This morning, we picked up right in the middle of the story of Joseph. Yesterday, we read that Joseph was made second only to Pharaoh, and people from all over the land came to him to buy grain during the severe famine (the one that Pharaoh dreamed would happen).
We haven't really heard from Joseph's family since his brother's sold him into slavery, but due to the famine throughout the land, Joseph's brothers came to Egypt to buy grain. The travel from Canaan to Egypt is about 200 miles, and would take approximately 10-days by donkey, significantly further by foot (they likely used their donkeys for carrying provisions; some of the ten brothers traveling may have had to walk). When they arrive, Joseph recognizes them, but they don't recognize him. After accusing them of being spies and imprisoning them for three days, Joseph holds Simeon in prison, and sends the rest of them back to Canaan to retrieve their youngest brother, Benjamin.
The brothers go back to Canaan, retrieve Benjamin, and then return to Egypt (400 miles round-trip!). Joseph wants his father Jacob to join them in Egypt, so he tricks his brothers by putting a silver cup into the bag of grain that Benjamin was carrying. After threatening to put Benjamin in prison, Judah, one of the eleven brothers, pleaded with Joseph and Joseph finally reveals himself. He wept, and made himself known to his brothers. After he and his brothers talked, his brothers left Egypt to go back to Canaan to retrieve their father Jacob (another 400 miles round-trip! That's a lot of traveling). Along with Jacob, they brought their entire family to Egypt, seventy in all.
Joseph and Jacob were reunited, Jacob blessed Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, and then also blessed his twelve sons, and then dies. Jacob made Joseph promise to bury him in the same place as his father Isaac, and those before him.
Once Jacob died, Joseph's brothers were scared that Joseph would do away with them, but Joseph reasssured his brothers that him being sold into slavery was all part of God's mighty plan.
What a fantastic lesson for us of being faithful to God's greater plan. Joseph kept his gaze fixed on God's awesome power, and took comfort in God's ability to overcome any circumstance or trial. Joseph was thrown in prison for the wrong reasons, betrayed by his brothers, and forgotten by friends. However, God exhalted him at the end, and God was glorified through Joseph's faith and patience.
400 years passed since the death of Joseph. Egypt's condition worsened since Joseph, and slaves had been enduring incredible hardship. The Pharaoh set a decree that every son born to the Hebrews be cast into the Nile (because the Hebrews were too rapidly multiplying), but Moses was saved by his mother and found in a basket by Pharaoh's daughter. Pharaoh's daughter's servant woman nursed Moses, and then Moses became Pharaoh's grandson.
About 40 years passed, and Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew and killed the Egyptian. The next day, he was found out and thus fleed to Midian, where he stayed for 40 more years.
During Moses' stay in Midian, God came to Moses in a burning bush, and convinced Moses to save the Hebrews from Egypt. After Moses tells God he doesn't want to, God gave Moses Aaron as his prophet. God spoke to Moses, Moses to Aaron, and Aaron to the people (at least this was the plan, though we see that Mose speaks to the people instead).
When Moses was 80-years-old (Aaron 83), he returns to Egypt and asks the Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go, so they may worship God. Pharaoh was angry at the requests and increased the labor of the slaves to continue making the quota of bricks without the necessary straw. This makes the Israelites angry with Moses.
God told Moses and Aaron to go back to the Pharaoh, and promises the deliverance of Israel. God said that Pharaoh's heart with be hardened and that God would prove his glory before Egypt with plagues.
First, Moses turned his staff into a snake, but Pharaoh's men did the same thing with their secret arts. Then God sent ten plagues, each one in subsequential response to Pharaoh's hard heart.
1. Water turned to blood
5. Death of livestock
10. Death of the firstborn
Throughout this all, Moses gained favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and in all the land of Egypt, even with Pharaoh's servants. God is an expert at winning hearts.
The Passover was God's instructions to the Hebrews to put the blood of a lamb on the lintel and two doorposts, which would be a sign to "passover" their house and spare their first born.
Finally, Pharoah let the Israelites go, then regretted his decision and chases after them. The Israelites (600,000 people, not including women and children) crossed the Red Sea in miraculous, dry land, while the Egyptians were all destroyed by the water.
The Israelites sang a song when they successfully crossed the Red Sea in Exodus 15. How heartfelt this song must have been! I wonder how my heart in worship can reflect their hearts during their worship at that time.
So soon after the Exodus, the Israelites forgot what God saved them from and began to complain. God gave them sweet water, and bread from Heaven, and water from a rock. God saved them from the hands of Amalek, and showed himself faithful time and time again, but the Israelites kept forgetting all that God has done for them. I was personally convicted this morning; even as I read, it was so easy for me to forget the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea as I moved from chapter to chapter! I forget so quickly. Today, I will be reflecting on how God has saved me in my life, and will begin fostering a healthier habit of remembering.
Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, suggested that Moses delegate leadership to people, so as to relieve himself of the task of personally guiding over one million people. Leadership in God's church is important, and the body working as a unit, each person playing their vital role, is crucial. God didn't describe the parts of the Church as a "body" just for fun.
God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, then institutes laws about slaves, laws about resitution, and social justice. God also instructed the Israelites how to approach the Sabbath and the Festivals.
God promised the conquest of Canaan, and admonishes the people not to make the idols of the Canaanites their gods. ". . . for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you" (Exodus 23:33). Anything that takes our thoughts and hearts captive other than God are idols. We need to lose worldy gains and grasp heavenly treasures (Philippians 3:8).
People made contributions to the making of the sanctuary as their hearts so moved them to make.
Israel built the Ark of the Covenant, as God descriptively instructed them to build.
Then they began construction on the tabernacle, which was the dwelling place that God would meet them. Throughout the Bible, God met with his people in a tabernacle, then a temple, then in person, then in his Spirit. First he dwelled in the tabernacle, then he dwelled in the temple, then he dwelled among us (Jesus), now he dwells within us (the Spirit).
Finally, where we end our reading today, God gives special instructions for how to consecrate Aaron and the priests.
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