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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Exodus Story


The Exodus Era covers approximately 470 years of Israel’s history: 430 years in Egypt and 40 years in the wilderness. Israel has multiplied to a people group of more than three million people―just as God had promised their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The conditions in Egypt have turned adversarial and Abraham’s promise has been fulfilled partially, “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15:13-14). The people of Israel, strangers and slaves in a land that is not theirs, cry out to God. Quietly and off the radar of man’s perception God works. He grants a family of Levi a baby boy and gives him a princely education. Israel is unaware that God is answering their prayers right under their noses. 
Then God speaks. Eighty years later. More than three hundred years have passed since God last spoke to Jacob. He now introduces Himself to Moses.
He is God to the Ancients - “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Ex.3:6). God’s promise to Abraham obligated Him to give Abraham a son, a land, a nation, and a blessing to all the families of the earth. This promise was partially fulfilled when Abraham and Sarah gave birth to Isaac; when Isaac and Rebekah gave birth to Jacob; when Jacob had twelve sons. Israel didn’t leave God in the land of Canaan when they moved to Egypt. God’s not stuck in time. He appears to Moses in the desert at Mount Horeb and informs Moses that it is time to fulfill the second part of His promise. He who lives outside of time enters time right on time!
He is God with an Agenda - “I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians an do to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey . . ..” (Ex. 3:8) God enters time to deliver His people from bondage and into the land of promise.
He is God with an Assignment - “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:10) God incorporates individuals into His story! 
He is God with an Appellation (name) - “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them? God said to Moses, “I AM WHOM I AM” (Ex. 3:13-14), He who has no beginning or end. The Ever-existing One. That is His name.
He is God of Ability - Moses asks, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?” Further, he hides behind his lack of eloquence in speech. The Lord proceeds to grant Moses special abilities that he did not have before. 
God is on a mission to redeem His people. He chooses an unlikely candidate, just like His choice of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to lead His people. Why does He do it this way? So that Moses, Israel, and all of Egypt will know that He IS. 

"Then a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. "Look," he said to his people, "the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies and fight against us and leave the country." Ex. 1:8-10

Every story contains four parts: the setting, main characters, a plot and a conclusion. Let's break down the beginning of the Exodus story:
Setting:
  • The political situation - a new Pharaoh rises to power who has no emotional attachment to the Israelite people.
  • The socioeconomic setting - a great empire is being constructed on the backs of an enslaved people, a mandate has been given to kill all of the male babies born to Israelite households
  • The historical relationship - Jacob's descendants have been in Egypt now for over 300 years and have been nothing but a blessing to Egypt
Characters:
  • A heartless Pharaoh - he cares only about building his kingdom and oppresses those who threaten his empire
  • A ruthless and oppressive people - the people of Egypt are fully devoted to their Pharaoh and to building a great kingdom
  • A bitterly oppressed people - Israel is without any representation in Pharaoh's court; her population grows at an alarming rate
  • A struggling and seemingly insignificant Israelite family - this Levite family struggle to live under oppression
  • An invisible, but definitely involved, God
Plot:
God promised Abraham hundreds of years before that his descendants (even though he was childless at the time) "will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions" (Genesis 15:13-14). Here they are now. Oppressed. Multiplying. And worn out. Weeks pass into months and years as the situation worsens. Where is God?

Conclusion:

Though God works slowly He is at work in our world today. The book of Exodus offers many lessons about God and His work:
  • Though our world becomes increasingly hostile toward Christians our numbers can increase during seasons of oppression.
  • Though we have little voice in the political system and no voice in mainstream media we can be certain that our voice is heard in heaven.
  • God is at work in this world accomplishing His redemptive promises and "no one can restrain His hand" (Daniel 4:35). God uses the evil that men do to further His purposes.
  • We should not despair when the situation becomes unbearable. God often allows situations to worsen progressively for His people.
  • We should be hopeful as we look around for the people God places in situations for prevention and intervention (the midwives).
  • God works "under the radar" until the time comes for Him to "go public."
  • Anticipation of God's intervention should grow in our hearts as oppression escalates.
  • The promises of God instill faith, therefore, we must meditate on the Word of God as the promises fuel faith in the midst of difficulty.
  • We must not fight among ourselves; fellow Christians are not our enemy.
These and many more truths from the opening of the book of Exodus should thrill our hearts as God fulfills His promises in our midst. Our Redeemer will step in at just the right time. We must watch and pray.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Exodus 1:1-4:17
  • Why does Pharaoh increase his oppression of the Israelite people? What does this tell you about when the actual hardness of heart occurred with Pharaoh?
  • How does God intervene on their behalf? Who does He use? What does this tell you about God?
  • How does God reveal his care for Moses' mom and sister?
  • Why does Moses kill the Egyptian? What does this tell you about Moses?
  • What is the Israelites perception of Moses' intervention?
  • What does Moses spend the next forty years doing?
  • What does this tell you how God prepares those He plans to use in leadership?
  • How does God identify Himself to Moses?
  • How does Moses' and Abraham's initial conversations compare?
  • What does God do to assure Moses of His power and ability?
  • Why does Moses ask for a substitute?
  • How is God working simultaneously in Moses' life and in Aaron's life? Where else have we seen God working in parallel situations?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to speak to your heart over the next few weeks as we dive into the book of Exodus.