April 13, 2015.
Daily Reading: Exodus 5-8.
Background: Exodus 1-4.
Concepts and Connections.
When it’s darkest before the dawn: Have you ever been in a position where it seemed like the more you tried to do the will of God, the harder your situation became? This was precisely what Moses and Aaron were about to go through when they approached Pharaoh for the first time. Note that they had just returned to the land of Egypt on a mission sanctioned by God, and they had already visited the people, who bowed their heads in worship when they learned that God had heard their groaning as slaves in the land of Egypt. Now it was time for Moses and Aaron to put the plan of God in motion, though they had already been warned by God that Pharaoh was not going to listen to them until all the mighty wonders of God that He had determined to do had been poured out on the land (see 3:19-20). Remember that Moses had grown up in the house of Pharaoh, and whereas it is not explicitly said that this helped him have an audience with Pharaoh when he came back, it could very well have played into the politics of the matter. When he and his brother went in to ask Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go for three days to sacrifice to the Lord their God (notice that this was just a fragment of what would ultimately come to pass), Pharaoh met their request by increasing the heavy burden on the people. He said so long as the people are asking to leave for three days, they must have a lot of free time, and thus should be doing more work. It is likely that this was a move to discourage the people from following Moses and Aaron, not because Pharaoh actually believed that the people had a lot of free time. Regardless of the ultimate reasoning, however, the move did indeed make Moses and Aaron stink in the eyes of the people, so much so that Moses intreated the Lord and asked Him why He would do such a thing to them as they were trying to carry out His will. What Moses didn’t know, however, was the big picture- the long term effects that what he was going through at this moment would have on the rest of history, to the point where we still reference it today. Sometimes our path may indeed seem very dark, and it may feel like everything is working against it; however, if we are doing the will of the Lord, we can rest assured that in the long run, everything will indeed work out for good (see Romans 8:28). Let us learn to trust in Him.
1. The promise of redemption: The Lord answers Moses plea before Him with a promise, a promise of deliverance from the hand of Pharaoh. He restates who He is, establishing His power and authority over all creation, for He is the one who created it all. Though He had appeared in times past to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, He had not came to them with His real name: “I AM.” There is power in that name, and it was now time to reveal to the world just what power it held. Thus, Moses and Aaron were again to go into Pharaoh and tell him to let the children of Israel go, that the Lord might bring the people of Israel out of Egypt and into the land of promise, which He had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s offspring. However, Moses was in a tough position, for the last time that he tried to get Pharaoh to let the people go, Pharaoh instead increased the burdens on the Israelites. Now God was telling him to go back, but Moses was convinced that it wouldn’t work. However, God was going to show Moses His power just as He was going to show it to the land of Egypt. God would not allow Moses and Aaron to back down from the mission that they had already begun, for through this mission He was going to redeem His people. We have a similar mission today, one of redemption, but our redemption has already been offered and taken care of. Now it is up to us to spread that message of redemption to any who will hear. May we labor in the Kingdom until He come.
2. Genealogy of Moses and Aaron: Genealogies were very important amongst the children of Israel, as your pedigree often (but not always) determined your identity, your status and the amount of influence you had over the people. This genealogy may seem a little strange in comparison to others found in the Old Testament, but that is because it is a genealogy specific to Moses and Aaron, as these were the two Levites that would lead the people out of Egyptian bondage. Something important that this genealogy provides is the fact that establishes Aaron and his sons as Levites, which would eventually give them the right to be priests for the people. There is also some light shed on a few of the women who were in their line, including their mother, Jocebed the wife of Amram, as well as Aaron’s wife Elisheba, with whom he would father Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar, three of which would later become major players in the stories of Israel. Genealogies are unique in the way they bring people from different stories and time periods together in one place, helping us see the overall picture and timeline of history.
1. God’s signs given to Moses: Still answering Moses’ plea, as he asked how Pharaoh would listen to him, God gives Moses miraculous signs to prove that he was sent from a higher power. Just as He showed him in the wilderness (see Exodus 4:1-9), Aaron cast down his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and it became a servant. Though this was an awe inspiring sign, Pharaoh called for the magicians of the land and they showed that they could do the very same thing. Thus, Pharaoh hardened his heart before Moses and Aaron so that he would not let the people go. This would be the pattern to follow, as a great sign would be shown (though eventually the magicians of the land would not be able to match what was done), Pharaoh would ask for the plague to be removed in exchange for letting Israel go, and then he would harden his heart as soon as the plague was gone. However, this would happen so that the glory of God could be shown throughout the nations, especially to the Egyptians (see Romans 9:14-18). It is important to note, however, that God did not expect the people or Pharaoh to believe Moses and Aaron on their own without the signs from above. If this was the case, then anyone could have come and claimed to be sent from God. Just as important, too, is to note that after the great signs done in Egypt, God did not expect the people to need continuous signs to know that He was the Lord, and His law held the highest authority. Often He would point back to Egypt and say “Remember what I did to bring you out of the land of Egypt,” instead of replicating a great sign. In this, we see some of the character of God revealed.
2. The first plague- turning the Nile to blood: Since the heart of Pharaoh was hardened and would not listen even though they had turned Aaron’s staff into a serpent, the Lord told Moses and Aaron to go once again to Pharaoh and tell him about the first plague that would be brought upon the land of Egypt because of his hard heart. The first of ten plagues that would eventually come on Egypt before Pharaoh would actually release the people was turning the water of the Nile into blood, which is what Moses and Aaron did after they left the presence of Pharaoh. Notice who was affected by this plague- it wasn’t just Pharaoh and his house, but all the people of the land. The fish of the Nile died, the Nile stank, and water was scarce to be found. However, the magicians were also able to turn water into blood, and thus Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened so that he would not let the people go. And a week passed.
1. The second plague- Frogs: After a week passed and Pharaoh’s heart was still hardened, the Lord again sent Moses and Aaron into the presence of Pharaoh to warn him of the next plague that would be sent on the land if he would not let the people go. The second plague was that of swarms of frogs that would come out of the Nile and overwhelm Egypt, being everywhere. Since Pharaoh refused to let the people go, just as Moses said, so it happened. Frogs came up out of the Nile and covered the land of Egypt. Just imagine how much of a burden this would have been for the people, to have frogs everywhere they went, even in their homes and bedrooms. This time, even though the magicians were able to make frogs come out of water as well, Pharaoh recognized the problem and knew that Moses and Aaron were the only people he could talk to to make it stop. He asked Moses and Aaron to plead to the Lord that the frogs might be taken away, and in exchange he would let the people go sacrifice to the Lord. Moses asked him for a time in which he would have the frogs taken away, so that he would know that it was by the hand of the Lord and not just coincidence that they were removed. He said tomorrow, and thus did Moses and Aaron, pleading to the Lord and the Lord granting their request. But, as we will see time and again, Pharaoh hardened his heart when he saw that there was rest in the land. Do we do the same?
2. The third plague- Gnats: Though there is little written about the third plague as compared to the two that surround it, there are some interesting things that are said (or are left out) that set this plague apart from the rest. The first difference to note is that the record does say that Moses and Aaron went into Pharaoh before they initiated this plague, which turned the dust of the earth into swarms of gnats that covered man and beast. It would seem that this would even be worse than the swarms of frogs. Secondly, this is the first plague or wonder that the magicians could not replicate, and even they said to Pharaoh that it was done by the finger of God (it would seem that there was no doubt where the plague came from even though the text doesn’t explicitly say that they went into Pharaoh to warn him). Still Pharaoh hardened his heart, showing that the magicians were just a convenient excuse not to listen to Moses. This is the third thing that is different about this plague- Pharaoh doesn’t beg Moses and Aaron to take away the gnats. He simply hardens his heart and stubbornly does not let the people go.
3. The fourth plague- Flies: After the gnats came flies, swarms of flies that came upon all the Egyptians in the land, from the least to the greatest, on them and in their houses. However, this is the first plague in which the Lord specifically set apart his people in the land of Goshen so that the flies would not come upon them, to show to Pharaoh that his was indeed from the Lord. This may indicate that the people of Israel were affected by the previous plagues, though it does not necessitate it. The land of Egypt was ruined by the swarms of flies, and the magicians seem to not even be called in to try and replicate it. Pharaoh calls Moses and tries to bargain with how much he will allow the children of Israel to do if the flies are taken away, but there is no bargaining with God here. Moses stands by his first petition of a three day journey in the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord, for the sacrifice they would do would be an abomination to the Egyptians. Eventually, Pharaoh gives in and Moses and Aaron plead to the Lord to take away the flies. After the flies are gone, however, Pharaoh once again hardens his heart, just as the Lord said he would. Let us be careful to not do the same with the Lord delivers us out of our trials.
Tomorrow’s Reading: I Samuel 21-25.
Do not harden your heart.