Time to get back in the saddle. I just had a discussion with my Sunday school pals about utilizing our spiritual gifts. Each of us has a gift, some more than one, that we ought to use regularly to advance the Gospel message. I love to read and write, and the Bible is absolutely my most favorite read ever. So why not use my gift accordingly?
So here is a brief recap of the book of Exodus leading up to chapter 17, which is where I will begin tomorrow… to be timely, there is no way I could put up ALL of the significant events within Exodus since there are so many, and it is one of my favorite books so I could definitely get long-winded again, I will just list the MAJOR significant events that explain how the Israelites ended up where they are in chapter 17.
Actually, let me back up to Genesis a bit. In the last section of Genesis, the life of Joseph was covered. Joseph was a fascinating Biblical figure, with extreme faith in extreme circumstances. Joseph was the favored son of Jacob, favored so much that he received a special coat of many colors that only stood to increase the envy his brothers had for him. In their jealousy, Joseph’s brothers plotted against him. They sold him into Egyptian slavery, took his beloved coat and splattered it with an animal’s blood, and deceived Jacob into thinking his favored son had perished.
What is most interesting in the story of Joseph is how God was working even then, and continued to work all throughout Joseph’s lives. So even when Joseph’s brothers thought they had claimed a victory in that Joseph was gone, the victory still belonged to God, as He was establishing the Israelites without their knowing.
In Egypt Joseph gained favor with everyone with whom he came into contact. To make a long story short, Joseph had the God-given ability to interpret dreams, and when Pharaoh had a dream he could not understand, he sent for Joseph, who was able to tell him that the country would soon face a major widespread famine. The dream came true, Joseph gained high status, and wouldn’t you know it, the famine affected his brothers and they came to Joseph, unknowingly, for nourishment. Joseph revealed himself to his brothers (after some tests, mind you), they reconciled, sent for his father Jacob, and the entire family, some seventy people, moved to Egypt.
Here is where Exodus begins. Unfortunately, the Pharaoh who favored Joseph died, and that generation died out as well. When a new pharaoh was installed, he was one who was unfamiliar with Joseph’s good reputation and began to see the growing number of Israelites a threat against his power. At the beginning of Exodus, the king/pharaoh makes the decision to enslave the Israelites. However, this blessed people continued to grow, causing the king to come up with a new plan—he ordered the two midwives that aided Israelite women in childbirth to kill all newborn Israelite/Hebrew baby boys. Luckily, these women were God-fearing and would not do it. The Hebrew population continued to grow, and the king issued a decree that all Hebrew baby boys were to be thrown into the Nile River. This is Exodus chapter 1.
In chapter 2, we read that a man and woman, both from the tribe of Levi, came together to conceive a baby boy. The mother knew the possible fate of her newborn, so she successfully kept him hidden for three months. (I wonder if the midwives from the previous chapter helped, or did she have this baby secretly? If so how did she manage to conceal the pregnancy and birth? How did she explain that? Not that it is central to the story, I just always have questions )
Anyway, once this Levite woman could no longer hide the baby, she fashioned a basket of reeds and propelled the baby in the basket down the Nile River, the very river he was supposed to have been drowned in (don’t you love the irony?). Miriam, the baby’s older sister, watches the basket float down the water to where Pharaoh’s daughter is bathing. She feels sympathetic toward the crying infant and recognizes that it is one of the Hebrew babies. Miriam comes forward and asks the daughter if she would like for her to find one of the Hebrew women so that she can care for the baby. When Pharaoh’s daughter says yes, Miriam promptly finds her mother—the baby’s mother. (Imagine the joy that mother felt when she saw her son was safe!). Not only did the mother get her baby back, but she was also PAID by Pharaoh’s daughter to care for him. (Another sidebar—if all Hebrew boys were to be killed, I wonder what were the extra details that kept this baby alive—if Pharaoh’s daughter was the sole reason this baby, upon his being found, was not killed). This is the man we now know as Moses.
As Moses grows older, although he lives a privileged existence in relation to that of his Hebrew brethren, he begins to become more aware of their struggle and identify with them as his own people. It must have been a difficult time for him. Imagine living a life of comfort and relative ease, but knowing somehow you are different from everyone, and then seeing the persecution of the people who look like you… I assume he felt some sort of guilt about that, but who knows. Anyhoo, when Moses sees one of the Hebrews being mistreated by an Egyptian, he kills the Egyptian in secrecy—or so he thought. As it turns out, someone had seen him and called him out on it, causing Moses to flee to Midian. There, he meets his wife Zipporah. Back in Egypt, the king dies, but the Hebrews are still being treated horribly. Unbeknownst to them, God has heard their cries and has a response prepared.
In Chapter 3 of Exodus God speaks to Moses from a burning bush, a theophany, or visible manifestation of God (he uses many). God reveals His plan to Moses: He was rescue the Hebrews from their current conditions and bless them with a great land. He tells Moses that he will be their leader, and Moses, understandably, protests: “I am not a great man!” God reminds him of something we ALL can stand to remember—if we have been imbued with the power of God, that is MAGNIFICENT power, and THAT makes us great. We are nothing on our own, but everything God wants us to be when we are empowered by him and allow him to use us.
In Chapter 4 Moses asks for God to provide him some proof he can show to the Hebrews that God has sent him to lead them. He knows that, like most people are today, the Hebrews are not going to believe anything they can’t see. God gives him several signs, but Moses still lacks confidence. I can relate to his hesitation. He was probably measuring himself against worldly standards—how do we define “great” people? Society puts attractive, charismatic, and wealthy people on a pedestal. I do not know what Moses looked like, but he was most concerned about his charisma in terms of his speech. He was not a powerful orator. He asks for a helper, and gets his brother Aaron—which may or may not have been the best idea. Moses goes back to Egypt, performed the miracles, and the people believe him.
Chapter 5 begins the many petitions Moses and Aaron submit to the pharaoh imploring them to let the Hebrews go. Here they ask for permission to go have a three-day festival. Pharaoh says no and makes their enslavement even more difficult. Moses goes to God for help, and in chapter 6, God instructs Moses to tell the king that he must let the people leave. This chapter also includes a mini-census, and concludes with God repeating his call to Moses, and Moses again asking how he can make the king listen. Obviously he hasn’t yet grasped the fact that God will do the talking for him. God reminds him of this in chapter 7, and here we learn that Moses is a man of 80 years and Aaron is 83 (so Aaron somehow also escaped being killed, which makes me wonder how he escaped death by drowning). Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh, and to show his God-given power, Moses throws his walking stick to the ground and it becomes a snake. Unfortunately, the court’s magicians are able to replicate the miracle, and the king dismisses their request. Let the plagues begin!
The first plague is the plague of blood. The Nile River, which the Egyptians worshiped as a god, turned to blood, and everything in it died and caused a great stink, and the Egyptians obviously could not drink from it. Chapter 8 has the next plague, the plague of frogs, followed by the plagues of lice and flies. In Chapter 9 God afflicts the farm animals with a great disease and all of them die, but the farm animals of the Hebrews are left unscathed. Pharaoh’s heart (and understand that I use the terms Pharaoh and king interchangeably) remains hardened, so next comes the plague of boils. After that is the plague of hail, and at this point Pharaoh agrees to let the people go. After the plague is lifted he reneges on his promise and refuses to let them go.
With that, in chapter 10 Pharaoh attempts to make a deal. He says only the Hebrew men can go worship the Lord. However, God is not a deal-making God. That is not sufficient. On comes the plague of locusts, followed by a plague of darkness. Pharaoh again attempts to make another deal—the Hebrews can leave, but they have to leave their sheep and cattle with them. God is not interested.
Chapter 11 brings about the beginning of the worst of the plagues—the plague of the firstborn. In Chapter 12, we read of the first Passover. In preparation for this plague, the Hebrews are instructed to sacrifice a young animal and put some of the animal’s blood on the doorframe of their house. This event also includes a special meal. Of central importance is the blood—the blood on the doorframe would be a special sign to the Lord to pass over that home when he took Egypt’s firstborn. The plague of the firstborn is realized, and all the Egyptian firstborn, even animals, die at midnight. That is the last straw. Pharaoh is all too happy now to have the Israelites leave—at least for now. Not only did the Hebrews leave; they left wealthy. The Egyptians gave them whatever they asked for and more. There were about 600,000 people, some of them Egyptians who had obviously been compelled to believe in the Hebrew God after this magnificent show of power, not counting small children. We find that the total number of Hebrew enslavement had been 430 years, and here God gives the rules for His Passover celebration.
In Chapter 13 God begins giving some of the rules He will continue to dole out as He builds this brand new nation. The Passover is to be commemorated yearly, and the firstborn male (human and animal) belongs to God. The trip of out Egypt begins, and the bones of Joseph are brought along with them.
Pharaoh realizes that his cash cow has gone in Chapter 14 and gives chase—how is he going to replace the free slave labor provided by that many people? A cloud stands between the Israelites and the Egyptians, allowing the Israelites to continue their journey in the light while the Egyptians fight against the darkness. God allows for the Red Sea to be parted in this chapter, a truly amazing event.
Chapter 15 includes what I believe is the first recorded song in the Bible, a song of victory, and includes the beginning of a series of complaints and lack of faith in the Israelites as they find they have no water. The complaints continue into chapter 16, when the people accuse Moses and Aaron of leading them into the desert to die from hunger. In response God allows for meat (in the form of quail) and bread (manna) to rain down from the sky. Specific instructions come with this food, including only gathering enough for that day so as to not have spoiled or contaminated food, and some people openly disobey the instructions and worms get into their food. (I suppose they didn’t trust that they would get more the next day). A brief mention of the Sabbath is included here, when people disobey and try to go gather food (apparently they did not follow the instructions to gather twice as much food the previous day)
That takes us to chapter 17. I am excited. See you soon.
instructions to gather twice as much the day before).
And that leads us to chapter 17. I am excited. See you soon.