Daily Thoughts from Exodus: God Showing Off

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”

So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me. For if you refuse to let my people go, behold, tomorrow I will bring locusts into your country, and they shall cover the face of the land, so that no one can see the land. And they shall eat what is left to you after the hail, and they shall eat every tree of yours that grows in the field, and they shall fill your houses and the houses of all your servants and of all the Egyptians, as neither your fathers nor your grandfathers have seen, from the day they came on earth to this day.’” Then he turned and went out from Pharaoh.

Then Pharaoh’s servants said to him, “How long shall this man be a snare to us? Let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God. Do you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?” So Moses and Aaron were brought back to Pharaoh. And he said to them, “Go, serve the LORD your God. But which ones are to go?” Moses said, “We will go with our young and our old. We will go with our sons and daughters and with our flocks and herds, for we must hold a feast to the LORD.” But he said to them, “The LORD be with you, if ever I let you and your little ones go! Look, you have some evil purpose in mind. No! Go, the men among you, and serve the LORD, for that is what you are asking.” And they were driven out from Pharaoh’s presence.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the land of Egypt for the locusts, so that they may come upon the land of Egypt and eat every plant in the land, all that the hail has left.” So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts. The locusts came up over all the land of Egypt and settled on the whole country of Egypt, such a dense swarm of locusts as had never been before, nor ever will be again. They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God, and against you. Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the LORD your God only to remove this death from me.” So he went out from Pharaoh and pleaded with the LORD. And the LORD turned the wind into a very strong west wind, which lifted the locusts and drove them into the Red Sea. Not a single locust was left in all the country of Egypt. But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.  (Exodus 10:1-20 ESV)

Up to this point the emphasis has been on Pharaoh coming to know who Yahweh is.  But now Yahweh tells Moses that He has hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that the full expression of His power and rescue might be known to Israel and the next generations of Israel.  Pharaoh is still in sight, of course, and Moses challenges him to humble himself before Yahweh.  Even Pharaoh’s advisors are urging him to let the “men” go and worship Yahweh, and Pharaoh seizes on this to try to limit Moses’ request for all the people to go into the wilderness to worship.

But when the locust plague comes, like God using a giant leaf-blower, wrangling all the locusts into one location, Egypt, Pharaoh’s tune changes and he begs Moses to end the plague with a promise of letting the people go.  But once the danger is gone, he recants his promise.  God has hardened his heart.  And God is surely also preventing Pharaoh from doing what we might expect such a powerful ruler to do, command his servants to slay Moses and Aaron.  Perhaps it is just enough fear of Moses as a holy man whose death could incur the wrath of his god that keeps Pharaoh from ridding himself of this snare of a man.

God does not always protect His servants in this way, as the martyrdom of many of His children can attest, even that of His own Son.  But as Jesus taught us, we are not to fear him who is able to destroy the body, but Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28).

My lawn in Texas was true to the Texas tradition in that it had the biggest weeds in the country.  One, which had grown to over 4 ft. tall, was sure to be a tough one to uproot. To my surprise, the root was extremely small, just barely dug in to the earth. There are many whose appearance, good or bad, betray but a shallow root, whose outward show is due to reveal no solidarity.

Not so God’s showiness.  His showiness is the Alps, Yosemite, the ocean, and the surest foundation of His judgment, which shows off His justice.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Pushing God to the Limits

Moses went back to Jethro his father-in-law and said to him, “Please let me go back to my brothers in Egypt to see whether they are still alive.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” And the LORD said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt, for all the men who were seeking your life are dead.” So Moses took his wife and his sons and had them ride on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt. And Moses took the staff of God in his hand.

And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.” If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’”

At a lodging place on the way the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and touched Moses’ feet with it and said, “Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So he let him alone. It was then that she said, “A bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision.

The LORD said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went and met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. And Moses told Aaron all the words of the LORD with which he had sent him to speak, and all the signs that he had commanded him to do. Then Moses and Aaron went and gathered together all the elders of the people of Israel. Aaron spoke all the words that the LORD had spoken to Moses and did the signs in the sight of the people. And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped.  (Exodus 4:18-31 ESV)

Moses appears to be obeying Yahweh now, parting with his father-in-law, taking Yahweh at His word that those who would prosecute Moses for that murder are gone, and taking the staff as God commanded him and heading out.  God explains to him more of His plan, especially that He will harden Pharaoh’s heart, which likely struck terror in Moses’ heart.  Pharaoh will resist Moses and Yahweh up to a threat to kill Pharaoh’s firstborn son.

It is at this point that I believe Moses tries his last resistance to going back.  He does not circumcise his son, thinking that this will disqualify him in God’s eyes to lead this mission.  But it does more than disqualify him, it nearly gets him killed as a disciplinary action of God.  His wife saves his life and brings him into compliance.

Then he meets Aaron at Mt. Sinai, makes him his spokesman, and has his initial meeting with the people of Israel and as hoped, they believe that I AM has sent him and they worship Yahweh.  The next step is to confront Pharaoh.

We must not presume that if we choose to disobey God He will simply put us on the shelf, safe out of harm’s way.  No loving parent would let his child continue in such rebellion without disciplining him.  God’s discipline always produces the peaceable fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).

I distinctly remember sensing that God wanted me to start a men’s ministry at our church and I remember doing nothing about it.  God chose someone else, someone more obedient, and it ministered to many men.  I missed a blessing but I learned a lesson about obeying God.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: What Really Makes God Mad

But Moses said to the LORD, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.”  (Exodus 4:10-17 ESV)

God is not passive toward our disobedience and our wounded self-image is not an excuse for disobeying.

Moses has yet another reason why Yahweh shouldn’t send him to Egypt.  He is not eloquent, he says, but God says He is capable of using Moses’ slow tongue.  In fact, Yahweh takes all credit for making anyone deaf and mute or seeing or blind.  All our abilities or disabilities are from God, an obvious contradiction of the prosperity gospel.  In Moses’ case God promises to be with Moses’ mouth and teach him what to say.

Finally Moses just begs God not to send him and our patient God finds His anger catching fire.  Moses is on the edge with God and yet God makes one more concession to His reluctant servant.  Aaron can be Moses’ spokesman and in fact Aaron is on the way to visit Moses and is almost there.  He will be Moses’ prophet even as Moses is Yahweh’s prophet.  Moses must take Aaron and the staff God gave him and go.

Have you been hurt like Moses?  His first attempt at being a deliverer failed miserably and now he was gun shy.  He saw himself as inadequate, a feeling many of us can identify with.  Truth be told, we are inadequate to serve the Lord.  But He wants to make us adequate.  If we obey, He will equip.  If we follow, He will further.  If we try, He will bring success, His success, whatever He deems that to be.  But He won’t put up with our disobedience.  We won’t lose our relationship to Him, but we will be out of fellowship with Him and under His loving discipline.  And we will miss the joy of serving Him that He had in store for us.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Trust God and Do the Right Thing

Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you.’” The LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the LORD said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand—“that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Again, the LORD said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”  (Exodus 4:1-9 ESV)

Have you ever wondered whether something God called you to do with people will be received by them?  Have you been afraid to take Him at His word that it will be used by Him for His purposes?  Magnify that multiple times for Moses, who was being asked to face down the most powerful man in the world, the Pharaoh of Egypt.

Moses is certain that not even the Israelites, let alone Pharaoh, will listen to him or believe Yahweh has sent him.  So Yahweh gives him three signs, the staff that turns into a snake and back again, his hand turning leprous and then healing, and the Nile water turned into blood.  Interestingly, God does not say that they will believe Moses.  He instructs him to use the staff “that they may believe” and the leprous healing that “they may believe” after not being satisfied with the first sign.  And He suggests that they may not believe Moses with those two signs and so gives the third.  That is not a guarantee.

But Yahweh has already told Moses that He will be with him.  Moses might understandably be nervous, as would we be, but God is asking him to trust him and has shown him several signs, including being a flame in a bush, to demonstrate His power and presence.  God is asking us to trust Him, too, and to take what should really be no risk at all, even if it does mean that we are not listened to or are treated shamefully.  Some who trust Him and go lose their lives (Stephen, the first Christian martyr, Acts 7; James, the first apostle killed, Acts 12).  Jesus was not spared and neither might we be, but we are doing the will of our Father, Yahweh Elohim.  That is the right thing to do.

Some will hate thee, some will love thee, Some will flatter, some will slight; Turn from man, and look above thee, Trust in God and do the right.

Simple rule and safest guiding, Inward peace and inward light; Star upon our path abiding, TRUST IN GOD AND DO THE RIGHT.

Norman Macleod, 1857

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Bearing the Name of God

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the 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 thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.”’

And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand. So I will stretch out my hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go. And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians.”  (Exodus 3:13-22 ESV)

Moses has another hesitation about doing what God (Hebrew ‘Elohim’) says, and that is, why should the people of Israel believe him if he doesn’t know God’s name.  God’s name, Yahweh (translated in our English texts as LORD in all caps), has been known and used from the beginning but it seems the Israelites have forgotten it.  Yahweh makes a play on His name saying, “I am who I am,” the Hebrew verb for “I am” being similar to the name Yahweh.  He tells Moses to tell the people that “I am” has sent him.  He is Yahweh, the God of their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and He is promising them that He will bring Israel out of Egypt to Canaan.

There was a belief in this culture that knowing someone’s name gave you some influence in their lives and we may say that this is true.  But does it give us influence with God?  The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe it does and fault orthodox believers for not using His name.  Interestingly, their understanding of His name is in error.  In the Hebrew language the words are made up only of consonants, no vowels, and Hebrews just mentally supply the vowels in order to correctly pronounce the words.  When it became a concern that Yahweh’s name should not be pronounced those who copied the sacred text used a series of dots and dashes under and between the consonants to represent the vowels for the word ‘Lord’ in order to encourage readers to say ‘Lord’ (Hebrew ‘adonai’) instead of Yahweh.  But when you read the vowels for adonai with the consonants for Yahweh you get Yehovah or Jehovah.  The correct pronunciation is Yahweh.

Should we hesitate to say the divine name?  Jews have become unwilling to do so because of the second commandment not to use Yahweh’s name in vain and they want to protect against accidentally doing it so they do not pronounce it but say, “Lord.”  In writings you might see “G_d” even to remind you not to say the divine name.  We should not feel that hesitation but when dealing with Jewish people we may want to yield to their sensitivities so as not to offend.  Moses wanted to know God’s name in order to have more credibility with the people and God conceded this to him, even though it had never been a secret.  God wanted him to know His name more so that he could reflect God’s character more faithfully.

Yahweh tells Moses that the people will listen to him and will go with him to Pharaoh to request time in the wilderness to sacrifice to Yahweh their God, knowing, of course, that Pharaoh will refuse.  But this will allow Yahweh to demonstrate His power as He strikes Egypt with plagues and makes the Egyptians show favor to the Israelites as they leave.  He has laid out the whole plan to Moses and guaranteed him success.

God often comes down to our level, so to speak, to help us obey Him and do His will.  He asks us to trust Him and to remember how He has cared for His people in all generations.  How has He proven Himself to you?  What does He have for you to do next?  How will you bear His name?

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: What You Were Meant to Do

Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”  (Exodus 3:7-12 ESV)

Yahweh has a task for Moses.  He wants Moses to go to Pharaoh and somehow bring the children of Israel out of Egypt, bring them to this very mountain on which Yahweh has appeared to Moses, Mt. Horeb or Sinai as it is known.  God wants Israel to return to the land of the Canaanites, a place they left 400 years earlier under Jacob’s and Joseph’s leadership during famine, but that is now flowing with richness and abundance.

Moses, who was ready some 40 years ago to slay an Egyptian and mediate the conflict between Hebrews, no longer sees himself as leadership material.  “Who am I,” he asks.  God does not answer with how gifted Moses is or how special, or what a great leader he will be, though none of those things are wrong.  He answers with, “I will be with you.”  No matter how gifted we are or special, what is required for successfully serving Yahweh is Yahweh’s determination to make us successful and accomplish His purposes.

Yahweh has seen Israel’s suffering and is ready to respond.  It may bother us that He saw Israel’s suffering 40 or more years before and is only choosing now to act.  But He knows the right time and His response is genuinely motivated by His compassion for His people.  He hears our cries.  In His wisdom He responds when He responds, having laid out for Abraham 400 years earlier that this would be the timing for Abraham’s offspring to be enslaved in Egypt.  He sees the bigger picture so we must trust Him with the timing.

In one scene from the movie Superman, Clark Kent is upset after a football game in which he was reduced to being a manager. He possesses supernatural powers yet must hide them from peers who don’t accept him because he is not a star, only a team manager. Kent’s father slips an arm around the soon-to-be Superman and says, “Son, you are here for a special reason. I don’t know what that reason is, but I know one thing—it’s not to score touchdowns.”

Knowing what God has called you for is more than knowing your abilities and gifts.  It is listening to Him as He speaks into your soul what He wants you to do.  Maybe it is correcting something grossly amiss.  Maybe it is encouraging people who have no one in their corner.  Maybe it is providing leadership where there is none.  The point is, what He calls you to do He will equip you to do and be with you in the doing.

Daily Thoughts from Exodus: Entrusting to God What We Hold Most Valuable

Now a man from the house of Levi went and took as his wife a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son, and when she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank. And his sister stood at a distance to know what would be done to him. Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the baby was crying. She took pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.” Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. And 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. When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” (Exodus 2:1-10, ESV)

 

Can you imagine a mother’s anguish at knowing that her son will be discovered soon and she will be forced to kill him?  She has already had a daughter but this son she sees is “good” (Hebrew), an echo of Yahweh’s statement at creation (“And He saw that it was good”).  Was there something special about Moses (this was not the name his parents gave him as we shall see) or is it simply acknowledging that Moses was God’s good creation as any child would be? Either way, in her desperation she finally entrusts Moses to God by putting him in a makeshift ark and sending him down river, his sister (Miriam) following to see what happens.

 

Something happens, something they could not have predicted but that further indicated God’s favor on this child.  We don’t know how many daughters Pharaoh had, or if this one told her father she had adopted a Hebrew child (would he have objected or given in to this decision?).  Miriam boldly speaks up to Pharaoh’s daughter and suggests a Hebrew woman, her mother, who can nurse Moses.  Pharaoh’s daughter even pays Moses’ mom to nurse and wean him.  But then she has to give him up again to Pharaoh’s daughter to live in her household, her consolation being that her son at least lives.

 

God is sovereign over all things, even the decisions of human beings.  Did He allow other Hebrew boys to die at their parents’ hands or sovereignly rescue them?  We don’t know, but for this one family who had faith, He delivered in a miraculous way and prepared Moses for a unique role in His story.  Every child is valuable and “good” and so Scripture teaches us that infanticide (and by extension, suicide), in whatever form, is wrong.  God has a purpose for every single person born into this world, including you and me.

 

We deprive ourselves of joy by turning to self in time of need – by George Muller