Crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 14-16)

Although God had rescued his people out of Egypt through the ten plagues, he was not finished yet.  Once they were gone, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart one last time.

Exodus 14.4
And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh.

Exouds 14.18
And the Egyptians shall know that I am Yahweh, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.

The Red Sea was part of God’s master plan.  He wants to demonstrate his power so that everyone will know that he is the great God over against the idols of the nations.  As Babe Ruth is known for hitting home runs, Steve Jobs for iPhones, and Mark Zuckerberg for facebook, Yahweh is known for rescuing his people from Egypt.  Years after this, Rahab told the Israelite spies what she had heard about their God:

Joshua 2.9-11
“I know that Yahweh has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.  For we have heard how Yahweh dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.   And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for Yahweh your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.”

Rahab, living far away in Jericho, has heard the rumors about Yahweh.  Because of his mighty power, shown through partying the Red Sea, she knows he is “God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.”  Splitting the Red Sea was not haphazard or happenstance, it was God’s plan so that people would hear, so that he would get glory over the Egyptians, so that five hundred years later they would write psalms about it, so that thousands of years later you would praise him for it.  The ten plagues and the Red Sea are all about Yahweh showing the world who he is.

Once the children of Israel got through the Red Sea and the chasing Egyptian chariots, horsemen, and footmen perished, God’s people took some time to praise him.  They wrote a song about how he saved them and how he decimated Pharaoh’s army.  Miriam took up the tambourine and led the other women in dancing.  This is the appropriate response when God delivers his people from something–worship.  Has God delivered you from anything?  If so, then testify to it.  Share it with others.  And most of all, worship him for his steadfast love to you.

Passover (Exodus 11-13)

At long last, the tenth plague comes.  Now, God will finish pouring out his wrath on this genocidal nation.  Although each of the nine plagues decimated and humiliated specific Egyptian gods, this last plague was against all of the gods.  This is how God explains it:

Exodus 12.12
For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am Yahweh.

I love how he ends this with “I am Yahweh.”  In other words, Egypt has it’s gods, but I am Yahweh and they are completely impotent to protect what is most precious to you, your firstborn sons.  This is God’s last act of war against Egypt and it will guarantee that they let his people go.  Even so, he will guard his own people so that not even “a dog shall growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast, that you may know that Yahweh makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (Exodus 11.7).  Even so, God is not going to make his protection automatic.  He wants his people to exercise faith by performing certain ceremonial actions.  He instructs them to kill an unblemished lamb and paint the blood on the door frame, roast it, and eat it that night.  These simple acts will prevent the destroyer from entering into the house to kill the firstborn.

Those who followed this command marked themselves out as the true people of God and those who ignored it suffered the consequences.  At midnight God struck down all the firstborn in Egypt from Pharaoh’s house to the firstborn captive in the dungeon as well as all the firstborn of the livestock (Exodus 12.29).  A great cry arose in Egypt because every house had someone dead in it.  Pharaoh summoned Moses and told him to take his people and his herds and go to serve Yahweh.  The Egyptians urgently sent the Hebrews out of the land saying, “We shall all be dead” (Exodus 12.33).  This one moment gets celebrated year after year, decade after decade, century after century, and millennium after millennium by Israel in their Passover dinner.  The question for you today is whether you have marked yourself out by the blood of the lamb so that you will be saved on judgment day?

Yahweh against Egypt’s Gods (Exodus 8-10)

God brought the ten plagues upon Pharaoh and Egypt for a reason.  He wanted them to know certain truths:

  • “that you may know that there is no one like Yahweh our God” (8.10)
  • “that you may know that I am Yahweh in the midst of the earth. (8.22)
  • “that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth.” (9.14)
  • “that you may know that the earth is Yahweh’s.” (9.29)
  • “that you may know that I am Yahweh.” (10.2)

The ten plagues were the means by which God came to show the whole world who he is and how he is superior to all other so-called gods.  He could have just killed Pharaoh and his people with pestilence, but he says, “For this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth” (Exodus 9.16).  Furthermore, he wants his own people to “tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am Yahweh” (Exodus 10.2).  The ten plagues are a big deal.

Even so, have you ever asked yourself why these plagues and not something else?  Here is a list of them:

  1. Nile turned to blood
  2. frogs
  3. lice
  4. flies
  5. livestock disease
  6. boils
  7. hail
  8. locusts
  9. darkness
  10. death to firstborn

Are those the miracles you would have chosen to demonstrate your power?  What’s the point of turning water to blood?  Why should God use frogs, lice, or flies to annoy the Egyptians?  Why not speak audibly from heaven or cause an earthquake?  Well, as it turns out, these strange plagues are not as much about the true God as they are about the Egyptian gods.  I hinted at this yesterday when I said, “Yahweh is the God who can slit the veins of Osiris, the protector of the Nile, and cause him to bleed.”  Here is a more comprehensive list, correlating the plagues with Egyptian gods.

  1. Nile to blood
    • Khnum: guardian or river’s source
    • Hapi: spirit of the Nile
    • Osiris: Nile was his bloodstream
  2. frogs
    • Hapi & Heqt frog goddesses related to fertility
  3. lice
    • Seb: the earth god
  4. flies
    • Uatchit: fly god
  5. livestock disease
    • Ptah, Mnevis, Hathor, Amon: associated w/ bulls and cows
  6. boils
    • Sekhmet: goddess of epidemics
    • Serapis & Imhotep: gods of healing
  7. hail
    • Nut: sky goddess
    • Isis & Seth: agriculture deities
    • Shu: god of atmosphere
  8. locusts
    • Serapia: protector from locusts
  9. darkness for 3 days
    • Ra, Amon-re, Aten, Atum, Horus: sun gods

Pharaoh had asked the question, “Who is Yahweh, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go?” (Exodus 5.1).  These plagues answer that question.  Who is Yahweh?  Yahweh is the God who can take over Nut, the sky goddess, and cause hail to fall on the plants that Isis and Seth are supposed to protect.  Who is Yahweh?  Yahweh is the God who can make a mockery of Heqt, the frog god, by multiplying frogs in the land until the Egyptians are disgusted with them.  Who is Yahweh?  Yahweh is the God who can take out Ra, the sun God, so that he does not get into his chariot for three days and pull the sun across the sky.  Yahweh is not just the God of the Hebrews!  He’s the “God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God” (Deuteronomy 10.17).  He’s the creator and the sustainer so you better let his people go.

Who Is Yahweh? (Exodus 5-7)

Moses the 80-year-old fugitive went to the Pharaoh, the powerful leader of mighty Egypt, and declaimed, “Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness'” (Exodus 5.1).  Pharaoh met this bold demand with the following:

Exodus 5.2
Who is Yahweh, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know Yahweh, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.

Notice how Pharaoh answers Moses.  He doesn’t know Yahweh.  Who is Yahweh to tell him me what to do?  The rest of the ten plagues answer this one question.  You see, Egypt was full of gods.  They believed in Ra, Apis, Hathor, Nut, Isis, Osiris, and Heqet, but not Yahweh.  Pharaoh can’t imagine that the god of his slaves–the Hebrews–could possibly be more powerful than the revered and ancient deities of Egypt.  Consequently, Pharaoh decides to press the issue.  Not only will he not them go, but he decides to oppress them even more than before.  Since these Israelites have so much time to worry about going off into the wilderness to have a feast, they obviously don’t have enough work.  Pharaoh decides to increase their labor; now they will have to forage for their own straw to make bricks without diminishing productivity.  That will teach them not to fantasize about introducing new gods to give them time off.

Naturally, the elders of Israel were furious at Moses for making them “stink in the sight of Pharaoh” (Exodus 5.21).  Moses feels discouraged and God has to work with him by reiterating the promises.  He tells Moses he will liberate them from the Egyptians; he will deliver them from slavery; he will redeem them with great acts; he will take them to be his people; he will be their God; he will bring them to the promised land that he swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 6.6-8).  After he convinced Moses of his plan to harden Pharaoh’s heart so that he can perform his mighty deeds, Moses marches right back into Pharaoh’s presence.

To start, Moses had Aaron throw down his staff so that it became a serpent.  However, the Egyptian sorcerers did the same so Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he sent Moses away.  Now a third time, God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh in the morning, while he is at the Nile river, and say, “Thus says Yahweh, ‘By this you shall know that I am Yahweh: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood” (Exodus 7.17).  After he struck the water, the Nile river, the life source of Egypt, turned into blood.  Amazingly, Pharaoh turned and went home and didn’t give the miracle a second thought.  The Egyptians began digging along the banks to draw water since for seven days the river ran red with blood.

What Pharaoh did not yet understand is that this was just one of ten plagues through which the God of the Hebrews would answer his question, “Who is Yahweh that I should obey his voice.”  Now he begins to learn, that Yahweh is the God who can slit the veins of Osiris, the protector of the Nile, and cause him to bleed.  Stay tuned for the rest of Pharaoh’s education…

When Genocide Comes (Exodus 1-4)

For centuries Egypt served as an incubator for Israel; there they multiplied from a few dozen to hundreds of thousands.  However, they did not integrate into Egyptian society, but retained their distinctive Hebrew identity.  As a result the Pharaoh worried what would happen if an enemy attacked.  He thought the Israelites would surely aid any attackers, turning the tide against the Egyptians.  As is so often the case, fear led to persecution under the guise of “preemptive self defense.”  At first they set taskmasters over the Hebrews to afflict them with heavy burdens.  Next they completely enslaved them, making their lives bitter with hard service.  Then Pharaoh initiated a clandestine project of ethnic cleansing by ordering the midwives to murder Israelite newborn boys.  When this policy failed, he made a new public mandate whereby every Egyptian became duty bound to cast Hebrew boys into the Nile river.

In the midst of such a genocide a baby boy was born, named Moses.  Through a miraculous turn of events, he grew up under the protection (not persecution) of Pharaoh’s household.  He enjoyed the lavish lifestyle of the top 1% of Egyptians, including getting “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7.22).  However, when Pharaoh found out Moses had murdered a man, he fled to Midian, a far away wilderness, and became a nomadic shepherd.  While his first forty years were in the lap of luxury, his second forty years were spent toiling in obscurity.  He got married and worked for his father-in-law until that fateful day when he encountered the burning bush.

While he stood before this unusual spectacle, God spoke to him.  He identified himself with these words, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3.6).  Next God commissioned Moses to go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt.  Instead of taking the job, Moses was incredulous.  He came up with an excuse, asking, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name? what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3.13).  Moses probably thought this question would get him off the hook, but instead God answered him directly, revealing his covenant name in the process.  He told Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers…has sent me to you'” (Exodus 3.15).  The words “the LORD” are hiding the true Hebrew name for God–Yahweh.  It is a sad fact that nearly all English translations do this.  They would be better to just honestly put God’s name into the text rather than hiding it.  (Understanding the rest of the ten plagues without knowing God’s name is Yahweh makes everything a little blurry.)

Moses tried over and over to get out of God’s call on his life.  However, God was persistent and overcame Moses’ objections one by one.  What’s so striking about Moses is that he is probably the least qualified person in the world to carry out this mission for God.  He’s an 80 year old, inbred, fugitive with a speech impediment.  He knows how unqualified he is and therein we find God’s reason for choosing him.  Moses was the humblest man on the face of the earth (Numbers 12.3).  He knew he couldn’t do it on his own, and this is why God was able to do such spectacular marvels through him.  He went from a Bedouin herder to the founding father of a nation, the one who brought down the most powerful empire of the time, the great giver of God’s holy law, and the one who had the most intimate relationship with God of all time, excepting Jesus.  Maybe your intelligence, your attractiveness, your athleticism, your creativity, or your relational skills aren’t holding you back.  The problem is not that you are under qualified, but over qualified.  If you can only cultivate humility and depend on the Almighty, he can do great things through you today.

The End of the Patriarchs (Genesis 48-50)

At the end of their lives the patriarchs bless their children.  The ancients believed words matter.  If you asked them, “What’s wrong with the world?”  or “Why is the world broken?” they would answer, “The curse.”  What’s wrong with the world is that God cursed it–using words.  So, how should we expect the world to find healing and redemption?  How does God plan to undo the consequences of our first parent’s rebellion?  He blesses.  First he calls Abraham and blesses him.  Abraham calls Isaac and blesses him.  Isaac calls Esau, but Jacob impersonates him to receive the blessing.  Even so, now Jacob has come to die and he wants to pass on the  blessing to his twelve sons who will become the twelve tribes of Israel.  Somehow or other, God is going to use this dysfunctional Abrahamic family to initiate his master plan of redemption that will one day culminate with making everything wrong with the world right.  Jacob is here playing his part in God’s agenda.

What’s interesting about how he blesses his children is that for several of them, the blessing sounds more like a curse.  For example, to Levi and Simeon he says, “Cursed be their anger…I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.”  Through Jacob’s words, God is prophesying about the future.  Indeed Levi was scattered throughout the tribes and Simeon was absorbed into Judah.  What’s so fascinating about the blessing is that Israel passes over his first born, Reuben, as well as his second and third born, Simeon and Levi, and he jumps to boy number four–Judah.  He compares Judah to a lion and then says, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet” (Genesis 49.10).  This prophesy is rather staggering as we look forward to the rest of the bible.  The great king David and his successors were from Judah.  Ultimately, Jesus, himself, descended from Judah.  So, how did Jacob know which of his children would hold the scepter?  The odds of guessing it right are only one in twelve–about 8%.  God was working with this man of faith to know what to say and whom to say it to.  Jacob might be old, be he is still walking with God, right up until his last breath.

After Jacob dies, we learn about how Joseph forgives his brothers rather than taking vengeance into his own hands.  Ultimately, Joseph himself arrives at death’s door.  We read in the New Testament hall of faith the following about Joseph:

Hebrews 11.22
By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

Out of everything that Joseph went through, his heroic perseverance and faith in God, this is what he is remembered for.  When he came near to death, that same Abrahamic promise that had burned in Israel’s heart, blazed in Joseph’s as well, even while he came to the end of his life.  He expressed his faith by this last request:

Genesis 50.24-25
24 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”  25 Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.”

Look at the faith of this man!  He’s suffered so much in the course of his life and yet he never gave up on God.  He had been elevated to the highest office in the land, next to Pharaoh, and he still retained his faith.  In the end, God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would not die.  One day he would return to the land of his childhood.  It would be centuries, but eventually, when the Israelites came out of Egypt, they carried Joseph’s sarcophagus with them through the desert and laid him to rest in the promised land.  Whether you experience hardship or prosperity, be like Jacob and Joseph and keep faith your in God’s promises to bring the kingdom.

Faith to the End (Genesis 46-47)

In these chapters Israel and his children and grandchildren migrate to Egypt, totaling seventy people.  They left the parched promised land behind and came to live under the care of Joseph.  I can understand why Israel was reticent to move down.  He remembered the stories of his grandfather, Abraham, about how God had promised to give him the land of their sojourning.  He was now 130 years old and had lived in Canaan most of his life.  Imagine living through over a century of nomadic shepherding, seeing bounty and famine, ups and downs, good times and bad ones.  Should he just ride this one out or should he uproot his entire extended family and move them to Egypt.  What would this mean about the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and him?  If he leaves, does that mean he is giving up on God?  This is probably why God came to Israel in the night.  He spoke to him and told him not to be afraid to go down to Egypt and that he would go down with him.  After God assured him, Israel packed up the family and went to Egypt.  There, this group of nomads would incubate, growing from seventy to well over a million souls.

When Israel finally came face to face with Pharaoh he said, “The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years.  Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning” (Genesis 47.9).  Israel had suffered greatly throughout the course of his life.  He duped his blind father under his mother’s advice to steal his brother’s blessing and then ran away to hide out in a foreign land.  While living with his uncle, he got duped himself repeatedly.  Laban constantly changed his wages and performed a switcheroo on his wedding night, substituting Leah for Rachel.  After twenty years of toiling under Laban’s greedy gaze, he finally broke free.  Terrified of meeting his angry brother Esau, Israel journeyed back home.  Fortunately his brother was no longer out for blood and the two established peace.  However, his overt favoritism of his one wife over the other three led to severe relational pain.  So jealous were his sons of the way Israel treated Joseph that they resolved to murder the lad and tell their father a beast tore him to pieces.  Although they sold Joseph into slavery, they still told their father his favorite son was dead.  Israel grieved for Joseph for days, months, years, and decades.  Indeed, his life was full of suffering: some self-inflicting and some just happenstance.

Yet, this is not the end of the story.  Israel may not have unlocked the secret to “Your Best Life Now,” but he did retain the faith of Abraham.  He may have poisoned his family relationships with favoritism, but he remembered the promise of God.  At the end of 147 years, he found himself on his deathbed in a foreign land, far from the land of God’s covenant.  As a result, his last request was simple.  He had Joseph swear to him, “Do not bury me in Egypt, but let me lie with my fathers.  Carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burying place” (Genesis 47.29-30).  This seemingly insignificant and inconvenient request, is actually the indication of Israel’s tenacious faith.  He has seen a lot in his century and a half, but in the end he stayed true to the covenant.  He believed in his bones that God would give him and his descendants that land, and his last request was to receive a proper burial in the promised land.  Although he had suffered more than most in his life, he never gave up on God.  As a result, he will participate in the resurrection of the just and one day he will inherit that land as God promised.  I wonder, how deep is your faith?

Sat, Aug 6: Genesis 43-45

What would your steward say of you and your God?

As I read this portion of Joseph’s story, my attention gravitates towards one of the background characters – Joseph’s steward. He’s mentioned multiple times in Chapter 43, verses 16-25. A steward, similar to a modern day personal assistant, knows their master’s or employer’s business. But not just their professional business, often their personal and private business as well. It seems as though any given month you can see on a tabloid cover that some celebrity’s assistant or child’s nanny has some fresh dirt to smear the reputation with or “reveal the truth” about. But as we read in these verses, Joseph’s steward actually knows God by name and encourages Joseph’s brothers in verse 23 – “Don’t be afraid, Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks…” Joseph’s private and public life were in alignment. There wasn’t any discrepancy. His life was about serving God and those closest to him were able to recognize it.

So what does this mean for you and me? Well, lots. But I want to keep this short, so I’ll just share a quote I found and hope that it inspires you to be authentic and let your light shine before men.

bethany quote

“Live Your Life” image by Rose Sexton on quotesgram.com

 

Many Blessings,

-bethany ligon

Fri, August 5: Genesis 40-42

Those Pivotal Circumstances – and Influencing Others!

bethany chains

Hands in Chains” by George Hoden

 

Yesterday we took a look at how God used Providential Relationships to impact Joseph’s faith and today we’re looking at the Pivotal Circumstances in Joseph’s life. The life of Joseph is one of my personal favorites to read about. Every time, I am struck by his ability to remain positive and faithful even in the most dire of circumstances.

Others may disagree, but I think that one of the most Pivotal Circumstances in his life is when Joseph is in prison at the same time as the cupbearer and baker to interpret their dreams. We read in Genesis 40:6-7 that Joseph took notice that these two prisoners were dejected and he spent just a few minutes of his day listening to them tell him their dreams. Had Joseph just minded his own business, he would have lost on the opportunity to interpret those dreams and later on, interpret Pharaoh’s dreams as well. And had he not been able to tell Pharaoh to prepare for the famine that was to come, Joseph may have lost out on the chance to reunite with his family and oh yeah…save the entire Israelite community’s future.

Whatever your current circumstances are like, whether you are able to enjoy each and every day or your life feels like you’re trying to hold on to a 1600 pound bucking rodeo bull, your life can influence the lives of those around you. Be aware of how you conduct yourself because others are paying attention. If that sounds like some added pressure you aren’t sure how to deal with right now, you can have confidence that God will provide everything you need to not just been sustained, but THRIVE.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” — Romans 8:28

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” — 2 Corinthians 9:8

Many Blessings,

-bethany ligon

Thursday, August 4: Genesis 37-39

Who Are Your Providential Relationships?

bethany beach

Footprints in the sand” by Andrew Huff is licensed under (CC BY-NC 2.0)

During our week at FUEL, we had the chance to examine five different ways that God uses to GROW our faith. It was on Wednesday that we took the time to hear the stories from Josiah Cain and Sean Finnegan of how Providential Relationships can impact the growth of our faith.

As we begin reading the epic story of Joseph in Genesis 37, we see multiple examples of the various relationships Joseph had and we begin to see how each played an important part in the development of his faith. Because of his relationship with God, Joseph was given some outrageous dreams for what his future would hold. Because of his relationships with his brothers, Joseph was sold off into slavery and taken to Egypt. Because of his relationship with Potiphar, Joseph had an unfortunate false accusation of misconduct and was sent off to prison.

When we think about Providential Relationships, it’s easy to have a narrow focus and just concern ourselves about the relationships that are easy and non-confrontational. But within these chapters we see how difficult relationships are often the ones that push us closer to God.

So if you’re in a difficult relationship right now (maybe it’s someone at school or work, or even a family member), take heart. God is near. He is guiding you every step of the way. Seek His wisdom to know what to say and how to act. Trust in God’s faithfulness to provide for your every need.

Many Blessings,

-bethany ligon

 

 

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