Daily Thoughts from Exodus: God’s Straight Paths Seem Winding

The LORD said to Moses, “Yet one plague more I will bring upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt. Afterward he will let you go from here. When he lets you go, he will drive you away completely. Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.” And the LORD gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.

So Moses said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again. But not a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.’ And all these your servants shall come down to me and bow down to me, saying, ‘Get out, you and all the people who follow you.’ And after that I will go out.” And he went out from Pharaoh in hot anger. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”

Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.  (Exodus 11 ESV)

We learn several fascinating things about this time in Israel’s history:

(1) God told the people to ask their neighbors for silver and gold jewelry and then made the Egyptians favorable toward the people.  This would give Israel the currency it needed to make the long trek to Canaan and to trade with peoples for necessities.  Can you imagine the bit of faith it would take to knock on your neighbors’ doors and ask for money?

(2) God gave Moses a powerful reputation in Egypt.  This helps answer our question of why Pharaoh did not simply put Moses to death.  Those who did not have power to change things, Pharaoh’s officials (“servants”) see clearly that Moses and the people must be released but they can only beg Moses to do so.  It is a folly that a foolish leader can so impact those under him or her who see things more clearly.

(3) God gives Pharaoh fair warning as to the last plague and predicts that Pharaoh will beg him and Israel to leave Egypt afterwards.

(4) Moses was furious with Pharaoh.  Was this a reflection of God’s own anger toward Pharaoh?  Pharaoh certainly deserved such anger for his obstinate refusal to obey Yahweh, even though, as Yahweh reminds Moses, He Himself has hardened Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh will not listen to Moses because of that.

When God orchestrates a rescue for us both His power and His love for us are made known to us and to our foes.  His protection can be such that not even a dog will growl at us, let alone our foes gain victory over us.  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

I once served under a leader who was killing our organization and who had admitted to me a few years earlier that he was burned out.  Some of us began praying each week together for God to do something to rescue us.  Unexpectedly, within a couple of years, this man’s tenure in the organization came to an abrupt end and the organization was gifted with new leadership.  God knows how to straighten our paths in ways much more effective than we could devise.

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