Have we ever been on an adventure in this week’s reading? What’s a good title for it? “Please, No! Don’t Make Me Go (to Egypt)!” or “You Can’t Make Me Let You Go!” or “Our God is an Awesome God!” We’ve had all kinds of drama in these familiar stories about Moses following God’s command to go to Egypt to tell Pharaoh “Let my people go!” and we conclude with the chosen people’s first steps out of Egypt.
scripture– From the end of Genesis to the children of Israel leaving Egypt—430 years to the day after arriving there. The following are all from New Living Translation:
“But Lord!” Moses objected. “My own people won’t listen to me anymore. How can I expect Pharaoh to listen? I’m such a clumsy speaker!
exodus 9:16 (For Pharaoh)
But I have spared you for a purpose—to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Return to Pharaoh and make your demands again. I have made him and his officials stubborn so I can display my miraculous signs among them. 2 I’ve also done it so you can tell your children and grandchildren about how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and about the signs I displayed among them—and so you will know that I am the Lord.”
observations—There’s a lot that popped out in my reading over this week, but I’m going to focus on what I observed about people who are nimbly obedient to their God and people who will reject the one, true God no matter what it costs. Moses and Pharaoh represent these kinds of people.
In spite of a puny view of self and of God, Moses accepts God’s call to go back to Egypt and lead God’s people to freedom. Moses informs God that he’s not a good candidate for this job. Moses doesn’t know if anybody in his birth family is even alive and he sure doesn’t know if the people wanting him for murder are alive either. He really doesn’t think he’s a leader or a good enough speaker to take on this job. He doesn’t know what God’s name is. Why would the people listen to him at all?
Moses doesn’t really know Who he’s dealing with. He has yet to learn the power of the God of his ancestors—the love of the One who’s choosing him. And Moses thinks his capacity is rooted solely in who and what he is. Moses is like most of us: we accept our assessment of ourselves and a situation as what is real and don’t factor in an all powerful, loving God who will equip us “for every good work that He prepared for us in advance” and Who will be with us. After Ex. 6, Moses surrenders his viewpoint and begins walking out the mission with God. He puts his confidence in the powerful God he is getting to know and thinking less of his own limitations and Pharaoh’s power. He keeps going back to Pharaoh and saying that the Lord says “Let my people go so they can worship me.” When Pharaoh begs for another plague to end and another and another, Moses keeps calling out to God to end the plague and receive next instructions. He’s nimbly obedient: doing right now what God tells him to do. And as a result: what stories Moses (and his people) had to tell! He believed God and he “got to” be a player in an epic story.
I wondered how long it took for all these plagues to take place: scholars give different answers but, essentially, the plagues happened pretty quickly. Not in a day or a week but maybe a month or a couple of months? This would give everybody time to reflect but not necessarily recoup after the plague. What was Moses learning about God and His power? He could’ve said to himself as things settled down between plagues “I think this is all crazy. Pharaoh is going to squish me and my people like a bug!” But Moses seems to wait, hear, and obey with great rewards.
Meanwhile, the time serves as an incubator for Pharaoh: a precious opportunity to recognize that the Egyptian gods were powerless but the God Moses revealed is supreme over all and for all. Each plague was a chance for him to repent. Scripture reveals that Pharaoh did not ever really repent or change his mind at all—even though, he finally acknowledges that he is sinning. His rejection of God is deliberate though the decision costs more and more each time. After the plagues that his magicians could copy, after the gnats when the magicians exclaimed “this is the finger of God! (Ex. 8: 19), against all reason, he will not listen; he will not budge. Even after his firstborn son dies, he doesn’t stick with acknowledging God and letting God’s people go. He will not bow to the personal, present, powerful God of these slaves. Period. We don’t know exactly which Pharaoh is the main character here but we have a clear picture of his defeat, the consequences of a hardened heart. He completely rejects this God; this will not be his God.
Also, as Pastor Jeff shared last Sunday about baptism as a physical practice demonstrating commitment, Moses and the Israelites took actions to demonstrate their commitment (e.g., wear your clothes and sandals, eat the Passover sacrifice before the morning, don’t use leavening in your bread, eat bitter herbs.) God expected His people to follow the physical practices He outlined and He still does. That’s why Cherry Hills can celebrate with 39 people who submitted themselves to being baptized on Sunday!
application –Will I be nimbly obedient as God calls, obeying Him because I’ve acknowledged Him and seen His power and His love over and over and over again? I will not reject His guidance today. I will not reject it tomorrow. I will not dig in my heels and “lean to my own understanding” but I will obey Him.
As for those who do not know God as their LORD: this story is sobering. God has demonstrated great love and patience but one day, all the opportunities to acknowledge Him will be gone and God will let people choose to reject Him. And it will cost them everything just as it did Pharaoh. This is also a reminder to believers to pray that those who do not know Him yet will not let their hearts be hardened.
prayer — Father, I don’t want to forget that I can do all things through You who give me strength. I don’t want to forget that my capacity isn’t in myself but in how You have equipped me and Your church. Oh, LORD, let me also continue to see Your great works! Father, give me ears to hear and eyes to see what You are asking of me right now and give me Your Holy Spirit to give me strength to obey You. You are my God!