Last week my granddaughter and I were intently studying a green moth. We talked about its legs and antennae and its delicate wings. She seriously peered at the tiny moth and then said, “Gigi, I think its wings are made of lettuce.” She was very observant; its wings did look like they were made of lettuce. What are you made of? We can be characterized like Pharaoh, appearing to be tough and invincible, or we might be characterized as wearing our emotions on our sleeves. How would you characterize yourself? How would others characterize you? Pharaoh’s faith was in his own power and would lead to bankrupting Egypt. The placement of your faith connects to your decision-making. The material of your heart reflects how you will respond to God’s work in your life.
Yahweh was not impressed by Egypt and Pharaoh. “I will lay my hand on Egypt…and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” (Exodus 7:4-5) Just like Pharaoh’s heart ignored Yahweh, my heart may not be moved by God’s “attention-grabbers”. Just as God was not impressed by Pharaoh’s defiance, He is not impressed by my social status, my bank account, or my high opinion of myself. The plague of blood did not change Pharaoh’s heart and neither did the frogs. “Their land teemed with frogs, which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers.” (Psalm 105:30) Pharaoh wanted the plagues removed, but in his own power, even his empty promises to Moses demonstrated his arrogant trust in his own invincibility. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened. “But when Pharaoh saw that there was a relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the Lord had said.” (Exodus 8:15) What experiences have you had that felt like plagues? How did you respond? “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath…” (Romans 2:5)
Pharaoh remained unfazed by God’s power and plagues. The material of his heart was not pliable from the beginning. What is the state of your heart? A person with a hardened heart sees clear evidence of the hand of God at work and still refuses to accept His word and submit to His will. Hard-hearted people echo Pharaoh and say, “…Who is the Lord, that I should obey him…” (Exodus 5:2) Scripture makes it clear, that by sending these various judgments, God was hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Spurgeon said, “The same sun which melts wax, hardens clay. And the same gospel which melts some persons to repentance hardens others in their sins.”
It all depends on the nature of the material. What material are you made of lettuce, wax, clay? “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion…see to it…that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart…But encourage one another daily, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:8-13)
In Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire Jim Cymbala tells the story of their daughter who had walked away from her family and her faith and was leading a life completely under the control of drugs. She had been gone from home for several years and during that time, not knowing if she was even alive, they had continually pled with God for her deliverance and return home. It seemed that God was not listening or had turned his back on them, and certainly on their daughter.
What was it going to take to bring her to her senses?
Then one day, out of the blue, the phone rang; it was their long, lost daughter, asking to come home. God had answered their prayers. She was alive, and she had been delivered from her addictions! She returned home a changed person. What did it take to turn her around? We don’t know all that God led her through, but she finally submitted to his work in her life.
In a totally different context, today's reading from Exodus 7, makes us wonder, "What is it going to take to bring Pharaoh to the place where he will let the Israelites go? Can you think of anything worse than having every body of water in your nation turned to blood—to say nothing of the water in the containers in your house? Certainly, if Pharoah had any compassion for his own people, he would not continue to shake his fist in the face of Almighty God. But it was going to be a long time and take many more plagues before Pharaoh relented. Even after he finally let the Israelites go, he decided to follow them to bring them back to captivity. After all, they were his workforce.
God often works in mysterious ways to accomplish his purposes. Even when we don't know how and why, he is constantly working his plan for his glory and the good of his chosen people, including believers today.
Fast forward to 2021. What’s it going to take to bring our nation back to God? Are we, like the Israelites, so comfortable and secure in our slavery to the world around us that we are willing to accept the status quo? Or are we willing to follow Jesus into the unknown of tomorrow, pursuing an intimate walk with him now while we’re on the ultimate journey to heaven where we’ll live with him forever?
What’s it going to take?
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. (Romans 8:28)
jbd & gmd
We should be listening. The high cost of not listening to instructions could ruin you; and in some cases, the individuals and the nation around you could also fall. Throughout today’s Scripture Resource passage, the sovereign will of God rises into view. The revelation occurred in the days of long ago (Exodus 7-9).
God’s patience is timely. God’s grace is precise. Testing God’s limits leads us on a fraught-filled path of potential destruction which in Egypt included infestations, thundering-hail-driven storms, blood-filled waters, ruined crops, and more—actually, much more. Disaster would soon arrive because few people were listening and God’s patience finally spoke, “Enough.”
If you counted your way through the opening chapters of Exodus, you will read about the plagues. Ten divinely directed disasters. The recording begins in Exodus 7 and extends through Exodus 11. We should be listening.
God’s election and sovereign will, are on full display. There is more here than a few words in today’s reflection can accommodate. Consider investing your time in parsing out the details and you will probably meet more than one puzzle. However, there is no puzzle regarding one sure application.
As it was in the days of Moses our discipleship commitment includes listening. God speaks through Scripture. God speaks through the Spirit. God speaks through spiritual leaders. God speaks through creation. God speaks and is not silent. We should be listening.
Listening to God is not always a fun experience for truth is spoken, but listening and obeying God’s instructions is part of who we are. We are disciples. We call Jesus Lord. We believe God is in charge and we are not. We believe God knows best and we do not. Therefore, we listen to learn how to live. God is here and is not silent. We should be listening.
What helps you listen, deeply listen to God’s voice?
When thinking about your life in what ways has God spoken to you in the past?
The exodus of Israel from Egypt portrays one of the great showdowns of history.
Gooooooooooooood Eeeeevening, ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to this title fight between the top contenders for Heavyweight Champion of the World.
In one corner, wearing the finest white Egyptian silk and a solid-gold headdress, we have the self-proclaimed current champion of the world: the divine Phaaaaaaaaaaaaroah!
In the other corner, wearing a worn shepherd’s costume and carrying a wood staff, we have the newcomer and challenger....what’s his name?...Oh yeah...Moooooooooses.
The Egyptians considered Pharaoh a god, and he believed his own press. Moses didn’t think anything like that about himself; however, the one, true God tells him, “I have made you like God to Pharaoh.”
So, we have two humans facing off, but they represent supernatural realities. Pharaoh thinks he is a god and is backed up by demonic forces (What else do you think the “secret arts” of the magicians entailed?). Moses knows he is a human but is backed up by Yahweh, the one, true God.
In the eyes of the contemporary onlookers, the odds were a thousand to one in Pharaoh’s favor. Of course, in reality it only needed to be a one-round fight. But God says he is going to prolong the bout: “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you” (vv. 3-4a).
God makes Pharaoh stubborn to ensure that the rumble goes all ten rounds. God does this to make a point. He wants to change the minds and hearts of those onlookers: “the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord” (v. 5). When the Egyptians see Yahweh’s “divisions” (that is a military term), God’s army of Israelites, departing Egypt, they will believe that He, not Pharaoh, is the one, true God.
God didn’t want just the Egyptians to know that He is the Lord. He wanted His own people to know and believe it. He wanted all the nations of the world at that time to know it. He wants us today to remember this story and believe that He is God.
For this to be true, this title fight had to be memorable. And it was.
The end of the first round is called a draw, even though Moses’ staff is the clear winner.
The bell rings for round two...
Matching bookends—today’s Scripture resource is held together with identical-twin statements. Moses’ words of self-description, “…I speak with faltering lips” are emotionally bracketing bookends within his soul (Exodus 6:12 & 30).
When we repeat our words and phrases, when we repeat ourselves in the same conversation, passion resides within. As readers of Scripture we do not have the luxury of audibly hearing Moses’ words; however, careful observation in Scripture-reading draws our attention to his mental and emotional condition when he says, “…I speak with faltering lips.” Good news, God’s masterful plan includes the faltering-one and disciples of Jesus who also suffer from a treacherous swamp-surrounded faith.
For Moses, God was unwilling to leave him behind even as specific leaders were set in place (Exodus 6:13-14). The fearful one, the faltering-one is becoming the publicly identified leader of all God’s people.
Reading today’s passage delivers us to a time when the pharaoh’s ruled Egypt. Disciples are aware there was more at work in those days than the pyramid and sphinx-building leaders of a humanly devised empire.
The heritage of Messiah comes through the generations of the families, certified and publicly named in the historical record of Exodus 6. These are the Hebrews, the Jews, the family of Abraham of whom God spoke (Genesis 12); and we ask, “They are to be led by Moses-the faltering-one?”
The Spirit of God clearly invites readers to pay attention to the kind of persons with whom God works. Moses seems to have temporarily landed on center stage and feels like he is in a solo presentation. The spotlight feels like fire. The gaze of pharaoh burns him.
The mind of Moses and his emotions fail him. As Scripture readers we know what is coming. Moses did not know. Mighty and terrible turmoil, plagues and blessings will happen as God establishes the people of the covenant in the covenant land. For us as readers of Scripture the faltering bookends of Moses form an enclosure proclaiming God’s boldness in dealing with a disciple’s weakness.
Do you have a strategy for times when your faith falters?
Have you been in a seemingly impossible situation? A series of tasks that don’t seem to have a conclusion. A child that has drifted from the truth. An illness that has overtaken your life.
Moses must have felt that way. He had pleaded multiple times with Pharaoh to let the Israelite people leave Egypt, yet the ruler was unrelenting, turning up the heat on them and requiring more with less. In our lives, it might look like added duties to the job, the child seemingly straying beyond the point of no return, or the doctor ordering another round of treatment to your medically-weary body. Any resolution, regardless of the situation, seems unattainable.
Moses left Pharaoh’s palace distraught. He shook his fist at God. “How can you mistreat your own people like this? Why did you ever send me if you were going to do this to them (Exodus 5:22 TLB)?”
But everything was working according to schedule – God’s schedule. He had stated plainly that Pharaoh would refuse. Yes, conditions were bad – as bad as they’d ever been – but it was not for Moses to look at the conditions and become discouraged. It was for him to look up and to recognize that God would care for his people.
It’s something I need to remember when another task is added to a job, the child moves further away, or that ailment continues like a pebble caught in one’s shoe.
Tom Julien writes in Spiritual Greatness: Studies in Exodus (BMH Books, 1979 out-of-print), “Our Lord would teach us that without Him, things are not only difficult – they are utterly impossible.” Julien points out that in Exodus 6:2-8, the splendor of God’s person and purposes are spread out before Moses in gracious review. “This passage is a gem for anyone who is passing through deep waters and needs to be lifted above the hopelessness of his circumstances.”
In these verses, God makes a pledge to Moses:
God also makes a pledge to the Israelites:
Those promises are just as applicable for the 21st century. Regardless of how hopeless the circumstances seem; God is always there. He will deliver us from our burdens; he will loosen the bonds that bind us. He will redeem us and provide for us in the future.
What seemingly impossible situations have you found yourself in?
How did God answer your prayers?
Do our reactions in times of crisi
Scripture points us to the ways we can become enslaved, enjoy misplaced dependence, and find freedom. Tiberius Rata referred to the Israelites as becoming “Egyptized”. As the Israelites continued to live in Egypt, they absorbed the culture around them and became more ensnared. They became dependent on Pharaoh and Egypt. We can also absorb the culture of what consumes our hearts and become dependent on that source for our success, happiness and fulfillment and consequently become enslaved. How do you see people being absorbed into the culture that consumes them? They Egyptians were only concerned about controlling the economic benefits that they received on the backs of the Israelites. Moses’s request to “Let my people go” was met with disdain from Pharaoh who did not acknowledge the existence of I AM.
Pharaoh’s responded by making the Israelites’ labor more difficult.
More Bricks, No Straw
Once enslaved, it becomes difficult to see the full nature of your entrapment. “Then the Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh: ‘why have you treated your servants this way?’” (Exodus 5:15) The hope for rescue, for the Israelites, was in the, perceived, most powerful person; the very one who was exacting their enslavement. When life becomes difficult for you, where is your hope for rescue? Who or what do you turn to for help?
(A good measure of where you are looking for help is how frustrated, angry, or disappointed are you when you don’t get the help you need from a source.) I find myself turning to ways to earn more money, open another line of credit, reduce expenses, reduce stress, and finding a person to unload my concerns on. It’s easy to put my hope for deliverance in the very source that enslaved me to begin with. This can quickly become a cycle of “making bricks without straw”.
Depending on my skills, my time, my energy (anything that has my before it) gives a false sense of security. “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God or rather are known by God-how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Galatians 4:8-9) I can cry out to God in complaint, desperate for relief, like the Israelites. God heard the Israelites plea for relief, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt…and I am concerned about their suffering.” (Exodus 3:7) How have you seen God send an answer to your cries and ignored it and continued to try to find another source for relief?
More Bricks, No Straw
Unfortunately, the Israelites, would rather depend on Pharaoh and their pleas for relief to him, than on God, and Moses, as God’s rescue plan. The Israelites appeal to Pharaoh for relief was met with “Lazy, that what you are-lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Now get back to work.” (Exodus 5:17-18) Where have you seen people depend on their perceived most powerful source rather than depend on God?
The dependence cycle on what consumes people’s hearts can be broken by choosing to turn to the Ultimate Deliverer. What consumes your energy? Who or what whispers, “lazy”, in your ear? After the Israelite overseers pled their case to Pharaoh, “The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble…they found Moses…and they said…you have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh.” (Exodus 5:19-21) Instead of going to Pharaoh to complain, the foremen should have gone to Moses and Aaron and suggested that they summon the elders and have a prayer meeting. They had misplaced dependence that resulted in:
More Bricks, No Straw.
Today, identify misplaced dependence and seek freedom with the Ultimate Deliverer “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:7)
We’ve all been there... thinking to ourselves, "What else can go wrong?" ...and then someone pulls the rug out from under us. And we think, "That's the last straw! I can't take one more thing!"
Can you remember a time like that? How did you handle it?
In today's reading the Israelites, who were suffering under the despotic reign of cruel Egyptian rulers, were told, “We will not provide any more straw for you to use in making bricks. Go find your own straw.” We would like to think that this kind of barbaric treatment no longer exists, but unfortunately, one quick search on the Internet for "slave labor” reveals what we consider unthinkable, inhumane treatment. The phrase, "Man's inhumanity to man" comes to mind.
Here's a quote from "newtolerance.org" that might better be called NO tolerance. "Over the last two years, we’ve slowly been learning about how the [name deleted] government has been abducting, isolating, and brainwashing innocent people simply because of their religious beliefs. On March 1st, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute [people] are being rented as slave labor. . . . After being held in dystopian brainwashing camps, [these people] are shipped across the country to work in factories. They aren’t allowed to leave or practice their religion, and any time away from the factory floor is spent in indoctrination classes meant to strip them of their . . . identity." *
Is your life full of hard things right now? Perhaps you're thinking, "This is the last straw; I can't take one more thing!" How can Israel’s suffering long ago or the suffering of people groups today speak into mine?
Our ABF is discussing this very topic. Using Barb Wooler's 30 Days to a More Resilient Faith, we are looking at suffering from three perspectives:
One: How do we see God in our suffering?
Two: What does my suffering reveal about Man (me)?
Three: What do sin and Satan have to do with suffering?
It is very obvious that it was within God's plan that the Egyptians would bring such unbearable suffering and hardship on the Jewish nation. So, are you wondering if what you're going through is his plan for you? Ask yourself the three questions and then ask the Holy Spirit to reveal his answers to you.
One more question: How is God using your suffering to prepare you to offer help to others in similar circumstances? (See 2 Corinthians 1:3-7.)
*This people group are Muslim. Please use this as a reminder to pray that many Muslims would come to Christ during the month of Ramadan, which began April 13.
jbd & gmd
On January 28, 1986, the U.S. space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch from Cape Canaveral, claiming the lives of seven astronauts. The severe cold that morning reduced the resiliency of two rubber O-rings that sealed the joint between the two lower segments of the right-hand solid rocket booster. The weather conditions were simply not conducive for the O-rings to be effective. A devastating impact resulted from this small oversight.
In Exodus 4 we read that God had called Moses to a very significant mission, and all must be in order. But wait! Moses had been disobedient. Maybe it wasn’t intentional; maybe he just didn’t want to debate with Zipporah again; maybe he considered it a small matter. But God said that Moses’ action, or inaction, was sin—and for this God was going to kill him!
A little sin is like a little leaven. It leavened the whole lump of dough.
Despite Moses’ 40 years in the wilderness university preparing for the Exodus from Egypt, his sin of omission was going to doom the whole mission. Leading the people to the Promised Land was going to be a huge endeavor, and God had invested much in Moses. But he would not accept this imperfection. Would it take a second trainee another 40 years to be prepared to lead the Israelites out of Egypt? Couldn’t God just let this little detail slide?
We know the answer: God is holy. He requires us to be holy. He cannot look on, tolerate, or excuse casual disobedience—this procrastination of the required procedure for Jewish males. Why would God require this act of cutting and bloodshed on this little son? After all he was only half Jewish, and his mother apparently didn’t think the act was necessary, and Moses didn’t insist on it.
But if Moses couldn’t be obedient in this little thing, how would he be obedient when the big mission needed to be executed, especially before Pharaoh? After all, about a million people were waiting to be led out of Egypt, and for this to happen, Moses had to be in a proper relationship with God. And divine leading must never be missed. Even a small sin hindering clear communication with the God of the universe would have a devastating impact on the mission.
Life Application Questions
Today’s Scripture resource reveals Moses covered with both divine anger and grace. God’s anger comes settles on him like a winter coat during high heat and humid afternoon. The increasing heat of judgment should not be missed (Exodus 4:10-17).
Moses actively underestimates God’s intention and apparently fears being abandoned, yet again. Perhaps he doubts God’s willingness to provide spiritual support, during the time he will serve as a public witness before the royal court.
Clearing his throat and with downcast eyes, Moses may have said, [About this speaking assignment Lord God Almighty,] “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue” (Exodus 4:10).
Anxiety, fear, and trepidation cover Moses heating his soul. God’s reply, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Exodus 4:12).
Moses wears his winter coat: “…Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” God, becomes angry. “Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses…” (Exodus 4:12-13).
Perhaps, like me, you have made people angry. My family, friends as well as other disciples have worn garments of anger because of what I said, or not said. However, it is not personal anger from others that is the focus in Exodus 4—here is the very real anger of God.
Today, and I observe blessedly, whatever amount of anger God possesses with me being me, grace through Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit continues to cover this soul (Romans 8:1).
God seems to specialize in choosing spiritually challenged individuals like Moses and like me. Possibly like you? We have not been automatically judged as spiritually unacceptable incompetents; rather, we have been raised up and clothed with grace.
God chose Moses and there is a deep hiddenness in this choosing. The pain and trauma of Moses' birth, secret life, and childhood have born foul fruit—Moses is afraid of being abandoned.
Do you experience feelings of being abandoned by God?
Do you have spiritual disciplines which help you trust God?