Exodus, Chapter 8

Sunday, June 13th

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Exodus, Chapter 8

Reflect

Growing up, I always found the plagues in the book of Exodus fascinating.  They sounded like a sci-fi movie or something I’d read about in one of my dad’s Terry Brooks novels. But one of the dangers of knowing these stories so well is that they can begin to lose their shine, we can become too familiar and forget the power of the narrative. So as we read this chapter of Exodus, let’s attempt to tap into some of that childhood wonder.  The author of Exodus gives us some strange details as he describes the way frogs and gnats and flies overtake the Egyptian landscape.  There is even that line about the stench of the heaps of dead frogs left after God had relented in the plague.  Imagine, frog carcasses all over your yard and inside your house.

These are vivid images that would have been at the forefront of Pharaoh’s experience, and yet he continued to refuse releasing the Israelites from slavery.  Why?  His people were suffering, HE was suffering from these ruthless plagues, but his hard heart was stubborn.  It is actually quite a familiar pattern.  We are not kings of Egypt and God is not sending down swarms of insects to make us change, but we too can get trapped in cycles of sin, guilt, and shame.  However, once things get really bad (I’m talking “frog carcass bad”) we are forced to change.  But when the norm sets in again, we are quick to return to old habits.

In some ways, the disruption we are experiencing now with both this global pandemic and the renewed cry for racial justice in our nation have shaken us out of some old patterns.  Are there behaviors and patterns in your own life that might be worth leaving behind even when “the new normal” sets in?

Respond

Prayerfully consider which of your habits and patterns might put distance between you and God’s best for you?  How could God use this time of disruption and uncertainty to soften your hardened heart?

Pray

Father, we know that in Jesus Christ, you have cleansed us from all sin, and yet we are often tempted to return to our empty routines and shirk your grace and mercy.  We, like Pharaoh, can find ourselves in patterns of momentary change and stubborn refusal, but we long to experience deep and meaningful transformation.  We know that can only happen through the power of your Holy Spirit, so send your Spirit now to pierce our hearts and energize us with renewed assurance of your grace and love in Christ Jesus. Amen.

 

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Exodus, Chapter 7

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Exodus, Chapter 7

Reflect

And so, it begins, God has declared, “Let my people go!” But Pharaoh’s hardened heart will not free the Hebrew people. Pharaoh does not know this God, Yahweh. These ten plagues will demand the release from slavery and will reveal that the Lord God has power over Pharaoh and the Egyptian gods. This first plague is the changing of the water of the Nile into blood. The Nile is the very life source of Egypt. The annual flooding brings fresh silt and water for farming. The water of the Nile turns the dessert into a huge oasis. The Nile was worshiped as a god by the Egyptians. The Lord God shows that Yahweh has complete power over the Nile. The Egyptian god, Khamun, is the guardian of the Nile, but cannot protect the Nile. Hopi, the spirit of the Nile is brought low. Osiris, whose bloodstream is the Nile, bleeds. Water is the life source. Slavery and false gods destroy the life source.

Respond

The Hebrew people were enslaved. Today, are we enslaved? Fortunately, we are not in physical bondage, but have we surrendered to false gods who have enslaved us. Prejudice, addictions, and unhealthy desires have enslaved us to false narratives and destructive behaviors. This slavery destroys the life source in us. Jesus sets us free from slavery to sin. It sets us free from hardened hearts to walk in the way of the Love of God.

Pray

Gracious loving heavenly Father, set us free. You know what is good for us. Empower us to walk in your way of love and forgiveness setting us free from our prejudices, addictions, and unhealthy desires through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. Amen.

 

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Exodus, Chapter 6

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Exodus, Chapter 6:1-30

Reflect

In Exodus chapter six, God’s certainty is met with Moses’ hesitancy. God tells Moses what he will see God do. God says, “Pharaoh will let the Israelites go.” Moses isn’t convinced. God reminds Moses of his relationship with his ancestors, and the covenant he has made with them. God assures Moses that he has heard the Israelites cries, and that he will free and redeem his people. But, scripture says, they are too broken in spirit to listen to Moses. Moses is too broken in spirit to accept God’s words. God tells Moses to go to Pharaoh and tell him to free the Israelites. Moses responds, “the Israelites didn’t listen, why would Pharaoh?” God spoke again to Moses, and Aaron, telling them what to tell Pharaoh. Moses remains hesitant, scripture says, because, he is not an eloquent speaker. Right in the middle of chapter six is a genealogy, which, given Moses’ posture towards God, serves as a reminder of how God has known the Israelites for generations. There is a Hillsong song, called Hindsight, and some of the lyrics are;

I don’t need to know what the future says

‘Cause if the past could talk it would tell me this

My God isn’t finished yet

If He did it before He can do it again

So I’ll trust Him with what comes next

For the God I know is known for faithfulness

It seems that God is working to birth the sentiment of these words in Moses’ heart.

Respond

How do you meet God’s certainty in your life? What do you think God is working to birth in your heart? God tells Moses to speak truth to power. That is a dangerous task. Has God ever called you to speak truth to power?

Pray

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; God of John Calvin, Billy Graham, and Martin Luther King Jr.,  you have been at work in your people for a long time. Forgive us for meeting your certainty with hesitancy. May your Spirit move us to trust in your call, and when all we have to offer is our hesitancy, move us anyways. In the name of the one who remained faithful unto death; Jesus, our Christ, Amen.

 

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Exodus, Chapter 5

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Exodus, Chapter 5

Reflect

It is painful to enter into this story of oppression. Israel, God’s chosen people, are enslaved in Egypt to Pharaoh. And Pharaoh’s reign of terror is intensifying. He is exacting a higher and higher price of blood, sweat, and tears from the Hebrew slaves.

In the ancient world, Pharaoh was viewed as a god. His power was total and his will was not to be controverted. He held absolute power. This is extremely important for us to keep in mind as we make our way through Exodus. Why? Because the whole of Exodus is the God of Abraham engineering a showdown with the supposedly god-like Pharaoh. And at each turn, the LORD is humiliating Pharaoh and showing him for what he is: a mere mortal playing the divine.

Our world is filled with Pharaohs, self-appointed deities with absolute power whose wills are to be obeyed at all costs. Their claim to supremacy is a lot more subtle and slick, but it is no less real.

Right here in Exodus 5, the Living God starts to erode Pharaoh’s phony power. What we worship is our god. The Hebrews are beginning to learn who is worthy of worship. Faithfulness to God is moving from the worship of lesser things to greater things. And the greatest thing worthy of our worship is God the Father, Son, and Spirit.

Respond

What do you worship? Who/what plays the role of Pharaoh in your life?

Pray

Almighty God, you alone are worthy to be praised and to receive honor and blessing. By the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, help us look to your Son Jesus as the world’s once and future King. Amen.

Exodus, Chapter 4

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Exodus, Chapter 4

Reflect

Moses has clearly heard God’s call that he is to go to the Pharaoh of Egypt and demand the release of the Israelites from slavery. But Moses’ list of objections to God’s divine commission continues from Chapter 3. Moses doubts the people will believe him so God provides Moses with amazing signs for Moses to perform to establish his credibility that the God of their ancestors has sent Moses for the fulfillment of God’s divine plan.  But Moses has still more objections. He claims that he is a poor public speaker, being “slow of tongue.” God patiently reminds Moses that God is the One who gives speech and all the human senses. Most importantly, God promises that He will be with Moses’ mouth and teach Moses what he is to say.

God has been exceedingly patient with Moses as he has raised numerous objections to God’s call to him, even promising His divine and powerful presence with Moses. Moses final plea, “O my Lord, please send someone else” finally angers the Lord. Yet, God responds to Moses’ plea and provides Moses with additional help in the form of his brother, Aaron, to serve as Moses’ spokesperson. Aaron will speak the words that God will give to Moses.

God has not forgotten His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He has chosen Moses to lead His people out of slavery.  God’s choice of Moses is not based on Moses’ speaking ability or courage or powerful abilities to produce signs to impress Pharaoh. God has chosen Moses despite everything that might indicate he is an unsuitable choice for such an audacious task. If Moses is to be successful, it will be only because God will provide all that is needed for the mission entrusted to him.

God’s steadfast love and faithfulness to His people abound. God delights in fulfilling His promises in amazing ways using unlikely human instruments. Through eyes of faith, we may see that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from mere humans.

We also can receive an extraordinary power that belongs to God and not to us. Paul wrote in II Corinthians 4:7 of a treasure that we may receive in the clay jars of our earthly bodies and lives. The treasure is the “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in
our mortal flesh. Thanks be to God that He uses frail humans to achieve His divine purposes and to show His steadfast love and care for His people uses frail humans.

Respond

When have you been reluctant to say “Yes” God? What might God be asking you to do? How might God be calling you to share your God-given gifts, talents, time and material blessings? What fears and concerns make you reluctant to say “Yes” to God?

Pray

Gracious God,

Thank You, Lord, for Your steadfast love and faithfulness and for Your promise to be with us always. Help us to trust You more and open our hearts, minds and hands to hear and respond as You may call us. Thank You for a divine plan so amazing that it can only be achieved through and in Your power. Help us to serve willingly as instruments of Your love and grace trusting that You will provide all that is needed. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Exodus, Chapter 3

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Exodus, Chapter 3

Reflect

Don’t forget Joseph, just because we’re in the next book of the Bible. Don’t forget the conviction that Israel’s God did more than set the world in motion and leave it to its own devices. God made the world, chose a people to know him and bear witness to him, and acted again and again not only to deliver them, but to bless the world through them.

So then, Moses. Whereas Joseph trusted, without any indication of a divine appearance, God’s action in his life (providence), Moses has the blessing of a direct address from God, and a direct summons to participate in that action. “So come, I will send you to Pharoah to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.”

Terence Fretheim notes that this encounter between the LORD and Moses, in the wilderness, reveals some very important things about both God and Moses. We see it in the back-and-forth conversation at the burning bush. “Those who are brought close to God retain their integrity even in moments of closest contact. They are not merely passive recipients, but active, even opposing respondents. . . God acts in and through the work of Moses (as well as the natural order).”

Providence doesn’t mean that the world and human beings are simply puppets. And grace doesn’t mean that believers don’t find themselves caught up in the movements of God. No, somehow God honors the integrity of the world, and the integrity of human creatures, while graciously moving in and through us to accomplish his purposes.

It’s part of God’s “condescension.” God, being God, has ways that are not our ways and thoughts that are not our thoughts. But God doesn’t want to be God in any way other than “God with us.” God enters into human life, even into the trials and tribulations of his oppressed slaves in Egypt, to bring deliverance. God sends help in the person of Moses.

It remains the work of God and the calling of his people.

Pray

God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; God who alone is God and who alone defines yourself: interrupt our routines when the time is right. Call our attention away from the daily chores when there is more important work to be doing. We thank you for giving us our individual integrity while drawing us into your saving purposes. Give us humility; give us courage; give us ears to hear and eyes to see, through Jesus Christ the Lord. Amen.

Exodus, Chapter 2

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Exodus, Chapter 2

Reflect

Systemic racism, racial violence, and racial injustice are all over Exodus 2. Seriously. Perhaps the most obvious and egregious system of racial injustice is slavery. That’s the system Exodus describes in Egypt. Chapter two describes how Pharaoh’s daughter pities and adopts a Hebrew baby Moses she finds in a basket on the riverbank. It’s no secret why that baby’s there. His mother would rather put him in a basket on the Nile than have him fall victim to Pharaoh’s racial infanticide committed in the first chapter. Fast forward to a young adult Moses. He sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave. The system of racial inequality, injustice, and oppression is still in place. Moses’ response to witnessing the oppression of a fellow Hebrew is to murder the Egyptians. The next day Moses sees a Hebrew beating another Hebrew and he doesn’t kill anyone. Instead, he asks why. Moses is just as racist as the Egyptians. Pharaoh finds out about Moses’ crime and seeks to kill him, so Moses flees. He stumbles upon a conflict between a group of shepherds and Midianite sisters. Another conflict between two different groups of people. Even though the women mistake Moses for an Egyptian (racial profiling) he protects them from the shepherds. The sisters’ father rewards Moses giving him the eldest daughter in marriage (which is a topic for a different devotional). Racial injustice and inequality drive this chapter. It is racism that allows slavery to exist. It is racism that drives Moses to kill the Egyptian. It is racism that proclaims the lie that some lives matter more than others. And it is freedom from that racism that God will bring about, but it won’t be the way Moses expects. Right now, we live in a country where racism is part of our past and present, but it does not have to be a part of our future. As seen in this chapter, freedom and equality do not come for the Hebrews when Moses takes matters into his own hands. It is not until Moses joins in what God wants that the Hebrews experience freedom. The same is true for us today. In Christ, we are reconciled to God and we are entrusted with Christ’s ministry of reconciliation. We are called to be ambassadors of Christ’s reconciling love in the world.

Respond

Have you tried to take the issues of racism into your own hands? Have you run away from it when it got too hard like Moses did? Where do you see God moving us toward reconciliation today? What would it look like for you to be an ambassador of the reconciling love of Jesus Christ?

Pray

We confess that like Moses, we are quick to act in judgment of those who are different from us. We confess that we have fooled ourselves into thinking that we know better than you. Wake us up to the injustices around us. Wake us up to your reconciling love in those places. And grant us the courage, creativity, and compassion to be a part of it. In the reconciling love of Christ Jesus, we pray, Amen

Exodus, Chapter 1

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Exodus, Chapter 1

Reflect

“And these are the names…”

It is clear from the very first word of Exodus, “and,” that this story is the continuation of the larger narrative of God’s faithfulness to his people begun in the book of Genesis.  It is in this book that we continue to trace the way God fulfills the promises he made to the patriarchs.  However, chapter 1 feels as though it highlights the absence of God rather than his presence.  Where is God now that this new pharaoh has taken control and enslaved the Israelites?  Where is God as their infant sons are being slaughtered and thrown into the Nile?  These questions are important for us to wrestle with before we move too quickly into chapter 2 when “God hears the people’s groaning” (2:24).  The tension of God’s absence in the midst of tragedy and pain is not new.  Throughout this history of God’s people, there have been times when the cries for salvation felt as though they were going unheard.  However, we know that God is the Lord of all history, and we see that reflected again and again in the overarching narrative of the Scriptures.   One scholar puts it this way, “God is steady and sure, and the Israelites are to see their prolonged enslavement in light of God’s character rather than to make conclusions about God’s presence or absence on the basis of their circumstances” (Enns, 51).

Enns, Peter.  The New Application Commentary: Exodus. Zondervan, 2000.

Respond

We may often feel as if God is absent.  As our nation continues to struggle in the midst of this global pandemic, unemployment, injustice, division, fear, and violence, it can be difficult to see the goodness of God.  But it is there.  He is here.

Where in your life, the life of your family, our nation, our world, do you feel God’s absence?  How might the stories we just read in Genesis and the one we’re beginning in Exodus speak to the character of God and provide assurance of his faithfulness?

Pray

Lord, we feel anxious.  Our world is aching and our hearts are breaking.  May we commit anew to being more attentive to your presence in the midst of suffering and unrest.  As we begin to read the story of the Exodus, remind us of your power and faithfulness that is so clearly demonstrated in your Word.  We ask it all in the name of the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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