Zoo aquariums make me a little nervous.
Even at a young age I always dreaded going to the aquarium section of the Indianapolis Zoo. Being surrounded by tall glass walls holding back millions of gallons of water made my little heart start fluttering. I wondered what it would take for one of those glass walls to crack, and made sure I always had an escape plan in mind…you know, just in case!
I’m happy to say I can now take my little ones to the Toledo Zoo Aquarium without needing to take deep breaths and have an exit plan. I’m always amazed at the trust my toddlers have as they squish their tiny faces and fingers on the glass to wave at the sharks. They don’t have any fear, they simply trust that the walls will hold and that they are safe from harm.
Walking by the big aquarium tanks does make me wonder how the Israelites felt when they crossed the Red Sea. I wonder if, being surrounded by huge walls of water (with no glass!), they felt fearful like me or trusting like my toddlers.
The book of Exodus is full of incredible stories- the plagues, crossing the Red Sea, Moses on Mt. Sinai. As I continue through my Bible-in-a-year plan, I continue to be amazed at how much God is teaching me through these books that I thought I knew so well. Anyone who grew up in church has done a few Moses coloring pages, plagues flannel board, or watched The Prince of Egypt. It can be easy to grow numb to scripture we feel familiar with. Yet even for those who have read Exodus countless times and seen the plethora of [often inaccurate] movies Hollywood has created on it, the book of Exodus is a treasure chest of God’s sovereignty and power, and a glimpse into the things that He loves and hates.
Here is just a glimpse of the things God has taught me while reading through Exodus this time:
THE BURNING BUSH.
While reading Exodus 3 I realized that Moses is not in Egypt when he sees the burning bush.
So Moses has been going about his own business for years tending sheep and living a quiet life when all of a sudden God appears to Him, tells him to go back to Egypt (last time he was there he killed a guy and ran), and talk to Pharaoh (who tried to kill Moses in 2:15), and tell him to let God’s people go (even though Moses hasn’t even been around for years).
I’m sure to Moses that felt like an audacious thing to do!
But even in this huge task God has given Moses, how neat it is that God tells Moses exactly what will happen and how it will play out. Even when following God’s commands seems intimidating or big to me, there is comfort in His Word and knowing He is in control of all things.
MOSES LEAVES MIDIAN.
Even though we see Moses doubt in these chapters, it’s actually his trust in God that stood out to me.
In 4:18 Moses asks Jethro’s blessing to go back to Egypt. But it seems like it isn’t until right after this that he learns (in 4:19) that all those who had been trying to kill him in Egypt were dead.
Moses was willing (even if reluctantly at times!) to take his family, leave the comfort of his home and life in Midian, and go to a place full of unknowns. He is going back to Egypt…where I’m sure he regrets killing the Egyptian, where his people are suffering, and he will take his wife and kids into all of this.
Moses does doubt, especially with his speech, but wow- to be obedient to uproot your quiet life living with all your family and in relative peace-to leave and go do this hard thing God has called you to! I too want to be willing to give whatever He calls me to give in order to love and serve Him.
THE PLAGUES OF BLOODY WATER & FROGS.
The darkness of the sin of stubbornness stands out so clearly in this chapter.
Not just the Nile River, but ALL the water was turned to blood…even the water in the people’s vessels of wood and stone (I’d never noticed that detail in 7:19 before). The Egyptians then have no water (and it gets hot in Egypt!). However, Pharaoh’s reaction is that he “turned and went into his house with no concern for this.” No concern! His people will die without water- but he doesn’t care.
Then the frogs come (and it sounds horrible…can you imagine frogs on your bed and in your oven (Ex. 8:3)?!). Then Moses asks Pharaoh when Pharaoh would like the frogs destroyed. Pharaoh’s answer is…”tomorrow.” Tomorrow?! If my house is swarming with frogs, I would like them gone right this second please! But Pharaoh again doesn’t care.
Pharaoh’s heart is hard and stubborn, and I’ve heard these stories about the plagues since I was little. But reading it today, being reminded of the darkness that comes from a hard heart was a good reminder to me to ask God to give me, and my family, hearts that are soft towards Him. Stubbornness can seem like a “respectable” sin, but it leads to such darkness.
PARTING THE RED SEA.
I was curious and looked up how big the Red Sea is that they were crossing…according to Google, at its narrowest point the sea is about 16 miles wide, and about 200 miles wide at the widest.
So even if they crossed at the narrowest point, can you imagine being 8 miles away from either side of land surrounded by walls of water that God alone is holding up! Also can you imagine just walking 16 miles period…
Yet only three days later (Ex. 15:22), the Israelites complain about not being able to find water. God had just performed an incredible, out-of-this-world miracle and it took only 72 hours for them to complain and doubt if God would provide for them.
I am very much like the Israelites. With “big” things in life it sometimes feels easier for me to trust God…things that are so big that I have to completely trust Him. But in “smaller” or daily things, I want to trust in myself. The Israelites complain about everything…food, water, how great they think Egypt was. How many times a day do I complain instead of trusting God and asking Him to provide for me.
LAWS ABOUT OXEN, PROPERTY, AND INTERACTIONS WITH PEOPLE.
When I first read these laws a few years ago, I skimmed them. They seemed irrelevant. I don’t own oxen or fields…could this even apply to me? Were these things just written for the Israelites all those years ago, or do they have implications today? Because we now have Jesus, should we care about these laws or study them?
Even though these laws can seem odd and perplexing at times, the more I read them, the more I begin to see patterns in what they tell me about God’s character and what He values.
As I went through Exodus 22, I can see in the laws where it shows God loves human life, hospitality, sexual purity, authority, holiness, and selflessness. I can see how these laws show He is just, creator, loving, and provider.
When the laws start seeming really random or not applicable (like the ones coming up about house mold or not digging pits that donkeys can fall into), I’ve found it helpful to ask myself what this law tells me about God’s character and the things He values. I don’t want to be so proud as to think I can’t learn anything from these laws that are easy to skip while reading.
INSTRUCTIONS ON BUILDING THE TEMPLE.
Firstly, I naturally was very curious where they got all of the porpoise skins from (Ex. 26:14 NASB). Typically when I think of Egypt I think of deserts and not dolphins. But a fun fact, there are porpoises in the Red Sea that borders Egypt!
On a more serious note, a few chapters ago it said the Israelites plundered gold and silver from the Egyptians as the exodus was happening (12:35-36). And now we see why God commanded them to ask and take these things from the Egyptians.
I’d think if I was fleeing an army that was looking to slaughter everyone I love, the last thing I’d want to do would be carry gold, silver, and all of these luxury items with me! But the Israelites obeyed and now they can see how God was equipping and preparing them for this moment.
It encourages me that God is always growing and equipping us. He gives us such high standards but helps us to obey.
THE CONSECRATION OF THE PRIESTS.
The weight of the office of priest stands out to me in this chapter. God had such high standards and expectations concerning the ordination of Aaron and his sons.
I think often today people enter into seminary or a pastor role without really considering the weight of the responsibility. God calls pastors not just to be leaders who know things, but who truly love and care for His people.
This is a good reminder for me to be encouraging Jake and the pastors (and future pastors!) of our church as they shepherd and love the church, and for me to likewise have a high standard for myself of loving and caring for people.
THE GOLDEN CALF.
The unconditional love Moses has for his people is remarkable. After the Israelites create and worship a golden idol, God says He will destroy them and make Moses a great nation instead. If I was Moses that would sound like a pretty good plan! But Moses loves and fights for his people even though he knows it is the harder route. I want to be someone who loves people unconditionally this way.
Aaron’s response to Moses condemning him for making the idol shows that Aaron wants to be loved by the people and by Moses. He gives in to the people when they ask him to make the golden calf- he doesn’t say no or seem to even hesitate at the request. Yet when Moses confronts him, Aaron blames the people (“you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil…” and shirks all responsibility (“They gave [the gold] to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.”).
Fearing man over fearing God leads to sin, lying, and leading people to destruction. I want to be someone who loves the approval of God over the approval of man.
MOSES AND THE VEIL.
When Moses speaks with God, he takes off the veil from his face. When he goes back to the people he puts it back on so the people won’t be afraid of how brightly his face is shining.
This reminds me of Matthew 27:51 where the veil of the temple is torn in two. When the veil is removed in the temple or removed from Moses’ face there is a deep intimacy with God. I think there is a lot to the veil on Moses’ face relating to the veil in the temple but I’ve never noticed it or thought about it before!
In v 21 God says the people are to rest even during harvest and plow season. I can be tempted to not value Sabbath rest because of busyness or many other excuses, but this rest is commanded by God and important for me to obey.
How quick I am to look down on the people within the pages of Exodus:
Oh that Pharoah…can you believe how stubborn he is? Can you believe how hard his heart is?
Oh boy, that Moses guy…can you believe how he doubts? Can you believe how he uses his speech impediment as an excuse?
Oh silly Israelites…can you believe how they complain? Can you believe how quickly they turn from God?
But the truth is, I am often no different than these people. I am stubborn, I doubt, I complain. It is through Christ alone that we become a new creation. Christ alone who changes our hearts and helps us obey, love, and glorify Him.
I love the book of Exodus, and how it reminds me of the magnificence of our great God.