“When He [Pharaoh] Let Go”
Torah: Exodus 13:17–17:16
PROPHETS: Judges 4:4–5:31
APOSTOLIC WRITINGS: Revelation 19:1–20:6
These devotionals are designed to supplement, not replace, your Bible reading.
Torah 1 & 2
Freedoms Will Be Changed
Pharaoh “lets go” and Israel goes out from the land of slavery! Through plagues, God has revealed His strength to teach Egyptian, Israelite, and indeed all nations, Who is ADONAI.
God leads Israel out on a longer path that is physically safer because He needs to teach us the secret of becoming spiritually stronger (cf. Romans 4:20).
Moses takes Joseph’s bones with them, thus fulfilling the faith-filled hope of the beloved patriarch (v.19; cf. Genesis 50:25; Hebrews 11:22).
In order to guide each step, God’s Presence goes with Israel as a visible cloud during daylight and illuminating fire as a night-light (vv. 20–22).
He tells us exactly where to go (vv. 1–2) knowing that Pharaoh will misinterpret Israel’s movements and chase us down (vv. 3–4).
Why is God doing all this according to v.4? Driven by a hard heart, Pharaoh leads the charge to recapture God’s people (vv. 5–8).
God Will Always Deliver
The “showdown” occurs exactly where God had led Israel (v. 9; cf. v.2). Under pressure, however, Israel loses faith (vv. 10–12). Has God ever led you into circumstances where you lose faith when the going gets tough? It’s so natural, yet so incapacitating and God-dishonoring.
Prepared for this very purpose by a 40-year training program leading feeble sheep in the desert, Moses now provides effective shepherding to Israel. He prepares them to learn perhaps the greatest lesson of grace. What is this lesson (cf. Psalm 46:10)? How can you apply this lesson to your life today and walk in God’s power?
Torah 3 & 4
God Can Do the Impossible
We’re backed up against the waters and cornered in by the enemy. There’s a time to pray and a time to act in faith. For Moses, it’s time to act.
God will do His part to freely save His people by chastising Egypt (vv. 17–18) and protecting Israel (vv. 19–20).
When God parts the waters (v. 21) Israel enters in (v. 22) but so do the Egyptians (v. 23).
God now does what Moses said He would in v.14, actively teaching that He is both an able and trustworthy God.
Is Steadfast Faith Possible?
God’s power is again unleashed through the hand of Moses (i.e. plagues) to judge Egypt (vv. 26–28) and save Israel (vv. 29–30).
What was the impact on the hearts of the Israelites? To quote Nahum Sarna, a Jewish theologian, “‘faith’ in the Hebrew Bible is not belief in a doctrine or subscription to a creed. Rather, it refers to trust and loyalty that find expression in obedience and commitment.” (The JPS Torah Commentary: Exodus, p. 75) There is a discernible pattern of God’s people “getting it” (i.e. trusting Him and acting in faith) but then “stumbling” (losing faith, not trusting God) when hardships come. Israel “got it” when Moses first showed up with the gospel (“good news”) along with signs to verify the message (4:29–31). When Pharaoh lashed out, however, and caused them hardships, they “stumble” (5:20–21; 6:9). Even now, after God has revealed His mighty ability and trustworthiness, it won’t take much before the stumbling and grumbling begins.
First, however, the Shirat haYam (Song at the Sea). The community praises God for what He has done in defeating the enemy (15:1–10), for His utter uniqueness and faithfulness (vv. 11–13), for the impact of this event on the surrounding peoples (vv. 14–16), and especially for the certainty of things to come (vv. 17–18).
These events (v. 19) also cause Miriam, Moses and Aaron’s sister, to lead the women in singing praise to God (vv. 20–21).
After singing comes the “stumbling.” Three days of desert travel with no water (v. 22) except some undrinkable “bitter” water (v. 23) is enough of a hardship to create a crisis of faith (v. 24). God saves Israel again by purifying bitter water (v. 25) and mercifully appeals for Israel to trust Him as their Healer so that their faith-filled obedience will bring blessing and not cursing (v. 26).
How does God use hardships to draw Israel to Himself? What are the “hardships” that cause your faith to “stumble”? Are those hardships driving you toward or away from God?
torah 5 & 6
After a brief stay in a virtual tropical paradise (15:27), we continued traveling through the desert on the one-month anniversary of leaving Egypt (16:1).
Desert hardships give rise to another round of stumbling and grumbling (vv. 2–3) to which God responds with a promise of bread from heaven to feed the body and an obligation (Shabbat) to test the heart (vv. 4–5; cf. John 6:29–33).
Aaron speaks first to Israel (it could be Moses speaking, but it is probably Aaron, due to similar pattern during plagues where Aaron does most of the talking; Moses is probably mentioned to show that Aaron is not speaking on his own authority).
Moses then reiterates what his brother has said and tries to help them get God at the center of their thinking.
He then turns from speaking directly to Israel and instructs Aaron in their hearing (reminiscent of Moses speaking to Aaron in the hearing of Pharaoh, cf. 7:19; 8:5, 16) to give a plea for the people to “Come near to God” (cf. Matthew 11:28–30).
Just as when Aaron had spoken to Pharaoh and God made Himself known (cf. 7:20; 8:6, 17), so too now, when Aaron speaks to Israel, God makes Himself known.
Bread from Heaven
God instructs Israel regarding the meat and manna (vv. 11–12) and as usual, God provides (vv. 13–15).
Moses’ instructions regarding the exact amount to be gathered (v. 16) are heeded (vv. 17–18) but his instructions regarding no leftovers (v. 19) are not (v. 20).
The goal of God’s provision (v. 21) is not just to fill the stomach but to transform the heart (cf. Psalm 78:18–22, 32, 37). In a similar way, the goal of God’s instructions/laws/commands is not just to conform our external behavior but to guide us to sincerely trust Him (have saving faith) and receive a transformed heart so that we can truly love well (cf. 1 Timothy 1:5–7).
The normal pattern of daily rations is suspended for Shabbat (vv. 22–30). Notice that these Shabbat instructions/commands are given before Mt. Sinai and the “Ten Words/Commandments.”
What is God ultimately teaching through Shabbat (cf. Exodus 31:13)? In what ways has He taught you this lesson in a way that has yielded God-glorifying, soul-satisfying fruit? Moses instructs that some of this manna (v. 31) be kept as a sign (v. 32). Remember that Moses wrote these words many years after these current events.
The next few verses record future events that are described now because of their connection to current events (the manna could not be placed “before the Lord” in front of the “Testimony” until after Tabernacle construction and God takes up residence in the midst of the community).
This section concludes with an Ancient Near Eastern “weights and measures” chart.
Through Israel’s circumstances, God is teaching about Who He is. In hunger and thirst, He provides what is needed for the moment. In grumbling and stumbling, He calls us to come near so our faith can be restored and His glorious Nature better understood. What physical needs do you have that you need to bring to God? He will always prove Himself the Great Provider and Merciful Healer. He is both able and trustworthy. Spend some time praising God for Who He is! (i.e. Awe-fully reflect upon His attributes; you could also praise Him for His faithfulness to Israel, thank Him for specific things He has done for you, etc.)
torah 7 &
Test and Be Tested
So far, there have been crises of faith in response to a shortage of drinking water (15:22–27) and a shortage of food (16:1–36). More hardships produce more grumblings (17:1–3; “stumbling” on the “faith-walk”). This is really another crisis of faith in response to another water shortage.
When things reach crisis proportions (v. 4) God provides what is needed (vv. 5–6).
Though Israel repeatedly puts God to the test, God is really doing the testing and teaching us how to “pass” (cf. Deuteronomy 8:2, 16; Psalm 81:7 [English]).
The final crisis of faith before reaching Mt. Sinai/Horeb occurs at Rephidim (v. 8). This time the enemy is not hunger or thirst but the people of Amalek.
Joshua leads the people in the physical fight (part of his training to be the spiritual leader after Moses dies) while Moses and his faithful comrades lead the spiritual battle (vv. 9–13).
War with Evil
God again proves Himself able and trustworthy and the battle against Amalek is won. The war against Amalek, son of Esau (Genesis 36:15–16), however, will continue on until it is completely won and Jacob receives his full inheritance in fulfillment of God’s promises (cf. Numbers 24:20; Deuteronomy 25:17-19; 1 Samuel 15).
Banking on God’s promises (trusting God and stepping out in faith) is the way to live the faith-filled and Spirit-fueled life. God is teaching Israel, His firstborn among the nations to live this way so that He can reach all nations. How is God teaching you to live this way for His glory and your good?
Destroy All Evil!
“Sisera, captain of the army of Canaanite King Jabin, oppressed Israel for twenty years. Like Pharaoh, he had a huge force of iron chariots (4:2–3). In both cases, the chariots bogged down while pursuing Israel and the armies panic (4:15, cf. Exodus 14:24–25). Once again, the LORD gives marching orders, and the entire army is destroyed (vv. 7, 16; cf. Exodus 14:15, 28). What has changed this time is that the hosts of Israel are fighting, and the battle is taking place inside the Land of Promise. When the Canaanites are routed, it is Deborah and Barak who sing the song of rejoicing (5:1–31; cf. Exodus 15:1–18). Curiously, the song ends with a vignette on Sisera’s mother. She rationalizes, “Of course! They’re collecting and dividing the spoil” (5:28–30). She waits, wistfully confident and completely unaware that God has hardened Sisera, her Canaanite son, for final judgment (4:9).
Read Judges 5:31. This verse concludes the longest Haftarah in the entire reading cycle. Explain the concluding words that “the land had rest for forty years.” Relate long life to the sons of Canaan and of Amalek. *(Feinberg, J. Walk Exodus! 1999,, p.78)
A Thousand-Year Peace!
“Adonai, God of heaven’s armies, has begun His reign!” (19:6). The crowd continues, “For the time has come for the wedding of the Lamb, and His bride…” (v. 7). The angel of God tells the birds of creation to prepare to gorge themselves on the flesh of kings, generals, important men, horses and riders from all the nations (v. 18). Once more, God summons the forces of the deep to serve His purposes. The “lake of fire that burns with sulfur” engulfs the beast and false prophet, while the birds gorge on the slain armies that fought the LORD and His Hosts (vv. 20–12). Satan himself along with all evil is chained and thrown into the Abyss for a thousand years (20:2–3). Martyrs and those who risked their lives now triumph over death. They rule with Messiah over all nations of earth in a peaceful theocracy lasting for a thousand years.
Read Hebrews 10:5–9; 7:23–25 and 1 Samuel 14:20–26. King Saul lost throne and dynasty, because he feared annihilating Amalek’s throne. Discuss the throne that Messiah and His martyrs inherit, when God establishes His Throne.” *(Feinberg, J. Walk Exodus! 1999, p.79)
Rest. Fellowship. Discussion.