Fearful Already?

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 13:10-14

The Israelites haven’t started their 40-year trek through the wilderness yet and here they are whining and grumbling. But Moses, deaf and naive to their complaints thus far, tried to encourage them.

To be fair, though, these people were on foot, unarmed, and unmatched for the mighty Egyptian army. But God was on their side. That’s always a consideration in any battle in any part of life really.

Moses said, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.”

That’s very similar to our battle cry, isn’t it?
Don’t be afraid.
Fear not.
Be still, my soul.

The fears are different but the message is still the same: God’s in control despite our lack of control of things around us. The sooner we burn that into our thick skulls, the fuller our life will be.

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In Hot Pursuit

Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon. 3 Pharaoh will think, ‘The Israelites are wandering around the land in confusion, hemmed in by the desert.’ 4 And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” So the Israelites did this.

5 When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds about them and said, “What have we done? We have let the Israelites go and have lost their services!” 6 So he had his chariot made ready and took his army with him. 7 He took six hundred of the best chariots, along with all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. 8 The Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out boldly. 9 The Egyptians—all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops—pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi Hahiroth, opposite Baal Zephon. Exodus 13:1-9

All along we knew that Pharaoh was keeping the Hebrews back because of the lost labor when they left. They brought out all the chariots and were in hot pursuit of this massive group of Israelites. They really had the upper hand in the matter, except that God was not on their side. He had been watching over this fearful bunch since they arrived in Egypt with Joseph.

Even today the nation of Israel receives a special blessing from God. We all know that if the Lord weren’t on their side they could be wiped out overnight. But God has blessed them with military might and intelligence, innovation, and a will to remain a free nation in that part of the world.

Unfortunately, not many nations stand beside Israel in their right to exist as a nation. All those who oppose her are like the Egyptians in pursuit of the Israelites who were on foot. The Egyptians should have been able to wipe them out completely because the Hebrews are unarmed and on foot, but as we’ll see, that’s not what happened.

May God continue to bless nations who bless Israel.

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The Unseen

17 When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” 18 So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.

19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the Israelites swear an oath. He had said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place.”

20 After leaving Sukkoth they camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. Exodus 13:17-22

Finally, the Israelites were on the move. It wouldn’t be long now and they’d be on the other side of the Red Sea. They had to sense that something different was up because they were being led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Since there were up to 3 million people mostly on foot, they couldn’t move fast. Unfortunately, at this point they had no idea that they were about to be pursued by the Egyptian army.

That is sort of a picture of the world, isn’t it? We know that there are bad things that happen, but most of the time, we don’t ever see them. As far as we’re concerned, the terrible things don’t exist, except that they do. Just because we don’t see the evil in the world does not mean it doesn’t exist.

So, what do we do then?

First we can educate ourselves about what is happening outside of our little world we’ve created. We can listen and read news we don’t normally listen to. We can discover what is happening with our persecuted brothers and sisters. We can write people who are “on the ground” in semi-hostile or hostile environments. Technology has enabled us to see and hear more in real time than any other era in history, but often we just veg in front of the TV or computer.

Secondly, we can pray when we hear about evil. Depending on your news source, you could be praying constantly, but that’s not a bad thing! Again, find out what’s happening in persecuted lands and pray for people by name if you can.

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A People, Protected

The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.”

3 Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand. Eat nothing containing yeast. 4 Today, in the month of Aviv, you are leaving. 5 When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Hivites and Jebusites—the land he swore to your ancestors to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey—you are to observe this ceremony in this month: 6 For seven days eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day hold a festival to the Lord. 7 Eat unleavened bread during those seven days; nothing with yeast in it is to be seen among you, nor shall any yeast be seen anywhere within your borders. 8 On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ 9 This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. 10 You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year.

11 “After the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as he promised on oath to you and your ancestors, 12 you are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord. 13 Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons.

14 “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ 16 And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.” Exodus 13:1-16

The entire Israelite “nation” understood the significance of consecrating their firstborn after the firstborn of Egypt were killed. It was as much of a warning as it was a teachable rite.

The firstborn has always played a significant role in Israel’s short history, even though some of their forefathers had circumvented the tradition.

As the Hebrews passed down this tradition to their children, it was a stark reminder of what they had been through as a tiny nation to this point. It also provided a teachable moment because they got to see how God moved mightily on their behalf.

God has still protected the nation of Israel even in modern times. More than one billion people want to see that country removed from the maps but God still has His hand on them.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. “May those who love you be secure.” Psalm 122:6.

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43 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal:

“No foreigner may eat it. 44 Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, 45 but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it.

46 “It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. 47 The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.

48 “A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it. 49 The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”

50 All the Israelites did just what the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. 51 And on that very day the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions. Exodus 12:43-51

What seems to us like very obscure regulations regarding a festival makes total sense to the Hebrew.

What’s strongly implied in this passage (and confirmed in Exodus 12:38) is that there were foreigners among the Hebrews.

When we think of the Israelite leaving Egypt, we only consider those who are Jewish. How did the others get into the mix? Where were they from and how did they become slaves? It wasn’t just the Jews who were slaves, but many Egyptians (and other nationalities) as well. Were they intermingled with the Israelites and joined in when the Israelites fled Egypt?

Foreigners introduce other variables into the exodus mix. They have their own customs, foods, values, and religions. Here the Lord tells them the condition for the foreigners to participate in the Passover with the Hebrews. The question is, would they be able to assimilate with the Jews who were leaving Pharaoh or would they be distinct in a variety of ways?

We face the same types of problems here in the West. Some people immigrate and do not share the same values, traditions, and religions, and have no intention of doing so. Some enter the country illegally, already starting off on the wrong foot. Still others hope to flee regimes that are hostile to their way of life.

Knowing how to differentiate among them takes great wisdom and insight. The issues are as complex as the number of people involved. Unfortunately they’ve become political footballs, and truth is hard to come by when politicians and a massive bureaucracy is involved.

Our leaders needs wisdom to make the right choices and laws governing immigrants. Those fleeing hostile environments because of persecution need a safe home.

Pray that our politicians make wise and discerning choices when crafting and enforcing legislation.

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