The Bible in a Year, Week 3: Exodus 1-20
This is the third weekly reading in the plan for reading your Bible in one year. The assignment for this week is Exodus 1-20. It should only take about 10-15 minutes a day or about three chapters a day to complete the assignment.
Here are some comments to help you grow in knowledge and faith as you read Exodus 1-20:
Exodus 1-2: It didn’t take long (about 400 years) for the Egyptians to forget how important and influential Joseph had been. As they forgot about Joseph, they also lost interest in caring about the Israelites. Moreover, God had blessed his people so much that they became too numerous for the Egyptians to control. After forced slave labor didn’t work, the Egyptians tried to kill all the newborn baby boys. However, the midwives were believers and would not do such a thing.
Interestingly, a millennium and a half later Egypt was the safe haven that Mary and Joseph fled to when King Herod tried to kill the baby boys in Israel. Also, one could wonder if it was God’s divine retribution on these wicked people when the 10th plague on Egypt was much the same–their firstborn sons being killed.
In chapter two the wisdom of God is revealed–he always has his intricate plan in mind! This plan was to preserve his man Moses who would lead his people out of Egypt. Because of the horrible plot to kill Israelite babies, Moses was hidden and then found by Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses’ sister Miriam stood at a distance and watched as the baby was found in the basket. She then offered that Moses be cared for and nursed by his mother. When he grew older, Moses went back to live in the house of Pharaoh. What great wisdom of God! Moses became a man who knew the Egyptian culture and leaders, yet he was also raised by his Israelite mother and as a child of God.
This dual upbringing presented some challenges later on in life. One day Moses came to the rescue of an Israelite being beaten and ended up killing the Egyptian. But the next day when he tried to stop two Israelites from fighting, it was ill-received as word had spread about what he had done. Thus, Moses fled to Midian. There Moses met Reuel, also called Jethro, and married his daughter Zipporah.
Exodus 3-6: There in Midian the Lord called from a burning bush to Moses to lead his people out of Egypt and to the land he promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet time after time Moses made excuses. He tried to back out of such responsibility for various reasons–the people wouldn’t listen to him, he wasn’t worthy of such a task, he wasn’t a very good speaker, etc.
Besides offering various miraculous signs as proof of his guidance and protection, the Lord also told Moses to inform the people that I AM had sent him. This name for the Lord is truly beautiful. It reminds us that God is consistent. He never changes. He is always the same. His holiness and righteousness never change. His mercy and forgiveness never change. The name I AM is also very closely related to his name, the LORD. Most Bibles distinguish this name with four capital letters L-O-R-D. The LORD means He Is, which essentially means the same thing as I AM. What beautiful names which remind us that God is a never-changing God of free and faithful love! We also recall at this time that Jesus is truly God, as he claimed the name I AM for himself in John 8:58.
Interestingly, many Christians may have heard the English version of the Hebrew word for LORD–YAHWEH. Another familiar name for God came from this Anglicized name YAHWEH. Adding Hebrew vowels to it and pronouncing the “Y” as a “J” and “W” as a “V” the name Jehovah was created.
Finally the Lord sends Moses back to Egypt with his brother Aaron as his spokesman. The people at first believed that God was going to deliver them through Moses and Aaron. But as the slave labor became even more difficult, they became discouraged and would not listen. Yet the Lord continued to promise that he would fulfill his covenant made first with Abraham–to give the promised land of Canaan to his people.
A key verse to note is 6:7. In it we hear a phrase that recurs frequently. God was going to perform numerous miraculous signs so that his people would truly know that he is their God. This verse also reminds us of Jesus who performed numerous miracles to prove to the Israelites that he really is God and Savior. Sadly, throughout time the Israelites both rejected God who led them out of Egypt and later Jesus who came as the promised Messiah.
The family line of Moses helps us remember that he was a Levite, one of the priests of Israel. Several of his descendants listed in chapter six will be mentioned again in several stories down the road.
Exodus 7-11: In these chapters God performed several miraculous signs, which ended up being plagues upon Egypt, to prove that he is the Lord and so that Pharaoh would let the people go. The 10 Plagues in order are:
1. Blood, 2. Frogs, 3. Gnats, 4. Flies, 5. Livestock, 6. Boils, 7. Hail, 8. Locusts, 9. Darkness, 10. Death of firstborn son.
By their “secret arts” the magicians of Pharaoh were able to copy the first sign (turning a staff into a snake), as well as the first two plagues. But the rest could not be duplicated. Yet though the Lord made his power clear, Pharaoh hardened his heart against the Lord. Here we are also reminded that mankind has full capability of rejecting the Lord. It is by God’s grace and mercy that we become his children as he alone works faith in our hearts. But surely mankind in sinfulness has the ability to reject the Lord and harden the heart against God. Pharaoh did just that.
Exodus 12-14: The Lord institutes the Passover meal in chapter 12. This was to be a festival to celebrate for generations to come as a remembrance of how the Lord passed over their homes in Egypt and spared them. But this special meal had greater significance than that. In it they were to take a firstborn male lamb that had no defects or blemishes. They were to kill it and paint its blood over the doorways of their homes. This Passover meal was a shadow of the Savior to come! Jesus is a male, the firstborn, and has no defects or blemishes as the perfect Son of God. He gave his life and shed his blood which now covers us and saves us from God’s wrath and anger. Jesus is the perfect, once-for-all, Lamb of God!
Thus with at least someone dying in every household of the Egyptians, Pharaoh told the Israelites to leave. God himself led over two million Israelites up out of Egypt as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. When the Egyptians had changed their minds and pursued Israel, God displayed his power and protection in one grand act of might. Moses raised is staff and the Lord parted the waters of the Dead Sea as the Israelites walked across on dry ground! Further, when the Egyptian army pursued, the waters crashed down and not one survived.
Exodus 15-18: Witnessing the almighty power and the merciful love of their God, Moses and his sister Miriam sang a song of thanks and joy. Even today, 2,500 years later, Christians still sing the song of Moses in various formats to celebrate the power, protection, love, and care of our God in heaven.
One would think that after a miracle like that was witnessed the faith of the Israelites would be firm and strong for generations to come. But it didn’t take long before the Israelites started complaining. First they grumbled against Moses and God that they had no water. So God provided miraculously as he instructed Moses to throw a piece of wood into the bitter waters of Marah and they instantly turned sweet.
One would think that after witnessing a miracle like that the faith of the Israelites would then be firm and strong for generations to come. But once again, the people grumbled against Moses, Aaron, and the Lord when they had no food. They even stated that they would rather be slaves in Egypt than to die in the desert! Mercifully, the Lord provided again. He gave them quail to eat in the evening and a type of bread that fell from heaven for them to eat in the morning. The Israelites called it Manna.
Even that was not enough for the Israelites to put their sinful doubt and distrust aside. Once more they complained about not having water. Again the Lord mercifully provided when Moses struck a rock with his staff and water came bursting forth at Massah and Meribah.
Throughout the Israelite history the people became like a broken record. They fell into the same pattern over and over again. They would grumble and complain. The Lord mercifully provided. They forgot about it, and then they grumbled and complained some more. Yet before we point accusatory fingers at the Israelites, we ought examine also our own lives. It is very easy for us to follow the Lord and to worship the Lord and to love the Lord when everything in life is going well. But the temptation is quite strong to grumble and complain and to doubt and distrust when we have troubles and struggles in our lives. We must continually pray for the strength to remember the grace and mercy of our God, who saved us through his own Son, and who promises that all things work together for our good.
At the end of chapter 17, God allowed the Israelites to defeat the Amalekites, granting victory as long as Moses held his hands up. When he tired, Aaron and Hur held up his hands for him. During the battle, Joshua commanded the army. He was later the successor to Moses as leader of the people. After that, Moses got some good advice from Jethro, his father-in-law, that he needed other leaders to help him manage the people of Israel.
Exodus 19-20: At Mt. Sinai God displayed his power once more–in a very dramatic and awe-filling way. There he revealed more than just his power and might, but also his unapproachable holiness, as the people were not even allowed to touch the mountain. It is here that God entered into another covenant with his people. But this was a much different covenant. The first was with Abraham, and it was a one-sided covenant of grace. Abraham didn’t need to do anything, God simply promised to bless him and that a Savior would come from his line. But this covenant was different in that it was two-sided. A summary of the terms is found in 19:5: “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” Essentially, the covenant stated this: If you follow and obey me, you will be my people and I will be your God.”
Thus, to set apart his people as special and to remind them that they were different than others, God gave them many laws to follow. The first of those laws and commands come in chapter 20. They are commands which still apply today as we call them God’s moral laws for all time. They are better known as The 1o Commandments.
To some degree we might read the 10 Commandments and feel we do pretty well with most of them. Perhaps we could say, “I have never murdered someone. I have kept perfectly the 5th Commandment.” But Jesus tells us that anyone who even looks lustfully at another has committed adultery, and that anyone who hates is considered a murderer. Thus we are reminded that is not just our physical actions which can be counted as sins, but also our thoughts and our words. Therefore, as we stare into the great mirror of the 10 Commandments, we surely see that we are miserable sinners who have completely fallen short of all of God’s demands. We see in the 10 Commandments our sin, and we see our great need for a Savior. Thanks be to our great God in heaven that he has given us that Savior from sin, his Son Jesus Christ!
Next week’s readings (starting 1/24/10): Exodus 21-40
To view or download and print the One Year Bible Reading Schedule, click here.