Exodus 16 & 17

Fickle is the word that comes to my mind as Exodus 16 begins. God has delivered the people of Israel through a series of miraculous events and how do they thank Him? By complaining. 

In Chapter 15 we see Moses and the Israelites singing about the greatness of God proclaiming, “The Lord reigns, for ever and ever.” They were aware that God had provided a way for them, yet, in Chapter 16 they have quickly forgotten all that God had done. 

Look at Chapter 16 verses 2 and 3. It says, “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘“If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”’

This grumbling continues in chapter 17 when they’ve stopped to camp at Rephidim and there’s no water to drink. Perhaps it was their thirst and hunger that caused a lapse in memory, but either way, in both instances, the people have forgotten that God is good, and God provided for them in miraculous ways. 

I encourage you to read through both chapters on your own to see how God continues to take care of Moses and the Israelites. Also, I challenge you to look inside to see how you (and I) are like the Israelites. 

Why, like them, are we so quick to forget all the ways God loves us and provides for us? 

I would submit to you that it’s our need to feel like we’re in control. We may not realize it, but when we are trying to be in control, we take our eyes off God and fail to walk by faith. 

Let us be a people who continually keep our eyes on God, allow Him to be in control, and walk by faith.

Blessings

Exodus 13:17-14

Free at last! After 430 years of slavery in Egypt, Pharaoh finally relented and released the Israelites. All that stood between them and the Promised Land was a two-week journey across what has been called the “Via Maris” or “way of the sea.” After all, the coastal highway was the most obvious escape route, nearly a straight shot to Canaan.

But God typically doesn’t take the most obvious and direct paths.

Instead, God rerouted the Israelites south, away from Canaan and seemingly away from his own promise. He led them deeper into the wilderness, in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He lead them right up to the banks of the Red Sea, even hardening Pharaoh’s heart all over again, ultimately provoking the Egyptian army to follow Israel in hot pursuit. And then, once again, God delivered the Israelites from the hand of the Egyptians. Moses’ staff was lifted, the waters were parted, and the people of Israel walked across on dry land.

But the journey still wasn’t over. For 40 more years the Israelites would meander through the wilderness. Could God have led them straight to Canaan from Egypt? Sure. God can do whatever God wants to do. That’s what makes him God. But God didn’t want to take the direct path. God didn’t want the trip to be free from troubles.

Here’s the takeaway: time and trials are where we learn to trust God. The best fruit takes time to grow. The strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire. When God leads you on a longer and more difficult journey than you anticipated, find comfort in knowing that, while God’s way is not always the most direct way, it is always the best way.

Exodus 12

As I read Old Testament texts, I tend to have a running graphic in my mind. Sort of like a mind map with arrows and boxes connecting certain pieces of dialogue, events, or symbols with their New Testament mirrors. It fascinates me to see God’s plan unfolding and the ways in which he provides a picture of atonement, justice, and redemption right from the beginning. It reminds me that our God is unwavering. His attributes don’t change with the seasons. He is not moody. He isn’t swayed by circumstances. He is steady, always holding true to his warnings and promises alike. This particular look into the history of God’s people is incredibly rich as it describes the great deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage all while pointing us toward the greatest deliverance…our own deliverance from sin.

With this tenth plague, God made good on His warning to the Egyptians and provided a path of redemption for His people if only they would follow in obedience. The sacrificial animal that was needed to consecrate the Israelites’ homes would have a direct correlation with the Sacrificial Lamb that paid the price for our sins. The extent of this historical event can only be credited to the great power of our God, and the Israelites were called to commemorate it year after year and pass it down to all the generations that would follow. They were to worship and glorify God for His mercy as he passed over their homes in the midst of extraordinary destruction.

I can’t help but think of the power of the Passover Feast and the meaning it held for the Israelites–the gratitude and understanding it brought for God’s love and justice. He called them to remember and rehearse these things, so that they would be grounded in their faith and knowledge of who God is. How much more should we be rehearsing the gospel? In contrast, it’s more than a yearly festival, but rather, something to be acknowledged daily. Leading us to glorify our Father who provided an escape from our sins. To a grounding in our faith that will lead us to seek Him in times of trial. To an unquenchable need to share this great work with those around us.

Exodus 10-11

These chapters of Exodus contain accounts of the eighth and ninth plagues as well as the threat of the tenth and final plague of Egypt. Reading through the book up to this point, I have had one recurring thought: one plague would have been enough for me. Water starts turning into blood, and I’m doing whatever Moses says. But this is not what we see in Exodus, even when plague number ten is nearly at Pharaoh’s door.

10 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 11:10, ESV

How often do we listen and obey when God speaks? It is unlikely that we are being commanded to set the Israelites free, but there could at any moment be a specific call for us. We see a huge difference of outcome between the obedience of Moses and the unwillingness of Pharaoh. When you experience God shaping your life, it is always best to trust and obey.

Exodus 8-9

Countless memes have made the comparison between the last two years and these two chapters, our present circumstances with their seemingly endless barrage of crises and the parade of plagues striking Egypt in these two chapters. The pandemic rages. Political strife persists. Social upheaval. Cultural conflict. The list could go on and on, one seemingly unprecedented crisis after another, but let’s hope that’s where the similarities between our circumstances and these chapters conclude. Let’s hope that these chapters sound to our ears like the warning that they are. Instead of responding like Pharaoh by hardening our hearts toward the pain and oppression of others and the call of God on our lives, let’s respond with mercy, compassion, kindness, and justice. Let’s have this mind among ourselves, which is ours in Christ Jesus, “who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant, being born in likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).

Exodus 6 & 7

I can only imagine how Moses was feeling coming out of Exodus chapter 5. We know that God has called Moses to deliver the Israelites from slavery so he confronts Pharaoh speaking on behalf of the Lord. And what happens? Pharaoh has no regard for what Moses has said and in fact, he makes life worse for God’s people. Moses clearly feels defeated and returns to the Lord and says to Him, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people and all.” 

Then, chapter 6 happens, and it feels like dad is done playing games. 

Verse 1 reads “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his county.” Then verses 3-5 the Lord continues telling Moses, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by name the Lord I did not make myself fully known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.” 

God gives Moses a message to pass along to the Israelites to let them know that help is on the way, but they are so discouraged that they won’t hear it from him. Then the Lord tells Moses to go to Pharaoh again, and Moses, like many of us, is full of doubt. He asks the Lord in verse 12, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?”

As the story continues, God sends Moses and Aaron to Pharaoh with a message, and knowing how Pharaoh will react, God provides further instruction to prove the He is who He says He is. The events in chapter 7 usher in ten plagues that eventually bring to fruition God’s promise to deliver the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. 

Chapters 6 and 7 offer several lessons that are applicable to us today, but I want to point to two that stuck out to me. 

First one is that we must understand that we can do nothing apart from the power of the Lord. Moses doubted in his own ability to carry out what God had already set in motion for him. But, he obeyed and through God’s hand Moses pushes forward and eventually, we see the Israelites freed from captivity. 

The second takeaway is the same as yesterday, today, and will be the same tomorrow. God’s plan will always prevail. No matter how full of doubt we can be, or who tries to derail what God is doing, He will win. 

Blessings. 

Exodus 4-5

Have you ever felt like God wasn’t holding up his end of the deal?

I have. Whether you want to admit it or not, you’ve almost certainly felt that way, too. And my guess is that’s exactly what Moses felt at the end of Exodus 5.

God had called Moses to deliver the Israelites from slavery. God had reassured Moses over and over again that he would equip Moses for the task he had been called to. Moses expressed some doubts, and God responded with some supernatural confirmations. Moses even tried to back out, so God sent in reinforcement in the form of Moses’ brother, Aaron. Clearly, God was determined to deliver the Israelites and was equally determined to employ Moses in that effort. Unable to get away from God’s call on his life, Moses heads back to Egypt to confront Pharaoh. But instead of releasing the Israelites, Pharaoh dismisses both Moses and his God and doubles down by heaping even heavier burdens on God’s people.

It seemed like God wasn’t holding up his end of the deal. It seemed like Moses was justified in his frustration toward God: “For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all” (Exodus 5:23).

But things are not always as they seem.

A few thousand years later, you and I have the benefit of knowing that God ended up holding up his end of the deal—in pretty miraculous ways, actually. But Moses didn’t have the benefit of knowing that in the moment. All he could see was that his efforts did not result in what God had promised to do.

Maybe that’s how you feel. You’re doing the best you can to walk in obedience to the Lord; you’re striving to remain faithful to what he’s called you to do and who he’s called you to be, but if you’re honest, you feel like you’re the only one holding up your end of the deal. It’s frustrating—Moses would agree.

Just hang tight, because “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God’s plan of redemption is still patiently unfolding—and while the end result may be unknown to you, it isn’t unknown to God. In time, he’ll hold up his end of the deal. He always has, he always does, and he always will.

Exodus 2-3

Identity. Intention. Indication. When we think of Moses, we often have a clear picture in our minds of the type of man he was based on the biblical accounts we study about his life. This passage takes us on a warp speed journey from Moses’ birth to his interaction with God at the burning bush. About 80 years of life summed up in two chapters. It’s the foundation for our picture of Moses’ identity. It’s a striking display of God’s intention in the calling of Moses. It’s an indication of a far greater Rescuer to come.

Moses was an ordinary man whose life was defined by his dramatic start and his hesitant, yet ultimate, obedience to lead God’s people to freedom. We often think of the patience he must have had to endure the complaints of the Israelites over the years. The way he interceded on their behalf even though they continually questioned his leadership. Sometimes, we even put him on a pedestal. In reality, Moses was an ordinary man whose identity was found in his relationship with his Creator. God called him into relationship and then into service. God intentionally sought after Moses and used him for the deliverance of His people. God had no need of human help, however, He intentionally used Moses for His glory. His inclusion of Moses as a rescuer, indicates and points us to the perfect Rescuer. Unlike our perfect Rescuer, Moses was a sinner and he questioned God regularly. He was slow to obey and still failed on occasion. Jesus is better. Jesus lived a sinless life, willingly taking on our sin and rescuing us from our certain separation from God.

As we go out (or stay in) today, let’s remember where our identity is found. It’s not found in our own success or accomplishments, but rather it is rooted in our relationship with our Creator. God intentionally calls us as Christ-followers to be in relationship with Him and serve Him in whatever we do. We are called to bring glory to Him above all else. Our lives should be an indication of God’s mercy and grace. Our lives should point those around us to the Rescuer who paid the greatest price for our freedom from sin.

Genesis 50 – Exodus 1

Finishing the book of Genesis is a great reminder of just how big the Bible is. So much has happened in these 50 chapters. It feels like we should be reaching the end of the story at some point, but we are definitely somehow still at the beginning. The transition into Exodus can also serve as a reminder that the Scriptures are connected and that the story of God’s work is continuous. It feels like Exodus 1 could just as easily be Genesis 51.

Today is a good day to reflect on what we have read. What were the main events of Genesis? What would you consider your favorite part? What has God revealed to you through consistent study of His word? As we read the first chapter and look ahead to this next book, what do you already know about Exodus? Feel free to write some answers down if you’d like.

If you’re looking for a takeaway as Genesis comes to a close, these are the verses that hit home for me:

19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

Genesis 50:19-20, ESV

Joseph went through a lot, but he knew that it was all for a reason.

God meant it for good.

Genesis 48-49

In the words of Inigo Montoya from the cult classic film The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” Maybe that’s how you felt as you read Genesis 48-49. The headings in my Bible label these sections “Jacob Blesses Ephraim and Manasseh” and “Jacob Blesses His Sons,” but reading these chapters makes something abundantly clear–we don’t use the word “blessing” like the Bible does.

For us, a blessing is something we receive from God or maybe a short prayer before a meal. It’s something we celebrate with a hashtag when the promotion comes through or the medical report is good, but for Jacob’s sons, blessings aren’t limited to what we could consider positive occurrences.

Ephraim and Manasseh are both blessed by Jacob, but he makes it clear that Manasseh won’t be as great as his younger brother. Then come the blessings on the sons of Jacob. Reuben is described as strong, dignified, and powerful, but also unstable. Simeon and Levi are violent and angry. Judah receives a lengthy and positive blessing, Zebulun’s geographical borders are described, and Issachar is called a strong donkey who “became a servant at forced labor.” Dan will judge, which seems positive in context, but he will also be like a snake, which is never good. Gad, Asher, and Naphtali continue the mixture of blessings before Jacob pronounces the longest blessing on Joseph, acknowledging his many challenges as well as his steadfastness in them. Finally, you probably shouldn’t mess with Benjamin. He’ll fight you.

“All these are the twelve tribes of Israel. This is what their father said to them as he blessed them, blessing each with the blessing suitable to him.”

Genesis 49:28, ESV

The word “blessed” cannot mean what we think it means. For us, blessings are transactional, about me getting what I want out of a situation, but for Jacob and his family, blessings are relational, about how one person or group relates to another, about how even the most difficult circumstances will not remove the promised presence of the Lord (v. 18). This is not only how the Bible talks about blessing, it’s also how we experience blessing. When things are going well, when things are going badly, and at every point in between, God is with his people, even if his presence is at times inconceivable. That is the blessing.