The Book Of Exodus Chapter 1-4
THE NATION OF ISRAEL IS BORN
If Genesis is 'The Book of Beginnings,' we could entitle Exodus as 'The Birth of a Nation' -the nation of Israel. We saw the beginnings of this nation in Genesis. Now we see it as a full-fledged nation. In the first 15 chapters we read of their slavery in Egypt and their deliverance from Egypt. The rest of the book deals with the giving of the Law, a little bit of their time in the wilderness and the plan God gave for building His tabernacle.
Redemption from Egypt
In the first chapter, we read that Pharaoh was disturbed by the Israelites, even though they were slaves. They were becoming numerous and he was afraid that they would finally rebel against him and stop working for him. So he passed an order that all male children born to the Israelites must be killed immediately. Now that scheme originated from the devil. Satan has always been after the Jews to kill them -many times in human History. This was just the first of such occasions.
We saw in our last study how God not only protects us from Satan's plans, but does something even better: He turns the tables on Satan and uses Satan's work to fulfill God's purposes. That shows God's almighty power in a much greater way than if he merely destroyed Satan or merely stopped Satan from working. God shows us His power not only by protecting us from the devil, but by using the very thing that Satan does to destroy him. The greatest example of this is Calvary -where Satan got Jesus' enemies to crucify Him. But that cross became the very place where Satan himself was defeated!! Satan's plan backfired on him -as it always has.
God turned the tables on Satan for Jesus. He will do the same for us too, if we live with a clear conscience in humility before Him. Whatever the devil and his agents do to harm us will be turned back on them- and God's purposes for our lives will be fulfilled. This is one of the main messages of the Bible -and we see it happening again and again in the Scriptures.
We see here that it was because Pharaoh had passed an order that all male babies should be killed, that Moses' mother put Moses into a little basket and floated it down the river with a prayer to God. If it were not for that evil edict, she would never have done such a thing. But because she did that, Moses was picked up by Pharaoh's daughter, and grew up in Pharaoh's palace -the place where God wanted him to be trained for the first 40 years of his life. That could never have happened if Pharaoh had not passed that evil law, for then Moses would have grown up to be just another slave. Do you see how God's purposes are fulfilled through what Satan does?
There is a great lesson here for all of us -that we see in Church history too. Whenever God wants to do something for His people, He always begins with a man. He had to find a suitable man before He could deliver the Israelites. The training of that man took 80 years -and it wasn't academic training alone. Moses was trained in the best academies of Egypt, but that did not qualify him for God's work. In Acts 7, Stephen says that Moses was mighty in both word and deed. He was a strong man, and an eloquent speaker at the age of 40. He was a great military leader, a very rich person, and had been educated with the best education that the most advanced country in the world could give -for Egypt was the world's only superpower in those days. At the end of it all, he was unfit to serve God. Stephen says that Moses thought that the Israelites would recognize that God had raised him up to deliver them. But they did not recognize him as their leader. All his earthly fame and abilities could not prepare him for the task God had prepared for him.
Today many Christians imagine that they can serve God just because they have Bible-knowledge, musical ability and plenty of money. But they're mistaken. They need to learn a lesson from Moses' life: 40 years of the best that this world could give him could not prepare him for God's service.
God had to take him through another 40 years in the wilderness, in a totally different environment from the palace, in order to equip him. He had to be broken of his human strength. And God accomplished this by making him look after sheep and by allowing him to live with his father-in-law and work for him -for 40 long years. Living with one's father-in-law for even one year can be quite humiliating for a man! I know that many married women in many countries live with their fathers-in-law all their lives. But it's different when a man has to live with his wife's father and work for him as well. That can be quite a humbling experience for a man. But that's how God broke Moses. You remember that that was how God broke Jacob too. He too had to live with his father-in-law for 20 years. God uses fathers-in-law and mothers-in-law to break His children.
What all the universities in Egypt could not teach Moses, he learned in the wi1derness, looking after sheep and working for his father-in-law. At the end of those 40 years, Moses is so broken that he who was once so eloquent and who thought he could deliver Israel, now says, "Lord, I am unfit. I cannot speak properly. Please send somebody else to lead your people." It was then that God said, "At last you are ready. I will send you to Pharaoh now" (4:10-17).
What is the lesson we learn from Jacob and Moses? Just this: When you think you are ready, you are not. When you think you are capable, that you are strong, that you have knowledge, that you can speak and sing and play musical instruments, and do wonderful things for God, God says, "You are unfit. I have to wait until you are broken." With Jacob that process took 20 years, with Moses it took 40 years, with Peter it took 3 years, and with Paul at least 3 years. How long will it take with us? That depends on how quickly we learn to submit under God's mighty hand.
How long does it take to go through school from First grade to Twelfth grade? 12 years -if you pass each year. But there have been children who took 16 years to complete 12 years of school. Some medical students take 10 years to complete a 5-year medical course! How long anyone takes to finish school depends on how quickly he learns his lessons. It is the same in the Christian life too.
It says in 12:40, "And the abode of the children of Israel that they made in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years." However when God spoke to Abraham, He had told him that his descendants would be in another land for just 400 years (Genesis 15:13). But here we read that they were actually there for 430 years. Did God make a mistake? No. God is very exact in his timetable. God doesn't make any mistakes. When God spoke to Abraham, His perfect will for the Israelites was that they should be in Egypt for 400 years. Why then did they stay an extra 30 years?
To find the answer to that, let us consider another example. When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt His plan for them was that they would be only 2 years in the wilderness. But how many years did they really spend in the wilderness? 40 years. (See Deuteronomy 2:14).
God may plan to break you in 2 years. But it may actually take 40 years. God may want to begin to use you 2 years after you are converted. But He may not be able to use you for 40 years. It all depends on how quickly you are broken. So also, God's plan for Israel was that they should stay 40 years in Egypt. But they had to stay for 430 years.
I believe the reason was that their leader Moses was not yet ready. I believe that when Moses left Egypt at the age of 40, God had wanted to break him through a 10-year course with his father-in-law in the wilderness, so that he could be ready at the age of 50 to be Israe1's leader. But Moses did not learn his lesson in 10 years. His father-in-law had to humble him some more, before Moses was broken enough. It took Moses 40 years to complete that 10-year course! Therefore the Israelites had to wait 30 more years. God is dependent on broken men for His work on earth.
This has a message and a warning for us. God may have a plan for your life. But it will never be fulfilled till you are broken. What He has planned to do in you in 10 years may take 40 years. So, it is good to be quick to humble ourselves always under God's mighty hand -which refers to the circumstances He sends across our path.
Lamentations 3:27 says, "It is good for a man, when he hath borne the yoke (humble himself and be broken) from his youth." Allow God to break you when you are young. Don't fight against the circumstances God permits in your life, for that will only delay God's plan. All your Bible knowledge, musical abilities and money cannot equip you for God's service. Brokenness is essential. Jacob could become an Israel only when he was broken. Moses could become a leader and a prophet only when he was broken.
Here we read of the time when Moses goes out to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptians. He sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew (2:11) and he beats the Egyptian to death. Can you imagine how strong Moses was to kill a man just with his bare hands? If he had continued killing the Egyptians at this rate -one by one -how many years do you think it would have taken to kill all the millions of Egyptians? Moses would have died before all the Egyptians were killed. But when God had broken him by the age of 80, all Moses had to do was to lift up his rod over the Red Sea, and in a moment the entire Egyptian army was buried under the Red Sea. That's the difference between what a man can accomplish in his own strength and what a broken man with God's power can accomplish.
The message in the Scriptures right from the beginning is this: If you want to build Jerusalem, If you want to build the true Church, the Catholic Church you have to be broken. You have to be humbled by God through circumstances and through people. If you don't rebel in those circumstances, God can do a quick work in you. I have seen a lot of zealous young people who know the Bible in their heads and who think they can go out and serve God. And they go out and serve God in their strength. Twenty or thirty years later they are frustrated, discouraged, critical, and blame this person and that person for their failures. They have accomplished nothing and wasted their lives. Why? Just one reason -they never allowed God to break them. The more we are broken, the more God can use us to be a blessing to others.
We read in Chapter 17 that it was only when the rock was smitten that the waters begin to flow. If the rock is not smitten, the waters will not flow. When the woman who brought perfume in an alabaster vial broke it at Jesus' feet, only then did the sweet odour fill the house. No one could smell that until the vial was broken. When Jesus took the bread and blessed it, nothing happened. But when He broke it, five thousand were fed. What is the message in all these examples? Brokenness is the way of blessing. When the atom is split what power is released! It can give electricity to a whole city! Imagine the power that is released when a small atom -so small that you can't even see it under a microscope -is broken. The message in nature as well as in the Bible is just this: God's power is released through brokenness. May that message grip your life. I want to encourage you to learn that lesson when you are still young.
God made a promise here through Moses to the people. He told all those elders and leaders of Israel (3:17), "And I have said the word to bring you out of the affliction of Egypt into the land of the Canaanites...." There were two promises there among others:
"I will bring you out of Egypt."
"I will bring you into Canaan."
Only the first was fulfilled. The second was not fulfilled for those elders who heard it. Out of all those elders who heard the promise of God, -”I will bring you out of Egypt, I will bring you into Canaan," none entered Canaan. Only half of God's promise was fulfilled because those elders did not respond in faith when the time came to enter Canaan (Numbers 13). God's promises are not fulfilled, until we respond in faith. It's like an electric switch. At a switch, two wires are connected next to each other, but not touching each other. The moment you put the switch on, those wires touch and the lights come on. God's promise and our faith are the two wires. They may be very close to each other. But if they don't touch, nothing happens. The moment they touch, power is released. You can hear about God's promise and you can understand it, but it is only when your faith reaches out and says, "Yes, I believe that will be fulfilled in my life," that it is fulfilled. Out there at the borders of Canaan, only Joshua and Caleb believed God's promise, and so only Joshua and Caleb experienced it.
We read here about God calling Moses. In order to encourage Moses and to teach him some lessons, God gave him three signs. When Moses told the Lord, "They will not believe what I tell them," the Lord asked him, "What is in your hand?" Note that! The Lord always begins with what is already in our hands. We don't have to go looking for something that we don't have. Elisha asked the widow, "What do you have in your house?" She replied "Only ajar of oil". Elisha said, "That's enough. With that pot of oil all your problems can be solved." (2 Kings 4:2, 3). Moses had only his shepherd's staff in his hand. That was enough. When God is with you, miracles can happen with even a shepherd's staff.
For the first sign, God told Moses to throw the staff down. It became a serpent and Moses fled from it (verse 3). The Lord said, "Don't be scared. Stretch out your hand and take it by the tail." He caught it and it became a staff in his hand again. What was the message there?
First of all, that Satan is far closer to us than we think -as close as that staff was to Moses. Do you think Satan is far away from us? No. He is always nearby to cause misunderstandings between husband and wife, and between co-workers, etc. But we can overcome Satan! We are not to be afraid of him, for he is a defeated foe. One of the first lessons we need to learn when we serve the Lord is not to be afraid of Satan. Satan has got his citadels and his forts, but we don't run away from him. We are to run away from temptation (2 Timothy 2:22), but Satan has to run away from us (James 4:7). In Jesus' mighty Name the very thing that Satan uses to try and frighten us, will become a rod of authority in our hand -to split the seas and to lead God's people forward.
As God's servants we need His authority - not Bible-knowledge first, but Divine authority. I would rather have spiritual authority than Bible knowledge any day. The first thing Moses needed was authority over the enemy. It was Satan who was enslaving the Israelites through his servant Pharaoh. And Moses needed to pick him up by the tail, without any fear. Satan should never be able to make us afraid of him.