Learning From God's Word: Exodus
The stage is set for a mighty work of God. The Lord's people face a crisis situation. they are being oppressed by the Egyptians. God sees what is happening. He is making His plans - to give His people a better future. It may have seemed like God was doing nothing abiout Israel's problems - "a long time passed " (Exodus 2:23). God was nit standing back, paying no attention to what was going on. He was busy - preparing Moses to be the leader of His people. He was taking steps wowards the great event of the deliverance from the oppressors. God was looking ahead to the Exodus and the movement from the land of bondage to the land of promise - "He remembered His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Exodus 2:24), and He was about to fulfil this promise with a mighty demonstration of His saving power.
Moses was called to be a servant of God's people. He was to be the leader who would play an important part in bringing the blessing of God to the people of Israel. He was not to be a 'lone ranger.' He was to "assemble the leaders of Israel" (Exodus 3:16). He was to share with them the Lord's vision for His people's future. God was taking them away from "misery." He was leading them on to blessing - " a land flowing with milk and honey." Moses was not to go to the Pharaoh as a 'lone ranger' - "you and the leaders must go to the King of Egypt" (Exodus 3:18). There are important lessons here for God's servants today. We move forward together - as "one body in Christ."
In Moses, there is great weakness. In the Lord, there is great strength. By himself, Moses was completely out of his depth. With God, Moses would go from strength to strength. He had God's promise as well as God's command: "Now go, and I will help you speak and will teach you what to say" (Exodus 4:12). Moses was not to be left on his own. As well as having the help of the Lord, he would also have the help of Aaron, his brother: "I will help both of you speak, and I will teach you what to do" (Exodus 4:15). Moses and Aaron were not to work in isolation from the other "leaders of the people of Israel." They were to share with them "everything the Lord had said" (Exodus 4:29-30). God's Word to Israel was a Word of power - He "did miraculous signs for the people" (Exodus 4:30) - and love - "The Lord was concened about the people of Israel" (Exodus 4:31).
It gets worse before it gets better. Things seemed to be going from bad to worse for God's people. They become "discouraged" (Exodus 6:9). They were unable to look beyond their present difficulties. They needed the Lord's Word of encouragement - "The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I use My power against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of there" (£xodus 7:5). Before there was salvation for Israel, there needed to be judgment for Egypt. The judgments on Egypt (the "plagues") were a call to repentance. If there had been a willingness to listen to God's Word at the beginning, these "plagues" would not have happened. Each "plague" was a call to repentance as well as a judgment on disobedience. Each "plague" could have been the last - if Pharaoh had said 'Yes' to the Lord. Pharaoh said 'No', and the "plagues" continued.
More plagues, more opportunities for repentance - God was appealing to Pharaoh to change his mind about God and the people of God. The call to repentance was ignored. Pharaoh put on a show of repentance (Exodus 9:27-28; Exodus 10:16-17). - but he didn't mean it: "Pharaoh was stubborn", "the Lord made him stubborn" (Exodus 9:35; Exodus 10:20). He was a man of unbelief. God confirmed him in his unbelief. the final plague - the death of the firstborn - represented the end of the road for Pharaoh - "the Lord made Pharaoh stubborn" (Exodus 11:10). God was saying, 'Enough is enough.' God was going to bring His people out of Egyot - with or without Pharaoh's permission. there were good things happening - "the Lord made the Egyptians kind to the people. And Moses was highly respected by Pharaoh's officials and all the Egyptians" (Exodus 11:3) - but this didn't change the fact thatPharaoh was resistant to God. This resistance did not hinder God in the outworking of His great purpose of salvation.
The purpose of the Passover was to build a bridge between the past, the present and the future: "Remember this day - the day when you left Egypt, the land of slavery. The Lord used His mighty hand to bring you out of there" (Exodus 13:3), "In the future, when your children ask you what this means, tell them, " 'The Lord used His mighty hand to bring us out of slavery in Egypt'" (Exodus 13:14). What must be remembered about these events is this: the Lord was in control. Once they had come out of Egypt, God continued to be in control of their journey. In Exodus 13:17-18, we read that God closed one door - £the shortest route" - and opened another door. God's perfect way may not always be "the shortest route" - but it is His way, and it'es the best way.
Here, we see "the great power of the Lord" (Exodus 14:31). This leads to worship - "I will sing to the Lord. He has won a glorious victory ... The Lord is my strength and my song. He is my Saviour. This is my God and I will praise Him ... " (Exodus 15:1-2). In thework of God's redemption, we see His love and power - "Lovingly You will lead the people You have saved. Powerfully, You will guide them to Your holy dwelling" (Exodus 15:13). This is the greatness of God's power - it is power which serves the purpose of His love. The Lord is King - "The Lord will rule as King forever and ever" (Exodus 15:18). He is not a tyrant. He is not a dictator. He is the King of love. He loves us. we are to love Him, living for Him and looking to Him to fulfil His promises in our lives.
The Lord provides. Through the provision of manna and water, the Lord sustains His people. Strong in Him, they press on to victory. This is a picture of the Christian life. Before we can be soldiers of Christ, we must receive our strength from the Lord. We come to Him, looking to Him for strength - His strength. Jesus is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Water (John 6:51: John 4:14). Strengthened by Him, we will not be defeated. We will be victorious - "more than conquerors through Him who loved us." His love will give us the victory. "Nothing will be able to separate us from His love" (Romans 8:37-39). In the provision of manna and water, we see love. In the victory over the Amalekites, we see the victory of love: "Love has the victory forever." The God who loved His people - revealing His love in the Exodus, maintaining His love in the wilderness - gave them the victory.
The Word of God tells us what God has done for His people: "the Lord saved them" (Exodus 18:8). The Word of God teaches us that being saved by the Lord places us under responsibility to be obedient to Him (Exodus 19:4-5). the vital connection betweensalvation and obedience is brought out clearly in the giving of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Before speaking to His people about what they must do if they are to live as His obedient people, God reminds them of what He has done for them: "I am the Lord your God who brought you out of slavery in Egypt" (Exodus 20:2). We must never forget how much the Lord has done for us. If we lose sight of His love, His grace and His mercy, so wonderfully revealed to us in our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, our 'obedience' will be nothing but legalism. Real obedience comes from real salvation. It comes to us from the God of our salvation.
Our obedience to god is to take shape within the varied circumstances of everyday life. At the heart of our obedience, there is to be compassion, an expression of God's compassion (Exodus 22:21,28; Exodus 23:9). At the heart of our obedience, there is to be worship (Exodus 23:14). taking compassion and worship together, we come to the very heart of our obedience to God. It is not compassion without worship. It is not worship without compassion. The spiritual and the social belong together. We need spiritual foundations, leading to social changes. The social does not stand on its own. There needs to be spiritual depth. The 'spiritual' does not stand on its own. It is empty formality, if it does not lead to a change in our way of living from day-to-day.
"The glory of the Lord" (Exodus 24:16-17) - God is to be glorified in all that we do. Symbolic of God's glory is the frequent reference to "gold" or "pure gold." God's glory is to shine brightly amiong God's people. If God is to be glorified among us, if our lives are to be like "pure gold", we must be like "pure virgin olive oil", keeping our "lamps" burning for Him(Exodus 27:20-21). God will not be glorified if we are not looking to Him to keep our lamps burning for Him - "Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning", "Shine, Jesus, shine. Fill this land with the Father's glory. Blaze, Spirit, blaze. Set our hearts on fire ... " The blessing we read about here is not simply for those who are already God's people. It is also for those who will be reached for Christ and won for Him, as the Lord's people rise to the challenge of carrying Christ to "this land" and to "the nations."
In all our worship and in all of life, we are to be "holy to the Lord" (Exodus 28:36). Holiness lies at the heart of God's instructions to His people. God speaks of the special blessing of His "presence" at "the tent of meeting - "My glory will make this place holy" (Exodus 29:42-43). The holiness of God is full of love. He lives among His people as the God of redemption: "I brought them out of Egypt so that I might live among them" (Exodus 29:45-46). In the Lord's presence, there is grace - "in the Lord's presence ... the sins in their lives are removed" (Exodus 30:16). This redemption, given to us by the grace of God, is to be an ongoing experience through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Our salvation is never to be taken for granted in an arrogant way. Through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we do receive assurance of God's salvation - but we must never forget this: "Holy to the Lord" (Exodus 30:37).
The history of Israel is like a rollercoaster ride. It's full of highs and lows. We read of the Lord giving His Word to Moses (Exodus 31:18). This is followed by the people rebelling against God (Exodus 32:1). The sin of the people is very greater. The mercy of God is even greater. He shows mercy to those whop have rebelled against Him. He continues to speak His Word of grace - "My presence will go with you, and I will give you peace" (Exodus 33:14). Often, we feel like God won't want to have anything more to do with us. God is the God of grace. He is also the God of glory. He reveals His glory to us (Exodus 33:18-22. His full glory is too much for us. He gives us a glimpse of His glory. He gives us enough to create in us a thirst for more of His glory. He doesn't give us so much that we are overwhelmed by His glory. What we have is grace and glory together. When His glory seems too much for us, His grace breaks in and assures us that we belong to Him. He shows us that His glory is the glory of His love, the greatest love of all.
Moses received the Word from the Lord. He brought God's Word to the people. With God's Word of grace - "the Lord, a compassionate and merciful God ...", there is also His Word of warning - "He never lets the guilty go unpunished ... " (Exodus 34:6-7). Hearing God's Word of warning, together with His Word of grace, Moses pleads with God for mercy - "Lord, please go with us ... " (Exodus 34:9). The Lord promises to give His blessing - "I'm making My promise again." This promise of His blessing is accompanied by His call to obedience - "Do everything that I command today" (Exodus 34:11). When Moses came, from God's presence, to the people, his "face was shining" (Exodus 34:30,35). This was a sign of the power of the Spirit - filling Him, giving Him strength, equipping Him for the work of ministry,
The work of God requires the work of a large number of people, who pool their resources together to see that God's work is done. When there is this willing spirit among God's people, God's work moves forward. This willing spirit comes from the Lord Himself - "The Lord has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God." Through the Spirit of God, we receive gifts which are put to good use in the service of God (Exodus 35:31). When God's work is done in God's way - "as the Lord has commanded" (Exodus 36:1), there will be God's blessing: "The people are bringing much more than we need for doing the work the Lord has commanded us to do" (Exodus 36:5).
Many times over, we read the word, "gold." We look beyond the furnishings of the place of worship to the God whom we worship. In our hearts, we say, "My God, how wonderful You are." All that we read of here is pointing us to the great God, the God of glory, the god who is worthy of all praise. Many people place great value on "gold", but they do not worship God and give glory to Him. How sad it is that so many people place such high value on the things of this world - and place such little value on the God who created our world. In our world, we must learn to look beyond this world. We must learn to say, "I'd rather have jesus than riches untold." The Lord must always be more important to us than anyone or anything else. We must not let "gold" become our "god." We must look beyond the "gold" to our God.
All of this may seem so strange to us. Among all the many details, there is one thing which we must not miss. They "made everything that the Lord commanded." They "followed the Lord's instructions" (Exodus 38:22; Exodus 39:1,5,7,21,26,29,31-32,42-43). God's people are called to be obedient to Him. We are not to do what we want We are to what He commands. We are to follow His instructions. There can be no "anointing" (Exodus 40:9-15), if there is no obedience. The two go together - obedience and anointing. We are to do everything the Lord commands us. We are to follow His instructions (Exodus 40:16,19). Such obedience to God will involve putting His Word at the centre of our lives. His Word is not so much a Word of demand as a Word of "promise." It is not so much a Word of law as a Word of "mercy" (Exodus 40:20). Our obedience to God is grounded in our experience of God's "promise" of "mercy." Having received this "mercy" of God, promised to us in Jesus Christ, we follow the Lord's instructions (Exodus 40:21,23,27,29,32). When we have "finished the work" God has given us to do, we must look to Him to send the blessing - "the glory of the Lord filled the tent" (Exodus 40:34-35). In all the strangeness of the world of Old Testament worship, there are deep spiritual lessons for us, lessons which enable us to go on with the Lord - receiving His mercy, obeying His Word, experiencing His glory. God is good to us. He shows His mercy to us. He puts a new Spirit within us - the Spirit of obedience. He sends His glory so that we might rejoice in His presence and be strengthened by His presence.