February 8, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, February 8-14

February 8

Ex. 4:18-31,  Mt. 25:1-30
Ex. 5,  2 Cor. 4

Commentary, Exodus 5

Great joy must fill the hearts of the Hebrews.  When they hear that the Eternal I AM has sent a deliverer, “they bowed their heads and worshiped.  Pharaoh had a different response, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice ?”  The pharaoh has his own gods, and the Hebrews’ God doesn’t seem to be helping them lately.  He will continue with the gods of Egypt.  His response set the tone for everything that follows until the destruction of the Egyptian army.  It is a contest of the god’s of Egypt against the God of Israel.  It is the gods of the intellectual, cultural, economic, and military  superpower, against the God of slaves.

To show his contempt of the God of slaves, Pharaoh decrees that their work should be harder.  In addition to their normal work, they must also forage for the straw used in bricks.

The Hebrews now regret the appearance of Moses.  Rather than deliverance, his demands have made their lives incredibly harder.  They come to Moses to reproach him.  They want him to stop interfering, to go back to the desert and leave them in slavery.

Moses, too, is shocked at the response of Pharaoh.  He thinks God has played a trick on him.  “Wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people?” he asks. “Neither hast thou delivered thy people at all”

Like most people, he thought accomplishing the will of God would be easy.  He thought the world would give up without a fight.  He thought the Egyptians would repent in tears and bless the Hebrews on their way, when he said, “Let my people go.”  But that is not God’s plan in Egypt, and it rarely happens that way in life.  The world opposes the Church.  It acts more like Sodom and Gomorrah than Nineveh.  Rome is drenched with the blood of the saints for centuries before becoming Christianised.

The same is true in everyday life.  Half-hearted prayers rarely do anything but make the one praying feel better about himself.  Real change in life habits and attitudes comes from long seasons of self-examination, immersion in Scripture, confession, and repentance.  Most “Christians” never do that, which explains the shallow, me-centered entertainment orientation of most churches.

February 9

Ex. 6:1-13,  Mt. 25:31-46
Ex. 6:14-30,  2 Cor 5


Exodus 6

Every event in Exodus is a theological statement.  We could say they are acts by which God reveals Himself in human events and history.  This means they are not random, isolated events.  They are deliberate expressions of the nature and purpose of God.  Pharaoh’s refusal to release the Hebrews, besides fulfilling what God said would happen, is a Providentially guided event.  God causes it to develop a reverential fear and faith in the Hebrew people.  If God had simply had the pharaoh release the Hebrews, they would not have remembered it with the same intensity.  They might even think their release had been given by a good pharaoh, and all they ever had to do was ask for it.  But the conflict in which God crushes the Egyptian gods and forces the release of the Hebrews will remain in their collective memory forever.

Verse 9 is a pivotal verse in the chapter and in Exodus.  “Moses spake unto the children of Israel: but they harkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.” The children of Israel refuse to listen to Moses because they are afraid.  The last time they listened to him, God did not get them released, and the pharaoh made their bitter bondage even more bitter.  If Moses tries again, Pharaoh will probably make their bondage even more harsh.  So they just want Moses to go away.  They have given up hope.

In other words, they are just where God wants them.  They have concluded that freedom is impossible.  How can a small contingent of slaves force mighty Egypt to release them?  They can’t.  But God can.  The One who created and sustains all things can easily make pharaoh do His bidding.  So, now that Israel sees that her only hope is God, the Lord sends Moses to Pharaoh again.

Verses14-27 give Moses’ pedigree.  This is done to identify Moses.  He is a real person, and part of a real family, and part of the children of Israel.  Who is this man who dares speak to Pharaoh, and claims to talk to God?  He is Moses, son of Amaran and Jochbed, of the line of Levi.  He is the son of slaves.  And he is of uncircumcised lips.  He is a mere man, and a sinful one like the rest of Israel.  Why should Pharaoh listen to him?  There is no earthly reason why he should.

February 10

Ex. 7,  Mt. 26:1-35
Ex. 8:1-15,  2 Cor. 6


Exodus 7

Moses has expressed more doubt.  The Hebrews have rejected him (6:9), and he realises his own sinfulness and inability to change Pharaoh (6:30).  This is also what God wants. He must be made to realise he is completely unable to do anything to secure the Hebrews' freedom.  So, God has Pharaoh reject Moses, and increase the cruelty of the Hebrew bondage (see chapter 5).  Israel, too, rejects Moses (5:20-21, and 6:9).  So, Moses feels like a complete failure, and he is.  Now that he understands this, God is going to use him to accomplish His will.  But everyone will see that it is God who brings Israel out of Egypt, not Moses (Ex. 7:5).

The Egyptian magicians are able to mimic some of the signs God has given Moses.  There is an evil power in this universe, and it is able to do miraculous things.  It even tries to convince us that it is light and truth and goodness, and that to follow God is slavery, while to follow it is freedom (see Gen. 3).  But its power is limited, and those who trust in it, like Egypt, will be destroyed.

In verses 8-12 God defeats the Egyptian magicians.  Though they are abel to turn their rods into serpents, Aaron’s rod swallows their rods (7:12).  In verses 14-25, God attacks one of the most sacred treasures of Egypt, the life-giving Nile River.

From the heart of Africa, the Nile flows over 4,258 miles to the Mediterranean Sea.  Egypt, centered in the delta region, is also located in the vast Sahara desert.  Without the Nile, Egypt would be dry, windswept sand.  Erosion has carried vast quantities of fertile soil from the African interior to the delta region.  The fertile soil, coupled with abundant water, makes the delta a natural center for agriculture.  The surrounding desert is difficult for invading armies to cross, and serves as a natural defensive barrier.  The Mediterranean Sea is also difficult for armies to cross, and serves both to protect Egypt from invasion, and invite trade and shipping.  These factors contribute to make Egypt a rich and powerful super power in the ancient world.

The Egyptians believe the river is the gift of, and protected by the gods.  The connection between the gods and the river is so intense, the Egyptians believe to worship the Nile is the same as worshiping the gods.  So, if God wants to display His sovereign power to the Egyptians, the river is a logical first point of attack.

The rod that swallowed the Egyptian rods now smites the Nile, which turns to blood.  All the water, throughout Egypt bleeds.  The stench must be terrible.  The fear is even worse.

The foolish Egyptians also turn water into blood, but what comfort is that?  Had they turned the blood back into water they would have shown their gods are more powerful than the Hebrews’ God.  They can mimic, but not defeat the God of Israel.

 Exodus 8:1-14

Now Egypt is covered with frogs.  They over run the land.  They are in the food, the water, the houses, the fields and the streets.  Again the Egyptians are able to bring forth frogs, as they did bleeding water.  But they cannot remove the frogs.

Pharaoh wants the frogs removed, but does not want to appear to give in to Moses’ demands.  He summons Moses to the palace, but says to remove the frogs tomorrow (8:10).  This verse has given rise to many good sermons about the foolishness of putting off repentance and faith in God.  Pharaoh would rather spend one more night with the frogs, than repent, and many people would rather spend more time in the consequences of sin than repent and enjoy the good things of God.  Another night with the frogs, anyone?

February 11 

Ex. 8:16-32,  Mt. 26:36-75
Ex. 9:1-12,  2 Cor 7


Exodus 8:15-32

God wants the lesson of the frogs to linger, so He does not simply remove them, He lets them die.  Now the Nile delta is covered with dead frogs decaying in the heat.  The stench is worse than the smell of the river of blood, for “the land stank” (8:14).  But God is not finished with Egypt, nor has Israel learned to trust Him yet.  Pharaoh’s heart is hardened, and God brings a third plague to Egypt.  The dust of the earth becomes lice (8:17), bitting, itching, disease laden lice.

This time the Egyptians are unable to mimic the plague.  They cry out, “This is the finger of God” (8:19).

In verses 22 and 23, God puts a division between the Egyptians and Hebrews.  The plagues will not affect Goshen, an area in eastern Egypt where the Hebrews are kept.  This is to show that the Hebrews are God’s people, which will increase their faith.  It also serves to show that the plagues are directed at the Egyptians, not people in general.  They are not accidents that affect all people, they are acts of God directed upon the Egyptian people.  God unleashes a plague of biting buzzing dirty flies, which the Bible calls “a grievous swarm” (Ex:8:24).

Now Pharaoh agrees to let the Hebrews go into the desert to worship God, if He will remove the flies.  He is not releasing them, only letting them go to worship, after which they must return.  But, of course, Pharaoh does not let the Hebrews go.  God keeps His promises, Pharaoh does not.

Exodus 9:1-12

The plagues have been terrible, full of disease and suffering which have disrupted Egyptian life and prosperity.  But the next plague increases in severity and destructiveness.  The Egyptians are rich in herds and flocks.  Cattle, sheep, and goats flourish in the fertile and well watered fields.    They are important food sources.  Horses and camels are important elements in the defense of Egypt.  Camels carry military supplies.  Horses pull the chariots that give the army its tactical power.  But God strikes them down.  Imagine the land now, filled with rotting, stinking animal corpses.  Not only is the stench, and accompanying disease horrible, but a large portion of the Egyptian wealth and economy collapses overnight.  Mighty Egypt is crumbling quickly.

Next comes the boils, painful, infections on the skin of the Egyptians.  Moses takes dust from a furnace, possibly a place where they burn the dead animals, and scatters it on the wind in the sight of Pharaoh.  God multiplies the dust into a massive cloud that causes boils on man and beast, including the magicians.  Yet Pharaoh will not release the children of Israel.

February 12

Ex. 9:13-35,  Mt. 27
Ex. 10:1-11,  2 Cor. 8


Exodus 9:12-35

God sends Moses to Pharaoh again. In His words we gain a very important understanding about why God is freeing the Hebrews. He frees them that they may serve him. Yes, the Hebrews benefit from God’s mighty acts.  Yes, they have great joy in the grace of God poured out upon them.  But, He frees them from Egypt to love and serve Him.

There is a second reason for God's acts in Egypt; "that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth." This is addressed to Pharaoh in verse 14, but it also applies to the Hebrew people, and to all people  in all times.  God is redeeming Israel and judging Egypt to reveal His glory.  “[F]or this cause have I raised thee up," He says to Pharaoh in verse 16, "to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth” (vs.16).  This is why God is raising up Israel.  This is why He gave the Bible and the Church.  This is why He came to earth, died on the cross and rose again. These mighty acts reveal His glory and create a people to "be to the praise of His glory.

Fortunately God often displays His glory through acts of mercy, for the purpose of calling people to receive His mercy. While the plagues devastate much of Egypt, they also invite Egyptians to  escape the fate of the unbelievers and disobedient. They will be spared if they believe the word of God and act accordingly.

The seventh plague consists of a devastating hailstorm. The lightning is so intense, thick, and continuous that it looks like a wall of fire advancing toward them. Hail destroys crops and vegetation. People and animals caught in it are killed. The storm is so frightening Pharaoh calls for Moses and begs him to “intreat the Lord (for it is enough) that there be no more mighty thunderings and hail.”  He promises that if God will stop the storm, he will release the children of Israel.

Moses knows Pharaoh speaks out of the fear of the moment, not sincere repentance and faith. Yet the Lord relents and the storm subsides. The storm is a serious blow to the economy and spirit of Egypt. The flax crop, from which clothing is made, is destroyed. The barley, an important food crop, is also destroyed. By God’s grace, the wheat and rye crops, which are still in the grass stage escape destruction.

When Pharaoh sees that the storm has ceased, his heart is hardened and he refuses to let the Hebrews go.

Exodus 10:1-11

Moses and Aaron appear before Pharaoh again.  They declare that another, and even worse plague is coming.  An army of locusts will devour what is left of the crops and vegetation of Egypt (10:11).  By now Pharaoh’s advisors want him to save what is left of Egypt and expel the Hebrews.  But he will not surrender.  He wants to allow the Hebrew men to go into the desert to worship God, but leave their flocks and the women and children behind.  He probably thinks this will appease God, yet ensure that the men will return to their work.  Giving them this option, Moses and Aaron are thrown out of the palace (10:11).

February 13

Ex. 10:12-29    Mt. 28
Ex. 11,  2 Cor. 9


Exodus 10:12-29

The cloud of locusts is more fearful than the storm cloud of lightning and hail.  Its effects are even more devastating.  At least the storm left some crops.  The locusts eat them all (10:15).

Pharaoh has another phony conversion, and asks to have the locusts removed.  No sooner are they gone than he returns to hatred and rebellion against God.  This brings on the plague of darkness.

Thus far, the Egyptians’ gods have been unable to deliver them from the hand of the God of Israel.  Their god of the Nile could not protect the river.  Their gods of cattle and crops have been unable to preserve their food supply.  But their chief god, the sun god, has been unchallenged.  The sun still rises and sets, as always, and the Egyptians probably believe he will yet deliver them from the hand of God.  Not so.  God blots out the sun and darkness covers the land.  Even the sun belongs to God, and cannot deliver Egypt from Him.

Pharaoh attempts to bargain with God again.  He probably hopes to gain time by letting the men and women go into the desert for a while to worship God, while keeping the children ensures their return.  While they are gone, their God may stop wrecking Egypt, and Pharaoh will have time to plan his next move.  Moses, moved by God, refuses this compromise.  Angry and hardened in his sin, Pharaoh orders Moses not to come to him again.

Exodus 11

One plague remains.  This one is so terrible, and will cause the Egyptians such agony they will not merely release the Hebrews; they will force them to leave Egypt.  The first born of every house from man and beast, will die.  Chapter 11 is given to the prediction of this plague to Pharaoh.  But notice also the bold statements about Pharaoh’s own servants (advisors and courtiers).  Moses is very great in their eyes.  Pharaoh has withstood the words of Moses, and Egypt has suffered because of it.  Everything Moses has said has happened.

But, after this final plague, Pharaoh’s most loyal servants will come to Moses and urge him to take the Hebrews out of Egypt forever.

February 14

Ex. 12:1-36,  Mark 1
Ex. 12:37-51,  2 Cor. 10


Exodus 12

The death of the first born finally breaks Pharaoh’s determination to keep Israel in slavery.  We all know the story.  God tells the Hebrews to mark the doors of their houses with the blood of a lamb.  They are to eat a meal commemorating the bitterness of their bondage.  They eat hurriedly, dressed to leave instantly.

This meal is to be repeated annually in Canaan.  It will be accompanied by Scripture readings re-telling the story of deliverance.  It will remind Israel that they came out of Egypt by the hand of God, and it is only by His grace that they were not killed also.

It is this Passover that Jesus used to interpret His sacrificial death.  He is the Lamb whose blood marks us for deliverance.  Like the lambs in Egypt, His life was given to save ours.  Like the lambs of Egypt, the flesh and blood of the Lamb of God are life and peace to His people.  Through His flesh and blood, God’s grace is given to His people.

The Hebrews are humbled now.  They know it is not Moses who frees them; it is God.  They see the devastation of Egypt, and realise that a great price has been paid to show them the glory of God, and to raise them to believe in and serve Him in faith.  The events of the plagues and their release are to remain in their memory forever.