Wednesday, 22 January 2014

(23) January 23: Exodus 4-6 & Matthew 16

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note what the LORD tells us about himself.

To ponder:
Pharoah’s question “Who is the LORD?” (5v2) marks this section. God’s name “I AM WHO I AM” implies he is who Israel will see him to be. So in response to Moses faltering as to his role (4v1), God displays his creative power in three “signs.” They are to elicit faith in God from Israel, whilst authorising Moses (4v5, 29-30).
Moses persistent reluctance demonstrates he was not power hungry. He had his role only by God’s call, and would succeed only by God’s power. The LORD is provoked by Moses’ lack of confidence, but patiently chooses Aaron to speak for Moses - like his prophet. His gracious provision for our own reluctant service doesn’t necessarily mean he is pleased with it!
God’s plan is already set: He will “harden Pharoah’s heart” despite the wonders. And because Pharoah refuses to let God’s Israel go, his firstborn will die – the final plague. Of course Pharoah is responsible for his stubbornness. However, the point is that God is so utterly supreme, that the mightiest King of the day, who was thought to be divine, does just as God determines (Rom 9v17-18). This is our God.
By calling Israel his “firstborn” God stresses the nation has brought them into being to be blessed and inherit the land, just as firstborn sons would be blessed and inherit. The killing of Pharoah’s son seems harsh. But Pharoah has had every Israelite boy drowned and subjected the nation to hard labour, no doubt with many fatalities. Comparatively, God’s response is actually rather restrained. His holiness is also seen in the threat to Moses’ son that follows (NIV footnote). It affirms Israel are not exempt from obedience. Just as God remembers his covenant, she must be ready to obey it (Gen 17v14). Do we take obedience this seriously (see Acts 5v1-11, Heb 12v14)?
            Seeing the signs Israel’s elders believe and bow – our right response. But Pharoah doesn’t. The request to go just for three days (3v18, 5v3) is not a lie, but is misleading. It may be to highlight how unreasonable Pharoah is in not even allowing that. His response is harder labour that leads to angry unbelief from Israel’s foremen, and frank honesty from Moses (5v21-23). As we suffer, grace allows us the freedom of Moses’ response. But better is patient trust in God’s timing.
            In response God gives repeated reassurance that he will do as he promised by “his mighty hand.” There need be no doubt. He has not only remembered his covenant, but made himself known in a unique way (6v2-5). It is even more reassuring that he has come to us in Christ. So whereas Israel did not listen, we must listen to Jesus, and to those who teach his word.
            The select genealogy is framed to give the background to Moses and Aaron (6v20, 26-27). It affirms their historicity, their importance, and their pedigree as Levites – the tribe responsible for Israel’s worship.

Praying it home:
Praise God for his mighty power by which he will fulfil all he has promised us. Pray that you would take him at his word, trusting him to do what he says and obeying him as he requires.

Thinking further:
“Signs and wonders” (4v21) are the key to understanding the phrase in the New Testament. There too, they were to elicit faith that God is working salvation – but through Christ, whilst authorising the apostles as they once authorised Moses (2 Cor 12v12).
God’s rescue is described as “redemption” (6v6). The word was used with regard to slaves. It refers to them being freed to belong to another through the payment of a price. So at the price of the Passover lambs (see chapter 12) Israel were not simply being freed from Egypt, but were to belong to God and serve him. Likewise, at the cost of Christ’s own death, we are freed from our slavery to sin that we would now belong to and serve the Lord (Rom 6v22-23).

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