Category Archives: Providence

Commandments Written in Stone, And a Place of Worship (Exodus 24-25)

Scripture reading – Exodus 24-25

Exodus 24 – The Covenant was Established, and Sealed with the Blood of Sacrifices

The LORD, having given His Law and Commandments (Exodus 20-23), summoned Moses, Aaron his brother, Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, and “seventy of the elders of Israel…to worship” (24:1). Moses was invited to come near the LORD; however, the others were instructed to “not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him” (24:2).

Moses told the people all the LORD had set forth in his covenant, “and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the Lord hath said will we do” (24:3).

After writing, and memorializing “all the words of the LORD,” Moses built an altar, with twelve pillars representing the “twelve tribes of Israel” (24:4).  Upon the altar he “offered burnt offerings, and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen unto the Lord” (24:5), sealing the Covenant with a testimony of blood (24:6-9).

God then gave “Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel,” a marvelous vision of Himself, and “they saw God, and did eat and drink” (24:10-11) that which had been sacrificed unto the LORD upon the altar.

The LORD then commanded Moses, “Come up to me into the mount, and be there: and I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments which I have written; that thou mayest teach them” (24:12). Moses, with Joshua accompanying him as his servant, “went up into the mount of God” (24:13). Departing, Moses instructed the elders of the people to bring to Aaron and Hur, any matters that might arise in his absence (24:14)

Ascending the mount, Moses and Joshua disappeared into the cloud that covered it. Six days passed, as the “glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai” (24:16a), but on the seventh day, the LORD “called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud” (24:16b). Imagine the wonder of the “children of Israel,” as they gazed toward the mount, and saw “the glory of the Lord…like [a] devouring fire on the top of the mount” (24:17). Moses was “in the mount forty days and forty nights” (24:18).

Exodus 25 – Instructions Concerning the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant

With the Covenant established, and sealed with sacrificial offerings, the Lord instructed Moses: “2Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering” (25:2). Gold, silver, and bronze were necessary for decorating the tabernacle, and fashioning instruments that would be used in worship and offering sacrifices.

The tabernacle was to be constructed with materials that were freely given by the people: “6Oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense were required, as were “onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate” for the high priest (25:4-7).

One might ask, when did former slaves of Egypt acquire gold, silver, and precious stones? The answer to that question is found in Exodus 12:35-36, where we read: “35And the children of Israel did according to the word of Moses; and they borrowed [requested; demanded] of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: 36And the Lord gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them such things as they required. And they spoiled the Egyptians” (12:35-36).

Why were the Tabernacle and Ark important? They would serve Israel as an outward symbol of God’s presence in the midst of His people (Exodus 25:8). The construction and appearance of the Ark, including its precise dimensions are recorded (25:10-11), as well as the means by which it would be transported–rings and “staves” or rods (25:12-15). The Ark was to be overlaid with gold, and upon its top, described as the Mercy Seat, were placed two cherubim facing one another. The space between the cherubim represented the presence, and throne of God (25:17-22). In the Scriptures, the “Ark” is designated with various names, among them The Ark of the Covenant, The Ark of the LORD, The Ark of God, and The Ark of the Testimony.

To be fashioned and placed within the Tabernacle was a table, implements of gold (25:23-30), and a golden lampstand with seven lamps (25:31-40).

I conclude asking you to notice the spirit of giving God required of His people: “2Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering” (25:2). Every man (every head of a home and family), was commanded to give an offering to the LORD, not out of coercion, or strong arm demands, but “willingly with his heart” (25:2).

Did you know that same spirit of giving is commanded of 21st century believers, and comes with a promise?

2 Corinthians 9:6–7 – “6But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Jehovahnissi: The LORD My Banner (Exodus 16-17)

Scripture reading: Exodus 16-17

We have considered the faithlessness of the children of Israel who, after the miracle of the Red Sea crossing, turned from celebrating Egypt’s defeat, to murmuring “against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (15:24).

Exodus 16 – Daily Manna

The people had complained about a lack of water in Exodus 15, and in Exodus 16, they complained about a lack of food. In leaving Egypt, they had evidently packed enough food for a month, however, by the fifteenth day of the second month supplies were exhausted. and they began to murmur against Moses and Aaron. The people complained they would have been better off dying in Egypt, rather than to follow Moses into the desert only to starve and die (16:2-3). How soon they had forgotten God’s provision of water!

Moses cried out to the LORD, Who promised He would “rain bread from heaven” (16:4), sufficient for the day that He might “prove [the people], whether they will walk in my law, or no” (16:4). The LORD promised on the sixth day he would provide twice the daily amount, that the people might store enough for the Sabbath (16:5). Moses and Aaron encouraged the people, how the LORD would provide them bread in the morning, and “in the evening flesh to eat” (16:6-8).

Faithful to His promise, each evening quail would cover the camp, providing the people meat, and each morning they would find a small round bread they called “manna” (16:15). Moses instructed the men to gather only enough for their households, “every man according to his eating” (16:18). Moses admonished the people, “Let no man leave of it till the morning” (16:19).

What lesson was the LORD teaching Israel in providing them “daily provisions?”

He was teaching them to look to Him to provide for their daily needs. Nevertheless, there were some who failed to trust the LORD, and hoarded more bread than they could eat, and “it bred worms, and stank [rotted]” (16:20).

Exodus 17

Israel continued her journey in the “wilderness of Sin,” and encamped in Rephidim, where once again “there was no water for the people to drink” (17:1). They questioned, “is the LORD among us, or not?” (17:7), and accused Moses of bringing them out of Egypt to kill them (17:3). The criticism was so vicious, Moses feared the people were “almost ready to stone” him (17:4).

God heard Moses’ plea, and commanded him take the rod he had carried when the waters of the Red Sea opened, and stand “upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink” (17:5-6).

Once again, Israel had witnessed the LORD’S compassion, and miraculous provision for their needs; however, there was a greater lesson in this moment that would not be revealed until the New Testament. The “rock in Horeb,” from which the water flowed, was a type, a prophetic picture of Jesus Christ who identified Himself as the “well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).

Israel’s First War (17:8-16)

The children of Israel encountered their first enemy when the Amalekites, descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother, came to war against them (17:8).

Moses summoned Joshua, and commanded him to choose men in Israel whom he would lead in battle against Amalek (17:9). While Joshua led the battle in the valley, Moses stood on the “top of the hill with the rod of God in [his] hand” (17:9).

When the arms of Moses were outstretched, Israel prevailed; when his arms grew heavy, the battle would go against the nation. Sitting down on a rock, Moses’ brother steadied one arm, while a man named Hur held the other aloft (17:12). Israel prevailed, and “Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword” (17:10-12).

This first battle was to serve Israel as a reminder that the LORD was on their side. Moses was commanded to write the victory in a book, and exhort Joshua to remember and rehearse in the ears of the next generation how the LORD had given Israel victory.

Moses then “built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi,” meaning “The LORD is My Banner” (17:15).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

The Great Exodus, and a Short-lived Celebration (Exodus 14-15)

Scripture reading: Exodus 14-15

Exodus 14 – Showdown on the Shores of the Red Sea

With the cloud overshadowing Israel by day, and the pillar of fire giving the people light by night, Moses led a nation of more than one million people to freedom. Following the LORD’s instruction, the multitude encamped by the Red Sea (14:2).

In his grief, Pharaoh had sent the children of Israel out of the land; however, the LORD hardened the proud king’s heart (14:3-4), and Moses learned his conflict with Pharaoh was not yet ended. Spies had followed the movement of Israel, and when they saw the encampment by the sea, they sent word to the king who set his army in array to pursue and overtake Moses and the people (14:5-7).

After witnessing how their God had brought Egypt to her knees, the people had departed “with an high hand,” bold, triumphant, rejoicing in their freedom (14:8). Soon, however, the celebration ended when the dust of six hundred chariots, and soldiers was seen approaching in the distance. As Pharoah and his army drew near to Israel’s encampment, “the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and…cried out unto the Lord” (14:10).

With the Red Sea before them, and Egypt’s army behind them, the people derided Moses, saying, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?” (14:11)

Is it not amazing how fickle people can be? From going out “with an high hand” (14:8), to moaning in despair, the people complained with a sentiment they would express on many occasions in the future: “For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness” (14:12).

Moses, unshaken by the murmuring of the people, and the approach of Egypt’s army, encouraged the people saying, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever” (14:13). Moses assured them, 14The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (14:14).

Moses cried out to the LORD, who then questioned him, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward” (14:15). For Moses, the time for prayer was over, and it was time to step out on faith and trust the LORD, who commanded Moses, “lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea” (14:16).

The LORD commanded Moses to be prepared, for when the waters of the sea opened, Pharaoh and his chariots would pursue the people into the midst of the sea (14:17), and all Egypt will know the LORD, when the king and his army are drowned in the sea (14:18).

The cloud that had guided Israel out of Egypt, then moved rearward and became a barrier of darkness between the people and Pharaoh’s army (14:19-20), allowing Israel to pass through the waters of the sea on dry land (14:21-22).  When the Egyptians pursued Israel into the midst of the Red Sea, the LORD brought the waters in upon them, drowning them, and “Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore… and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.” (14:23-31).

Exodus 15 – A Celebration of Deliverance, and A Crisis of Faith

Standing triumphantly on the far shore of the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel broke into a song of praise and rejoicing (15:1-19).  While the men were singing the refrain with Moses leading the song (15:1), Miriam, his sister, “took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances” (15:20) singing the chorus.

What a great celebration, and surely one that should have continued for days and weeks; however, such was not to be the case. Three days into the wilderness, and the people “found no water” (15:22), and “murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (15:24)

This sinful pattern of murmuring will haunt Israel’s journey through the wilderness for the next forty years, and will be a sorrow not only to Moses, but also to the LORD. Moses cried to the LORD (15:25) and the LORD assured him He would heal the bitter waters, and make them pure (15:26), testing and proving the faith of the people.

What was the lesson Israel was to take from the bitter, poisonous waters?

If Israel would hear and obey the Words of the LORD, and walk in righteousness, hear and heed His commandments, the LORD would spare them from the diseases that afflicted the Egyptians, promising Israel, “I am the Lord that healeth thee” (15:26).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Christ, Our Passover (Exodus 13)

Scripture reading: Exodus 13

The slaying of the firstborn of Egypt, the tenth and final plague, moved Pharaoh to thrust Israel out of Egypt where they had lived for 430 years (12:40-41).

The Passover was established as a perpetual memorial of the night the firstborn of Egypt were slain, but God spared the households in Israel because the people believed God, and applied the blood of the lamb to the door posts (12:1-28, 43-51).

Seven days of “unleavened bread,” were to be observed, “and in the seventh day shall be a feast (the Passover) to the LORD” (13:6). No leaven was to be in the households those seven days (13:7), serving as a reminder of Israel’s sudden departure from Egypt, but also a memorial to the purging of sin from the midst. Leaven, a symbol of sin in the Scriptures, was to have no place among God’s people in the seven days that concluded with the Passover observance.

Leaven would later serve as a reminder to believers that sin, like leaven in bread during the Passover, is intolerable in the lives of believers (1 Corinthians 5:6). Paul instructed the church in Corinth, “Purge out therefore the old leaven…keep the feast…with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:7-8).  Like Israel’s intolerance of leaven during the Passover, believers are to be intolerant of sin in our midst (1 Corinthians 5, 9, 13)!

The LORD also commanded Moses to instruct the people that the firstborn of every household, both children and beast, were to be sanctified (set apart and dedicated), to the LORD as a memorial to Him, with the exception of the firstborn of Israel (13:1). Promising He would bring Israel into the “land of the Canaanites” (13:11) as He had vowed, the people were to dedicate the firstborn male of every beast to the LORD (13:11-12). The firstborn of “clean” beasts was to be sacrificed, including lambs, kids of goats, and calves (Exodus 22:30; Numbers 18:17-18).

Because the ass (donkey) was declared unclean, the firstborn of an ass would be redeemed with a lamb (the lamb being a sacrificial substitute). The clean (lambs, calves, or kids of goats) were to be sacrificed in the place of unclean beasts (13:13).

While some heathen nations sacrificed their firstborn sons and daughters to idols, Israel was commanded to redeem her firstborn (13:13b). Considering all humanity is sinful, and therefore universally “unclean” in the sight of God, the price of a firstborn’s redemption in Israel was set as “five sheckles” (Numbers 3:47; 18:16). The people were to instruct their sons concerning the meaning of redemption (13:14-16).

The LORD knew that a nation of slaves would not be ready for the challenge of war against those nations that inhabited the land He had promised His people (13:17). Rather than lead Israel through the land of the Philistines, the LORD directed them into the “wilderness of the Red Sea” (13:18).

Fulfilling the vow their forefathers had made to Joseph, his bones were taken up from Egypt, and would be buried in Canaan (13:19).

Serving as a visible testimony of God’s presence, the LORD had promised to shadow His people with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (13:21-22).

A closing thought: To spare Israel the tenth plague, and the death of the firstborn, the LORD required the blood of the lamb be placed upon the door posts. Without the blood, the firstborn of the household would be slain.  So it is for all sinners, for “without shedding of blood is no remission [forgiveness; deliverance]” (Hebrews 9:22).

All the lambs that were sacrificed were a type, a picture, of God’s punishment of sin that would be fulfilled in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.  The author of Hebrews wrote: “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:28). Paul writes in his letter to Corinth, “For He [God] hath made Him [Jesus Christ]to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him”  (2 Corinthians 5:21).

If you have not, will you confess you are a sinner, and trust Jesus Christ as your Redeemer?

Romans 6:2323For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“That ye may know…I Am the LORD” (Exodus 9-10)

Scripture reading assignment: Exodus 9-10

Our study in the Book of Exodus continues with the contest between Moses, God’s messenger, and Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. Four judgments have befallen the nation, and each has been followed by Pharaoh hardening his heart and refusing to let the children of Israel go to offer sacrifices to the LORD.

Exodus 9 – The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Plagues

The fifth plague that befell Egypt afflicted the “cattle which [was] in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep” (9:3). The disease was “a very grievous murrain,” an epidemic so severe that “all the cattle of Egypt died.” As a testimony of God’s sovereignty and love of His people, none of the livestock of Israel perished (9:4-7). Yet, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go” (9:7b).

The sixth plague began when Moses gathered “handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and [sprinkled] it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh” (9:8), and boils broke out on man and beast (9:8-11). The affliction of the boils was so painful, that even Pharaoh’s magicians “could not stand before Moses” (9:11). And yet, “the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them; as the Lord had spoken unto Moses” (9:12).

The seventh plague destroyed all the crops of Egypt when the LORD rained down hail upon the crops (9:13-35). This time, however, some of Pharaoh’s servants believed the warnings of Moses, and made their servants and livestock take shelter in their houses (9:20). Pharaoh confessed, I have sinned this time: the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked (9:27). He promised to let Israel go and sacrifice to their God; however, when the hail ceased, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, neither would he let the children of Israel go; as the Lord had spoken by Moses” (9:35).

Exodus 10 – The Eighth and Ninth Plague

Egypt’s losses in crops, and livestock brought upon the nation the suffering of hunger and famine. Perhaps you wonder, why the LORD did not simply deliver Israel from bondage, rather than judge Egypt with ten plagues? The answer is found in Exodus 10.

Exodus 10:2 – “And that thou mayest tell in the ears of thy son, and of thy son’s son, what things I have wrought in Egypt, and my signs which I have done among them; that ye may know how that I am the LORD.”

More than delivering His people from slavery, the LORD wanted Israel to know, and remember through successive generations all He had done in Egypt.  His dealings with Pharaoh were to serve as a lasting testimony of God’s person, power, and presence among His chosen people.  Israel was a nation of slaves, but their God was the Creator, and Sovereign of nature. He would bring the greatest ruler, and the most powerful nation in the ancient world to her knees.

The eighth plague of locusts devastated Egypt, and devoured what was left of the nation’s vegetation (10:3-20).  A heavy darkness was the ninth plague that befell Pharaoh and Egypt (10:21-29). The Egyptians were oppressed and frightened by the darkness, but Israel was spared, and God’s people enjoyed the warmth of light in their dwellings.

Pharaoh sought a compromise with Moses, and would have allowed the people to depart, but not with their livestock (10:24-25). Moses, however, refused (10:26), and “the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go” (10:27).

Furious with Moses, Pharaoh warned, “take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die” (10:28).

Moses, strong, and confident in the LORD, answered the king truthfully, “Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more” (10:29). The stage is set for the final judgment, and the humiliation of Pharaoh.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Hardening One’s Heart is Not Wise! (Exodus 6-7)

Scripture reading assignment: Exodus 6-7

We have considered the first clash of wills between Pharaoh, and Moses (Exodus 5). Accosted and accused by the ones he loved and had come to deliver, Moses turned to the LORD and prayed (5:22-23). Pharaoh, however, turned a deaf ear to Moses’ requests, and remained unmoved and unwilling to let the people go.

Exodus 6 – God Heard and Answered Moses’ Prayer

But the LORD is faithful to hear and answer prayer, and responded to Moses’ plea, assuring him, “Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong [mighty] hand shall he let them go, and with a strong [mighty] hand shall he drive them out of his land” (6:1). The LORD promised to not only deliver Israel from slavery, but assured Moses, when He was finished dealing with Pharaoh, the king would drive Israel out of Egypt!

What was Moses learning about God, and his commission to serve Him? He was learning that Israel’s liberation was not dependent on him, but on whom he served: “God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord [Yahweh; eternal, self-existent]: 3And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty [El Shaddai], but by my name JEHOVAH [Yahweh] was I not known to them” (6:2-3). Though Israel had lost faith in God, He had not forgotten His covenant with them (6:4-5), and in a series of “I wills,” the LORD reminded Moses of all he had promised (6:6-8).

When Moses had spoken to the people all the LORD had conveyed to him; “they hearkened not unto [him]” (6:9). The LORD then came to Moses, and instructed him to go to Pharaoh, and command the king, “let the children of Israel go out of his land” (6:11). Moses, however, discouraged from the rejection of the people, wondered aloud, if his people spurned his words, why should Pharaoh hear him, a man “of uncircumcised lips [i.e. poor speech]?” (6:12)

Notice that the dialog between the LORD and Moses was interrupted by the genealogies of three sons of Jacob: Reuben, Simeon, and Levi (6:14-27). Reuben, the firstborn of Jacob, had committed incest with his father’s concubine (6:14; Genesis 35:22). Simeon, the second, and Levi, the third born son, had raged against the Shechemites, and in revenging the rape of their sister Dinah, murdered the men of Shechem (Genesis 34).

The lineage of Levi is of particular interest to our narrative, for Moses and Aaron were sons of the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe. The tribe of Levi was chosen by the LORD to represent the people before Him (6:16-27).

Exodus 7

The setting of Exodus 7 is the second confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh. There was already a dynamic change in the relationship between Pharaoh and Moses, for the LORD had magnified his standing, and “made [Moses] a god to Pharaoh” (7:1). The LORD instructed Moses to command the king to “send the children of Israel out of his land” (7:2); however, God cautioned his servant that He would “harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply [His] signs and…wonders in the land of Egypt” (7:3).

Proud and obstinate, Pharaoh and Egypt would suffer God’s judgment in a series of ten plagues that would not only bring that nation to its knees, but would reveal the God of Israel was the God of Heaven (7:4-5).

Moses and Aaron, with God’s power and His Word as their authority, then stood before Pharaoh, and “Aaron cast down his rod before [the king], and before his servants, and it became a serpent” (7:10). Undeterred, the king’s advisors, displayed the power of evil, and cast down their rods which also became serpents (7:11-12a); however, the rod of Aaron, transformed into a serpent, displayed the supremacy of Israel’s God, and devoured the rods of Pharaoh’s men (7:12).

What was Pharaoh’s response? God “hardened” his heart (7:13), as He had said He would (7:14). The first of a series of judgments then followed (7:14-12:36). The first plague was the waters of the Nile River were turned to blood (7:15-18), the fish died, and the stench of their rotting flesh filled Egypt (7:19-21). Nevertheless, Pharaoh’s magicians seemed to have duplicated the water turning to blood (7:22), and Pharaoh turned away, and his heart was hardened (7:24).

For seven days, the people were plagued with hunger (the fish of the Nile being a major source of food), and thirst (7:24-25). The king, however, refused to humble himself and set Israel free.

Closing thought: The Egyptians idolized the Nile River. When the God of Israel turned the waters of the Nile to blood, He displayed His sovereignty and power over one of Egypt’s gods, and over nature itself. Unable to escape God’s wrath, Egypt and her king continued to defy the LORD. Nine judgments would follow, before Pharaoh humbled himself and acknowledged that Israel’s God is LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Discouraged? Take it to the LORD! (Exodus 5)

Scripture reading assignment: Exodus 5

Our study in the Book of Exodus picks up after Moses and Aaron met with the “elders of the children of Israel” (4:30). Aaron, spoke to the leaders on Moses’ behalf, as the LORD had promised he would (4:15-16), and Moses “did the signs in the sight of the people” (4:30; note 4:2-3, 6-7, 9). Convinced by Aaron’s report, and the miracles performed by Moses, the people “believed” God had heard their cry and sent Moses as their deliverer (4:31).

Exodus 5 – Confrontation with Pharaoh

Moses and Aaron, confident the LORD was with them, initiated their first audience with Pharaoh. Standing before the king of Egypt, God’s servants boldly declared, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness” (5:1).

Pharaoh answered defiantly, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (5:2)

Moses and Aaron said, “The God of the Hebrews hath met with us: let us go, we pray thee, three days’ journey into the desert, and sacrifice unto the Lord our God; lest he fall upon us with pestilence, or with the sword” (5:3).

Take a moment and consider Pharaoh’s position. He had asked, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice?” (5:2) The answer to his question was, “The God of the Hebrews” (5:3a). The God of slaves? The God who appears to have forsaken Israel four hundred years? That is the God you threaten will “fall upon us with pestilence, or with sword?” (5:3b)

Proud and obstinate, Pharaoh accused Moses and Aaron of attempting to lighten the burden of the children of Israel, and then double down on the slaves (5:4-5). Rather than lighten their burdens, he ordered his taskmasters to oppress the slaves and increase their workload (5:6-9). Those taskmasters then cruelly beat those officers who supervised the people (5:10-14).

Beaten and discouraged, the officers of Israel cried out to Pharaoh. The king, however, made a point of blaming their hardships on the request Moses and Aaron had made for the people to be allowed to “go and do sacrifice to the LORD” (5:17).

The officers of Israel went out from Pharaoh, and meeting Moses and Aaron along the way, accused them of adding to their troubles (5:20-21b). Failing to humble themselves and turn to the LORD, the leaders reproached them (5:21b)

The criticisms pierced the heart of Moses, and he prayed, “Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? 23For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all” (5:22-23).

The last thing Moses wanted, or expected, was that his commission to deliver Israel from bondage, would first require the people suffer greater afflictions. He asked, why had the LORD allowed His people to be so ill-treated (5:22). Moses was discouraged, not only questioning God, but his own leadership. He was unable to rationalize God’s promises with his calling.

I close inviting you to ponder, how you respond to discouragement? When you find yourself the object of unjust criticism, where do you turn?

Take a lesson from the life of Moses: He turned to the LORD and prayed!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus 3-4)

Scripture reading: Exodus 3-4

Moses was forty years old when he fled Egypt into the wilderness (2:11), and he spent the next forty years of his tending his father-in-law’s sheep. He had been safe from the reign of Pharaoh, and lived far from the travail of the children of Israel. In fact, he might have contentedly lived out his days with his wife Zipporah (2:21), and his sons, Gershom (2:22) and Elizer (18:4).

Though the children of Israel were far from the thoughts of Moses, they were never beyond God’s loving compassion. When the “king of Egypt died” (2:23), and the people found no relief from their sorrows, they “cried, and their cry rose up to God by reason of the bondage [slavery; forced labor]” (2:23b).

“God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.25And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect [acknowledged] unto them” (2:24-25).

Exodus 3 – Called and Commissioned (3:1-14).

God found Moses tending his father-in-law’s sheep on the backside of the desert (3:1). He had providentially made his way to Horeb, “the mountain of God” (3:1). [This same mount, also named Sinai, would become the base camp for Israel when Moses received the Ten Commandments, Exodus 19:10-11.]

At Horeb, “the angel of the Lord appeared unto [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush… and the bush was not consumed” (3:2).

The sight of a burning bush in the desert was not unusual; however, when it was not consumed–that’s when God got Moses’ attention. He turned aside to see the sight (3:3), and God called him by name from the burning bush (fire being a symbol of God’s presence in the Scriptures, Exodus 19:18).

Instructing Moses to remove his shoes, the voice said, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (3:6a).

What did Moses, a prince of Egypt, know about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? His knowledge of the God of Israel was not acquired in the palace of Pharaoh’s daughter, but instead, he was taught from the loving arms of his Hebrew mother, Jochebed (2:2, 8-10; 6:20).

God awakened in Moses a memory of the sufferings of the children of Israel (3:7), and He announced He would deliver His people out of bondage (3:8). God then commanded Moses, “10Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt” (3:10).

Moses asked, “Who am I?” (3:11). No longer the proud prince of Egypt, his question evidenced a humility that had been born in the solitude of the desert. No doubt the LORD had prepared Moses; however, the matter of his calling was not who he was, but who had called and commissioned him. God assured him, “I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” (3:12).

Moses wondered aloud, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (3:13)

“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (3:14).

God promised, not only would the children of Israel heed his voice (3:15-18a), but the king of Egypt would bow to his will. The LORD promised He would smite Egypt until that great nation bowed to His will (3:18b-22).

Exodus 4 – God Overcame Moses’ Objections

Overwhelmed by the task he had been given, God provided Moses with three miraculous signs to prove the LORD was with him. The first sign, his shepherd’s staff became a serpent (4:2-5). The second sign showed his skin turning leprous, and then completely healed (4:6-8). Turning water into blood was the third miraculous sign (4:8-9).

When Moses objected that he lacked the eloquence or language needed to stand in Pharaoh’s court (after being exiled from Egypt forty years, 4:10), God rebuked him saying, “Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord?” (4:11) The LORD overcame Moses’ objection, promising to send Aaron on his behalf (4:12-16).

Moses departed for Egypt, but along the way became deathly ill (4:18-24). He might have died, but his wife Zipporah, intervened by circumcising their son (4:24-25). She then returned to her father’s house (4:24-26), and did not reunite with Moses until Israel encamped at Sinai (18:2-3).

Arriving in Egypt, Aaron gathered the elders of Israel, and Moses demonstrated the power of God was upon him (4:30). When the people witnessed the signs of God’s power, they believed, and worshipped the LORD (4:31).

The stage is set for the contest between the most powerful king on the earth, and a shepherd whom God had anointed to lead His people to the Promised Land.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“God Meant it Unto Good” (Genesis 50)

Scripture reading – Genesis 50

“[When] Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Named Jacob when he was born, he fulfilled the definition of that name in the early years of his life, for he had been a trickster and deceiver. His life, however, was changed at a brook named Peniel (32:27-30), and God changed his name to Israel. Transformed into a man of faith, he became a man upon whom the power of God rested.

He had borne the weight of great sorrows, but he died surrounded by his family, and was comforted in the embrace of his son Joseph, the second ruler of Egypt (50:1). Embalmed in the manner of Egypt, even “the Egyptians mourned for [Jacob] threescore and ten days” (50:3). Joseph requested, and received, Pharaoh’s blessing for his father’s body to be taken up to Canaan and buried in the ancestral tomb of his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham (50:4-6).

Imagine the funeral procession that came out of Egypt, and made its way to Jacob’s tomb (50:7-13). His body, borne in an Egyptian coffin, was escorted by “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen (50:7-8).

The Canaanite people of the region observed the royal procession of mourners, and named the place Abel-mizraim, meaning a “mourning or meadow of Egypt” (50:11). Arriving at the tomb, the sons of Jacob buried their father (50:12-13), and then returned to Egypt (50:14). Understanding the evil they had committed against Joseph, his brothers feared in their father’s absence, he might exact revenge for their wrongs against him (50:15-17).  Instead of revenge, however, “Joseph wept” (50:17b).

Though abused and rejected in his youth, Joseph had looked past the trials with eyes of faith, and rested in the providence of God. He comforted his brothers, and said, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:19-20). He went on to assure them, “fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them” (50:21).

Sold as a slave when he was seventeen, Joseph lived the rest of his life in Egypt. Though a ruler in Egypt, his heart longed for the land God had promised, and in death he assured his brethren: “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (50:24). Joseph, repeated the promise, and requested, “ye shall carry up my bones from hence” (50:25). “So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt” (50:26).

A Concluding Thought: I close this commentary, thanking you for accompanying me on this journey through the Scriptures.

Beginning with, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), and closing with Joseph’s death and the request that his bones be taken up and buried in Canaan (50:25-26), we have witnessed God’s sovereignty and loving devotion to those who turn from sin to Him. Joseph confessed to his brothers, “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:20).

It was God who worked to save Jacob, his sons, and the Tribes of Israel that He might fulfill His Covenant Promise to Abraham, that “in [him] shall all families of the earth be blessed,” (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world, 12:3; John 3:16). It is God who desires all men would be saved, and “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God is working, and He invites you to “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,” and “believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

You are invited to share your decision of faith, or your thoughts with this author by emailing: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Jacob’s Last Will and Testament (Genesis 48-49)

Scripture reading – Genesis 48-49

His father’s strength had been waning, and when Joseph received news his father was sick, he hastened with his sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to Jacob’s bedside (48:1). Learning Joseph was approaching, Jacob (Israel) “strengthened himself, and sat upon the bed” (48:2). Joseph is about 56 years old when he comes with his sons to his father’s bedside.

Raising himself up from his bed, Jacob began to remind Joseph of the covenant promises God had imparted to him in Canaan, and said: “Behold, I [God Almighty] will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession” (48:4). [The third of the covenant promises, that of being a blessing to all people, will be related to Judah of whom Jesus Christ would be born, 49:8-12; 12:3.]

Jacob’s thoughts then turned to pronouncing God’s providential inclusion of Joseph’s sons among his own (48:5-6). Ephraim, the younger, and Manasseh the older, were foretold to be equal to Jacob’s sons, and would therefore inherit a portion of the birthright blessings in the place of Reuben, Simeon, and Levi who forfeited their portion through sinful choices (48:5b; 1 Chronicles 5:1; Numbers 26:28-37; 1 Chronicles 7:14-29; Hebrews 11:21). Reuben had morally sinned against his father (35:22), and Simeon and Levi had brought shame upon the family by their anger and violence (34:25-31). Though these sons were loved by their father, their sins had been so egregious that they were rejected from their full blessing.

Joseph put forward Manasseh, his oldest son; however, Jacob took Ephraim in his right hand, and insisted that the blessing of the firstborn would fall on him (48:8-19). Though he would die in Egypt, Jacob foretold that Joseph and his sons’ inheritance would not be in Egypt, but in Canaan (48:21). Thus, Joseph’s faithfulness to the LORD, and his care of his father and family were rewarded, and he would receive through his sons a double portion of the inheritance (48:22).

 

Genesis 49 – A Parting Blessing

Jacob’s final words to his sons, and his prophetic insight into the future of their lineages, are recorded in Genesis 49. The words of that dying man were both a blessing and sobering (49:3-15).

The Six Sons of Leah (49:3-15)

Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, was a strong leader; however, the shame of his lying with his father’s concubine shadowed his life (49:3-4). Simeon and Levi, the second and third born sons, were reminded of their angry, vindictive spirits, and their lineages would be scattered among the tribes in the Promised Land. The tribe of Levi would be priests to the LORD (49:5-7). Judah, the fourth born son, would become a royal lineage, of whom David and Jesus Christ would be born (49:8-12). Zebulun’s lineage, the tenth born son of Jacob, would settle along the Mediterranean coast (49:13). Issachar, the ninth son, would become an agricultural people (49:14-15).

The Sons of Bilhah (49:16-18; 21)

Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines, gave birth to two sons of Jacob. Dan, the fifth born son, his name means “Judge,” and his lineage would be a judge of the tribes (49:16-18). Naphtali, Jacob’s sixth son, would father a lineage said to be like a “hind let loose,” a swift female deer, and gifted in words (49:21).

The Sons of Zilpah (49:19-20)

Gad, son of Bilhah, was Jacob’s seventh son, and his lineage would be known as great warriors (Joshua 22:1-6; 1 Chronicles 12:8). Asher, the eighth born, would become a rich tribe, and supply the other tribes with “bread…[and] royal dainties” (49:20).

The Sons of Rachel (49:22-27)

Rachel, Jacob’s first love, was the mother of Joseph, the eleventh son (49:22-26), and Benjamin, his twelfth son (49:27).

Jacob described Joseph as an overcomer who, though suffering the arrows of accusations from his brothers, had become a “fruitful bough” (49:22-23).  God had elevated him, and he had become the shepherd of his family, and the “stone (or rock) of Israel” (49:24). Though separated from his father and brothers, Jacob promised God would bless Joseph “with blessings of heaven above” (49:25-26).

Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son, was described as ravenous as a wolf (49:27). His tribe would be fearless warriors (Judges 20:15-25), and numbered among his lineage would be Saul, the first king of Israel, and the apostle Paul (Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5). Benjamin’s tribe, along with the tribe of Judah, would be faithful to the LORD.

Jacob’s Death (49:28-33)

Jacob’s dying breaths repeated his request to be buried in Canaan, and in the ancestral tomb where Isaac and Abraham were entombed. “When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Jacob’s death marked the end of an era, but not the end of our study. He would be given the burial honors of a ruler in death, and Joseph’s brothers feared he would exact revenge for the evils they had committed against him.

Our next devotional will reveal how the drama between Joseph and his brothers will end.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith