In this week’s devotions we’ve been focusing on the last five chapters of Matthew. Hopefully you’ve also been reading the Old Testament readings at the end of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus. Today’s devotion turns our attention to the Exodus readings.
Israel’s story shows the interplay between being part of the people of God while living in a broken world amid systems and structures that are broken by sin. When Jacob and his family first went to Egypt, the most powerful nation in the world at the time, they went there to escape famine. God positioned Jacob’s son, Joseph, to be one of the most powerful men in the Egyptian government. Joseph was able to provide food and a safe place to live for his brothers and their families during the famine and beyond.
Unfortunately, with the passage of time, Joseph died, and a new Pharaoh arose who did not know Joseph. Suddenly, Israel went from being sheltered and protected by Egypt to being enslaved. For 400 years they suffered under the Egyptian oppression. The people cried out to God to set them free. God heard their cries and provided a means of salvation. A young baby boy born of the Hebrews, rescued from death and raised as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He was the one who would lead his people to freedom. But it took 80 more years for God to prepare Moses to lead his people.
When the time came for Moses to lead the people to the Promised Land, God did so through a series of plagues. In today’s reading God had Moses bring forth the first plagues: blood, frogs, gnats and flies. With each plague Pharaoh asked Moses to pray to God to stop the plague and said that he would let the people go. But each time, after the plague was over Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and he refused to let them go.
Sometimes, when people are in the midst of a crisis, they soften their hearts and fall on their knees in repentance and turn to God for help and hope. Sometimes, when those prayers are answered and things get better, those same people forget, and allow their hearts to grow hard again.
As I write this devotion we are one year into the Covid plague. As both a pastor and a hospital and nursing home chaplain I’ve had to live every day of this past year dealing with the reality of that plague. I’ve have family and friends get sick. Most got well, some didn’t. Some died from Covid. Others have suffered from the effects of our attempts to mitigate the spread of Covid. Some have lost jobs, some have grown isolated and alienated and depressed. I’ve seen churches struggle to keep going when they’ve been ordered to stop meeting in person and when able to meet in person I’ve seen many struggle with half as many people participating. It’s been hard. Some churches have been forced to close their doors and will never open them again. It’s been sad.
During Covid, some have turned to God and softened their hearts. Others, like Pharaoh have hardened their hearts. At the end of the day the question for you is, how is your heart?