Day 35 – Exodus 16-18

Day 35
Exodus 16-18

Everybody grumbles. We are grumblous–full of grumbles. It’s probably the most ubiquitous element of modern communication. Technically, grumbling is an onomatopoeic term that refers to indistinct sounds of muttering or murmuring. It’s growling between your teeth. There’s something bodily, even animalistic, about grumbling. Spiritually, it’s a sin. According to the Bible, it’s an act of rebellion against God. Seditious behavior. Needless to say, God takes grumbling seriously.

One month after leaving Egypt, the Israelites traveled deeper into the wilderness. They set up camp in the wilderness of Sin and grumbled (no pun intended). They grumbled that Moses and Aaron had escorted them into the desert, only to let them starve to death (16:2-3). They even viewed, through rose-colored glasses, the good ol’ days in Egypt when their pots were full of meat and they baked loaf after loaf of fresh bread in their state-of-the- art ovens. They grumbled against Moses and Aaron, but they were really grumbling against the Lord (7-8). Grumbling is defiance against God. So, God designed a test (4) so that they would know that He is God (12). He miraculously provided them with meat in the form of quail and bread in the form of manna. The meat came down like dust and the bread came down from heaven like rain (cf. Psalm 78:27). At twilight, quail came up from the ground and in the morning manna (literally, “what is it?”) appeared like frost. Enough to feed millions. By the way, manna would become a staple for the Israelites over the next forty years. In the wilderness, they ate manna waffles, manna burgers, manna bagels, filet of manna, manna-cotti, and even BaManna bread (kudos to Keith Green!). God gave them precise instructions for gathering their daily quota of manna (no hoarding or leftovers permitted). They were to collect twice as much on Friday, so that there would be no gathering on Saturday. As it happened, the seventh day was to be a Sabbath-day of rest (29-30). Unfortunately, some failed the test miserably. They tried to hoard the manna but it spoiled. They tried to gather on the Sabbath, but no manna was provided. Moses became angry with this nation of Grumbletonians (20), and the Lord confronted their chronic disobedience (28).

As it happened, their grumbling was hard to overcome. It was a way of life for them. As the Israelites moved on from Sin, in stages, they came to waterless Rephidim (17:1). They were dehydrated. But rather than pray and trust God, who miraculously provided all they needed, they quarreled and grumbled. The Israelites had such short memories. Their experience at Mara had only been a few weeks earlier (cf. Exodus 15:22-25). Ironically, Rephidim means “resting place” but it became “Quarrelville” or Meribah (7). They accused Moses of trying to kill them with thirst. They picked up rocks and threatened to stone him (2-4). Evidently, if they were going to perish in the desert, they figured that Moses should be first. Worst of all, in contending with Moses, they were testing the Lord saying, “Where is He? He is failing us.” (7). Looking back upon this episode, Moses charged them with actually taking God to court (cf. Deuteronomy 33:8). They accused Him of breaking His covenant with them. God, however, was famously forbearing. Moses prayed and God told him to take a few elders with him, stand before the rock at Horeb, and strike it with his staff. In this way, the Lord provided water for His people. As it happened, the Lord had told Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb” (6). In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul declared that Jesus was the Rock in a weary land. The people drank from the spiritual Rock, who was Christ.

The Israelites had to face the enemy that was within. As it happened, they also had to confront the enemy who was without. While camping at Rephidim, they were attacked by the Amalekites (8). Perhaps, they attacked the Israelites over water-rights. This became their first military foray in a long campaign to occupy the Promised Land. It was also to serve as a template for how God intended the Israelites to fight every battle they faced. Joshua is introduced, matter-of-factly, as Moses’ aide-de-camp. He was their commanding general. While Moses sent Joshua and a company of soldiers onto the field of battle, Moses climbed to the top of a hill to pray. The tide of battle alternated between victory and defeat depending on whether Moses’ arms were raised (victory) or drooped (defeat). When he grew weary, Aaron and Hur (the son of Caleb) assisted Moses as he interceded (12). As Moses lifted up His hands to the throne of the Lord, victory for Joshua was assured (16). This was to be Israel’s banner of triumph. When they came under attack and had to fight, Yahweh-Nissi, “The Lord is My Banner,” will fight for them. Just like Jesus is our Rock, He is also our banner: “In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal (literally, “banner”) for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10).

As it happened, Moses had briefly entrusted his wife and sons to Jethro for care while he led the Israelites out of Egypt (18:2-4). When they were finally reunited at Horeb, or Sinai, Moses shared with his father-in-law the mighty exploits of God (8-10). Jethro came to the decisive reality that Yahweh is greater than all gods” (11b) and he sacrificed to the living God (12). The next day, Jethro saw Moses trying to adjudicate every dispute in the fledgling nation. Insightfully, he urged Moses to organize a judicial system so that most disputes could be heard in lower courts, while reserving the toughest cases for the higher court, represented by Moses (24). In the end, the people were better served, and Moses wouldn’t wear himself out. Good advice, Jethro.

Almighty God, You are so patient with me. You have displayed Your grace and power in such spectacular ways but I so easily slip into grumbling and complaining. Forgive me when I begin to think that You exist to serve my appetites and make me happy. You are neither my Divine Butler or Cosmic Therapist. You are Yahweh-Nissi, my Banner. Thank you also, for the common grace and sensible advice You offer me through the wisdom of others. Make me open and teachable to ideas that will help when Your work is being hindered. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

Bread from Heaven – They set out from Elim, and all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai,…

Day 34 – Exodus 13-15

Day 34
Exodus 13-15

Redemption is costly. The redeemer pays a great price to redeem. The redeemed, as a result, belong to the redeemer. As Christians, our redemption was paid for by the death of Christ. It cost us nothing. The result of our high-priced redemption, though, is that we no longer belong to ourselves. “You are not your own, you were bought at a price” (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9).

After 430 years of servitude, and a series of severe blows by God against their oppressors, the Israelites were leaving Egypt. They escaped with unleavened bread wrapped in their clothes and the treasures of Egypt in their bags. On their way, Moses delivered a remarkable speech to the Israelites. First of all, he established a feast in order to help them remember their deliverance (13:3-10). Secondly, he unpacked what their redemption meant for them personally in the law of the firstborn. (11-16). The Feast of Unleavened Bread would be a week-long annual festival that would always remind them of how quickly they left Egypt. When they settled in the land, they would eat leavened bread. But while they celebrated this feast, “no unleavened bread shall be seen with you” (7). In the Bible, yeast is a symbol of sin. The Israelites were to keep their lives free from sin, just as their bread during their escape, was free from yeast. God also instituted the law of the firstborn. When the Israelites entered into the land Moses told them that God had a claim on all their firstborn males, both human and beast. It was a way of acknowledging that they belonged to Him exclusively and completely. When the firstborn son asked his father why this was done, the father would explain that redemption is costly (14).

As it happened, when the Israelites left Egypt bound for the Promised Land, three things are noteworthy. First of all, they didn’t head north, taking the most direct route along the coast, into Philistine country (17). Instead, God led them east into the wilderness. They may have departed Egypt “equipped for battle” (18) or, literally, “in formation,” but they weren’t ready for war. Secondly, in a beautiful note that linked the present with the past, Moses honored the four-century old, faith-filled request of Joseph, with his bones in tow (cf. Genesis 50:24-26). Thirdly, God supernaturally guided them with a double-theophany–a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (21-22). These twin towers would lead Israel day and night for the next forty years. What they didn’t know was that God was leading them right where He wanted them to be. The greatest display of His glory was yet to come.

The Israelites prepared for their first night of freedom by setting up camp directly facing the Red Sea. God tipped off Moses about what was going to happen. Finicky Pharaoh would have a change of heart (14:5). Perhaps his Secretary of Commerce reported that the loss of Israelite labor would be catastrophic to a country already on the brink, so Pharaoh regretted emancipating them. While his former slaves were marching out defiantly (8), Pharaoh rushed out to pursue them with chariots and cavalry. Fortune seemed to be on his side because when he reached the Israelite camp, his force was able to corner them against the sea, with no exodus. The Israelites were trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea. The Israelites lost their lunch. At the first sign of trouble, they responded in a way that would mark their next forty years, they whined and complained (10-12). They must have thought Moses had lost his marbles when, in effect, he said, “God’s got ‘em, right where he wants ‘em.” Moses wasn’t leading the Israelites to slaughter. God was leading the Egyptians into a trap. Moses told the people two things. First, quit your complaining. God will fight for you. All you have to do is be quiet! (14). Secondly, he told them to stand at the edge of the sea. Moses lifted up his staff and the waters of the sea began to divide, forming two massive walls of water. In a single verse the narrator described how the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground (22). The Egyptians pursued them but the wheels of their chariots got stuck and then Moses stretched out his hand the waters closed, drowning the entire Egyptian army (27-28). It was God’s grand finale.

As it happened, their grumbling turned to singing (15:1-18). The first song to top the charts in their post-Egyptian life, was a celebration of how God, the Mighty Warrior, crushed Pharaoh, the Egyptian army, and Egypt’s gods. They praised Yahweh who is majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, and a wonderful Worker of wonders. They sang about His steadfast love, hesed, for the people He has redeemed. They anticipated their future conquest of Canaan whose inhabitants must be in panic at the sudden demise of the Egyptians. The prophetess Miriam, Moses’ sister, grabbed a tambourine, danced, and sang, “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea” (21).

The Israelites celebrated until they traveled for three days without finding any water (22). As it happened, the story of the Israelites for the next four decades is chronicle of their wilderness wanderings. In the wilderness, their faith in God will be tested again and again. They reached Mara and there was no water. They whined and grumbled. The Lord provided sweet water for them to drink after instructing Moses to toss a log into the bitter water. God revealed Himself to them as, “Yahweh Rapha,” the Lord, their healer. It was the first test of many more to come.

Almighty God, how majestic You are in holiness. How awesome You are in glory. Your works are unrivalled in splendor and wonder. By Your power, You brought about my deliverance. You have demonstrated Your love in so many ways. Yet, when one thing goes wrong, I doubt Your love and care. Forgive my fickle heart. Thank You for redeeming this old, leavened sinner in Christ. Consecrate me today, for your service, Lord. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.

Consecration of the Firstborn – The LORD said to Moses, “Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of…

Day 33 – Exodus 10-12

Day 33
Exodus 10-12…

Everyone loves a good story. It’s in our DNA. Since the dawn of time, our ancestors passed down their traditions and values through storytelling, from person to person and generation to generation. Studies reveal that we make sense of things by assembling the bits and pieces of an experience into a story. We forget talking points but we remember stories. When we become absorbed in a story, it has the power to change our lives. The story about God’s deliverance of His people from Egyptian oppression is a great story. The primary purpose of this grand epic was to help the Israelites to know God as their Lord and Savior. The drama of the exodus also provided the Israelites with a story they could tell their grandchildren, from one generation to another (10:2).

As it happened, Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh once again. After the third cycle of plagues commenced with plummeting hail, Moses then warned of invading locusts–if Pharaoh continued to refuse to let his people go (4-6). After Moses and Aaron left, Pharaoh’s own advisers informed him that Egypt was on the brink of collapse. If the nation was to survive, he needed to let the Hebrew slaves go. Pharaoh ordered Moses and Aaron to be brought back and told them to go and serve their God–but only the men (8-11). Negotiations broke down when Moses insisted that everyone would be going or no one. Once outside, Moses raised his staff and a rare, eastern wind began to blow all day and night. The next morning, billions of locusts had settled on the ground like carpet, blotting out the sun and devouring the vegetation. These locusts attacked a cluster of Egyptian gods believed to oversee and guard the nations’ food supply: Min, Isis, Nepri, Anubis, and Senehem. Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron, but it was déjà vu–all over again. His repeated refusals alternated between Pharaoh hardening his own heart or God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Pharaoh was rebellious and unrepentant. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart because He wanted to expose the utter failure of Egypt’s gods and that He alone is Lord (10:2).

The penultimate plague was pitch black darkness. For three days, no one could see anything or go anywhere (23). The Egyptians worshiped the sun. They had a god for the sunrise (Horus), a god for the midday sun (Aten), a god for the sunset (Atum), but the chief god in the whole Egyptian pantheon was Amon-Re. Polytheistic Pharaoh was, above all, a sun worshiper. He was even considered to be the son of Re. So, God’s assault against Amon-Re was inevitable. Since Pharaoh’s chief god was the sun and the sun was blocked out, Pharaoh was ready to concede–almost. He told Moses that all the people could go but the livestock had to stay. Moses remained gritty and resolute saying, “not a hoof shall be left behind” (26). Pharaoh ordered Moses to be taken away, threatening him with death, if he ever saw his dreadful face again.

But Moses lingered for a moment longer. He paused, looked back at Pharaoh, and with a raised voice and anger flowing like hot lava (11:8), warned him of the tenth and deadliest blow of all. The ultimate plague was the death of every firstborn in Egypt–every firstborn human from the palace to the prison, and every firstborn animal from the cattle stall to the family pet. While all of this was taking place, to add insult to injury and pain upon pain, the Israelites would be plundering the Egyptians’ of their gold and silver (11:2-3). They would depart Egypt with a huge stash, wages of reparation for years of servitude.

God told Abraham, Isaac, Jacob that Egypt was not the land of promise. Egypt was an ark during the famine of Joseph’ day but it became a prison of affliction. It was now time for thousands of Hebrew slaves to leave Egypt behind. There is no greater moment in this stirring story of salvation than the exodus. The event would be so monumental that God prescribed a series of actions to impress this remarkable night into the consciousness of the Jewish people forever. Almost every step would be repeated by future generations, incorporated into the annual calendar of their lives, as a memorial to this night. Every detail was important. On the tenth day of Aviv, each household was to take a one year old, male lamb without blemish, and bring it into their home for five days. At twilight, on the fourteenth day of Aviv, they were to slaughter the lamb, apply its blood using a hyssop brush to the two doorposts and lintel of their home. They were to roast and eat the lamb quickly, served with bitter herbs and unleavened bread, while their belt was fastened, their sandals on their feet, and a with staff in their hand. At midnight, the Lord would move through Egypt and strike all the firstborn of Egypt from human to animal. When God came to the home of a Hebrew family and saw the blood of the sacrificed lamb on the doorposts, He would pass over. While the firstborn of Israel was saved, death visited every Egyptian home. Enough was enough. In the middle of the night, Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Go! Take everything: men, women, children, flocks and herds. Go and serve the Lord. Just leave!” No conditions. No deals. No bargains. Except one. When Moses was heading out the door, Pharaoh said, “Be gone, and bless me also” (32). But it was too little too late. The Israelites fled as God commanded. In total, over 1.5 million Israelites escaped Egypt, by the hand of the Lord. It was a story to remember.

Passover is the story of the Old Testament par excellence. It’s importance for the Jewish people cannot be overstated. Two of Israel’s great feasts (the festivals of Unleavened Bread and Passover) were instituted to commemorate what God did that night. Ultimately, Passover was not just about Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. It was also about God redeeming His people. For Christians, the significance of Passover points to another Lamb who was slaughtered at the cross for us, in order that God’s wrath against our sin would pass over us, as it fell on Him. Jesus is our Passover Lamb!

Holy Father, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. You saw the plight of Your people and You delivered them from the pit of slavery. You have redeemed us from the wages of sin. Thank You for the great story of redemption in ages past. Thank you, above all, for the epic story of our salvation in Christ. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away–and passes over– the sin of the world, including my own. Died He for me, how can it be? Thank you, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

The Eighth Plague: Locusts – Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show…

Day 32 – Exodus 7-9

Day 32
Exodus 7-9

Many people are uncomfortable with the idea of an invisible, spiritual realm that lies just beyond the veneer of our lives. C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
We either place an undue emphasis on Satan and his powers, or we completely ignore his existence.

In order to liberate the Israelites from slavery, God went to war. This battle was a fight, not just against Pharaoh, but ultimately, against Satan and his representatives in the Egyptian pantheon. The ten plagues were God’s invisible war with Satan waged just beyond the public dispute of Moses and Aaron with Pharaoh. The stakes could not have been higher. The outcome would prove whether God was just another tribal deity, like the different gods the Egyptians worshipped, or whether Yahweh is Lord over all. The plagues and their outcome was a theological statement–they declared the Godhood of God.

There are several valid ways of categorizing the plagues and their order of appearance. One of the oldest schemata, developed by some of the earliest rabbis, was to view the first nine plagues in three sets of three. Before the first plague in each cycle, Moses appeared before Pharaoh in the morning (nos. 1, 4, 7). Before the second plague in each section, Moses confronted Pharaoh in his palace (nos. 2,5,8). The final plague, in each set of three, occurs without any warning (nos. 3, 6, 9). The tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, stood in a category all its own. While attempts have been made to explain the plagues as unusual natural phenomena (with varying degrees of plausibility), the text makes it clear that the plagues were the result of the direct intervention of God.

Before the plagues commenced, God made Moses like God to Pharaoh (7:1). The Hebrew is even more emphatic, “I have made you God.” Moses wasn’t divine. He was God’s prophet but he spoke with divine authority. Aaron, who played a prominent role, was the prophet’s prophet. Moses heard from God and Aaron said what Moses heard. The plagues were preceded by a showdown between Moses’ staff-serpent and the staff-serpents of the Egyptian magicians (8-13). Moses’ staff-serpent swallowing whole the staff-serpents of Pharaoh’s men, served as a template of the plagues to come. This is seen especially, in each act initiated by Moses and Aaron, the court magicians’ attempt to duplicate it, and Pharaoh hardening his heart.

As it happened, the first plague turned the water of the Nile, therefore, Egypt’s entire water system, into blood by the power of God (14-25). It was a direct assault against the lifeblood of Egypt and the three gods associated with the river (Osiris, Nu, and Hapi). The Egyptian magicians imitated the plague with their secret arts (i.e. demonic, counterfeit powers). In a display of brilliant irony, they didn’t reverse the plague but only aggravated the problem. The second blow was an infestation of croaking frogs (8:1-15). The frogs weren’t necessarily dangerous but they sure were an annoyance, especially when they were under your pillow, leaping across your face, or in your breakfast bowl. This was a striking blow against Heqet, the Egyptian frog-goddess and spouse of Khnum, the creator-god. When the plague ended and the frogs expired, mounds of frog-carcasses were everywhere baking under the hot Egyptian sun and producing an abominable odor. The third blow was an infestation of “kinnim” (16-19). The Hebrew word can mean gnats, lice, mosquitoes, or fleas (Oh, my!). The magicians were unable to duplicate this plague and referred to it as the finger of God. It was an attack on Geb, the earth-god.

As the second cycle begins, the fourth plague was an invasion of swarming flies (20-32). They were everywhere and were literally, “heavy” (24). The flies were a strike against Beelzebub, the lord of the flies, who was worshipped as their guardian deity. The fifth assault was a plague or pestilence that wiped out Egyptian livestock which included, horses, donkeys, camels, sheep, and oxen (9:1-7). This was a brutal blow against Buchis, Mnevis, Apis, and above all, Isis, the goddess depicted with cow horns on her head. The sixth plague struck in the form of festering boils (the word can refer to almost any skin disease, including leprosy and smallpox) that infected both humans and animals (8-12). It was a powerful confrontation of all the Egyptian gods of healing–Amon Re, Thoth, and Sekhmet. The seventh plague was hail (13-35). Before sending hail, thunder, and fire down on the earth, the Lord repeated His purpose, “so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth” (14). God used this plague, directed against the gods of the heavens from Shu, Nut, Tefnut, and Seth. When Pharaoh observed firsthand his country being devastated, he called for Moses and Aaron and confessed, “This time I have sinned” (27). He also added, “there’s been enough thunder and hail.” But Moses saw through Pharaoh’s false confession (30). The single note running through the entire account of the plagues and pestilences was Pharaoh’s extraordinary pigheadedness. After each plague was removed, he hardened his heart. Pharaoh had asked, “Who is the Lord?” (5:2). His question was answered in each plague. The plagues were God’s severe judgment against Pharaoh. They were a direct assault against Satan and his empire of idols and demons. Most of all, the plagues displayed God’s unrivalled power, His right to universal praise, and His unlimited authority. Hallelujah! The Lord reigns!

Almighty God, You possess the right to rule and You deserve the worship of every person. There is no one like You. You are alone Lord. You are above all gods, who are not gods at all but represent the vast network of Satan’s empire to steal, kill, and destroy. Lord, Egypt had its own pantheon of idols and so do we. In Your power strip away their hold over us so that our hearts may be under Your sway alone. Protect us today from the evil one, in Your Name, we pray, Amen.

Moses and Aaron Before Pharaoh – And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your…

Day 31 – Exodus 4-6

Day 31
Exodus 4-6

“Who am I?” “Who are You?” Moses had a bag full of objections to God’s call on his life. Overall, he rolled out a total of five of them. But Moses learned that we serve God with the gifts He has given us, and not the gifts we wish we had. Besides, our flimsy excuses crumble before the omnipotent God who made us and called us.

As it happened, Moses was still standing before the burning bush when he looked around, and seeing no one else, served up his third excuse, “Who said God appeared to you?” (4:1). In response, God gave Moses three miraculous signs to authenticate his ministry before others. First, God told Moses to throw his shepherd’s staff to the ground. The ordinary stick became a terrifying serpent. This same staff would become God’s rod directing the plagues, demonstrating His power of the gods of Egypt. Next, the Lord instructed Moses to put his hand in his cloak and then remove it. His hand was leprous. He repeated the movement and the loathsome leprosy was gone. Finally, God told Moses to fill a pitcher with water from the Nile, pour it out on dry ground, and the water would turn to blood. Incidentally, this third sign would become the first plague, revealing God’s power of the Nile, the Egyptians’ great river god.

Next, Moses objected that he was not an eloquent speaker. He complained of being, “heavy of mouth,” and “heavy of tongue.” God told Moses that as His Creator, he knew all about his mouth. Moses’ self-centered excuses (“I am not eloquent,” “I am slow of speech”) were countered by God’s own claim, “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak” (4:12). Finally, Moses blurted out, “Send someone else!” With this word of utter defiance, God became angry with Moses. God has a long fuse and Moses exhausted it. God still generously provided Moses the assistance of his brother Aaron, so that he was flat out of excuses. With his family by his side (Zipporah, Gershom, Eliezer, and Aaron), the staff of God in his hand, and permission from Jethro (despite his brief explanation in verse 18), Moses was ready to go. As the flaming theophany ends, God gave Moses a preview of coming attractions (21). He also told Moses that Israel was the firstborn son of His choice (22-23), a term loaded with messianic implications (cf. Colossians 1:15).

As it happened, Moses and his family finally set out for Egypt but they don’t get very far before tragedy almost struck. One night, they stopped to camp at a lodging place when the Lord met Moses and was about to kill him (24). In this bizarre account, it seems that Moses had not circumcised his son. If Israel is God’s son, then should not the son of Israel’s liberator also be circumcised? Tragedy is barely prevented when Zipporah took a stone knife, circumcised her son herself, and touched Moses’ feet with the piece of skin saying, “Surely, you are a bridegroom of blood to me!”

Upon reaching Egypt, Moses and Aaron spoke first with the elders of Israel, verifying their call with the signs God had given Moses. Once the elders and people were persuaded, Moses and Aaron made their first appearance before Pharaoh. Their request was clear and firm, “Let my people go!” Pharaoh must have chuckled. He also mocked the God of Israel saying, “Who is the Lord?” (5:1-2). He summarily dismissed Moses and Aaron and subsequently ordered the Hebrew slaves to meet their same daily quota of bricks but now without the provision of any straw. This set off a chain of complaints. The Israelite foremen complained before Pharaoh (15). They then went out and complained to Moses and Aaron (20-21). Finally, Moses complained to God. Moses had the audacity to say to God, “You haven’t delivered your people at all” (23).

As it happened, it wasn’t a great start. But then God told Moses to watch what He would now do to Pharaoh. (6:1).
God loves to glorify Himself just when things look pretty grim. God had not forgotten His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He knows what He is doing and He intends on keeping every promise He’s made. And in case Moses missed it, God used the divine personal pronoun “I” seventeen times in the span of eight verses! (1-8).

Suddenly, there is commercial break for But genealogies matter in the Bible and this one matters too, because it gave further credibility to Moses, but especially his brother, Aaron (6:14-25). Once the family tree was established, Moses was back with another objection, “How will Pharaoh listen to me?” Just wait Moses. And remember, it’s not about you.

Lord God Almighty, how lame are my excuses in light of who You are. You have promised to keep Your Word with an outstretched hand. You offer me the privilege of sharing in Your great work but for some reason I still think it’s about me and what I can and cannot do. Keep my eyes on You today so that I might see Your deliverance. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

Moses Given Powerful Signs – Then Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The LORD did not appear to…

Day 30 – Exodus 1-3

Day 30
Exodus 1-3

Exodus. The title for the whole book is taken from its most prominent event, the “going out” of the Israelites from Egypt. The turn from Genesis to Exodus is a study in contrasts. At the end of Genesis, the family of Jacob was a small tribe. At the beginning of Exodus, it is a teeming multitude (1:7). At the end of Genesis, Israel is living in Egypt under the favor of Pharaoh. At the beginning of Exodus, the Israelites were enslaved under a hostile Egyptian regime. The four hundred years, including the expansion of Jacob’s family, that spanned the space between Genesis and Exodus is reported in just two verses (1:6-7). Much can change in four hundred years. But Genesis and Exodus are the continuation of the same story, centered around the same people. The first word in the Hebrew text of Exodus is, “And.” As it happened, Exodus is the sequel to Genesis.

A new dynasty emerged in Egypt. The new Pharaoh did not know Joseph. As it happened, the Israelites’ position in Egyptian society moved from a place of tolerance to fear to oppression. The new regime became paranoid about the growing presence of foreigners in their land. Something had to be done. The regime’s first step was to conscript the Israelites into slave labor. Under this tyranny, they experienced the daily-whip upon their backs. As Exodus unfolds, it also depicts the ultimate conflict, already emerging, between the God of Israel and the “divine” Pharaoh. In Pharaoh’s mind, the people of Israel were not the servants of God but his own slaves to treat as he wanted. But the more the Israelites were oppressed, the more they multiplied (1:12). Then things went from bad to worse. Pharaoh also implemented state-sponsored infanticide in order to control the Israelite population. He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all males at birth. In an act of courageous civil disobedience and pro-life resistance, two Hebrew midwives refused to comply (15-18). Their response to Pharaoh was both clever and comical (19). But Pharaoh was demonically determined. He callously ordered every newborn Hebrew male to be dumped into the Nile.

As it happened, a man and a woman from the tribe of Levi fell in love and were married. Aware of the policy of extermination, the mother defied Pharaoh’s orders and placed her newborn son in an ark–a waterproofed papyrus basket–and set him afloat among the reeds of the Nile. As it happened, the baby was discovered by none other than Pharaoh’s own daughter. In a further act of irony, she sent her servant to find the baby’s mother, paid her to nurse her own child, and after he was weaned the mother brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter to be raised as Pharaoh’s adopted son. His Egyptian name sounded like, “boy child,” but to the Hebrew ear it sounded like, “to draw out.” She named him Moses because she rescued him out of the water. God was not indifferent to the suffering of His people. He was raising up a deliverer from within Pharaoh’s own palace.
Moses’ true identity was never concealed from him. One day he saw an Egyptian pounding a Hebrew and he killed the Egyptian (2:12), but his actions were no secret. He had to flee. Before Pharaoh, Moses was now a dangerous fugitive, guilty of murder (15).

Moses escaped to the land of Midian. Ever the guardian of the underdog, he immediately confronted some shepherds who were preventing some shepherdesses from watering their flock. Moses drove the bullies off. He was brought into the home of the girls’ father, Jethro. Moses fell in love with one of his daughters named, Zipporah. They were married and had a child of their own, whom they named Gershom (2:22). While the people of Israel languished every day in Egypt, God heard their cries. Meanwhile, Moses was living the humble and obscure life of a shepherd. Even though God had His man, He was operating according to His own timetable.

When Moses was forty he was tending some sheep in the shadow of Mt. Horeb, or Sinai. Suddenly, God seized his attention by appearing to him as the angel of the Lord in “a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” (3:2). The bush kept burning but it was not burned up. Out of curiosity, Moses approached this unusual occurrence and his life was never again the same. The burning bush was a flaming theophany. For this moment in time, it was also the temple of the living God. God spoke his name twice. Moses affirmed his presence. The first command God gave to Moses was telling, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground” (5). From his first encounter with God through the rest of his life, Moses was conscious of God’s holiness. God is not like us. He is separate from us. Moses was afraid to look at God and so he hid his face. Indeed, God is separate from us but He is not aloof. He knew the sufferings of His people and was sending Moses to be their liberator (7-10). Moses was certain that God had the wrong man. But God made it clear that the mission was not about him. It was about God–I AM that I AM (YHWH). Moses’ first step was to return to Egypt and speak to the Israelites exactly what God told him to say (3:16-17). Then, Moses and the elders together were to go before Pharaoh and ask for a three-day spiritual retreat in the wilderness. Pharaoh would be a hard man to convince. But Moses had already stood before the Living God. Who is Pharaoh compared to God?

Holy God, You are the eternal and unchangeable One. You are the One who always is. You will always be who You are. You are not dependent on anything or anyone. You possess existence in Yourself. No one compares to You. You are the self-sufficient One and worthy of all praise. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

Israel Increases Greatly in Egypt – These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: Reuben, Simeon,…

Day 29 – Genesis 48-50

Day 29
Genesis 48-50

The years of Jacob’s sojourning were drawing to a close. Joseph came to Jacob’s side, along with his two sons, who were born on Egyptian soil. Galvanized by their company, Jacob recalled with amazing lucidity the moment when El Shaddai first appeared to him at Bethel and, by His grace, established His covenant with him (48:1-4). Then, in full control of his faculties, Jacob unexpectedly took two decisive steps. First of all, he formally adopted Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, as his very own (5). By adopting them, Jacob was ensuring that their future lay with Israel and not Egypt. Secondly, he deliberately blessed Ephraim and Manasseh. While his physical sight was fading, Jacob saw the future of these two boys, through God’s sovereign purposes, with profound foresight. While Joseph set Manasseh to Jacob’s right and Ephraim to his left, Jacob intentionally stretched out his right hand and placed it on Ephraim, and then his left hand on Manasseh. He blessed them both. When Joseph noticed his father’s cross-handed blessing, he tried to correct it but the old Patriarch knew what he was doing. Just as God had reversed the status of the firstborn by choosing Jacob over Esau, now Jacob, by God’s direction, was appointing Ephraim over Manasseh (20). According to the writer to the Hebrews, the greatest act of faith in Jacob’s long life was “when dying, [he] blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff” (cf. Hebrews 11:21). In his final act, Jacob proved to be more than a fallible father, but Israel– the bearer of God’s covenant.

As it happened, the rest of Jacob’s sons also came to his bedside to hear their father’s prophetic benediction, the longest poetic section in Genesis (49:1-27). Beginning with Reuben, Jacob pronounced either a bane or a blessing over each of his sons who would form the twelve tribes of Israel. It was notable that his firstborn son, whose mother was Leah, was disqualified from carrying the rights of the firstborn because he slept with his mother’s maidservant. In addition, Jacob never forgot the atrocity committed by Simeon and Levi against the men of Shechem. Distributed across his remaining sons, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Benjamin, Jacob also delivered oracles that constituted either military prowess, material prosperity, or immense burdens. Jacob’s greatest blessings were reserved for Judah (8-12) and Joseph (22-26). Judah assumed the mantle of ascendancy through whom the messianic line would be preserved. With exquisite prescience Jacob announced that, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah.” In addition, he said that this future Descendant of Judah would wash “his garments in wine,” predicting as many Bible students believe, the first miracle performed by Jesus when He turned water into wine in Cana of Galiliee (cf. John 2:1-11). Joseph also received a beautifully pronounced blessing impressed with the stamp of the Almighty God upon his life. In Jacob’s final, earthly utterance he commanded his sons to bury him in the land of promise in the cave at Machpelah, where the bodies of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, and Leah also were interred. Upon his death, Jacob was embalmed, mummified, mourned, and eulogized, even by the dignitaries of Egypt who, under Pharaoh’s permission, traveled to Canaan in a caravan of chariots and horses (taking the same route the Israelites would travel to the Promised Land years later) and buried him before the watching eyes of the Canaanites.

As it happened, Jacob’s death triggered old fears in Joseph’s brothers. Fearing that he was only suppressing his hostility towards them while their father was still living (for 17 years!), they forged a fictitious message, claiming it was from their father, requesting that Joseph forgive them for their foolish deed so many years before (50:15-17). The sons of Jacob misjudged their brother’s heart yet again, and reduced Joseph to tears. His response embodied the Godward bent of his entire life, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” Then, revealing deep insight in the providence of God he told them, what they meant for evil, God meant it for good (20). Joseph died in Egypt at 110. Like his father, he was embalmed and mummified. But before his death, he made the sons of Israel swear an oath that they not bury him in Egypt but bear his bones into Canaan. Among all of his exploits, this was considered his most outstanding feat of faith: “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones” (Hebrews 11:22). The book of Genesis ends in hope with a coffin in Egypt.

Holy Father, Your providence is a mysterious and wonderful reality. I praise You that all things come under Your guidance and care. I thank You that You are able to work all things together for good for those who love You and are called according to Your purpose. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

Jacob Blesses Ephraim and Manasseh – After this, Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is ill.” So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. And…

Day 28 – Genesis 46-47

Day 28
Genesis 46-47

The writer to the Hebrews famously declared, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation” (Hebrews 11:1-2). Sometimes we are confused about the exact nature of faith. Such confusion is unnecessary. For faith is not wishful thinking, as some suppose. Nor is faith similar to taking a leap into the dark unknown hoping something is there. Faith is knowing that God is there and that you can trust His promises.

Jacob had mixed feelings about relocating his family of seventy to Egypt (46:3; 46:28). His heart was revived at the prospect of being reunited with Joseph (45:27). But he also knew that moving to Egypt meant leaving the land promised to him by God, and to his fathers before him. Aside from God’s promise, the only piece of real estate that belonged to Israel was the burial plot in Hebron. As Jacob and his family head out, their final stop before entering Egypt was in the border town of Beersheba, a place named by his grandfather Abraham. God also encountered his father Isaac in Beersheba. There Jacob worshiped the Lord. God also appeared to him in a night vision and calmed his fears about leaving the land (2-4). As he prepared to cross over into the land of Egypt, Jacob was assured of God’s presence. In addition, Israel would become a great nation, not in the Promised Land, but in Egypt. Egypt, however, would not be their permanent home. So, Jacob left Canaan behind buttressed by God’s promise (see God’s use of the divine pronoun “I” four times) to bring his descendants back into the land. Jacob’s faith was rooted in the assurance of God’s Word.

Joseph rode out in his royal chariot to see his father. The incredulity, and yet ecstasy of their reunion is sublimely captured in the picture of Joseph embracing his father and weeping upon “his neck a good while” (29). Jacob’s family settled in the land of Goshen, situated as it was on the edge of Egypt. It was a perfect place for tending their flock, far enough away from the prejudiced Egyptians who were sorely afflicted with opiliophobia (fear of shepherds!). As it happened, in the land of Ramses, the Israelites would multiply.

Joseph coached five members of his family for their upcoming appearance before Pharaoh, which rolled out exactly as he predicted (46:28-34). Joseph’s favor before Pharaoh was evident in his approval of Joseph’s plan. Pharaoh even granted to his family the care and oversight of the royal cattle (47:1-6). Then Joseph presented his father to Pharaoh. The old Patriarch did not teeter before the opulence of Egypt. The man who wrestled with God face to face was also undaunted by Egyptian power. Out of respect, Pharaoh asked Jacob his age. Life had not been easy for Jacob and he replied honestly, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning” (9). During this summit between the founder of Israel and the leader of Egypt, Jacob blessed Pharaoh twice (7, 10). Many years before God promised Abraham that He would bless those who blessed him. A double-blessing was given to Pharaoh for his kindness to Abraham’s descendants.

Meanwhile, as his family was settling down in Goshen, Joseph was immersed in implementing a plan that nationalized all the land of Egypt and housed all Egyptian money in Pharaoh’s treasury. By their own request, every Egyptian, except for the priests, became slaves. The alternative was starvation and death (23-26). Amid all of it, Israel prospered. Thirty-four out of the 147 years of Jacob’s life were spent with Joseph. In the time between, Jacob would never have imagined that his life would end in this way, living in Egypt with his long-lost son ruling over the land of pyramids and the mighty Nile. Upon his death, Jacob wished to be buried with Abraham and Isaac in the cave of Machpela and made Joseph swear an oath of life-and-death. The oath was a declaration of Jacob’s faith in God.

Almighty God, thank You for the gift of faith. Faith is not a whimsy, frail thing. Faith is firm and resolute because it is grounded in Your character and rests in Your promises which never fail. Make me a man or woman of faith, who against all odds, believes Your Word no matter what. In Jesus’ Name, we pray, Amen.

Joseph Brings His Family to Egypt – So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.…

Day 27-Genesis 43-45

Day 27
Genesis 43-45

Forgiveness. It’s a word that stirs assorted impulses in us. On the one hand, we savor the sweet reality of God’s forgiveness in Christ. We also relish the guilt-relieving satisfaction that comes from asking for and receiving the forgiveness of someone we’ve offended. But we often struggle to forgive the person who’s hurt us because forgiveness feels like treating the offense as if it never occurred. Forgiveness is not indifference. It reckons the offense for what it is but chooses to release the offender from its hook. Forgiveness is virtuous because it is so God-like.

As it happened, the famine was as severe in Canaan as it was in Egypt. The supplies the sons of Jacob had brought back were nearly all used up. Out of desperation, Jacob directed his sons to return to Egypt, a trip that was inconceivable to him until now, since it required sending Benjamin with them (43:1-2). Judah emerged as the leading son by assuming full responsibility for Benjamin’s return (8-10). The father then sent them off with a gift basket (reminiscent of his gift to Esau), prepared from their remaining resources for the Egyptian official, plus doubled-money, and also the blessing of El Shaddai (14). The last thing they expected was to be treated with generous Egyptian hospitality in Joseph’s residence upon their arrival. When Joseph welcomed them, they bowed before him for the second time. Joseph inquired about his father’s welfare. Then he saw Benjamin. The flood of emotion he felt when he saw his younger brother of the same mother so overwhelmed him that he had to retreat to his private chamber to weep. When he returned, composed and in charge, he had the Egyptians and Hebrews dining separately and his brothers, to their astonishment, seated according to birth order. It was a feast for kings, with Benjamin being served five times as much as his brothers, a tactic arranged by Joseph to test their reaction to overt favoritism.

While his brothers slept off the previous night’s feast, Joseph instructed his steward to fill their sacks with food, money, along with a special cup concealed in Benjamin’s sack, and then sent them on their way (44:1-2). It was another test designed to elevate their anxiety to the breaking point. Joseph then ordered his steward to pursue them, extract the cup from Benjamin’s sack, and accuse them all of extravagant deceit (3-5). They protested their innocence at the risk of death. The steward deliciously taunted them saying that if he found the cup in anyone’s sack, the guilty brother would be taken as a slave. In that devastating moment, when the cup was removed from Benjamin’s sack, the brothers dissolved into despondency. These delinquents were taken back to Egypt. Bowing before Joseph, a third time, Judah made good on his word to his father. Every word he uttered was sincere and true. He admitted their guilt. God had exposed them. He interceded for Benjamin. But Judah also implicated this Egyptian official who now held Benjamin’s destiny in his hands. It was as if Judah was beginning to sense that everything was not as it seemed. He claimed his father’s life would be in jeopardy, if Benjamin was not returned to him for “his life is bound up in the boy’s life” (30). Finally, Judah offered himself as a substitute for Benjamin, foreshadowing the greater Descendant who would hail from his line.

Joseph had designed one test after another to determine his brothers’ character. He provoked their fears by harsh interrogation. He took Simeon as hostage until they returned with Benjamin. He extended special treatment to Benjamin. He deliberately set his younger brother up to see how they would respond. He created crisis after crisis until he could no longer control himself. He dismissed his attendants and made himself known to his brothers in private. However, he cried so loud that everyone heard it (45:1-2). His brothers were puzzled by this display of emotion from this stern Egyptian leader. Then he acknowledged, “I am Joseph.” They were dumbstruck. Before their eyes their brother had come back to life. Joseph bore the weight of reconciliation. He wasn’t interested in getting even. He told them not to be distressed over past sins for “God sent me before you to preserve life” (5). He invited them to return home, to tell their father, who would when he heard the news thought it too good to be true, that his beloved son was not dead but lord over Egypt, and to relocate to the land of Goshen in order to be near him. Israel was moving to Egypt.

Holy Father, Your forgiveness is an unspeakable gift. Since you have forgiven us of all our offenses through the death of Your Beloved Son, help us to forgive others as Jesus has forgiven us. In Your name, we pray, Amen.

Joseph’s Brothers Return to Egypt – Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father…

Day 26 – Genesis 41-42

Day 26
Genesis 41-42

Waiting on God is hard. We all must do it. There’s no way around it. The only question is, will we wait in hope or bitterness? Joseph had been falsely accused. Dumped in prison. Forgotten. He did not know how long he had to wait. While he waited, he didn’t whine. When he was released from confinement, he didn’t wallow. God was with him, so he was ready.

Joseph’s moment arrived the day after Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams. In the first dream, he was standing by the Nile when he saw seven prized cows devoured by seven pallid cows (41:2-4). In his second dream, he saw seven hefty ears of grain gobbled up by seven withered ears of grain (5-7). The troubling dreams were so real to him that he summoned his cabinet of wise men and magicians to unravel their meaning. None were able. The scatter-brained cupbearer finally recalled and conveyed to Pharaoh the dexterity of a Hebrew slave who, while he was imprisoned, accurately deciphered and predicted his own dream, including the one of the now dearly departed baker (10-13). As it happened, Joseph was brought before Pharaoh, clean-shaven and lice-free. Pharaoh explained his dilemma to him, while commending him for his dream-decoding resume. Two years in prison did not diminish Joseph’s God-centered perspective. “It is not in me,” Joseph said, “God (ha Elohim) will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (16). Joseph proceeded to explain that Pharaoh’s two dreams were one in the same. Invoking God at the beginning, middle, and end of his interpretation, Joseph told him that God was revealing the future to Pharaoh. There would be seven years of abundance, followed by seven years of famine.

As it happened, Joseph then proposed a plan to Pharaoh that covered the next fourteen years, the implementation of which required a wise and discerning man (33-36). Joseph was not recommending himself for the job but Pharaoh would have been a fool for not appointing him. Most importantly, Pharaoh recognized, polytheistic and pagan as he was, that the Spirit of God was in Joseph. Joseph’s elevation from prison to the prime minister of Egypt in a single day was nothing less than staggering. A Hebrew slave was now second only to Pharaoh. Joseph was invested with authority and inaugurated by a parade (42-45). While Pharaoh was intent on wholly Egyptianizing his Hebrew prime minister (he gave Joseph an Egyptian name, an Egyptian wardrobe, and an Egyptian wife whose father was an Egyptian priest to the sun god Ra), Joseph did not forget who he was, nor his God. God blessed him with two sons who bore Hebrew names, each name a sermon in itself. Manasseh means, “He who causes to forget,” and Ephraim, “fertile.” Joseph grasped the delicate balance between forgetting and remembering. Joseph waited a long time. His waiting wasn’t punishment but preparation. God not only prepared Joseph to rescue Egypt and his own family from calamity, but also to fulfill his own teenage dreams.

As it happened, the impact of the famine was felt in Hebron. Jacob’s tonal impatience over the lack of initiative in his own sons was captured in his words, “Why do you look at one another? Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die” (42:1-2). Joseph’s forethought enabled Egypt to become the food basket to the world. So, ten sons, save Benjamin, traveled to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph’s first dream was fulfilled, literally, when his brothers bowed down before the prime minister of Egypt. Joseph recognized them immediately and interrogated them roughly (7). The sacred historian narrates Joseph’s actions in a commendable way. He dealt with them slowly and deliberately. He accused them of espionage. He confined them in prison for three days to prick their consciences. Their two-decade-old guilt surfaced (21-22). He wept. He tested them. He held Simeon hostage until they returned with Benjamin. He also blessed them, filling their bags with grain and money. When the money was discovered on the way home, they trembled. When they arrived home, and reported to Jacob all that had happened, for the second time (37:35) they provoked their father to heart-breaking grief (42:36, 38). Reuben felt his father’s pain and tried to assuage it (37). Above all, the sons of Jacob were feeling the weight of their indefensible conduct twenty years before.

Holy Father, waiting is so hard for us. We are people of action. We live by our watches. Waiting seems so futile, a waste of precious time. Please overlook our addiction to activity. Forgive us for imposing on You our own timetable. For in waiting, You are working. You are preparing us, while living in the shadows, for stepping out in the sunshine of Your presence. Help us to be ready when Your summons comes. In Jesus’ Name, we pray, Amen.

Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams – After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile, and behold, there came up out of the Nile…