Note for these notes on extended portions of Exodus: Some of the Scripture portions for this week and next are very long, and have therefore been spread over two days at a time.
Introduction: How do we as individuals, families and as a church understand testing and trying times, or even disasters in our Christian lives? My prayer in this week’s Bible note survey of Exodus 5-7 is that God would bring us through such times of enduring disappointment and give us the reassurance that our experience of trials will indeed become something worth rejoicing in, as we discover the “perseverance, character and hope” produced therein (Romans 5:3-4).
Monday/Tuesday: read Exodus 2:23-25. 5:1-21 & Hebrews 13:3. Have you ever struggled with a time of affliction, asking God to bring an end some exhausting trial, and been disappointed, even repeatedly, when the testing time continues or even worsens? Such was the plight of God’s people during the “long period” in slavery. They cried out, perhaps not even realizing that their cry had indeed “gone up to God” (Ex. 2:23). Then, when Moses appears in Ex. 4:31, their hopes rise as they begin to believe that their long-awaited deliverance has come! How devastating, therefore, to then endure the even harder trial of “bricks without straw” in Exodus 5:6-18, as Pharaoh retaliates against Moses’ command to “let God’s people go.” What a disappoint! What an understatement is Exodus 5:19’s description of the impact of such full brick production without the needed straw: The Israelite foremen realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.” Though we cannot agree with the bitterness of their words against God’s servant Moses, our hearts nevertheless go out to them as they blame Moses for bringing this new trouble upon them in Exodus 5:20-21!
Meditate and Pray: Lord, let us more and more be a church which remembers those who, like the Hebrews of old, are imprisoned, enslaved and suffering at the hands of the ‘Pharaohs’ of this world. Help us to uphold them in the manner which Hebrews 13:3 requires, namely, as if we ourselves were suffering. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Further reflection: Ask God to make especially verse 3 of hymn # 359 in our Trinity hymnals increasingly true of your life:
Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.
Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.
We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.
Wednesday/Thursday: read Exodus 5:17-6:11 and Galatians 5:19-24. In answer to Moses’ complaint in which he blames God in Ex. 5:22 for bringing “trouble” (literally, “evil”) upon His own people, God reassures him in Exodus 6:1-11 that everything is still on schedule for the redemption from the terrible bondage of Pharaoh. And what a cruel bondage it was. Keep in mind, that the slavery of God’s people under Pharaoh represents in Scripture nothing less than bondage to the dominion of sin and Satan in this world. Egypt is a “fiery furnace” (Deuteronomy 4:20), depicting sin’s dark dominion over us.
We notice also that Pharaoh is much like the world in which we live in his demand that we work harder and harder. What is it that he says in demanding more and more excruciating labor, forbidding Israel from using straw to make bricks in Exodus 5:17-18? Lazy, that’s what you are – lazy! That’s why you keep saying, “Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.” Now get to work.
Doesn’t that sound like the fallen world of hard labor in which we live? There literally is no end to the amount of labor which the hard life of sin demands. Of the works of the flesh there is no end! How does Paul describe it in Galatians 5:19-21? The acts (or works) of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
How then can we find hope in such a terrible world of affliction, which taxes our strength, and in which our labor can never be sufficient to silence our slave masters? Well, Colossians 1:13 tells us that, by means of His Son’s saving work of redemption, God the Father is able to rescue us and bring us into the “kingdom of the Son of His love” – see Colossians 1:13. And what is this new kingdom like? It is a Promised Land overflowing with fruit – just as Galatians 5:22ff. promises: fruit bestowed by the grace by our redeeming God.
Meditate and Pray: What wonderful news it must have been for Israel in slavery to hear that God was not only going to deliver them from Egypt, but also take them into a Promised Land full of fruit! In the same way, let us thank God that, through our redeemer Jesus, He not only delivers us from the penalty and power of sin – He also carries us into a kingdom full of love and the fruits of salvation. Sing about the fruitful Land of our Redemption in the words of hymn # 700:
Come, we that love the Lord,
Let those refuse to sing,
The men of grace have found,
The hill of Zion yields
Then let our songs abound,
Fri/Sat/Sunday: read Exodus 6:13-7:13. Pharaoh, in his hard-hearted rejection of God’s command through Moses to let Israel go, has no inkling of how close his kingdom is to destruction. Though God clearly warns Pharaoh that his power is soon to be broken (as the swallowing of the staffs, as symbols of Egyptian power in Ex. 7:12-13, foreshadows), Pharaoh continues forward in blind confidence that all success and wealth will continue to flow through his land as before. But God knows better. He inspires Moses to record his own family tree in Ex. 6:14-27, as God’s way of announcing to the world that the seed of the godly will endure, whereas the family of Pharaoh is sure to be cut off. God’s own people, following in Moses’ footsteps as the “meekest man on earth” (Num. 12:3), will indeed have a lasting inheritance!
Meditate and Pray: When it comes to the short-lived successes of the wicked, remember the sober words of Psalm 37:10-11: words of judgment for them, but of great hope for us as God’s own: A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.
Lesson to Ponder: Do you find yourself getting too upset at injustice, evil, sin, and the suffering which comes into your life through them? Ask God to give you grace to obey Psalm 37:8: Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil. Use hymn # 609 to find joy even amidst the harsh cruelties of the Pharaohs of this world:
Why should cross and trial grieve me?
Though a heavy cross I’m bearing
Lord, my Shepherd, take me to Thee.
Thou art mine; I love and own Thee.