I don’t know about you but I have a ton of questions about this whole Israelite situation. Why would God promise Israel a land only to take them to Egypt?  Why would God allow this covenant community to become brutally enslaved to a pagan world superpower? Why make them go through all of this, plus 400 years, to get back to the same land they inhabited before Israel (Jacob) went down to Egypt to be with Joseph? I am sure there are many more questions…but we’ll get to those as we go. One thing is for sure you don’t want to miss this part of the story. This epic adventure stands out as the central story of the Old Testament. Missing it would be like trying to make sense of The Wizard of Oz without the yellow brick road. So get some courage, brains, heart and whatever else, as we journey through the Exodus story.

A lot has happened since Joseph was second in charge of the land of Egypt. It seems as though there is a new ruler in town many, many years later that has no clue who Joseph is or what he did for Egypt. All we know is that the Egyptians are afraid of the Israelites because they have grown to a number that far surpasses their own. Instead of coming to a peaceful agreement on living terms Egypt thought it would be better to enslave them and treat them harshly so they would feel broken and dejected. This is the state in which we find the people of Israel in the book of Exodus.

Read Exodus 1:8-22 to get a good idea on what the situation was like and how the Egyptians wanted to handle it.

People often react out of fear when there is an unknown. What reaction was set in motion because of Egypt’s decisions? Is there a time in your life when you reacted out of fear and later learned that it wasn’t the best way? What did you do?

At a stroke all the Israelites’ privileges vanished, but it was harder for them than for the mass of the Egyptians, for they had been accustomed to privilege for a couple of hundred years. It is always harder for the one who loses privilege, rank and freedom than for the one who never had them. At first, however, the shock of loss and their resentment prevented the Israelites acquiescing in their new condition, which in their fellow-serfs had led to early physical collapse and death. It was probably this that gave the impression of rapid increase of population.

Then steps in God…

“The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.” Exodus 2:23-25

God heard the cry of his people and did something about it. We hear about a lower story plan that has upper story implications.

Read Exodus 2:1-10

It always amazes me that God would hear the cry of these people in Egypt. What made them so special that the God of all creation would hear them? We are only one book away from reading about God creating everything. We know our universe is big, but when we think of other universes it boggles my mind to think that God created all of this and yet still hears the voice of his people. I am amazed and humbled daily by the thought of this.

I am sure that some might have thought it was 430 years too late, yet God’s plan for deliverance was right on schedule. His servant Moses was born during the rule of a tyrannical Pharaoh whose infanticide program was aimed at annihilating the nation of Israel, or at best keeping them small.  Ironically, baby Moses was delivered from danger when Pharaoh’s daughter rescued him from the Nile, she hired his mother to nurse him, and raised him as a royal son.

Moses grew up in the palace but always knew he’d been born a slave. Feeling sympathetic to the plight of his people, he killed an Egyptian task master and was forced to flee.

What connection did Moses have with those people? Why would he feel the need to stand up and defend them? His family had him back only while he was nursing, was that enough time to instill in him a deep sense of connection?

As a member of the royal family, why did Moses run? Could he not find a way out of this problem?

Moses became a refugee in the far off land of Midian where he married and began tending his father-in-law’s flocks. Moses spent the next 40 years hiding from Pharaoh and like the Hebrew people, assumed this would be the way he’d spend the rest of his days.

Then he met up with a burning bush. God spoke from the bush and commissioned Moses as Israel’s deliverer. Not a bad promotion for an 80-year-old man with only “ex-prince” and “shepherd” listed on his resume. God revealed Himself to Moses as I AM, the covenant-keeping Redeemer of His people. Moses doubted his own qualifications and abilities, but God responded with the guarantee of His presence.

Read Exodus 3:13-14

Why does Moses want to know the name of God? Because that is what the Egyptians did with their gods. Once you had a name you could create a story with background information. This was important because once you had their story you could have a sense of control over that god. You knew what you needed to do to please that god. Once they were pleased you could get what you wanted out of them.

Now think about that as you re-read the story again. Moses says to God, “Tell me your name, so the people will know who is sending me.” Translate that to, tell me your name so that I can have a sense of who you are so that I can give you a story and background and have a sense of power. God says, “I am who I am” or better translated from the Hebrew “I will be who I will be.” God is telling Moses that he will not allow him to define him, predict him or have any power over him. God will be God with or without Moses. So tell the people I am has sent you.  God is showing himself to be in charge.

What does I am mean to you? What does that say about God and his character?

Moses returned to Egypt with the promise of God and the support of his brother Aaron.

This Lower Story is best understood through the Upper Story of God’s unique power to redeem.  He allowed Israel to be stripped of any reliance upon human strength to show a helpless Israel that He could be trusted to save them from any earthly or “heavenly” power. Their redemption would come by God’s mighty hand and their faith response to His revelation.  God showed Israel that His covenant with Abraham was still in effect.  Therefore, He cursed the Egyptians who had been cursing Israel.  But with every judgment of God comes a way of escape for those who believe.  The blood of the Passover lamb would protect believers from the judgment of God.  The two main events of the whole Bible are the Exodus and the Christ.  The importance of either should not be underestimated.  The first event points directly to the second.

Throughout Chapter 4, some key repeated phrases stand out.  God said repeatedly that His actions were so that “they may know that I am the LORD.”

How often is your goal to make sure people know your name, your work, your deeds? God repeatedly wants his name known, what do we do to make God’s name known? 

Israel was to see God’s mighty deliverance so that in the future they could trust Him to deliver from any circumstance.  If God could smite Egypt, then there would be no enemy that could threaten Israel.  God graciously revealed Himself to Egypt as the One True God with each plague.  These were not random plagues. Each one specifically targeted an Egyptian god, and Pharaoh who was thought to be on his way to becoming deity. Thus, the God of Israel is the only God to know and fear. The LORD’s power over their Egyptian gods had shown them that He was worth following.  These ten object lessons could also remind Israel that there is no other god and no earthly power that could oppose the LORD successfully.  God alone delivers. As expected, Moses’ demands of freeing the Hebrews were met with Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal.  So God sent a series of plagues and a cycle of challenge began: The plague strikes; Pharaoh relents; the plague stops; Pharaoh recants.

I have always found it helpful to understand the plagues and which Egyptian gods were being targeted. Below you can find a list that you might find helpful.

             1. Nile turned to blood             2. Frogs

             3. Gnats

             4. Flies

             5. Death of livestock

             6. Boils

             7. Hail

             8. Locusts

             9. 3 Days of Darkness

             10. Death of Firstborn

           Hapi & Isis, god and goddess of the Nile           Haget, goddess of birth with a frog head

           Set, god of the desert

           Re, sun-god, or Uatchit, possibly represented by a fly

           Hathor, goddess with cow head; Apis, the bull god

           Sekhmet, goddess of disease; Sunu, pestilence god

           Nut, sky goddess; Set, god of storms

           Osiris, god of crops and fertility

           Re, the sun-god; Horus, a sun-god

           Min, god of reproduction; Isis, goddess who protected children;

           Pharaoh’s firstborn son, a god

Then God presented a shadow of what would be the “ultimate deliverance” with the final plague. All the firstborn in the land would die in a single night, and there was only one means of rescue.

I.       The Feast of Passover– The Passover is a major event in the Exodus story. Let’s take a closer look.

  1. Nine times God had warned Pharaoh to let His people leave Egypt.  Nine times God had demonstrated His power over Pharaoh and Egypt’s pagan gods.  The plague of death would be God’s final judgment upon Egypt and show His obvious favor for the nation of Israel.  The Great I AM was moved to continue to fulfill His covenant promise to “bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.”
  2. Moses warned Pharaoh that this final plague would strike down the firstborn of every family and livestock, including Pharaoh’s.
  3. The LORD instructed Moses and Aaron to prepare.  Their obedience to do exactly as God instructed demonstrated their belief.
    1. First, God told Moses about the timing of the Passover.  This would become the 1st month of the year for them, even though it was the 7th month on their calendar.  This gave them a fresh start and a new beginning.
    2. On the 10th of the month, each household were to take a 1 y.o. lamb without defect and slaughter it at twilight.
    3. The blood from the animals was to be placed on the door frames.
    4. They were to roast the meat and eat it with bitter herbs and bread without yeast.
      1. Meat was to be roasted, not eaten raw as some pagans did.
      2. Bitter herbs symbolized sorrow for past sin or the bitter life in Egypt.
      3. Unleavened bread symbolized their leaving in haste.
    5. They were to eat the entire meal dressed ready to travel, with their tunic tucked into their belts.
  4. God would pass judgment upon Egypt and their gods that night by striking dead the firstborn of every household.  But the homes with the blood, He would Passover.
  5. With every judgment of God comes a way of escape.
  6. As a result, Egypt sent Israel away.  God showed all His power to redeem His people.
  7. God instructed them to remember His great redemption with a Passover Feast every year.

What parallels do you see in the Passover and the last supper of Jesus? Where are the similarities and where are the differences?

I.       Christ, Our Passover

Jesus perfectly fulfilled the meaning of the Passover ritual.

  1. According to Paul, Jesus is our Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7) who has been sacrificed.  Therefore, we are to clean out the sin in our lives.
  2. John the Baptist declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29)
  3. Peter reminds us that we are redeemed “with the precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”  (1 Pet. 1:19)
  4. He was tested for four days and found to be without sin.  Then he was crucified during the annual Feast of Passover in Jerusalem while the other sacrificial lambs were slain.
  5. The blood on the cross looks eerily like the bloodstains on the doorposts.
  6. Jesus’ blood is the way of escape from God’s judgment of sin.

II.    Applications and Implications

  1. The appropriation of Jesus’ blood is a new beginning, a new life for me.
  2. God brings judgment upon those who refuse Him, but provides a way of escape for those who trust Him. Jesus is God’s ONLY provision for salvation.
  3. All other so-called gods are not gods.
  4. I am helpless to save myself.  God alone can deliver me from sin.
  5. Nothing in God’s plan is by accident.

I have been redeemed from sin, but also redeemed for God’s glory.

After learning about both of these events, can you see why I said that the Exodus event is one story you don’t want to miss?

The Hebrews left Egypt that same night, and later, an enraged Pharaoh took off in pursuit.  Trapped between his powerful army on one side and the Red Sea on the other, Egypt’s victory appeared certain.

How scared do you think the Israelites were when they saw Pharaoh’s army closing in on them? Would that fear have been enough to want to go back to slavery? Have you been in a situation that you were uncertain of the future and past was creeping up on you? Were you ready to give up hope and go back to what you knew?  

But God split the sea in two and the people walked to safety on dry land.  They celebrated when Pharaoh’s army drowned in the same sea…but only for a moment.

Israel says to God “What have you done for me lately?” Why is that such a dominate thought in the lives of human beings today? Why can’t we remember what God and others have done for us?

Their jubilation quickly turned to complaint when Israel forgot what God had done. They grumbled over the lack of water and food, but God again proved Himself faithful by providing water, manna and quail to sustain them, this time from their fears and inability to provide for themselves. God will have to figure out how to rule over and govern these people because things could get out of hand. Tune in next week!

When talking about Moses we should point out that Moses didn’t believe that he was the right person to go speak for the Lord. He came up excuse after excuse why he shouldn’t be the guy, but God responded to every objection and said you are the man, now go and set my people free.

Why are we so reluctant to go to the places we have been called to go? Why do we always feel like we are not the right person for the job? What are the places you are called to go or who is the person you are called to talk to that you have been avoiding?

Another noteworthy aspect of this chapter is actually the obedience of Moses.  Throughout the Exodus story it repeatedly says Moses “did just as the LORD commanded.”

How often are we willing to do just as the Lord commanded?

Important things for you to remember: Israel’s redemption required the blood stained door—a faith response to God.  So important was this event that God instituted the Passover as a perpetual, annual reminder to Israel that He alone delivers.  This Feast and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are fulfilled in Christ centuries later.

What other questions are you wrestling with in this chapter? Let’s talk about them.