Growing in Christ
"He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures." Luke 24:45
Links to observations drawn from other books of the Bible
Introduction: Exodus is the the story of God's deliverance of Israel from their slavery in Egypt following Joseph's death and the calling of Moses to confront Pharaoh, then Israel's deepening relationship with Yahweh centered in the Law of the Covenant and God's presence in His Tabernacle. Exodus ("way out") is from the Greek title; the Hebrew title "these are the names of" is taken from the opening verse.
The date of the exodus has been widely debated but there is no compelling reason to reject the chronology of I Kings 6:1 which places the exodus at 1445 BC. The cities built by Israel in slavery (1:11), though having gone by various names in history, were built 1550-1250 BC, so Israel would have been working on them for 100+ years before deliverence.
Exodus is the second of the five books of Moses (Pentateuch) which continue the account of God's first dealings with His covenant people, chosen to become a redemptive blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:3) through Christ (whose genealogy is traced through Abraham in Matthew 1 and Luke 3).
Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Book of Genesis (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively before reading observations below):
For those who are beginning here, my aim is simply to share my understanding of what the text says about 1.) God, 2.) our role or mission in life under God, 3.) some specific application of that role or mission [often in the form of "I will" statements emphasising intentionality and/or obedience], and 4.) a prayer flowing from my heart in light of these realities.
Becoming Slaves: After Joseph's death (v.6) the descendents of Jacob multiplied to perhaps 2 million (Numbers 1). This large number was useful as slave labor but also feared as a potential source of rebellion (v.7). The Pharaoh who did not know of Joseph (v.8) may have been Ahmose I (1570-1546 BC) who expelled the Hyksos (cf. background note, below) or a successor. (Pharaoh is a general title meaning someone who lives in a "great house")
Selective genocide: Killing baby boys who could grow up to fight and leaving the girls (v.16) to be married into less threatening slave peoples would both eliminate Hebrew identity and keep up the supply of slaves. The strategy was cruel and practical.
The courage of the midwives: Shiphrah and Puah (v.15) made excuses for their disobedience (v.19) but, given their entirely vulnerable position as slaves and women, showed incredible courage and more importantly, absolute allegiance to the Lord at the risk of their lives.
Oppression has often been the experience of God's people, sometimes systemic at totalitarian political or military hands and sometimes random at the hands of a dominant culture, employer or bully. Behind all this is Satan working to sustain spiritual, religious, personal and corporate oppression - yet driving, counter to Satan's purposes, God's people to yearn and call on Him for deliverance and lean solely on Him for sustenance.
Ironically, when Israel was from free from slavery, she often reverted to ignoring God's purposes or pursuing pagan gods. May our freedom in Christ rather draw deeply from us praise and eternal worship!
Personal Application: I will be courageous in the face of earthly oppression, following the example of Shiphrah and Puah. I will look to the Lord for deliverance from personal, political and demonic oppression. Where the Lord is, there is liberty.
My Prayer: Father, help me find freedom in You even if that glorious space seems to others a 'bubble' in a world ruled by the prince of this world.
Background note: "From 1650 - 1550 BC northern Egypt, where the Israelites lived, was ruled by Semitic invaders the Egyptians called "shepherd kings," or Hyksos. Many scholars believe that these kings were sympathetic to the Israelites and that the Israelites may even have been allied with them. When these invaders were finally expelled about 1540 BC, it is easy to imagine that the new rulers (Egypt's 18th Dynasty) were very suspicious of any Semites, including the Israelites, who remained in the country." (NLT)
Deliverance of Moses: Pharaoh's daughter probably understood she was hiring Moses' family to care for him and that she was in rebellion to her father's command. How she explained Moses to her father or husband when Moses came to live in the palace is unknown and may be another miracle. (Moses was a common royal Egyptian name meaning "to give birth" (suggesting the Nile gave birth to him) and sounded like the Hebrew for "to draw out.")
Years of Preparation: During his first 40 years Moses would likely have received administrative, military, and leadership training in Egypt. During his second 40 years in Midian Moses would have learned how to survive in the wilderness where Israel would later wander for his final 40 years.
Moses the Rescuer: Moses's rescue of a fellow Hebrew being beaten (v.12) showed his compassion, courage and decisiveness but also that he relied on himself and wasn't ready to confront Egypt in God's power. In Midian, Moses again showed his opposition to oppression confronting a group of shepherds who could presumably have overcome him.
Reuel (Jethro) the Priest: was likely a descendent of Abraham through Keturah (Gen. 25:1-2), retaining is seems, through the centuries, some knowledge of the God of Abraham. It may even be that Moses, likely steeped in Egyptian religion, learned more about Yahweh from his father-in-law in Midian than he had learned in Egypt.
God's compassion on Israel: It may be the timing of God's readiness to act in behalf of His people was in part related to Moses' maturity and readiness. Sometimes God's preparation is lengthy for a comparatively short season of service. (Sometimes, as with Daniel, God chooses those who are ready while they are still young.)
As long as we draw breath, our mission work of love and rescue is not complete. Therefore God continues to prepare and deepen us, both for our sanctification and for His mission purposes.
Personal Application: I will look for and not turn away from opportunities to express God's 'love and rescue' heart.
My Prayer: Father, thank you for saving and preparing Moses for the great task you had for him. Help us see Your work through our lives for the same essential work, though on different scales, to liberate those who are oppressed by the schemes of the deceiver.
God's Revelation and Call: Moses removed his sandals (v. 5) as a sign of respect and willingness to connect personally with God's holiness, which always transforms. "The common cannot touch the holy without being transformed or destroyed" (NLT).
God's firm promise: God delivered his people because of His compassion for their suffering as slaves and to fulfill his long-standing promise to Abraham of the land to which he had been called. "As a vital crossroads ... between Egypt and the rest of the ancient Near East, Canaan was a hotly contested prize. That Israel could end up in sole possession of it seemed an impossibility (NLT)."
God's sufficiency: God does not answer Moses' question "Who am I, that I should go..?" (v.11) except to point to Himself (in essence: "it's not about you, it's about Me").
The Sign God promises comes after, not before, obedience (v.12). "In the Bible, a sign often occurred after a person or a nation had already had to decide whether to act in faith or not (Isa 7:14). A sign cannot create faith where there is none (Matt 12:39; 16:4). Rather, it encourages the one who has exercised the faith he or she already has (NLT)." Excuses must be set aside, replaced by courage born of trust in God, and the obedience of faith.
Personal Application: I stand in amazement of the transcendent Holy One who calls and redeems. I will remove my shoes, listen to His word, set aside my inadequacies and excuses, and obey.
My Prayer: I am the One who is, thank you that by becoming the Creator of all, you also became my loving Father. Thank you that Your self-sufficiency is the sufficiency for my insufficiency. Thank you that You are with me to accomplish that to which You call me.
Yahweh: God can only
define Himself by Himself: "I AM WHO I AM' or "I am the One who is" (Exodus
3:14). He alone is self existent, Wholly Other, completely self-sufficient and
distinct from the created order. Holy transcendence is God's nature, whereas His
imminence is required for our existence. We live therefore solely by God's
grace. All reality flows from God alone and what is normal in reality (including
behavior and attitude, and being itself) is rightly not defined by us, but by
God. For a fuller understanding click
here or here.
Moses' Objections overcome: To Moses' claim of powerlessness; that he would not be taken seriously, God gives signs of power. In the ancient near-east snakes (v.3-5) were ironically symbols both of death and healing. To turn water of the Nile, the source of much of Egypt's prosperity, into blood, a sign of death (v.9) would also be powerful. To Moses' claim that he couldn't speak persuasively (v.10) God offered his brother Aaron to help (though, over time, Moses leaned on Aaron less and less).
Final surrender: His objections overcome, Moses asks just to be excused (v.13) but God's call is not to be turned aside. God's response here was only the first time Moses experienced God's anger (v.14). God does not accept our trifling.
The Obedience of Faith: God was again angry when Moses didn't circumcise his son (v.24,25), the only expression of allegiance God had so far asked of His followers (Gen.17:10). Moses not being obedient at this point would lessen Israel's obedience also, at this and all other points. Zipporah recognized the initial cause of the crisis and resolved it. Moses may have already been incapacitated by God's anger; there is much not known about this critical incident.
What is clear however is that it is not our native ability but God's sufficiency, and our willingness to let God work through us, that is at issue. The core issue on our part is simple and immediate obedience. Obedience has a bad rap in contemporary evangelicalism, often shunted off to the side-rail of legalism. Obedience however is simply an expression of the allegiance of faith, faith being a tenant always affirmed by evangelicals, with the exception of when we want to avoid obedience.
Hardening of Heart (v.21): ten times scripture will record that Pharaoh hardened his own heart and in ten instances it will say the God hardened Pharaoh's heart. "Seven times Pharaoh hardened his own heart before God hardened it, though the prediction that God would do it preceded all. (Ryrie)" The sovereignty of God brings a balance in which both our will and His will are done, and we are responsible for our will.
Israel is My First Born: means "special", even "sacred", so highly does God value Israel in His plan of redemption (v.23). Pharaoh also highly values his first born (v.23), so should understand how crucial is the confrontation in which he is involved.
Personal Application: I will not make excuses when called by God to do as He has directed, whether in a burning-bush confrontation or a quiet prompting. I will be obedient as an expression of respect and of faith.
My Prayer: Father, let me hear your voice and call always clearly without ambiguity, whether it comes in a whisper or a sign or any other form in which you choose to speak. Let me trust you, obeying in confidence that You are sufficient to accomplish that which you have purposed.
Starting Badly: Pharaoh's rejection of Moses' bold command is premised on the Egyptian view that 'god and king' are one (common to many cultures) and his defiant assertion that it would take a stronger force than the Hebrew's God to force his will (v.1-2).
Moses' apparent lie to Pharaoh that God would kill the Hebrews for disobedience (v.3) is rejected and may even be why God allowed the further hardship of equal quota plus straw (v.7-8). By beating Hebrew supervisors (v.14) Pharaoh also won the victory of setting them against Moses and Aaron (v.21) and discouraging Moses deeply (v.22-23). If there had been any doubt, humanly speaking Pharaoh had the upper hand. As such, it's even surprising Pharaoh tolerated the conversation, not putting Moses to death.
Repeatedly however God brings His people to the end of themselves to turn to Him in full reliance and to demonstrate deliverance comes only from the Lord.
Personal Application: With persecution on the rise, nominalism and syncretism rampant and various heresies continuing to weaken our global task, it's easy to be discouraged with the percentage of Christians of any stripe lacking growth for a century. But God is God and I will press on with the task of mobilizing key leaders for His global purpose. I will give my best to finishing the book long in process.
My Prayer: Father, in every extremity You are God and Your hand is not shortened. I trust You and will obey You. Father, move powerfully for Your Church, to protect and renew and empower us in holiness and in mission. Father, move powerfully for the lost, to deliver from the evil one and all his false gods.
Crisis of faith: after initial enthusiasm (4:31) and disappointment Israel's leaders turned against Moses (5:21). God therefore reherses history to provide the true meaning (v.3-5) of Moses' call. But this (first of many) crises of faith deepens, 1.) as Israel's leaders refuse the risk of following Yahweh against Pharaoh (v.9) and 2.) as Moses returns to asking to be excused due to lack of eloquence (v.12, 30). But God...
Who is Yahweh? The key question is not the sufficiency of Moses, rather the question previously raised by Pharaoh (5:2). Yahweh is the same God as first known by the patriarchs as El Shaddai (the strong and sufficient one) (v.3) (more here or here). Names in the Hebrew worldview are not mere labels as often today. The names of God reveal his very nature, being and character by which he is rightly known.
Upstart pagan gods are depicted in ancient literature as rising to challenge and overcome old gods, as a young lion might challenge an older alpha male. Not so of Yahweh who has always been and whose purposes do not change.
Knowing and be Known: Knowing (v.7) is the same term here as a bride knowing her husband and being known by him. This vision and purpose is of knowing God in a marriage-like relationship is unchanging throughout scripture - from God walking with Adam and Eve in the garden to the "bride adorned for her husband" (Rev. 21:2). The Bible is little concerned about us knowing abstractly about God. God wants to be known personally and by experience; his heart, character and ways.
The fact this knowing of God (in contrast with pagan religions) is non-sexual, highlights the fact the deepest knowing of one another in marriage in the Christian worldview, is also far more than physical/sexual. Christian marriage is deeply spiritual.
Moses and Aaron's genealogy: show them firmly within the linage (v.14-27) of the patriarchs with whom God has made covenant (v. 3-4). Yahweh's covenant purpose has always been deeply personal; his is our kinsman-redeemer (Heb: gaol), as he was for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God's intent is that we, having been redeemed, would be His people and He our God.
Personal Application: I will trust the Lord in new crises of faith brought about by the world's ongoing clash of worldviews. I will always seek to more deeply know the Lord, delight in Him, and repeatedly rejoice in His deliverance.
My Prayer:Father, Your people have had many crises of faith in the clashes of worldview around us. Make us strong. You are our strength and deliverance. You are our God and we are your people; knowing and being known, in trust, joy and worship always.
A Power Encounter: The 10 plagues were essentially what we have come to call an extended power encounter between God and the earthly powers set against His righteous rule. As Ryrie points out, the plagues are a power encounter is between Yahweh who is worthy of worship and the gods of Egypt who are not:
Hard hearts: God's glory was the reason for the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. The plagues were signs and wonders (v.3) leading Egypt to know Yahweh (v.5) as above all gods, including theirs. Pharaoh however continues to look for reasons, such as the mimicking arts of his occultists, to maintain resistance.
The heart is the source and reason for our destiny more than our intellect. For this reason God values the attitude of our heart more than the capacity of our intellect.
Signs: A cobra's head featured prominently in Pharaoh's headdress, so God's use of Aaron's staff to shallow Egypt's serpents (v.12) showed Yahweh's superiority over Pharaoh as well as the sorcerers magic arts.
Water and blood: Pharaoh worshiped the Nile as giver of life (v.15). Yahweh is greater than Egypt's river-god (v.20) and the true giver of life. The occultists, having dug for clean water around the Nile (v.24), imitated God's sign in a small scale (v.22). Their point would have been better made had they turned blood in the Nile back to water (they could not) but their effort gave Pharaoh enough reason to maintain his hard (Heb: heavy) heart (v.23)
Personal Application: Prayer often involves unseen power encounters against earthly powers arrayed against God. I too am involved in Moses' battle. Yet I will initiate public power encounters only by the Lord's direction and timing. I will not be impressed with powers channeled by the occult.
My Prayer: Father, thank you that You are greater than the powers of Egypt and greater than all those arrayed against You. Thank you that You overcome even the human heart for Your glory. Rule my heart also again today, and more fully than ever.
Clinging to gods which cannot give life: Frogs were Egyptian gods of fertility, revered for their ability to live in two worlds (water and land), symbols of the Egyptians' desire to live well in this life and the next. Pharaoh's magicians made matters worse again with more frogs (v.7). Pharaoh didn't ask his magicians to remove the frogs they had produced, perhaps already recognizing Yahweh as greater than Egypt's best. Egypt's magicians could not produce more gnats (v.18) and were the first to publicly acknowledge Yahweh as greater (v.19), though Pharaoh hung on stubbornly. The forth plague involving insects brought Pharaoh to a point of negotiation (v.25).
Negotiation not an option: Pharaoh began to learn that since Lord is sovereign, negotiation is not an option (v.25-28). To try, and particularly to back away from one's word, as Pharaoh did, is not negotiation but deceit (v.29).
More than Rescue: the contest was not only to free God's people from slavery but to show who is ultimate sovereign and in fact, the only ultimate reality (v.10). Moses invited Pharaoh to help prove that Yahweh not only can remove the frogs He brought, but can choose exactly when to remove them (v.9); Moses boldly calls Pharaoh's participation, his "honor." God is in every way greater the Pharaoh and his gods.
Caring for His People: God caused the last 7 plagues not to touch His people, showing both Israel and Egypt his love for His people.
Personal Application: I will not negotiate with God or seek explanations as conditions of obedience. Rather I will obey the Lord as soon as I become aware of His will, without delay or subterfuge, with a whole heart.
My Prayer: Father, give me a whole heart to obey you. Help me not obey grudgingly, delay obedience, or obey externally for show, but be eager fully to honor and please you.
In process...please come again...