The second book of the Bible is overflowing with dramatic action and adventure. This is where we see the first example of prejudice (fear) as the Egyptian Pharaoh decides the Israelites can be a threat and therefore has them enslaved. This is where we see the story of Moses being chosen by God to lead the people out of Egypt. This is where we see them radically set free, only to step willingly into the trap of sin and greed.
I really love Moses, and have a long list of questions to ask him one day. Dude was not at all seeking a position of leadership of power. As a matter of fact, he was pretty much doing all he could to run far away from any chance of ever being in charge...even when the Lord God Almighty set a bush on fire right in front of his face, he tried to talk the God of creation out of using him to free the people! Serious self-image issues...probably owing to a prominent speech impediment he had. And yet he was the one God wanted to use. You know, that whole "qualifying the called, not calling the qualified" thing.
So, once Moses realized he was not getting out of this gig, and that his little brother Aaron was also going to be a major player, he gathered up the elders and talked to them about God's mission to set His people free.
I have never seen the old Ten Commandments movie with Charlton Heston, but it's enough a part of the 1950's pop culture that I can hear the "Let My people go" in that deep, sing-song voice. Even in other recreations of the exodus, the message to Pharaoh was always the line "let My people go." The actual statement from the Lord, repeated many times, was "Let my people go that they may serve Me." Hmmm. How many times do we celebrate and cherish the freedom we have, but we forget that the purpose for setting us free was that we would choose to serve Him?
The plagues come to Egypt with ample warning from God through Moses. Pharaoh is a big fat liar, and he pretends to set the people free several times. Thus, the plagues. They were:
1. Nile turned to blood
5. Death of livestock
10. Death of firstborn
Immediately before the last plague, in which the firstborn son of each household was struck dead, God gave Moses the instructions for the Passover. This was the event which every household still keeping Jewish traditions celebrates to this day.
The most exciting chapters are as the people are truly, finally set free, and begin to pass through the Red Sea (conveniently parted by the Creator of the universe, thankYouverymuch), and the Lord begins to give them statutes and laws for their new government. In chapter 22 we see the Bible's first mention of the importance of caring for orphans. "You shall not afflict any orphan or widow" (22:22) There is a note in my Bible about this chapter that indicates that the Hebrew law is noted for its fairness and social responsibility to the poor. The heart of God is that we care for those who cannot help themselves!
Once God gives instructions for the governing of the people, then He lays out in specific detail how the tabernacle is to be built. There are hundreds of verses about specifics that range from the loops on the curtains to the cups on the lampstand, and I had to ask the question: if God wanted it to be such an exact thing, why didn't He just give it to the people? He could have created it in a half a millisecond. BOOM, there's your tabernacle. The people would have cherished it even more if it had come straight from His hand. In talking with my husband about this, he clarified that this was mostly about an exercise in obedience. It took discipline and fortitude and courage and strength and faith to believe these instructions and to carry them out to the finest detail. And many of the callings God places on our own individual lives are very much the same: acts in obedience.
There are even detailed instructions on the clothing that Aaron and his sons (the first high priests) were to wear. Jewels and breastplates and fancy cording with tinkling gold bells...beautiful! And then they have to go sacrifice and sprinkle blood all over everything. Ick! I know the significance of the sacrifices, atonement for sin and all that jazz, but somewhere there had to be some Hebrew chicks who were sad to see those robes get stinky animal blood all over them.
Another notable moment in this book was that when God gave all these instructions to Moses, He had him up in the mountaintops with Him for like 40 days. Part of those instructions were about the importance of Aaron's involvement as a high priest. During that time, sweet little Joshua was waiting faithfully on the ground for Moses to come back. Aaron, though, was catching it from the people. They were doubting that Moses was coming back or that God cared about them, so they wanted an idol. Aaron, bless his heart, caved and made them one. Guess he was good at the public speaking thing but bad at the actual leadership thing. Anyway, so what I thought was amazing here was that even while Aaron was betraying the Lord by building an idol for the people to worship, God was planning Aaron's role as a high priest of the Israelites, one of the most reverent and trusted positions in the society. Wow, that is some serious grace!
Exodus ends as the tabernacle is completed and all the priests are doing their thing. I loved the warm fuzzies given off by the last verse, which describe how the cloud (which was the glory of the Lord) covered the tabernacle tent, and remained with them throughout all of their journeys. Aaahhh....good stuff. The Lord might call us out to a wilderness and test our obedience but He will remain with us every single step of the way, even when we run from Him and try to convince Him of our unworthiness. Serious grace, I tell ya.