Monday, January 23, 2012

Following a Trusted Leader

In our last lesson, Joseph had died (Gen 50:26) at the age of an hundred and ten years of age. He was embalmed and placed in a coffin to be returned to Canaan at his request. The Pharaoh and Egyptians highly respected him. He brought his father Jacob, now deceased, and other kinsmen into Egypt to be nourished during the famine. There were seventy souls when they entered Egypt (Ex 1:5), but there were six hundred thousand men by foot, except children, when they left (Ex 12:37).

The Pharaoh (king) who favored Joseph for his administration for Egypt died. The new Pharaoh was not familiar with Joseph (Ex 1:8). He feared the Israelites as they began to multiply and outnumber the Egyptians perchance of war. So they taxed the Israelites and placed them in bondage. The more bondage in which the Israelites were placed, the more they multiplied. Pharaoh spoke to the two Hebrew midwives to have them kill the male children upon birth. However, the two midwives were afraid of God. They lied to Pharaoh stating that the Israelite women were lively and able to have their newborns prior to the midwives' arrival. Pharaoh was angry and declared that all the Israeli newborn sons be cast in the river. Moses's mother Jochebed, Pharaoh's daughter, and Moses's sister Miriam defied Pharaoh's evil plot and determined that Moses, a Hebrew boy, would live in the royal palace. He did not remain there for he had to endure suffering. He fled Egypt and lived among the Midianites when it was discovered he had murdered an Egyptian for mistreating a Hebrew.

It came to past that Pharaoh died and a new king sat on the Egyptian throne. Yet he kept the Israelites under the same bondage as the previous Pharaoh. The children of Israel cried to God for help (Ex 2:23) and He was ready to deliver His people. God revealed His plans to Moses from a burning bush.

Moses was commissioned by God to deliver all the words of God to his brother Aaron and all the signs which were commanded to the elders for their belief that God had heard their cry. They bowed their heads and worshipped God. Ex 4:27-31 God then instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh '...Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.' Ex 5:1b This was the first time God called Israel his "people".

Pharaoh wanted to know about this Lord that they wanted to go give a sacrifice. He felt they were idle and needed more work with less material to be done in the same amount of time. When the tasksmasters enforced this rule, the people cried to Moses and he went to God. God summoned the universe to participate in the struggle for the freedom of the Israelites. Phenomenal events unfolded over Egypt: blood in the Nile River (Ex 7:20), frogs across the land (Ex 8:2-14), gathering of lice (Ex 8:16-19) and flies (Ex 8:20:32), murrain/death of livestock (Ex 9:1-7), boils (Ex 9:8-12), hail (Ex 9:13-35), locusts (Ex 10:1-20), darkness for three days (Ex 10:21-29), and the death of the firstborn (Ex 12:29-30). Each plague was throughout the land of Egypt with the exception of Goshen where the Israelites resided. Pharaoh may gradually have decided to negotiate with Moses after a few of the plagues, but his heart would always hardened. Each plague sent a devastating message to Pharaoh that God heard and responded to the cry of freedom.

Following the tenth plague, Pharaoh and his servants could not believe they allowed the Israelite workpower to walk out of their country. Did they feel that losing a firstborn was minor in comparison to the economic condition? Did they still believe they were a match for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? They heard that the Israelites were trapped between them and the Red Sea. Ex 14 When the Israelites saw the Pharaoh and his horsemen coming, they were in fear. Moses prayed to God and received instructions to stretch forth his rod to part the Red Sea. This gave God the honor. Then the pillar of fire and cloud (Ex 14:20) got behind the camp of the Israelites and provided them light in the waters. However, it was before Pharaoh and his horsemen and provided only darkness. The children of Israel were able to walk on dry ground while the Egyptians pursued. In the morning, the Israelites had completed the journey through the Red Sea. God took control, by destroying the chariot wheels of Pharaoh and his horsemen. At last, Pharaoh was placed in actual fear when he knew there was an element of no escape. God instructed Moses to stretch forth his rod to release the Red Sea to its natural condition and drown Pharaoh and his army. Can you imagine their carcasses washing up on shore as food for nature to the humiliation of their Egyptian religion and beliefs of embalming and mummification? God received his glory and honor. Many were the young Israelite sons that had been unnecessarily killed or thrown in the river. God called a saved son to save his people.

The Israelites recognized a power greater than themselves. Part of their history was in writing commemorative songs. The crossing of the Red Sea was a benchmark episode. And they wanted to give God all the glory, honor, and praise. 'Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spoke, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him a habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name.' Ex 15:1-3 They praised God for His glorious victory and as a mighty warrior. As the God of their Fathers, they believed they were reunited with the promises and faith of the God of their Fathers. He had become their God, and they would praise and lift Him up. He would be their strength, their song and reason for singing, and salvation.

'For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.' Ex 15:19 This is a contrast of the defeat of Egypt and the deliverance of Israel by God. All around there may be signs of decay, destruction, and devastation (i.e. economy, joblessness, foreclosures, illnesses, etc.); but deliverance is assured to the people of God because God is known as THE Deliverer and sanctifier of His people.

Shortly thereafter, Moses led the people from the Red Sea. It had only been three days, but they could not find water. 'And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah (bitter), for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet:...'Ex 15:23-25a The Israelites had forgotten all the miracles God had performed on their behalf in establishing their release from bondage in Egypt. All of the worship and praise to God they were doing a few days ago had fell by the wayside. Where was their faith? Instead they grumbled against Moses. In reaction to their negativity, Moses cried to the Lord. The answer was found in a piece of wood. God's cures to problems can sometimes be very simple. Once the tree was cast into the water, it became drinkable. The water was clean and sweet.

Moses reminded the Israelites of their covenant with the Lord. '...there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee.' Ex 15:25b-26 At Marah, the Lord revealed himself as the healer. The Israelites can not be slack now that they have a feeling of freedom. Disobedience can lead to diseases placed upon them as they had witnessed placed on the Egyptians. They must obey Him as their God and keep His commandments. Moses encouraged the people to be faithful to God so that they would not experience disaster.

Continue to praise God for all that He has done, is doing, and will do in your life. God Bless You!

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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