Israel’s Future Success, Exodus 13:17-15:21

True faith depends on what God says, not on what we see or how we feel. It has well been said that faith is not believing in spite of evidence—that’s superstition—but obeying in spite of consequence.”  -Warren Wiersbe

Apart from Israel’s exodus being an interesting historical event, God has recorded Exodus for our benefit. Warren Wiersbe makes some great observations about Israel’s exodus experience in his book Be Delivered. He writes, “Israel’s exodus experience taught them that their future success lay in fulfilling three important responsibilities: following the Lord (Ex. 13:17-22), trusting the Lord (14:1-31), and praising the Lord (15:12-21).”

Following the Lord (13:17-22)

The exodus from Egypt was just the beginning of Israel’s experience with God.

It took one night to take Israel out of Egypt, but forty years to take Egypt out of Israel.” – George Morrison

This truth also applies to the redemption we have in Jesus Christ. God delivers us from the bondage of sin and spiritual death instantaneously through salvation. But it takes a life time to grow in our Christian walk as God brings us into eternal blessing.

Weirsbe writes: “A.W. Tozer used to remind us that ‘we are saved to as well as saved from.’ The person who trusts Jesus is born again into the family of God, but that’s just the beginning of an exciting adventure that should lead to growth and conquest. God liberates us and then leads us through the varied experiences of life, a day at a time, so that we might get to know Him better and claim by faith all that He wants us to have. At the same time, we come to know ourselves better; we discover our strengths and weaknesses, and we grow in understanding God’s will and trusting His promises.”

If Israel obeyed God, He would give them their inheritance by bringing them into the promised land (Deut. 4:37-38). Unfortunately, that would take the Israelites 40 years of wilderness wandering.

Trusting the Lord (14:1-31)

As the Israelites learned, sometimes God leads us on paths that don’t always make sense.

Wiersbe writes: “As long as the Israelites kept their eyes on the fiery pillar and followed the Lord, they were walking by faith and no enemy could touch them. But when they took their eyes off the Lord and looked back and saw the Egyptians getting nearer, they became frightened and began to complain.”

This seems to be Israel’s default button during their journey from Egypt to Canaan. But before criticizing them too much, maybe I should ask: “At what point does my default setting change from trust and contentment to unbelief and complaining?”

God wants us to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Like Peter walking on the water to Jesus (Matt. 14:30), I find that I rise above fear and doubt when my gaze is locked on Christ. But, like Peter, when my attention is focused on stormy circumstances, I sink in fear. And like the Jews who were sure they were going to die in the desert, I easily forget God’s promises when I don’t consistently read His directional guide, the Bible.

So what are we to learn from the Israelites’ example? Wiersbe writes, “Simply this: Life is a constant test of one’s faith in the Lord. As a child of God, every perilous situation I find myself in is no accident. It is the Lord’s way of asking us a very important question: ‘Will you trust Me?’ He asks, ‘Will you trust Me to deliver you from this perilous situation? . . . . And if I choose not to deliver you in the way that you desire, for reasons of My own, will you trust Me to provide you with the strength to endure, believing that: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness?’” (2 Cor. 12:9).

We may not have God’s visible presence now, but we can trust His Word to direct our ways and get to know Him better through prayer. Through life’s storms we can anchor our trust in the mighty God who not only hears our cries, but also powerfully commands the impossible.

Praising the Lord (15:12-21)

With their freedom secured and their enemies drowned, the Israelites burst into a praise song led by Moses and Miriam. . . . But I best stop here and pick up on their praise and worship next week. . . . Blessings!

Israel’s Deliverance, Exodus 14:10-31

Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.’” – Exodus 14:13-14

You may read Exodus 14:10-31 here: Bible Gateway.

Perhaps this is the first instance of the Israelites’ bitter grumbling as they accuse Moses of bringing them out of Egypt only to die in the desert. I wonder if the Israelites’ cries were louder than the pounding hoofs of the Egyptians’ horses as the men swept in for the kill.

Moses, however, tries to assure them that God will deliver. But Moses’ words seem to fade in the dust as the Egyptians draw closer. So Moses does what any normal person would do—cry out to God.

Although this passage of Israel passing through the Red Sea is one of the most popular and dramatic events recorded in the Old Testament, the following verse stood out to me: “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on . . . . ‘” (v. 15).

Why would God tell Moses to stop praying and get moving? Aren’t we suppose to seek God in everything? Especially in times of great stress and uncertainty?

I found The Life Application Study Bible commentary helpful (and convicting!): “Prayer must have a vital place in our lives, but there is also a place for action. Sometimes we know what to do, but we pray for more guidance as an excuse to postpone doing it. If we know what we should do, then it is time to get moving.”

Layman’s Bible Commentary writes: “Moses knows that God has guided the Israelites to this place—between the Red Sea and the Egyptians. The pillar has led them there (13:21-22; 14:19), and God has explained His plan to Moses—so that He could gain glory through Pharaoh and his army (14:1-4). Moses knew that God had promised to bring the Israelites into the land of Canaan, which was across and beyond the Red Sea (Genesis 15:13-21; Exodus 3:7-8; 16-17; 6:4; 12:25; 13:5). Moses also knew that God had given him power through the use of his staff.”

Well, you know the rest of the story: God delivers Israel—once for all—from Pharaoh’s dominion in dramatic fashion; the nation of Israel is birthed; and the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea is God’s culminating act of divine judgment.

I love the animation and visual effects from the “Prince of Egypt” movie. Enjoy!

 

Charting Israel’s Course, Exodus 13:17-14:9

When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.” –Exodus 13:17-18

You may read Exodus 13:17-14:9 here: Bible Gateway.

While Egypt buried its dead, the Hebrew slaves left as a free people.

The Israelites left Succoth and camped first at Ethan before going to Baal Zephon to camp by the sea.

The shortest route would have been the road crossing through the Philistine country. But, as stated in the opening verses, God reasoned that He didn’t want them to face war and lose heart. This sounds strange since verse 18 tells us “The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle”.  Layman’s Bible Commentary helps clarify: “The expression used here has been understood to refer only to the orderly way in which the Israelites (nearly two million people, counting women and children) departed Egypt. Others understand that the Israelites did come out of Egypt at least partially armed, but all seem to agree that Israel was not at all prepared to fight a full-scale battle at this point in time.”

To me, the coolest part of Israel’s departure was how God led them. “By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.  Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people,” (13:21-22).

The Israelites must have felt safe and secure with God leading them in this visible manifestation. However, they probably questioned Moses’ directional sense when he told them to turn back and camp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. But Moses was simply following God’s marching orders. Knowing that Pharaoh would think the Israelites are confused in the desert, God would harden Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh would predictably pursue them.

Sure enough, according to the NIV Life Application Study Bible, six hundred Egyptian war chariots bore down on the helpless Israelites as they found themselves trapped between the mountains and the sea (14:9).

But what appeared to be a foolish idea to the Israelites, God would use for His glory “and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD,” (v. 4).

Reflect

Have you ever felt like you were treading backwards instead of moving toward your intended goal? I know I have. In retrospect I can sometimes see how God’s direction, which seemed confusing at the time, ended in blessing. Other times, I’ve just had to trust that He is working everything out for my good since He sees the end journey from the beginning.

I admit, during the confusing times I’ve thought: if I only had an obvious directional sign—like God leading the Israelites in a pillar of cloud and fire—then I would know God’s will!  But then God reminds me that the Israelites didn’t own a direction manual like we have in the Bible. God manifested His presence to them not only to show His visible presence, but also to protect and lead them on their journey to the promised land.

I’m reminded that we are not only blessed with access to God’s Word, but we also have the same assurance of God’s presence and leading. For example, God’s Word tells us how to discern His will:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will,” (Romans 12:2).

And though we can’t see God, we read in Scripture: “He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.  God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being,’” (Acts 17:25-28).

And when I flip over to Psalm 9:10, I’m reminded that no matter what we face, the Lord never forsakes those who seek Him. What a great assurance! So when in doubt, reroute, to God and the Bible that is. When we seek and pray, He’ll light the way. . . . Have a great week!

The Passover, Exodus 12-13:16

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. If any household is too small for a whole lamb, they must share one with their nearest neighbor, having taken into account the number of people there are. You are to determine the amount of lamb needed in accordance with what each person will eat.  The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. Take care of them until the fourteenth day of the month, when all the members of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight.  Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.” –Exodus 12:1-8

You may read Exodus 12-13:16 here: Bible Gateway.

God instituted the holiday of Passover. So begins God’s story of redemption, the central theme of the Bible. Redemption means “to buy back” or “to save from captivity by paying a ransom.” A slave could be purchased by offering an equivalent or superior slave in exchange. This is a picture of how God chose to buy us back from captivity to sin and spiritual death. But God didn’t purchase us with a superior slave.  Instead, He offered His perfect sinless Son so we could live with Him forever.

In Old Testament times, God accepted symbolic offerings: an animal’s life for the sinner’s life.

For the Israelites to be spared from the death plague, a lamb without defects had to be killed. God commanded its blood be placed on the door frames of each home. The innocent lamb was a substitute for the person who would have died in this final plague—another picture, or symbol, of Christ being our sacrificial Lamb.

God didn’t spare the firstborn of the Israelites because they were more righteous than the Egyptians, but rather by His grace alone. God also made provision for non-Israelites to participate in Passover if they acknowledged their faith in the Abrahamic Covenant, as demonstrated through circumcision (Genesis 17:9-14; Exodus 12:48-49). Since a large number of non-Israelites left Egypt with Israel (v 38), It’s likely that many Egyptians converted as a result of the plagues and were spared death through Passover’s provision.

The Passover is proof of God’s possession of Israel. The firstborn of Israel belonged to God as a result of the Passover, and all of Israel was God’s possession as a result of the Exodus. All of the commandments and requirements which God placed upon the Israelites were predicated upon the fact that they were a people who belonged to Him.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary

Like the redemption of the firstborn and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover was to become a permanent part of Israel’s religious liturgy (12:24-25). The Passover not only memorializes God’s mighty hand in Israel’s deliverance from slavery, but also serves as instruction and a reminder for Israel’s future generations (12:26-27; 13:8, 14-16).

Believers today also experience a deliverance and restoration to God. When Jesus came and ushered in the New Covenant, He made repeated animal sacrifice no longer necessary. His sacrificial death on the cross enables the believer’s redemption—deliverance from spiritual death and slavery to sin—through belief and trust in Him. By taking the penalty we deserve, Christ’s blood sacrifice covers us, sparing us from the spiritual death we deserve because of our sin (Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:13-15, 23-26).

I found the following 38 minute video, “Christ in the Passover”, really interesting and insightful. David Brickner, Executive Director of Jews for Jesus, links the ancient Festival of Redemption and Christ as the Lamb of God in a meaningful visual sermon demonstration. If you have time, I encourage you to view it, especially as Passover draws closer. . . . Blessings!

Strike Ten: Death and Judgment, Exodus 11

So Moses said, “This is what the Lord says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the female slave, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any person or animal.’”  -Exodus 11:4-7

The death of Egypt’s firstborn is the final plague that drives Pharaoh to release the Israelites.

(freebibleimages.org) You may read Exodus 11 here: Bible Gateway.

(freebibleimages.org)
You may read Exodus 11 here: Bible Gateway.

God’s judgment of sin is not a popular or comfortable subject. However, judgment is part of God’s divine revelation, although advocates for false religions will tell you otherwise. The plagues on Egypt—especially the slaughter of Egypt’s firstborn—don’t make for light reading. We’re reminded how seriously God takes sin. “This text insists that we examine and accept the meaning and application of God’s judgment at work in His creation and in the lives of His people,” (Layman’s Bible Commentary).

It’s good to keep in mind, however, that not all disasters and calamities are a result of sin. Job is a great example. His exemplary walk with God motivated Satan’s desire to destroy him. God, knowing how Job would respond, allowed Satan to fling his fiery afflictions on Job. But God used this adversity as a means of Job’s spiritual growth and immensely blessed him in the end.

God is not silent when punishing people for sin. “When He is silent at the time of the suffering of a saint, this is a test of faith, not an evidence of God’s judgment,” (Layman’s).

Layman’s Bible Commentary also observes the following perspectives on the severity of God’s judgment and the Egyptians:

  • God judged the gods of Egypt more than He did the Egyptians. Just as hell is the place prepared for Satan and his angels, so judgment here is for the Egyptian gods and whoever chooses to serve these gods.
  • God’s judgment may be intended to bring some of the Egyptians to a saving faith. The fact that some Egyptians leave Egypt with the Israelites (Exodus 12:38) gives substance to this possibility.
  • God’s judgment upon the Egyptians is the means of delivering His people from terrible bondage.
  • God’s judgment is poured out upon His own Son on the cross of Calvary, so that all mankind might be saved. God’s “severity” extended to His own Son. There was an alternative provided by God to suffering the plagues of Egypt—heeding God’s warning and doing as He commanded. God’s judgment could be avoided by faith and obedience.
  • Finally, these plagues are a prototype, a sample of God’s future judgment. They are like those which Israel will experience (Deuteronomy 28:27) if they disobey the law God is soon to give. There is much similarity between the plagues of Egypt and the plagues described in the book of Revelation, which are poured out upon the earth in the last days, preceding the return of the Lord. Thus, in Revelation we find the victorious tribulation saints singing the “song of Moses” (Revelation 15:3).

Next week, I’ll explore Israel’s first Passover in Exodus 12. . . . Have a great week!