God Delivers His People

 

Week of June 16, 2013

 

Bible Verses:Exodus 3:7-10; 12:12-13,29-31; 14:5-6,13-14,21,26.

 

Lesson Focus:This lesson can help you affirm that God compassionately expresses His power on behalf of His people.

 

God Cares:Exodus 3:7-10.

 

[7]Then the LORD said, "I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings,[8]and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.[9]And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.[10]Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt."[ESV]

 

[7-10]It is an awesome thing to come into the presence of the living God. When Moses met God in the burning bush, he was not simply gaining new information about God Ė he was encountering God Himself Ė God in all His greatness. Moses was meeting the glorious God, who blazes with splendor. He was meeting the eternal God, who is sufficient unto Himself. He was meeting the holy God, who is perfect in His purity. One would not expect such a great and glorious God to have the slightest interest in mere mortals, especially mortal failures like Moses. Yet the holy God of the burning bush has an unbreakable love for His unholy people, and He revealed Himself to Moses in order to maintain His personal, saving relationship with the children of Israel. We began to see Godís concern for His people at the end of chapter 2, where four verbs were used to describe His divine activity. God heard the groans of His people; He remembered His covenant with Abraham; He saw the Israelites in their slavery; and He knew about all their needs. These words are repeated in Exodus 3. Obviously God remembered His covenant, because He identified Himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob [6]. Then He went on to say, I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings [7]. Godís relationship with His people is so close, His love for them is so intense, that He specifically identifies the children of Israel as my people. In case there is any doubt as to whether God knows what is happening to them, He repeats Himself in verse 9: And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. When Godís people suffer, they sometimes wonder whether God even cares. But the story of Israel in Egypt is a dramatic example of what is always the case: God knows exactly what His people are going through. He is well aware of what is happening to us. He sees our suffering. He also cares about it, which is why He responds to our cries for help. God is full of pity and compassion for the people He loves. What He said to the children of Israel He says to every one of His children: I know their sufferings. Godís relationship with His people is personal because the true and living God is a personal God who knows His people in a personal way. The holy and glorious God has personal and intimate knowledge of each one of His children. When He decides to come and save us, He calls us by name [Isaiah 43:1-3]. Godís relationship with His people Ė the loving covenant He established with Abraham Ė is a personal relationship. It is also a saving relationship, and this is why God revealed Himself to Moses. The God who sees, hears, and knows His people is also the God who saves: I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land. God was reaching down to bring His people up out of Egypt. Here we see that the God who is awesome in glory and fearsome in holiness stoops to save. There was something God was saving them from. He was saving them from their slavery in Egypt, delivering them from the house of bondage. There was also something He was saving them to. He was saving them into the Promised Land. This was the land that God had promised to Abraham, the land of Canaan. It was a good land. God mentions milk and honey because those foods require green pastures and consistent harvests. The land He promised was peaceful, fruitful, and abundant. The point is that God not only knew and cared about the plight of His people but was also planning to do something about it. The story of the exodus is the history of how God rescued His people, working out their whole salvation from beginning to end. The way God rescued Israel from Egypt is the way God always rescues His people. The exodus is not simply past history but present reality. The God who revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush is the same God we serve today. Whenever and wherever we worship Him, we are standing on holy ground, praising the God of Abraham and crying out to Him for salvation. The exodus from Egypt reveals the pattern of salvation in Christ. So whatever God did for Moses has direct relevance for the Christian. Israelís bondage is a picture of our slavery to sin. Until we come to God in faith, we are living in the Egypt of our sin, enslaved by its passions and desires. We are in as great a need of salvation as were the children of Israel. If we are to be rescued, God will have to stoop down to save us. At this point the conversation between Yahweh and Moses took a surprising turn. God had spoken of His compassion for the sufferings of His beloved people. He had promised to come and rescue them, entering personally into a saving relationship with them. But here was the surprise: God would accomplish His salvation through the person and work of Moses. God said: Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt [10]. One might have expected God to explain how He was going to liberate His people from bondage, but instead He sent Moses to be the liberator. Here we encounter one of the paradoxes of Godís sovereign grace: God uses human beings Ė sinful human beings Ė to carry out His saving purpose. Moses had tried to save the Israelites once before, all by himself. The attempt was such a complete disaster that Moses had to leave the country. But God used the events of Mosesí life to prepare him for ministry. Now the time of preparation was over, and God was commissioning Moses to lead His people out of slavery. In the end, of course, God was the one who delivered His people. But God raised up His servant Moses to be the human agent of that deliverance. Here we discover that Godís call to Moses included not only his salvation but also his vocation Ė the specific task that God called him to accomplish for His glory. The same is true for every Christian. The God who saves is the God who sends. Thus every follower of Christ receives two callings: first to salvation, and then to service.

 

God Judges:Exodus 12:12-13,29-31.

 

[12]For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD.[13]The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.[29]At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock.[30]And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.[31]Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, "Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. [ESV]

 

[12-13]It is not hard to understand why God plagued the Egyptians. Their king was a cruel tyrant who tried to destroy the people of God. By sending plague after plague Ė nine in all Ė God was showing His power over creation. What the Egyptians should have done in response was repent of their sins and join Moses in giving praise to the one true God. Yet the more Pharaoh suffered, the harder his heart became. This was because his heart was committed to serving other gods. So one by one God defeated the gods and goddesses of Egypt. Still Pharaoh refused to let Godís people go. Finally God sent the tenth and deadliest plague of all: the death of the firstborn. With this final plague God accomplished His objective Ė namely, to demonstrate His lordship over the Egyptians by defeating all their gods, together with the demonic powers they represented. With one deadly blow God achieved His conquest over Egyptís gods, and in doing so, he gave the Egyptians what they deserved. The last plague was a glorious act of His sovereign justice. What God did to the Egyptians was no surprise, but what may seem surprising is the way He treated His people Israel. Like the Egyptians, the Israelites were under a sentence of death. The same night that God brought death to every house in Egypt, He also visited the home of every Israelite [12:13,23], with the purpose of killing their firstborn sons. In His mercy, of course, God provided His people with a way to escape His wrath. The Israelites may have been tempted to believe that they were more righteous than the Egyptians, indeed, that they could do no wrong. But the truth was that they deserved to die every bit as much as their enemies. Indeed, if God had not provided a means for their salvation, they would have suffered the loss of every last one of their firstborn sons. The Israelites were as guilty as the Egyptians, and in the final plague God taught them about their sin and His salvation. Godís people had sinned in several ways. One was to reject the word of Godís prophet. Neither the Egyptians nor the Israelites would listen to Godsí word. When the wrath of God is applied in its essential reality, no one is safe. There were two nations in the land of Egypt, but they were both resistant to the word of God; and if God comes in judgment none will escape. The Israelites were also guilty of idolatry. Not surprisingly, during their long centuries of captivity, the Israelites grew to love the gods of Egypt. And for this sin God would have been justified in plaguing them, even to the death of their firstborn sons. However, apart from any particular sin they may have committed, Godís people were sinners by nature. The mere fact of their humanity meant that they participated in the guilt of Adamís race. In His great mercy, God provided His people with a way to be safe. The reason He visited their homes was not to destroy them but to teach them about salvation. Like the Egyptians, the Israelites deserved divine judgment; but unlike the Egyptians, they would be saved by grace through faith. What Godís people needed was atonement, which God provided in the form of a lamb Ė a lamb offered as a sacrifice for sin. When God saw the blood of the sacrificed lamb on the doorpost, death would pass over, and the firstborn would be saved. What God required for salvation was the offering of a lamb. In salvation God gives what God demands. So again and again through the history of redemption, God has always provided a lamb or other sacrificial animal to save His people. All of these sacrificial animals prepared for the coming of Christ. For Jesus to be our Passover lamb, He had to meet Godís standard of perfection. Back during the exodus, the Passover lamb had to be physically flawless. In the case of Jesus, the perfection God required was moral: Jesus had to be utterly sinless. It is theologically significant that Jesus was crucified right at the time of the Passover feast [John 13:1; 18:28]. This helps us see the connection between the first Passover and the final Passover Ė the Passion of Christ.

[29-31]It was the dead of night. Most people were in their homes, asleep. Families all over Egypt had gone down for the night. But then the visitor came, with a deadly purpose. He was a destroyer, the angel of death. The visitor was on a mission from God. He swept across Egypt, calling on every house in Pharaohís kingdom. It was obvious that he was looking for something, because as he came to each house he paused to inspect the doorway. In the land of Goshen, where the Israelites lived, he found what he was looking for. There was a mark of blood on the top and sides of every door. When the visitor saw the blood, he passed over the house, holding back his deadly blow because a sacrifice had been made for sin. The family inside had heard that they could be saved by the blood of a lamb, and the sign on the door was a public testimony of their faith in Godís saving word. The rest of the houses in Egypt were not marked with the sign of salvation. The visitor did not pass by these houses but slipped inside to claim the life of the firstborn son. Thus a night that began in silence ended in suffering. The death of the firstborn was the final blow, the tenth and deadliest plague. By visiting death on the Egyptians, while at the same time protecting His people, God was declaring the basis for salvation. The distinction God made that night is the one that He always makes. It is the distinction between those who have faith in the blood of the sacrifice He provides and those who do not, and on that distinction rests the eternal destiny of every human being. There are times when it seems like the day of salvation will never come. There were times when it must have seemed that way to the Israelites. For centuries they languished in captivity, bearing the bitter yoke of their slavery in Egypt. And when God finally decided to do something about it, things got worse instead of better because Pharaoh made them work even harder. Now, finally, Pharaoh seemed to be getting what he deserved. Still, the Israelites must have wondered how many plagues it was going to take. But while they waited, they had Godís promise that His mighty hand would make Pharaoh drive Israel out of Egypt Ė not just let them go but actually drive them out. This is precisely what happened [31-32]. These verses are so heavy with irony that they almost fall through the Biblical page. Here is the most powerful man in the world being rudely awakened to face things totally out of his control, including the death of his eldest son. Pharaoh had told Moses that he never wanted to see his face again [10:28]. How ironic, then, for him to summon Godís prophet in the middle of the night, especially since Moses had told Pharaoh that one day his officials would bow down at his feet and beg him to get out of Egypt [11:8]. Pharaoh had refused to let the Israelites worship their God, in fact, he claimed that he did not even know who their God was [5:2]. How ironic, therefore, for him to tell the Israelites to serve the Lord, especially since all along he had insisted that the Israelites had to serve him [31]. How ironic as well for Pharaoh to command the Israelites to leave Egypt. He was not just letting them go; he was ordering them to depart!

 

God Delivers:Exodus 14:5-6,13-14,21,26.

 

[5]When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people, and they said, "What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?"[6]So he made ready his chariot and took his army with him. [13]And Moses said to the people, "Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.[14]The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent."[21]Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. [26]Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen."[ESV]

 

[5-6]God wanted to get glory over Pharaoh and all his host [4]. If this strategy seems familiar, it is because God used it again when He sent His Son to the cross. To Satan it must have seemed like Jesus had no idea what He was doing. He was God the Son; yet He allowed Himself to be handed over to sinful men, who stripped Him, beat Him, and crucified Him. On the cross He was so vulnerable that Satan thought He had the strategic advantage, and He pressed it to the death. But of course this was his fatal mistake. The cross was not a defeat for Jesus but a victory. By making atonement He was able to gain eternal victory over sin, death, and Satan. In order for Godís brilliant strategy to work in the Exodus, Pharaoh had to pick up the chase. This takes us back to the palace, where Pharaoh was having another one of his infamous temper tantrums [5]. As soon as the Israelites left, Pharaoh realized that he had just lost most of his labor force. Who would complete his monuments? How would he ever complete his massive building projects? His cabinet officials were even more upset. Without slaves to do all their work for them, they would have to fend for themselves. As they discussed all this, the Egyptians decided that they didnít want to let the Israelites go after all. So Pharaoh made ready his chariot and took his army with him [6]. Pharaohís change of heart shows that he never truly repented of his sin. He had been given every opportunity to set his captives free. Time after time Moses had told him to let Godís people go. First he refused. Then as the plagues started to come, he began to negotiate. He bargained and bickered. When finally he said that he would do what God wanted, he immediately changed his mind and went right back to his sins.

 

[13-14]When the Israelites saw Pharaoh and his army coming after them, they feared greatly [10]. The Israelites were in a dangerous and desperate situation, trapped between Pharaoh and the sea. But instead of looking to God in all His grace and glory, they looked at their enemies and were afraid. Rather than waiting for God to rescue them, they immediately turned on his prophet [11]. What was most alarming of all was their willingness to go right back into bondage [12]. The whole point of the exodus was for them to serve God, but here they were, wanting to go right back and serve Pharaoh. This was more than a loss of nerve Ė it was a lack of faith. By pledging their allegiance to Pharaoh they were denying the power of God. We are often tempted to do the same thing. God wants to bring us all the way out of our sins. Our problem is that we only come out partway. We decide to follow Christ, but as soon as we start having problems we get scared and go right back to our old ways of coping: anger, addiction, depression, distraction. No matter how much we used to hate it, there was security in the way we used to live; so we return to the same old harmful friendships, the same old sinful attitudes, and the same old nasty habits. There is a way of escape. Consider that the Israelites were never in any real danger. Even though Pharaoh was coming after them, they were right where God wanted them, and He would rescue them. What was at stake was not simply their lives but Godís glory, which He would protect at any cost. So what the Israelites should have done was to remember what kind of God they served Ė a God who always knows the best way, who is always faithful to help His people, and who always stays with them to guide them. More than that, they should have remembered His purpose Ė to work out everything according to His glorious plan. Moses did remember all this, and thus he knew exactly what to do when he was caught between the desert and the sea. Moses issued three commands to the people: fear not, stand firm, and see [13-14]. When Moses told the Israelites not to be afraid he was not just comforting them Ė he was rebuking them. He was telling them that they had no right to be afraid because they had no reason to fear. All they needed to do was to stand their ground, quietly waiting to see what God would do. The same principle holds true for our salvation from sin. Satan is pursuing us, but instead of running away, all we need to do is stand and see the salvation of our God. Once we put our faith in Jesus, we need to stand our ground. It is hard to be still and wait for God. Our temptation is to run away, cry out in fear, or try to fix things on our own. Instead, God orders us to stand our ground. He is our defender, our champion. When we are caught between the desert and the sea, all we need to do is be still and look for His salvation.

 

[21,26]Right at the time when everything seemed to be lost, when the Israelites were trapped between Pharaoh and the sea, God saved His people. Right when it was obvious there was nothing they could do to save themselves, God delivered them from the hands of Pharaoh. The constant message of the Bible is that we cannot save ourselves. Only God can save us. When did the Israelites cross the sea? At a time when only God could open up the way to salvation. So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided [21]. Mosesí actions are mentioned four times. Twice God told him what to do, and twice he did it [16,21,26,27]. Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the people walked across on dry land [22]. Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place drowning the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen [26,27]. This whole chapter is full of divine activity. God was the one who told Moses to raise his staff, who hardened the hearts of the Egyptians so that they chased after the Israelites, and who protected the Israelites all night when they were between the desert and the sea. The Bible sums all this up by saying, Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore [30].

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.†††††††† What four key verbs in 3:7-8 describe Godís concern for His people? Apply these four verbs to yourself. What does it mean to you personally, in your current life situation, that God is actively involved in your life?

 

2.†††††††† What paradox of Godís sovereign grace do we find in 3:10? What two callings does every follower of Christ receive? Pray that God will show you how He is calling you to be His human agent in carrying out His saving purpose.

 

3.†††††††† Think about the statement, ďin salvation God gives what God demands.Ē How did God do this in both the first Passover and the final Passover?

 

4.†††††††† What mistake did the Israelites commit when they saw Pharaohís army coming after them. What three commands did Moses give the people in 14:13?

 

References:

Exodus, John Mackay, Mentor.

The Message of Exodus, J.A. Motyer, Inter Varsity Press.

Exodus, Philip Ryken, Crossway.

Exodus, Douglas Stuart, NAC, Broadman.