Friday, March 1, 2019 -
Today is my son Josiah’s 25th birthday. Happy birthday, Josiah, I wish I could celebrate with you!
I received an encouraging letter this week from my friend, Dave Stravers, who was the president of Mission India during my time on their board of directors. He said, “I just yesterday finished reading a book that traces the effects of World War I on the lives of J.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. They were friends, and each became famous authors (“Lord of the Rings,” “That Hideous Strength,” “Chronicles of Narnia,” etc.) The themes in those novels are very counter-culture for their time and reflect a biblical truth that most Christians have trouble acknowledging, that just when the evil powers and authorities that rule our world seem to triumph, God grants the victory through surprisingly and seemingly weak or insignificant means. There is a point in their stories where the heroes give up, revealing that they cannot stand against the forces that oppose them. And yet they end up winning because of God’s intervention.
“I think there is a connection there to your story of seeing the “V” on the side of a building. Can a person really experience “Victory” while in prison? Your story turned me to I Corinthians 15:57-58 and Romans 8:35-39. In both passages, we are invited to imagine the worst. In whatever worst situation you can imagine, God promises victory. For me, it’s sometimes impossible to see a good outcome when life (or death) overwhelms me with the bad news.
“‘Thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.’
“Both Tolkien and Lewis wove warning into their stories, one of which is that we should not be tempted to compromise with evil, should not agree to use questionable means in order to achieve worthy ends. I needed that reminder.”
Today, I began a study of Moses, Pharaoh, and the exodus of Israel from Egypt. This is so important, as it is one of, if not the most commonly cited incident in all of Scripture as a token of God’s mercy, deliverance, and salvation. It is a picture of Christ’s atonement of our sin, something like the Jews were to forever recall, with the Passover and its sacrifice as the chief reminder. It is a common theme throughout the Psalms and entire Bible, cited by Peter, Stephen, and Paul. Obviously, there is a lot for me to glean from this account and apply to my own life.
God made it very clear to Moses, when he was eighty years of age, what God’s call for his life was to be. It seems to me that was a long time for him to have to wait. For forty years or so, Moses was a shepherd on the edge of the wilderness, minding the task put before him. And so, when God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, calling Moses to lead the Israelites out of the land of Egypt, it apparently seemed incredulous to him that he was the one God was choosing. He told God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). He then used his lack of eloquence in his argument why he felt God was picking the wrong guy (4:10).
But Moses, along with his brother Aaron, obeyed God (5:1). And how did God initially reward their obedience? Pharaoh just made things worse for the Israelites – impossible actually (5:6-9). I can relate to this, for here I sit in prison because I was obedient to God! Things only got worse for the Israelites and so they judged Moses and asked, “Why?” (5:21). “Why did you tell us to tell Pharaoh to let your people go offer sacrifice to you,” asked Moses of God (5:22-23)? I, too, have asked God why. Why does obedience to God sometimes make matters worse, it seems.
But God answers Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh (6:1)…I am the Lord” (6:2). He appeared, after all, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and made a covenant with them. He heard the people’s groaning. So God promises again to deliver them (6:6), just as He has made the same promise to me! Note, throughout all of this, He kept reminding them that He is the Lord! Moses needs to merely trust God’s word and His promises – for He always keeps them (6:2-8).
So after approaching Pharaoh the first time, hence also becoming the number one source of complaints from the Israelites (6:21), Moses takes his burden to the Lord (5:22-23).
And what is God’s answer to Moses: Go back again to Pharaoh. Whoa! God meets resistance this time from Moses (6:10-13), and Moses tells God he’s already tried this and Pharaoh didn’t listen. As a matter of fact, he just made matters more difficult for the Israelites (6:10-13). What’s more, Moses brings up one of his initial arguments – that God’s got the wrong guy, Moses is just not convincing enough! He’s got no eloquence (6:12).
But God assures Moses and Aaron once more that He was giving them the authority (6:13). They were God’s chosen vessels. He then explains to them the whole plan, that God wants Pharaoh to know Moses and Aaron represent God Almighty (7:1), and all the Egyptians to know Israel’s God is the Lord (7:5). In fact, verse 5 is the key to understanding why God kept hardening Pharaoh’s heart!
So Moses and Aaron obeyed the Lord (7:6) and did exactly as God commanded (7:10). Note that Moses was to make it very clear to Pharaoh that it was God speaking through him to Pharaoh (7:16). He is also to change, at this point, the reason he’s asking Pharaoh to let his people go. No longer is he to say to let them go to the wilderness merely to sacrifice, but now he is saying it is to serve God (7:16). This Hebrew verb, “avadh,” can also be translated to “worship,” and it seems to better fit this context. Although no doubt to worship God is a form of service. This same verb is translated “worship” in Exodus 3:12.
It is interesting that to begin with, Pharaoh, in order to counter God, Moses, and Aaron, was able to call upon the power of Satan to replicate some of the miraculous things God did through Moses, specifically turning the rods into snakes and producing frogs (7:12; 8:7). But in the end, Pharaoh realized the Lord was bringing these things upon him and the Egyptians, as he asked Moses to entreat God to remove the frogs (8:8).
By the fourth plague (the gnats), when Pharaoh’s sorcerers couldn’t get Satan to replicate what God had done, they told Pharaoh, “this is the finger of God” (8:19). But still, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened.
By the time God struck the Egyptians with boils, Moses tells Pharaoh God could have just wiped him and all the Egyptians off the face of the earth, but instead God allowed them to live to show His power, “and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth” (9:16). Indeed, was God actually giving Pharaoh and the Egyptians an opportunity – one last chance – to repent?
Well, after the hail, thunder, and fire, Pharaoh does verbally repent to Moses of his and the Egyptian’s wickedness. But Moses saw through this as mere words (9:30).
And God reminds Moses again the reason He’s hardened Pharaoh’s heart is so He “may perform these signs” of His among them. But God takes His reasoning a step further – so Moses’ descendants may know that He is the Lord (10:1-2).
So now at this time, Moses goes a step further, telling Pharaoh he’d better humble himself before the Lord (10:3), and even Pharaoh’s servants were turning against him for refusing to listen (10:7).
It was interesting that when God brought darkness on the land, it could not be attributed to a solar eclipse, or some natural phenomenon, because the darkness lasted three days (10:22)! Nor apparently did any of the man-made sources of light work (10:23). This had to be the miraculous hand of God!
I’ve often thought when each man-made legal effort has failed to vindicate me and set me free of my burdens, that God has something planned which will not be able to be explained but for the miraculous hand of God. Indeed, this has been the prayer of Kathie and mine all along, that God alone would get the glory! He has given us signs and promises all along of His deliverance, yet has chosen up until this point not to bring it to pass. So I can relate with the Israelites’ frustration that God kept hardening Pharaoh’s heart. God through my entire ordeal has time and time again shown His miraculous power as I’ve evidenced in previous journals, yet He has not chosen for a purpose only He knows to fully deliver me. Yet I believe that day is coming!
Through their ordeal, the people of Israel and Moses himself were given favor in the sigh of the Egyptians (11:3), as I have received favor from my fellow prisoners – including some very bad men. And God appointed the very day the people would leave Egypt and their bondage – 430 years – to the very day! And I know God has appointed the very day I will walk free from this prison of mine!
All of these signs and miracles were done so it would be evident that it was the Lord who brought Israel out of the land of Egypt by a powerful hand (12:51; 13:3).
And it will be God, through His perfect and righteous Son Jesus, through His shed blood on Calvary, who brought me redemption of my sin. None of His bones were broken, just as none of the Passover lamb’s bones, a picture of the Messiah to come, were to be broken (12:46).
As a remembrance of God sparing the firstborn of every Israelite, they were to give God the first male offspring of every beast as a sacrifice (13:10-16). I wonder, as a sort of shepherd of sheep and goats myself, how they kept track of that.
It’s interesting that God chose not to send the people to Canaan by way of the Philistines, which would have been far shorter, “lest the people change their minds when they see war, and they return to Egypt.” Instead, God sent them into the wilderness. But the Lord led them in a miraculous way (13:17-22). God then uses this track, and the ultimate destruction of Pharaoh’s entire army, to put fear in the hearts of those same Philistines and other tribes and nations they would encounter in taking Canaan (15:14-17). Can you imagine what might have been the opposition they would have faced if God had not orchestrated the destruction of Egypt’s army, putting the fear of Israel and her God in the hearts of those ultimate opposing forces?
Instead, God tempted Pharaoh one last time, hardening his heart again, in order to show His sovereign power one last time (14:1-4), and Pharaoh chased after them believing this time he’d have them – they would be trapped (14:5-9)!
The Israelites panicked, forgetting God’s providential hand upon them thus far, blaming Moses for their impending slaughter (14:10-13). “But Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent.” In other words, “Shut up, stand still, and watch what God will do” (14:13-14). How often God has to remind me of this same thing! God came through in a way in which only God gets the honor (14:15-31). It was very evident it was the Lord who was fighting for Israel against the Egyptians (14:25)! May it be the same when God delivers me!