Tag Archives: Exodus

What If They Voted?

The Exodus is the identifying story of the Old Testament. The Israelites had been living in Egypt for more than 400 years but their once privilege status had collapsed into brutal slavery. They cried out to God for rescue and God responded. God called Moses to confront Pharaoh and to lead the people back to their promised land in Palestine. God directed ten plagues to beat Pharaoh down and finally, after the death of his own son, Pharaoh released the Israelites from his service.

Pharaoh, however, quickly changed his mind. He and his army pursued the escapees. The Israelites were camped by the Red Sea when they spot Pharaoh’s mighty chariots approaching. Great fear consumed the Israelites as they cried out to Moses,

Was it because there were no grave in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, “Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians” (Exodus 14:12).

I am guessing that if a vote was taken that day, the overwhelming majority of Israelites would have voted to return to Egypt. Their fear overruled their faith. The story of the Exodus would have been blown away on the desert winds. Has such fear attacked your heart?

No vote was taken. Instead Moses, God’s chosen leader, declared,

Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still” (Exodus 14:13).

Song of Miriam by artist He Qi

Instead of a vote, God gave a promise through Moses. The people listen. God sent a strong east wind that drove back the chaotic sea and turned the water into dry land. The people crossed safely. When Pharaoh’s army tried to cross, “God tossed the Egyptians into the sea” (Exodus 14:27). Miriam sang a victory song.

Today our world may seem overwhelming and chaotic, instilling fear in us. We may fear financial or relational chaos; we may be too frightened to move forward in our life. Yet God’s promise stands today. The Lord will fight for you! God has not abandoned His people, only tested us to see if we will trust Him as God guides us into God’s  future.

How is fear holding you back from accomplishing God’s will?

Lord Jesus, your kingdom come, your will be done.

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A Rabbi’s Taste of Manna

One of the joys of writing for Resurrection Lutheran and others is that I learn from other blogs. Recently I discovered a blog from a Jewish rabbi in Pennsylvania who has great perspective on the story of manna in the wilderness.

One of the recurring themes of the Exodus is complaining. The people whine about being thirsty, hungry, tired, scared, or because they want to go back to Egypt. No matter how much Moses reassures them, or how often they see God’s power displayed, they remain discouraged and depressed. This week, we see them rebel against the manna.

The manna, however, is really just the symptom. The Israelites aren’t dealing with the real issue and the underlying problem that permeates every other situation: They don’t want to be there! They would prefer slavery to independence, because it means they don’t have to move, they don’t have to change, and they don’t have to try. How often don’t we see this happening today? People put up with an awful lot if it means they can avoid change.

Only once the Israelites take ownership of the Exodus, and feel a desire to conquer Canaan and become a nation, are they able to enter the Land. As long as we keep avoiding the real problem, we’re really just going around in circles. We have to face our fears and take on challenges head-on, otherwise we’ll keep chewing on the same bland manna for 40 long years.

How is God challenging you to change?  In what ways are you resisting?

Lord God, teach me again to trust in your grace and mercy to lead me into the changes you desire.

Grumbles and Grains

Shortly after I turned 50 a friend sent me an article written by Garrison Keillor. It was titled:

Stop Complaining.

When you hit 50, you have to stop complaining about getting old, the strangeness of it, the fascination, the horror, etc., etc. That was okay in your 30s and 40s, but now that you’re old, it’s time to shut up on the subject. You shouldn’t complain about aging for the simple reason that nobody gives a hoot. If you were to pay people to care, they might care a little bit for an hour or two, but you didn’t and they don’t. So learn to be cheerful about it. When people ask you how you are, tell them, “Absolutely great. Never better.” (from 50 Things to Do When You Turn 50) 

I thought about Garrison’s advice as I read parts of Exodus. The Israelites are set free from Egypt but they immediately start to complain and grumble. First they don’t have sufficient water to drink (Exodus 15:24). Then they don’t have enough food.

The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness. The Israelites said, “Why didn’t God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You’ve brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!” (Exodus 16:2-3).

We humans seem to have this wonderful ability to compare our present situation to some “idealized past” and think we have some right to complain about it. The Israelites practiced selective memory, remembering the sufficient food of Egypt, while forgetting the suffering and hard labor they experience as slaves. So they grumbled to Moses.

Does a grumbling spirit ever take hold in your mind?

The Lord God was quick to answer. The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you.” (Exodus 16:4). God provided manna for the Israelites throughout their 40 year journey in the wilderness. Manna was a temporary solution until they arrived in the promised land which flowed with milk and honey. It was also a test by which to see if they could give up their complaining and trust in God’s provision.

Have you learned to stop complaining and to trust in God’s blessing?

Lord Jesus, give us this day our daily bread.

Send Someone Else!

The book of Exodus is rich in stories: Hebrew mid-wives protecting the newborn children, Moses drawn out of the Nile River by Pharaoh’s daughter, the cry of the Hebrew slaves for God’s mercy. The central story is the exodus itself as God battles Pharaoh for the freedom of the Hebrew slaves until Pharaoh’s army drowns in the Red Sea. What a spectacular victory, worthy of song and dance (Exodus 15:20-21).

Art Prints
Yet my favorite story is the call of Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3). God calls out of the bush to Moses by name. He tells Moses to remove his sandals because he stands on holy ground. God continues, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. I have heard the cries and know the suffering of my people in Egypt. I will bring them to a good land flowing with milk and honey. I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt.”

One can hear Moses cheering through the first part of God’s speech. “Yes, Lord, it’s about time you set your people free.” But then Moses’ cheering stops when he hears God’s plan includes him. Immediately Moses interjects, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Moses then puts forward five different complaints as to why he should not be the one. My favorite comes at the very end, “Oh my Lord, please send someone else” (Exodus 4:13).

I confess that I see myself in Moses’ response. Like Moses, I know that there is mistrust, injustice and need in the world. Like Moses, I know that God needs pioneers who will prepare the way of God and lead God’s people to freedom. Like Moses, I know God is pulling at my heart, mind and soul to be a leader. But like Moses, I too often say, “Lord, send someone else!

The good news in this story is that Moses, after complaining long and hard, went to Egypt and confronted Pharaoh. Moses caught fire and blazed with God’s Spirit. God is trustworthy to give us each the strength and courage to do his will.

To what adventures is God calling you?

Lord Jesus, give me ears to hear and feet to follow.

The Good Becomes Bitter

Exodus has an odd beginning. At the end of Genesis, Joseph had brought his large family to reside in Egypt to avoid the famine in Palestine. Joseph died as did his brothers, yet their clan remained in Egypt, fulfilling Genesis 1:28 by being fruitful and multiply.

But the Israelites were fruitful and prolific; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong so that the land was filled with them. Exodus 1:7

This sounds like good new; the clan was becoming a nation. However Egypt was not the land God had promised for Israel. Though it had large food reserves and tremendous opportunities, this was NOT where God want the Israelites to be. At the very end of Genesis, Joseph reminded the people that someday they would return to Palestine.

There was a gap of some 430 years during which the Bible is silent regarding God’s interaction with the Israelites in Egypt. Only after this silent gap do we read how God moved the people from Egypt to the Promised Land. I wonder if God was speaking during this time, but the Israelites were not listening.

Whatever the case, the story of Exodus begins with a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph. The Pharaoh decided to oppress and restrict the Israelites. The Pharaoh declared forced labor, “The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites and made their lives bitter with hard service.” Exodus 1:13-14.

What had started as a place of refuge and safety became a land of oppression and slavery. I wonder if that might not be true for many who live in our modern suburban landscape. So many of us move here as a place of safety and prosperity, but then we become trapped by our expectations and appetites. We need to work longer hours to meet the mortgage and other financial obligations we seek. We enroll our children in sports or the arts, but then become slaves to their schedules and expectations. Marriages crumble under the strain and alcohol becomes the master of our lives. Or we simply wake up one morning wondering why we feel empty and alone. The “good life” has slipped away in the night.

Fortunately the Exodus story does not remain in bondage. Freedom is coming.  God will lift Moses up.

How have you experienced bondage or slavery in your life?

Lord Jesus, awaken my spirit to hear your call to freedom.