Exodus 10: A Present God

I probably should be bothered by a plague of locusts filling the land. Or a darkness so severe that nobody moved for three days. But it seems, well, distant. A land covered in frogs? Weird, but who cares? Locusts all over – weren’t the fields already decimated? What’s the point? These plagues are horrible, but what’s their purpose? But just a brief look at ancient Egypt and the answer is obvious:

This was a showdown. YHWH versus the gods of Egypt. Egypt worshiped the god of the Nile, so God ruined the Nile. They worshiped the sun god, Ra, so God covered the land in darkness. They worshiped the god of the locusts, so God showed his power with locusts. And one by one, God speaks directly to the gods of Egypt and shows himself the victor.

These plagues aren’t random. They’re personal. And I wonder: what would a showdown between YHWH and the gods of North America look like? Complete economic collapse? Fuel stores tainted? Hideous personal disfigurements? Total communication breakdowns? Food stores rotting in warehouses?

How could we even survive that?

No wonder the officials were begging Pharaoh to let go.

And I’m awed by the power of our God. Humbled by his might. And for some reason, what stands out to me is that God came near. He is present. He doesn’t have a formulaic means of saving people (and his people needed saving often enough). He doesn’t have a checklist of how to get out of trouble. He spoke into their situation in their time of need in a response that was tailor made for his people.

Wow.

— Kirsten K.

Application Questions

When does God seem distant and far off?

What does it mean to you to know that God is present?

Exodus 9: His Timing is Perfect Timing

This chapter really spoke to me as I began to read it, I have known this narrative for almost my entire life; how God sent the plagues on the Egyptians. But this was the first time that this text spoke to me, in my life. One thing that spoke to me was in verses 15-16 when it says “For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

I was so amazed at this verse because it is full of so much hope. We know that God is all-powerful and can fix a situation, answer a prayer, or give freedom to His people in an instant, but that is often not what happens. God requires us to go on a journey with Him, this journey is often not easy, has many challenges, and many times requires hard work. In the case of the Israelites, they needed to fight for their freedom and put a tremendous amount of faith in the Lord. But it was through this journey of fighting for freedom that God was able to show His power to all people and for those people to proclaim His name.

I know in my life it is so hard to wait upon the Lord. For an answer to prayer, or to patiently wait for Him to reveal His plan for my life, but looking back it was during those periods of waiting where I grew in my relationship with the Lord, where I could give Him all the glory. God is always late to us with answering prayer, but we have to remember that His timing is the perfect timing and that through all trials we are to give Him the glory. Just as with the Israelites, there are times where we are wandering in the wilderness not entirely sure God knows what He is doing, but we are to keep the faith and keep walking forward.

— Taylor

Application Questions

Are there areas in our lives that can harden our hearts to the Lord’s will?

Why did the Lord harden Pharaoh’s unyielding heart?

In our 40 days of Freedom, what are things that can distract us from faithfully trusting in the Lords timing? Are there areas of life where we are giving other people the glory and not the Lord?

Exodus 8: Little Big Victories

Chapter 8 of Exodus begins seven days after the plague of blood and brings us into the thick of the plagues on Egypt. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always remembered the plagues in Exodus as a repetitive, unchanging pattern, almost like a children’s book: Moses asks Pharaoh to let his people go, Pharaoh says no, plagues come, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, he will not let the Israelites go. And repeat.

But reading it now I see there is so much more going on! God is miraculously multiplying frogs, gnats, and flies, demonstrating His dominion over creation. He is identifying the Israelites as His people, protecting them and their land. And He is working behind the scenes, softening the heart of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, revealing Himself as Lord.

The first time Moses asks Pharaoh to let the Israelite people go, Pharaoh scoffs at him “Who is the Lord, that I should obey Him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.” Pharaoh dismisses the God of Israel without a thought. However, by the time the plague of frogs comes around, Pharaoh seems to have changed his tune. He turns to Moses and Aaron, asking that they would “Pray to the Lord to take the frogs away.” They do, and although Pharaoh’s heart is again hardened when the frogs are gone, it seems he has begun to recognize the power of the Lord; He has begun to fear the Lord.

What I find especially revealing here is that we read in verse 7 that the magicians were also able to make frogs come up onto the land, but Pharaoh does not request their help. He seems to know that the power of the Lord is greater. Something in him knows that no magician or other deity can go up against the God of Israel.

Later in the chapter, God commands Moses to have Aaron “strike the dust on the ground, and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” Here the magicians have reached their limit; when they “tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not.” And they go to Pharaoh and say, “This is the finger of God.” How amazing is that! Even those who were working against God, those working to disprove Him, end up declaring His power.

What I see in both of these situations is a God who patiently works in the background; Moving Pharaoh to fear God instead of scoff at Him; Moving the magicians to proclaim His power rather than oppose Him. These are small victories. They do not get the Israelites out of Egypt. But they do move them one step closer.

Sometimes it can feel like all of our efforts, and all of our prayers are getting us nowhere, like Pharaoh’s heart is forever hardened. But remember, God is working in the background. In places where we don’t see God, and in people who seem incredibly far from God, God is there, and He is at work.

So don’t give up hope; on that person; on that dream; on your mission. Just as God came through for Moses and the Israelites in Exodus, He comes through for us today. Keep praying, keep working. Work for that one step closer, and know that the exodus is coming.

— Kirsten B.

Application Questions:

Is there a situation in your life where you feel stuck? Do you believe God is working in the background? Can you find the small victories along the way?

Have you ever looked back on a difficult situation, and found that God was there, working in his good timing, all along?

Exodus 7: Respites

Respite: a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant.

The respites from the world are easy but weak. The signs and wonders of our God are hard but supernaturally secure. “10 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. …13 Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said.”

Pharaoh’s respite in that moment provided by the magicians proves to darken his heart and keep him from the Lord. We see this again in chapter 7 with the blood of the Nile River, and even more as the plagues of Egypt go on. There was a respite that gave him an illusion of control, and so Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, blinding him from God’s signs and wonders.

We are not in control, God is. If we were, we’d all be in a much worse place than we are right now. It’s a weight our shoulders cannot bear. And yet, by nature of a fallen world, there are so many things that can happen to make us think we are in control. We get “good job”s and high fives, we buy a new car, we meet that special someone, we just know when things are going really well, and I am not saying that those are bad things. Those are all really great things, but it shall not be where we find our joy & meaning, nor where we are to take refuge in a time of trouble. Through those good times let us never stray even one iota from the understanding that we are not in control, due to respites from the world, that are in the grand scheme of things meaningless because true joy to overflow our souls can only be found in surrender to Jesus Christ. The problem with finding refuge in life’s respites is that they are cheap, and will not sustain us during the times of trouble, which are certain to come. They will harden our hearts from submission to God’s good and razor sharp plan, and they give us more of ourselves, which is the worst news in the universe. Let us be Christians who do not forget about the Lord’s power when the world wants to tell us that we’re in control. We are to surrender our plans and total control to God unconditionally, so that we might be set free from ourselves. And that…is the best news in universe. The One who created my soul is to be the captain of my soul.

— Cole

Application Questions

Who is captain of your life? The very creator of your life? Or you?

What are some respites in your life that, going through them, you need to ground yourself in the Lord, and know you are not in control?

Exodus 6: An Awesome God

In the early 90’s I was a computer instructor living in Edmonton. One summer I spent 6 weeks training the members at the R.C.M.P. detachment in Yellowknife on various productivity applications. In one class we were introducing ourselves and the guys started to get rambunctious. The banter began and they started to make comments at and about each other. I remember that things were getting a bit loud and everyone was laughing and I was standing at the back of the room, back where one of the Inspectors was sitting. And some guy at the front said something. It was one of those “I wasn’t thinking” spur of the moment kinds of things. There was a brief pause and then from the back one of the Inspectors said with authority, “Watch your step, corporal” and the room went silent. Clearly, a line had been crossed.

When you become familiar with someone you often forget the true essence of who they are. Their power or their wealth or their position fades into the background of your relationship and all you see is “Just Joe.” And that is usually good. But when we are talking about God then the relationship is more complicated. By the time we get to Exodus 6 we have seen a developing relationship between Moses and God. God has revealed himself to Moses and has shown him some wonders. But Moses is unsure. Yes, this God has come near to him. Yes, this God has revealed himself. Yes, this God has promised that he sees the persecution of the family of Israel and that he will do something about it. But it is clear that Moses really does not understand the relationship that he and God have and does not really understand this God who is only now beginning to revealing himself for who he really is. But in Exodus 6 we see God standing to his full height, looking at Moses, and saying, “Now you will see ….”

Too often I take God for granted. I hear about grace and love and compassion and a God who comes near to me. And I become complacent. This God is my buddy, after all. But every so often, when my mouth is full of my own words, God stands to his full height and says, “Watch yourself, Dennis, do not ever take me for granted, for I am the Lord”

— Dennis

Application Questions

Have you allowed one aspect of God’s character, perhaps his love or grace, to become all you know of him?

What is the place of the power and majesty of God in your relationship with him?

Take some time today to reflect on the awesomeness of this God who has, through Jesus, come near to you.

Exodus 5: The Path Is Simple, But Not Easy!

Does following God ever feel like it just gets harder and harder? That is the experience of Moses and Aaron in chapter 5 of Exodus. They’ve done exactly what God told them to do! They go to Pharaoh and say, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.’” But Pharaoh, instead of allowing them to do what God has told them, makes life even harder for them!

Sometimes this is what following God can feel like. He asks us to do something, but the more we try to do it, the more obstacles we come up against. We get frustrated, and just like Moses, we say, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me?”

And maybe your life feels that way right now, maybe the things God has placed in your heart feel like they are becoming harder and harder to accomplish. If this is the situation you find yourself in, I have two encouragements for you:

First, you are not the only person to feel this way. Throughout history, even back to this incredible leader Moses, people have been frustrated when the path does not seem easy. The beautiful thing about following God is that we do not go it alone, but rather we experience it in the context of a community of people who, just like us, are walking this God-path. Reach out to those around you and ask them, “How do you walk the God-path when it seems so hard?” Find encouragement from the people around you who are also walking this path.

Second, this is not the only chapter in the story. Just as Exodus 5 is only a part of a greater story, in which God will deliver his people, and Moses will accomplish what God has set before him, so too is your current experience only a part of a greater story. Know that God will partner with you to accomplish His plans and that just like He promises Moses in Chapter 3, so too does He say to you, “I will be with you.”

— Zach

Application Questions

Is there any area in your life where the God-path seems to be getting harder and harder? Who can you reach out to for encouragement?

What situation can you remember where the road seemed hard, but then you accomplished what God had set before you? How can this encourage you in the place you are in now?

Exodus 4: What’s In Your Toolbox?

As we continue our reading of the book of Exodus, we find ourselves at the beginning of chapter 4. As the one chapter ends and another begins we are stepping into the middle of a conversation between God and Moses. A conversation that most of us are familiar with: “Moses and the Burning Bush.”

With the burning bush as the background, God gives Moses purpose. God is putting Moses in charge of leading his people out of Egypt and into freedom. Before Moses was Mission-Less, and on the run from previous misguided attempts to free his people, now he finds himself with a God-Given Mission and clear plan; not to free his people his way, but instead God’s people, God’s way.

So chapter 4 begins with one of a series of objections posed by Moses (that go back to the previous chapter) as to why he is not entirely bonafide to be one to lead…

Exodus 4:1-2

But Moses protested again, “Look, they won’t believe me! They won’t do what I tell them. They’ll just say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’”

Then the Lord asked him, “What do you have in your hand”

“A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied.

I find God’s response refreshing! Full of good news! Almost as if God is saying…

“Moses… I can use you right there where you are!

But you are going to have to trust me.

On the run, with a shady painful past? I can use that.

A shepherd with desert skills? Trust me it’ll come in handy; I can use whatever your occupation is…

With whatever resources, tools you have at your disposal.”

As a father, husband, son, pastor and friend there have been seasons in my life when I feel like Moses. I feel inadequate, insecure, with not enough resources or tools.

What a great, and powerful reminder! As God has called us to His mission, He can use us just as we are, and with whatever is in our toolbox.

“LORD, may we be obedient when You tell us to go.

May we be Brave in you Lord.

Be with our mouths and teach us what we are to say.

For the sake of Your name, Jesus” Amen

– Laurence

Bonus Trivia

Did you know! That four women have now saved Moses: his mother, sister, Pharaoh’s daughter, and now his wife (by circumcising their son instead of Moses and as a result, Moses is not put to death by God Exodus 4:25)

Application Questions

Is there a situation in your life that you feel inadequate for? Do you see tools in your life God can use in spite of your feelings of inadequacy?

Are you living Mission-Less or with a God-Mission?

Exodus 3: “I Will Be With You!”

In the midst of an ordinary day, possibly a boring one at that, Moses’ attention is torn away from the mundane activity of the animals he is tending, to a completely shocking site! As if a burning bush that won’t burn up isn’t enough, Moses hears a voice in the middle of that bush – calling HIS name! I don’t know about you, but that would freak me right out! However, I love what God says to Moses– “I have seen the oppression of My people” – “I have heard their cries” – “I am aware of their suffering.” I would imagine that the Israelites spent many days wondering whether God cared about what they were facing, yet the reality was: He saw them. He heard them. He was very aware, and He was about to put a rescue plan into motion. Are you wondering where God is in the midst of your pain? I can tell you – He is saying the same words to you today as He said of the Israelites – “I see you! I hear you! I am very aware! Don’t give up!”

When God tells Moses that He wants him to be the point person in a rescue plan, Moses gives a pretty classic and common response. “But God … who am I to do this? Notice that God doesn’t say – “Oh Moses … it’s because of all of your abilities! Instead, He answers him with five plain but powerful words – “I will be with you!” The reality of God’s presence was simply enough.

Do you need to be reminded today that God sees you? That He hears you? That He is aware? Keep crying out to Him!

Or maybe you’re being asked to be a part of someone’s rescue plan, and you’re reluctant. Let’s remember today; it’s not about our abilities it’s about God – the ultimate Rescuer being with us! Ask Him today for the courage to do whatever He is asking of you on this ordinary (maybe even boring) day!

— Carolyn

Application Questions

Is there an area of your life where you need to be reminded that God sees you? Hears you? Is aware of your pain?

What areas of your life do you need to trust God and be reminded that he “will be with you”?

Exodus 2: Identity Crisis

By the end of chapter 2, we have seen in just a handful of verses much of Moses life summarized in just a few events. We read the remarkable story of his beginnings in which he is rescued from the violent attempt to stop the Hebrews from expanding any further through a series of events that read like a novel. A mother is making a desperate attempt to save her baby’s life mixed with both fear and hope. The twisting plot in which, through some crafty scheming, she is reunited with her son to help care for him as a hidden identity and even paid to do so.

In five short words in v. 11, “After Moses had grown up” we are swiftly whisked past many years of his life. What we do know is that Moses grew up as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. His home was as an Egyptian, in all the luxuries that must have come with it. For many years, his identity must have been a struggle, as we read in the very next phrase “he went out to where his people were hard at work.” He grew up with the luxuries of the Egyptians having no part in the incredibly difficult existence of the Hebrew people but obviously with a sense that he was a Hebrew.

We then read of his misguided attempt to act in solidarity with his people, which in turn ends with a stark rejection by them wanting to have no association with Moses. At this point, the Pharaoh hears of what he has done and is after his head, and the people he wants to identify with have rejected him, and he now flees to another country. No place to call home. No people to call home. He meets a girl; they get married and have a son.

I think it speaks a lot to where Moses finds himself by how he decides to name his son. We are told that he named him Gershom because he was a foreigner, a Hebrew word that carried that meaning.

As we read of where Moses finds himself, I am struck by what must have been a struggle for him to know who he was. Even as we project forward into the following chapter, we see a further sense of this identity develop; a lack of self-confidence, a sense that he has no place in being used by God. And yet, Moses is on the doorstep of being instrumental in allowing God to bring freedom and liberation to his people.

How many of us live with a sense of struggle with our identity? Perhaps like Moses, we feel at times that we don’t know who “our people” are. We live with the guilt and fear of misguided choices and how we have messed up with those that we want to feel connected to. Perhaps we simply feel like we will never be what God is looking for, accomplishing anything, yet, as we know the story about to unfold, I am reminded that these things are not obstacles for God or his desire to use us as a part of his plans. In fact, in some ways, these are the things that God loves to use to write a different story out of.

— Jon

 

Application Questions

Do you question your identity? Do you believe God can use you despite your failings?

Has there been a time in your life when you doubted God’s ability to use you, and He still did? What can this experience teach you now?

Exodus 1: When Your World is Turned Upside Down!

It’s amazing how upside-down your world can turn in the span of a mere eight verses! Genesis chapter 50 ended on a high-note with Joseph promising that God was going to rescue His people out of Egypt. The very next chapter, Exodus 1, re-introduces us to God’s people, but by verse 8, life is spinning out of control. The new Pharaoh knows nothing of Joseph and all he had done for the nation of Egypt. The Egyptians are threatened by the Israelites and plunge them into a world of darkness and brutal slavery. Pharaoh decrees that he will put an end to the Israelites by having every baby boy killed at birth.

What a hopeless mess!

Maybe you can identify. Your world feels like it’s being turned upside-down. The opposition against you seems relentless and daunting. Well, be encouraged: the midwives are on the way!

Verse 17 says, “But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders!”

God used these behind-the-scenes, servant-hearted ladies to save His people and birth a brand new chapter in God’s redemption story.
These women…

  • Obeyed God instantly!
  • Obeyed God when it would cost them dearly!
  • Obeyed God when it didn’t make sense!
  • Obeyed God when there was no personal benefit!
  • And Obeyed God without question!

Their ‘fear for God’ wasn’t about being terrified and dreadful! Their ‘fear for God’ fueled their lives and stood out as a shining light in a very dark time!

Nobody seems to fear God anymore. At least not like these women did. As I read Exodus 1 today, I’m challenged by these women to live with boldness and obedience!

— Todd

Application Questions

Is your world feeling upside-down? Who in your life could be a “midwife” in this moment of crisis?

What areas of your life could you be more bold, like the midwives in Exodus 1?

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