Truth or Consequences
Background Scripture: Exodus 6:2-30; 12.
Devotional Reading: John 1:29-37.
The story in Exodus is well-known, if not always appreciated, because it is “so long ago and far away.” The time, circumstances and world are so different from ours today.
Someone once challenged me with the remark, “What can that old story possibly mean for me today?”
Yet Dwight E. Stevenson says of it: “Deliverance from Egyptian bondage was to the Israelites what the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are to Christians — a translation of God’s love into historical fact, a demonstration in power of God’s redeeming grace.”
There are three basic elements in the Exodus story. On the one hand, there was the terrible exploitation and cruel bondage of the Hebrews at the hands of the imperial Egyptian government.
God was well aware of this, “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and heard their cry because of their taskmasters” (3:7).
Although this story is more than 3,000 years old, human versus human affliction is as contemporary as it is ancient.
Secondly, there was also God’s seemingly questionable choice of Moses, a man largely unknown to the Israelites, except that possibly they knew he had killed an Egyptian overseer.
Thinking that no one had observed his crime, Moses, seeing two Hebrews “struggling together,” challenged them: “Why do you strike your fellow?”
He must have been devastated by the man’s reply: “Who made you a prince and judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” And “when Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses” (3:11-15).
Even Moses himself could not understand why God would choose him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.
“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (3:11).
But God reassured Moses, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you.”
Still, Moses was unconvinced, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, The Lord did not appear to you’ ” (4:1).
It is true that God frequently selects as his spokesmen those who would not get beyond the primaries in a general election.
Our human perceptions of these “nominees” are often quite correct, but God sees what we may not, perhaps cannot see.
God meets Moses’ objection with a command to cast his rod on the ground and, when he does, the rod turns into a fearsome serpent.
“But the Lord said to Moses, Put out your hand and take it by the tail.’ So he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand” (4:2,3).
It frequently happens in our own political times that some “unpromising” candidates turn out to be better than we anticipated, while some whom we expected much from were disappointing once they won their elections.
So, if your candidate loses the election, instead of bewailing the loss, wouldn’t it be better to start praying for the unwanted winner?
God may have a surprise for you.
Third, the story of the Exodus shows us that, although God’s methods may change, his goals do not.
Moses, for example, when God demonstrated his power to turn a rod into a reptile and then back again to a rod, still doubted he was up to the job, “But Moses said to the Lord, Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either heretofore or since thou hast spoken to thy servant; but I am slow of speech and tongue’ ” (4:10).
So does God give up on his goal of rescuing the Israelites from Egypt?
No, his purpose remains firm, but he looks to Aaron, the brother of Moses, to be the spokesperson: “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know he can speak well” (4:14).
When it is evident that Pharaoh cannot be persuaded to let Israel go, God sends Moses to Pharaoh again before affirming that Pharaoh was still “hanging tough.”
So Moses would return to Pharaoh to warn that the people of Israel would escape Egypt. God had not set out to cause injury to Pharaoh and his forces, but now that would be a consequence of their refusing to heed Moses.
Now, God’s attention turns to the people of Israel and the term, “Passover,” occurs for the first time in the Bible, Exodus 12:11: “It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will smite all the first-born in the land of Egypt. Both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt, I will execute judgments: I am the Lord” (12:12).
God’s means may vary with the times, but the purposes, the will of God, remains unconquerable.