel’s deliverer, he got off to an admittedly shaky start, but he kept the faith and saw some remarkable things. Woodrow Kroll observed,

Finishing well brings more glory to God than beginning well.

Exodus, 5

Passover_jpg

Exodus 12-13:10

Moses and Aaron had left Pharaoh with some very bad news of what was to come:

Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt–worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. (Exodus 11:5-7 NIV84)

Chapter 12 has been called “the high point” in the book of Exodus and for good reason. In this chapter we learn about the institution of Passover, a special dinner that would become a memorial to the deliverance of Israel  from Egypt. Actually, Passover is much more than just a memorial meal of a great historic event. It is the bedrock of Israel’s birth as a nation and of its new relationship with Yahweh.

It all happened during Israel’s last night in Egypt. Every firstborn son and animal of Egyptian households were mysteriously slain while those of Israel were “passed over,” or spared. This terrible event was God’s final judgment against all the gods of Egypt.

The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out boldly in full view of all the Egyptians, who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods. (Numbers 33:3-4 NIV84)

The Passover Event, Exodus 12:21-30

Instructions, vs. 21-23

Then Moses summoned all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Go at once and select the animals for your families and slaughter the Passover lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. Not one of you shall go out the door of his house until morning. When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.” (Exodus 12:21-23 NIV84)

God had spoken to Moses and now Moses had to speak to the people; he was to pass along to them what he had been told by God. What a good lesson for anybody called to preach or teach God’s Word: know what God wants you to say! And say only that.

The blood from the slain Passover lamb was to be “painted” all around the door. The head of the family was to use hyssop, a fluffy little plant that grows in abundance around rocks. Hyssop represents faith – it is by faith that the blood of Christ is applied to your heart and life. You trust what Christ has done when He shed His blood for you.

If the people were obedient, the so-called Death Angel of the Lord would “pass over” all the Israelite homes. Their safety was guaranteed by the blood.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV84)

D.A. Carson, well known Bible scholar and teacher, once remarked,

We overcome the accuser of our brother and sisters, we overcome our consciences, we overcome our bad tempers, we overcome our defeats, we overcome our lusts, we overcome our fears, we overcome our pettiness on the basis of the blood of the Lamb.

We can all say “Amen!” to that.

A permanent ordinance, vs. 24

This special dinner, with all its instructions followed to the letter, was not to be a one-time event. God intended it to be an everlasting memorial or object lesson. The people of God were to never, ever forget what He did for them this night.

Michael Youssef tells us why this memorial is so important:

God wants to see prayers that are filled with genuine praise and thanksgiving for what He has done in the past. He wants our hearts to be filled with awe and gratitude for His blessings. He wants us to set up memorials in our hearts testifying to the provisions He has given us.

Indeed. That’s why it’s so important to know God’s Word.  It’s a chronicle of what He’s done for His people. And that’s why it’s so important to testify about answered prayer! Tell people what He’s done for you so others can incorporate that in their prayers and praise.

In a stunning departure from the norm, the people of Israel did exactly as they had been told:

The Israelites did just what the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron. (Exodus 12:28 NIV84)

They obeyed like their very lives depended on it. And they did!

Horror comes at midnight, vs. 29-30

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead. (Exodus 12:29-30 NIV84)

Pharaoh should have known this plague would happen. He had been warned, but as is the case with many sinners, his heart had been hardened to the point where it blinded him to the things about which there should have been no doubt. Up to this point, the judgments of God had not claimed a human life, but now, with this final, awful judgment, the ante had been upped.

There are those who would say God was a little extreme in his dealings with the Egyptians. However, Pharaoh had been forewarned. It was within his power to stop this from happening. But then, there’s this:

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;may the name of the Lord be praised. (Job 1:21b NIV84)

He who creates life has authority over it, even to the point of taking it away. Man would do well to remember this factoid.

The Exodus, Exodus 12:31-42

During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you have requested. ” (Exodus 12:31 NIV84)

Pharaoh had to give up. Up till now, none of the plagues, as awful as they were, touched him directly. But this one took the life of his son. He had to get these people out of his country and he ordered Moses and his people to leave. It was the act of desperate man, not a contrite man.

Take your flocks and herds, as you have said, and go. And also bless me. (Exodus 12:32 NIV84)

Don’t read anything into that. Pharaoh wanted these people out of his country and the “bless me” request was just his way of averting more calamity.

As they were leaving, a remarkable thing happened:

The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:36 NIV84)

Whatever they wanted, the Hebrews took and the Egyptians let them. Seem unfair? Remember: they were owed a considerable amount in wages for unpaid and involuntary labor.

A journey begins, vs. 37-39

The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. There were about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. Many other people went up with them, as well as large droves of livestock, both flocks and herds. (Exodus 12:37-38 NIV84)

What a sight that must have been! By some estimates there were upwards of 3 million people all following one man: Moses. Included in this estimate was what the KJV refers to as the “mixed multitude,” an indeterminate number of non-Hebrews who followed the Hebrews out of Egypt. Most, if not all of them, were Egyptians who, perhaps, had married Hebrews, or perhaps were other slaves or captives who saw this Exodus as a way to freedom. They were the “hangers on,” and would ultimately be the cause of a lot of problems for Moses and the children of Israel.

The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat!” (Numbers 11:4 NIV84)

Yes, as a Christian, you need to be careful with whom you associate. They could get you into lot of trouble.

430 years, vs. 40-42

Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt. (Exodus 12:40-41 NIV84)

What a night it was! This would be a day long remembered; the day freedom came to the people of Israel. Given the 430-year duration, we may speculate as to the dates of Israel’s sojourn in Egypt: 1876 BC to 1446 BC. That’s a “best guess,” but regardless of the exact dates, and regardless of whether it was 400, 430, or 431 years, four centuries is a long, long time to in a place you don’t belong.

Passover remembered, Exodus 13:1-10

Firstborn consecrated, vs. 1, 2

“Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal.”  (Exodus 13:2 (NIV84)

The Exodus was a great blessing given to the people of Israel from their God. But God’s blessings upon a anybody carry weighty responsibilities. The Lord spared the firstborn while in Egypt and now these same firstborn were claimed by God; they were to be consecrated to Him.

If you are a Christian, then you belong to Him and He wants “the first” from you as surely as He claimed “the first” from the Hebrews. Unfortunately, many Christians refuse to give God first place in their lives. God claims our best – our very best – but a lot of us give Him what’s left over. He demands to be first in our lives but often He gets relegated to the rear. This is why we believers get into trouble so often. If we have the time, we’ll do something for God. If we feel like it, we’ll show up at church. If we have any money left over, we’ll give some to the work of The Lord.

The children of Israel needed to learn the seriousness of following God, and so He exerted His claim on their firstborn.

Feast of unleavened bread, vs. 3-7

Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast.” (Exodus 13:3 NIV84)

The importance of remembering this day needed to be passed on to the children. The weeklong Feast of Unleavened Bread started here and it followed Passover. The people were to eat nothing with yeast in it, so as to remember the unleavened bread they took with them from Egypt.

The story of the Exodus is fact. It did happen. It is a historical story full of symbols and symbolism that point to other historical facts: the life and death of Jesus Christ. The blood of the perfect Lamb of God saves all men from sin just as surely as the blood on the doorposts of the Israelites’ homes saved them from the plague of death. And yet, it was necessary for them to eat the lamb. We, like them, must appropriate with Jesus did; we must let it work in our lives.


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