Introduction: Our study of the book of Exodus must include appreciation for the timing of God’s redemption. God is a God of harvest, who claims His people when the fruit is ready to be picked. Though the words of promised deliverance, given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex. 2:24), tarried for hundreds of years, at just the right time God sent a redeemer in the person of Moses. May this week’s notes likewise give us an increased appreciation for the timing of God’s redeeming work in our lives – as He sends “in the fullness of time” One greater than Moses to be born as our Redeemer! May we praise God for His perfect timing with the words of hymn # 715!
Come, ye thankful people, come, raise the song of harvest home;
All is safely gathered in, ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide for our wants to be supplied;
Come to God’s own temple, come, raise the song of harvest home.
For the Lord our God shall come, and shall take His harvest home;
From His field shall in that day all offenses purge away,
Giving angels charge at last in the fire the tares to cast;
But the fruitful ears to store in His garner evermore.
Monday: read Exodus 1:1-5; Psalm 106:6-13 and 2 Corinthians 4:6. Before appreciating God’s timing in redemption, we must appreciate how unlikely, even impossible, in human terms, such a redemption was. For example, as we read through the names of Jacob’s sons and the clans which sprang from them in Ex. 1:1-5, we cannot fail to remember the dark-dyed sins which stained these leaders of Israel. Do you remember Reuben’s incest? Judah’s adultery with his step-daughter and the murderous revenge of Simeon and Levi against the city of Shechem? Sadly, Psalm 106:6-7 confirm that these sinful tendencies continued in their offspring in Egypt. The children of Israel “gave no thought to God’s miracles,” and even rebelled as early as the Red Sea (Psalm 106:7)! Not even the mighty plagues of Egypt and the great miracles wrought by Moses could work the inward cure for Israel’s hardness of heart!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that He exercises His greatest power in addressing the inward hardness of the human heart. Where great outward miracles, such as the plagues, fail; where men are blind to the signs and wonders wrought by the hand of Moses; where ears remain deaf even to the law, written by the finger of God on tablets of stone, the Spirit of God can nevertheless effectively work, giving new hearts of faith to replace hearts of stone. This is why God does not grow weary of working with such a disobedient and fractious people – even when Moses does! For He knows that His Spirit can overcome the effects of hundreds of years of spiritual darkness in Egypt! Celebrate, therefore, the great power of the Spirit of God in Redemption with the words of hymn # 339 in our hymn books:
For your gift of God the Spirit,
He, who in creation’s dawning
Tuesday: read Exodus 1:1-5 and 5:17-21. We continue to focus on God’s people, the Hebrews (who will also be called “Israel” in remembrance of the father of the 12 founding tribes, and in anticipation of God’s constituting them as His people “Israel” at Mt. Sinai in Ex. 20). What should grip us is their lamentable entanglement in unbelief. God’s intention to call them into covenant relationship appears, in the first chapters of Exodus, to be hindered at every turn – not only by the obstruction of their cruel Egyptian slave-masters, but by the stubborn refusal to believe on the part of Israel itself. (See for example how their leaders in Ex. 5:20-21 accuse Moses of stirring up Pharaoh to kill them). What then is to be done? Ah, let us thank God for those times when our sins, like those of the Hebrews, come starkly before us – for those are the times when God disabuses us of all our illusions of independence from Him. Like the Hebrews, we are not able to gain our freedom from “Egypt” on our own! Let us therefore honor God by desisting from all efforts to be independent from Him. Instead of relying on our wits, let us rely on every word which proceeds from the mouth of His prophets, in the Scriptures – especially when our failures and fears prove how weak we are!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that He is not afraid to give His sin-sick people commands which in their own might and according to their own weak faith they will never be able to obey. He does this, confident of the inward enabling of His Spirit in the hearts of even the weakest of His redeemed. “Lord, thank you that your Grace proves sufficient to change unwilling slaves into grateful and thankful servants. Thank you that, eventually, by your Grace, even the most doubtful of Hebrews bowed in thankful faith and worship at Moses’ announcement of Redemption in Exodus 4:31. Such is your prevailing persistence with your stubborn and lowly people! Amen.”
Wednesday: read Exodus 1:1-7; 12:37; Acts 7:17 and Luke 19:39-40. There have always been skeptics who question God’s power to multiply His people in a hostile world. They say, “Where is the great multitude of the redeemed which no one can count (Rev. 7:9)? Doesn’t the Devil win in the end by populating Hell with more sinners than God does Heaven with saints?” In like manner today, there are many who are certain that modern man has the ability to over-populate the world, but yet find it too incredible to believe that God, in just a few hundred years, could increase the 70 who arrived in Egypt in Ex. 1:5 to 600,000 men in Ex. 12:37 (i.e., about 2.5 million people counting women and children)! But such is the power of God’s promise, as Stephen indicates in Acts 7:17. In New Testament terms, if Christ could have turned the very stones into praising disciples on Palm Sunday (which He claims power to do in Luke 19:40), could not God the Father raise up many followers in the fiery furnace of slavery in Egypt – even in the very face of Pharaoh’s attempts to put to death all Hebrew children? (See next week’s Bible notes on Exodus 1:8ff.) Praise be to His Name, such is the power of our God and such is His determination to create a vast multitude to glorify His Name!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His commitment to His promise to Abraham and Sarah. Because He promised those two elderly saints that they would have spiritual offspring like “the stars in the Heaven and the sand on the seashore,” He was willing to turn Egypt upside down with so many covenant children that not even Pharaoh could stop them from “multiplying greatly and becoming exceedingly numerous”! Do we not long for God to do the same thing? Let us pray for God to multiply His people in our day, even as Watts’ hymn puts it (# 469):
Pity the nations, O our God!
We long to see Thy churches full,
Thursday: read Exodus 1:1-7; Isaiah 51:1-2 and Matthew 13:31-32. We noted yesterday that there have always been skeptics who mock any claim to greatness or to the miraculous on the part of God’s kingdom in this world. For them, the growth of God’s kingdom and His people has always been a failure by the world’s measurements. For example, was it not Spinoza who mockingly concluded that the Devil will actually win in the end, since, according to this Enlightenment philosopher, Hell will be more populated with Satan’s followers than Heaven with God’s servants? While not yielding for a moment to such an argument, which erroneously assumes that Hell is a place of “triumphant” resistance against God (when in reality, God is in charge of Hell, to the glory of His justice), we must note that there are still those who seek to explain away the growth of God’s kingdom. For them, the number of Hebrews born in Egypt under Pharaoh’s cruel hand, though described as “exceedingly numerous” in Ex. 1:7, cannot possibly have been as great as Exodus 12:37 claims! Calvin gives us a sober verdict against all such who would dare question the numbers of God’s people in the Bible: “Such is the perverseness of men, that they always seek for opportunities of despising or disallowing the works of God; such, too, is their audacity and insolence that they shamelessly apply all the acuteness they possess to detract from His glory.”
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the simple testimony of His Scripture that, though Abraham was “but one man” (Isaiah 51:2) yet, God “blessed him and made him many.” Moreover, thank God that, in New Testament terms, the “mustard seed of the kingdom” does in fact grow to be the “biggest tree of the garden” in which the birds of the air can roost (Matt. 13:32). Truly, one day “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea!”
Friday: read Exodus 1:1-7 and Galatians 6:7-10. Before studying Pharaoh’s cruel efforts to thwart God’s redemption in Ex. 1:8 ff., we have been reminded in this week’s notes that God’s people were not worthy in any way, shape or form to be redeemed. It was their own unbelief, rearing its ugly head even while their feet were still “wet” on the edge of the Red Sea (Ps. 106:7), which proved to be their biggest downfall! What then can be done for such a wayward people? How would we respond to such disappointing behavior? Well, any human response to such a sinful people would be predictably cold and bitter. As Derek Thomas puts it, in his study guide on Galatians, “Division and dissension can make us give up on people who are seen to be ungrateful and difficult. The coldness of others can often be infectious. Cynicism is a deadly disease of the heart that often arises in the wake of strife.” Was this, after all, not the ultimate temptation into which Moses himself fell? The temptation to give up on Israel and curse them as rebels, unworthy of God’s blessings? God save us from “growing weary in well-doing” towards the house of God, especially when God’s people respond to our kindness in rebellious, hurtful ways!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His persevering with us – even in our unbelieving coldness towards His many miraculous blessings in our lives. Let us rejoice that “God’s thoughts are not our thoughts” and His ways of persevering Grace are “not our ways”! As Samuel Davies’ hymn puts it (# 82):
Great God of wonders! All Thy ways
Crimes of such horror to forgive,
In wonder lost, with trembling joy,
O may this strange, this matchless grace,