Friday, August 31, 2012

L - Think on These Things

The Bible is a big book with much information.  I'm assuming you want to become as knowledgable as reasonable about the Bible.  Even at the relaxed pace we've been keeping, one cannot be expected to remember everything.  Therefore, once each month, I'll send you a list of topics, listed in the order they are mentioned in the Bible.    I recommend you look at the list in order, and think on these general topics.  If you find it difficult to bring to mind anything on the individual topics, you can refer to the blog which addresses it.  It's a good exercise and it won't take much time.

A Quick Review - Think on These Things

The Creation
Adam and Eve
The Fall
Cain Kills Abel
Noah and the Ark
Noah's Son:  Shem, Ham, and Japheth
Tower of Babel
Sodom and Gomorrah
Isaac is Born
Hagar and Ishmael
Abraham Tested
Isaac and Rebekah
Jacob and Esau
Stolen Birthright
Laban, Rachel, Leah
Jacob's Ladder
The twelve sons of Jacob = Israel
Joseph the Dreamer is Sold as a Slave
Joseph and Potifer's Wife  =  Prison
Cupbearer and Baker
Joseph and Pharaoh
Jacob's Son's Reunite
Israel Goes to Egypt
400 Years of Slavery in Egypt
Moses is Born
Moses Kills Egyptian - Becomes Fugitive
God Commissions Moses
Ten Plagues of Egypt
The Exodus
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle
The Golden Calf

Thursday, August 30, 2012

XLIX - Exodus 32 - 34 - The Golden Calf

Exodus 32 - 34  -  The Golden Calf

The nation Israel was about to encounter their greatest enemy to date:  Themselves

Moses has been on Mount Sinai for over a month receiving the law.  The people were camped at the bottom of the mountain and began to get restless.  When a very large group of people get restless, they are generally quick to abandon their designated course.  As they begin to abandon their course, soon they lose their way, and, when left to their own logic, they will follow a path to destruction.  The Israelite nation was prone to this for generations to come.

32:1-6  -  When Moses was gone longer than they thought he should be, they approached Aaron and asked him to make them gods to lead them.  {We're going to see a human side of Aaron in these chapters that we're not going to like very well, but as I said before, the Bible does not hold back the dark side of any of God's people.}  Aaron responds to their wishes very quickly.  He tells them to give him all their gold jewelry.  Little does Aaron know, but this gold is to be used to make the Ark of the Covenant and parts of the tabernacle.  So the people gathered all their gold and brought it to Aaron.  Aaron melted down the gold and fashioned it, with a tool, into the shape of a calf.  These people are so confused that they even say that this calf represents God Himself.  Why a calf?  These people had been Egyptian slaves, which meant much exposure to the Egyptian gods, not the least of which was Apis the Bull.  In Canaan also, the Baal gods were often represented by bulls.  It was a common idol shape of that day.  Much later we'll see how king Jereboam set up two golden calves as idols for his people to worship.  Like I mentioned before:  People are going to worship something, or worse yet, someone.

Aaron goes on to step further out of character:

He fashions an idol.
He built an altar to the idol.
He leads a worship service to it.
He called for a feast to celebrate it.
He sacrificed offerings to it.
Then, last but not least, he has the people party.

{My research leads me to believe that this party is little more than a sexual orgy.  This was not uncommon, especially in Canaan as they worshipped Baal and Baalum.  These were fertility gods and the only way these gods could be pleased was for the pagans to perform out-of-control sex in front of
their images.  As we can see, the Ten Commandments get trampled on early.  What was the first commandment?  Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.  They could try to defend their actions by saying that in verse 4 they referred to the calf as representing God Who brought them out of Egypt.  That doesn't hold water because the second commandment prohibits making graven images of anything in heaven, on earth, or below the earth.  Let's not forget the seventh commandment either.  A sexual orgy to celebrate a graven idol?  And of course the ninth commandment really gets
slammed when Aaron gives Moses his rendition of what happened.  Aaron actually melted down the gold and fashioned it into the form of a calf.  But he tells Moses that he threw the gold into a fire and it just came out a calf.  Did he really think Moses was going to buy into that?}

God saw what the people were doing and told Moses to get back down the mountain and get things under control.  When Moses saw what was going on, he burned with anger.  He threw the tablets onto the ground, breaking them into pieces.  {So symbolic of how broken the Ten Commandments had been by the Israelites.}  Moses was so angry with the people that he ground up the golden calf into powder, scattered it onto the water and made the Israelites drink it.  Then something significant happens in verses 25 and 26:  Moses stood at the entrance to the camp and called for all who is for the Lord to come to him.  All that came to Moses's side were the men from the tribe of Levi.  {The Levites were to become the tribe out of which all the priests would come.  The Levites would remain the priestly tribe with all the attached priviledges and responsibilities for centuries to come.}  Moses outfitted the Levites with weapons and commissioned them to go through the camp and kill the offenders.  Verse 28 says about three thousand were killed that day.  I would suppose the ones that were killed were the ringleaders and other enthusiastic participants.

Moses's relationship to these people was a mix of justice and mercy, anger and love, judge and priest.  As judge he had executed swift and angry justice.  Now as priest he would intercede for the people before God.  God was ready to give up on these people and Moses in vss 30-35 literally talks Him out of it.  God can be persuaded by His children through prayer.  Howbeit infrequent, it is found throughout the Scripture.  That should be encouraging.  Moses is never disrespectful or argumentative, but persistantly pleads his case.  He stands as the mediator between the Israelites and God.  Only Jesus has played a stronger role as Mediator.

In chapter 33 in the early verses, we see both God and Moses refer to the Israelites as a "stiff-necked" people.  This reference was often used for oxen, as a stiff-necked ox could not be led, but rather will insist on going his own way.  Many of these stiff-necked oxen had to be slaughtered because they were worthless and too expensive to feed.  Verses 7-11 mention a "Tent of Meeting" where Moses went to speak to God face-to-face.  This tent would eventually be repaced by the tabernacle.  Please read vss 12-23 which gives the story of Moses being allowed to see God as He passes by him.

Chapter 34 tells of the Lord replacing the broken tablets on which were written the Ten Commandments. During this time on the mountain, Moses continues intercession for the people.  God again emphasizes the dangers of complacency when dealing with the Canaanites:

He gives warnings against making treaties with them
Do no associate with them or be influenced by them to the point of participating in the worshipping of their gods
He warns against marrying their daughters, who will influences the young Israelite men
God tells them not to make ANY idols
God reminds them of the festivals they are to observe
All first born are to be dedicated to God
No one is to appear before God empty-handed
Reminds them to observe the Sabboth
God promises to drive the Canaanites out of the promised land
Do not make any offering containing yeast
Bring only the best to the House of the Lord
Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk

Moses is to write all of these things down.

For forty days and forty nights was Moses on Mount Sinai with God without food or water.  After he had received the new tablets with the Ten Commandments he came down from the mountain and his face shined from being in the presence of God.  So much so that Aaron and all the Israelites were afraid of him.  But Moses called all of the elders to him so he could read them the law as God gave it to him on the mountain.  After this Moses placed a veil over his face at all times except when he came into the presence of God.

Next post - Moses Teaches the Law

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

XLVIII - Exodus Chapters 25-31 - The Tabernacle

The Tabernacle  Chapter 25  -  31

God has brought His chosen people out of Egyptian bondage.  He has established them as a new nation.  He has given this new nation His covenant, sealed it, and gave the basic laws on which to build the society pleasing to Himself.  This would be a priestly nation, as earlier established.  And so it is not too early to provide for a place for them to worship.  Israel saw the glory of God on Mt. Sinai, but they were not going to stay at the foot of Sinai, but rather they were going to be in transit for a long long time.  So the Lord designed for them a portable place of worship.  Years later Soloman would build a permanent temple in Jerusalem.  Until then, they would have a portable temple in a tent:  A tabernacle.  Wherever they camped the the tabernacle would be set up in the middle.  {This is important:  God's dwelling place was not nor is not limited to any one place, including the tabernacle.  God is everywhere to include the far reaches of outer space.  But God designed the tabernacle in such a way that His presence would be felt there.  And the people could worship and bring to Him their offerings and supplications at this tabernacle and He would accept them as they are brought to Him in the manner He required.  Also, this tabernacle was a reminder of
God's splendor and eliquence.  Our churches should always reflect this in their design.  Much more on that later.}

Within this rather large passage, I am going to reference an comment on a very few choice verses. so it is important to read these chapters so as to get an idea of just how eliquant and beautiful this tabernacle is, and also to be aware of the detail God gives in His instructions on building this tabernacle.  It would be helpful for you to find a sketch of the tabernacle (any search engine will take you to one).  It will clarify some things as only a picture can.
I like the way it started out in chapter 25.  The tabernacle was built with a free-will offering.  (vss 1-9)    God goes on to give Moses instructions on furnishing it with an ark, a table for bread, and a lampstand.  God details how to make and hang the curtains that were to be the roof and walls.  He goes on to the building of the altar, then putting an outer court around the tabernacle.  He gave instructions on the material to be used for everything.  The ark that would be placed inside the Most Holy Place and that would be mostly gold.  Acacia wood is used in the poles, but it is overlaid with gold or another precious metal.  As the taberancle goes outward from the Most Holy Place, there is a little less gold and more silver and bronze used.

After the tabernacle is completed, someone would have to lead in worship and oversee the proceedings, so God chose Aaron and his sons as the first priests.  Their clothing is describe in detail in 28:1-43, then a special ceremony of consecration was appointed (29:1-34).   At this same time the altar was to be didicated (29:35-37) and sacrifices made (29:38-46).

The plans continued on to include an incense altar (30:1-10) and a washing basin (laver) in vss 17-21.  God gives detailed instructions about incenses to be used in the dedicaiton ceremonies (30:22-28).  Chapter 31 tells how God had selected particularly gifted men to be the craftsmen for His tabernacle, and makes a point of reminding them that they are to work six days and then observe the Sabboth.  And finaly in vs 18, God gives to Moses the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments.

That was a quick overview of these chapters, but now let's look at a few verses.

25:1-2  -  Worship is most meaningful when it is voluntary.  God did not want to similate a "tax" on His people to provide for Him a place for worship, but rather ask the people to give as an act of free will.  He lists the materials He wanted to gather, most of which would be what the Egyptians gave to the Israelites when the were ready to leave Egypt. 

25: 8-9  -  The sancuary was built for God to dwell in.  Two important words:  "sancuary" and "dwell"  The word sancuary means a place set apart; a holy place.  The tabernacle was to be a place to remind them that God was with them.  the word "dwell" means that the tabernacle was a dwelling, a house for God, to be respected as such.  I've read somewhere that the tabernacle could be compared with a Hebrew home.  There was a place to wash hands (the laver), a light (lampstand), a table (for shewbread), and an inner, private room.  So since this was to be built as a "home" for God, He told Moses how he wanted it built and gave him a pattern for both the tent and its furnishings.

25:21-22  -  The ark of the covenant would look something like a small gold cedar chest with rings and poles for carrying it.  On top of the chest were two cherubim (angels) facing each other.  {These cherubim didn't look like the beautiful feminine angels or little baby angels as depicted today, but rather they looked like the angels described in Ezekiel chapter 5.  Although we don't know exactly what those cherubim on the ark looked like, many cherubs have been dug up by archeologists.  Often they have the body of one animal and the head of another, and have two or four wings.  The are meant to be fearful and awe-inspiring as one comes into the presence of God.}

The cover of the ark was the "mercy seat", which represented a place where God was present more so than anywhere else.  The ark was placed in the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies), a section of the Tabernacle in the center.  Only the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies, and he could only enter once a year on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:2).  On that day the high priest would sprinkle blood on the ark to show repentance of all the Israelites.  {In Romans 3:24-25 Paul campares Jesus to the mercy seat, where people could come for atonement and forgiveness to re-establish fellowship
with God.}

Vss 30-31  -  It says the shewbread must always be on the table.  I always thought this meant that true worshippers were always welcome and God is always in attendance at His proper place.  In verse 31 it mentions the candlestick, which stays lit from evening til morning, suggesting the same thing.
28:29-30  -  Vs 29 says that whenever Aaron enters the Holy Place, he will bear the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob) over his heart.  God puts much stock in these twelve sons, being the twelve tribes of the nation Israel.  As part of Aaron's priestly garments was a breastplate, onto which 12 different precious stones were set:  Carnelian, chrysolite, beryl, turquoise, alpis lazuli, emerald, jacinth, agate, amethyst, topaz, onyx, and jasper.  This was, among other things, to remind the high priest that he was the representative for all of the people of Israel.  Also placed on the breastplate was an Urim and Thummim.  These were used for making decisions that the high priest was not capable of.  The urim
and Thummim were used to decide "yes or no" or which of two choices.  Them being placed onto the breastplate made the high priest always prepared to have difficult decisions made for him.

In chapter 31 God makes His choice of who is to make all of the tabernacle, tent, garments, bowls, utensils, lampstand, etc.  The main artisan was to be Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah.  What a job he had.  How special this man must have been.  Bezalel was to make these articles
and oversee the helpers.  God chose as Bezalel's helper:  Oholiab from the tribe of Dan.  God empowers them both with the skills required.

And finaly God gives to Moses the tablets containing the Ten Commandments, but not before
God once again emphasizes the observance of the Sabboth.  God continues to empasize and emphasize this.  The Sabboth is no small thing to God.

Next post - The Golden Calf

Sunday, August 26, 2012

XLVII - Exodus 23:20 - 24-18 - Sealing the Covenant

God's Angel to Prepare the Way  23:20

Vss 20-->  God tells Moses He is sending an angel for the new nation while they are in the wilderness.  The angel will guide the people to their new land.  Then God makes a covenant with the people:  In verse 22 He says that the "IF" they will do as the angel says, then God will be the enemy of their enemies and will wipe them out.  In verse 24 God again warns them not to bow down to the gods of the Canaanites or follow in their practices.  God goes on to make three more promises:  1) He will take away sickness from them  2) No Israelite women will be barren  3)  He will give them long life.

Vss 27--> God promises to send terror to the nations ahead of the Israelites.  {Probably through either a cloud or a pillar of fire.}  But God tells them it will take more than a year and He explains why:  If He empties the land of inhabitants, the wild animals will multiply and make the land too dangerous for the Israelites to inhabit, and the Israelites needed to multiply in their own numbers so as to have enough people to occupy the land.  God then tells them exactly where the promised land is geographically.   From the Sinai peninsula north to the Euphrates River and from the great desert (Saudi Arabia) westward to the Mediteranean Sea.  This is a HUGE piece of land.  At this time there were about two million people that made up the nation Israel.  To occupy a territory this large, it would take considerably more than that.  Then at the end of chapter 23, God AGAIN warns them:  Do not get involved with these people and their gods.  Even if they do not worship their gods, the Canaanites will cause the Israelites to sin.  {This is not the first and certainly not the last time we will see warnings against spending time with ungodly people due to the dangers of being influenced to live lives not pleasing to God.  We see throughout History that bad infuence the good much more quickly than the good influence the bad.  And the consequences are always severe.}

Chapter 24  -  Ceremony of a Blood Covenant

Vss 1,2  In calling Israel to a solemn ceremony, God divided them into three groups.  First, there was an assembly of all the people.  Secondly, there were the seventy elders.  Finally, there was one man, the leader Moses.  I would think it safe to assume that the elders were the judges appointed by Moses back in chapter 18.  Only makes sense.  These judges needed as much direct teaching of the laws in order to be more prepared to judge the people properly.  In vss 3,4 Moses relayed to the people what God had said and the people agreed to everything.  Then, note that Moses wrote down everything God had told him, thus what I've always considered the first part of the Holy Bible.  Neat, huh?

Vss 5-->  Moses prepared a worship service.  He built an altar of "12 STONES", representing the 12 tribes of Israel.  He then had a bull slaughtered, dividing up the bull's blood into two equal parts.  He threw half on the altar and sprinkled the other half onto the people.  Moses then read from the Book of the Covenant to all the people and again had them agree to the terms.  This marked one of the first formal worship services recorded.  {That worship service called for three things to happen:  1) Blood would be shed for atonement of sins  2) God's requirements for His people would be read and expounded upon and 3)  The people would respond with commitment.   Our worship services should be similar:  The atoning blood of Christ has already been shed to cover all worship services and all attendees should be made mindful of that.  Then, the Holy scripture should be read and expounded upon ("sermon").  Then the attendees should prayerfully commit to God their response to live according to His Word.  Not so complicated.}

Vss 9-11 tells of the elders seeing God.  KJV describes God standing on a paved work of sapphire stones.  A beautiful glowing blue color.  John 1:18 tells us that noone had ever seen God.  I believe these people saw the glory of God on Sinai.  We cannot tell for sure what they saw physically, but they did see enough to make them afraid.  Then all that had gone up celebrated the occasion with a meal.

Vss 12-18  -  Moses Goes Up The Mountain

The Lord called Moses up the mountain.  He promises to give Moses the law engraved in stone.  Moses took only one man with him:  Joshua.  Joshua was mentioned earlier and will be quite a significant character very soon.  Moses knew it would take quite a while for him to be up on the highest peak of this mountain, so he left Aaron and Hur in charge.  Moses would end up being there 40 days.  When Moses got to the top of the mountain, a cloud settled on it which was the glory of God.  Often time God has hidden Himself in a cloud.  Even in the New Testament a cloud covered the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matt. 17:5)  When Jesus ascended to heaven, a cloud took Him out of their sight.  The cloud always showed that God was there, but hid His full glory from view.  In addition to the cloud, fire also represented God's presence.  Fire was what the Israelites saw from the bottom of the mountain.

So Moses was with God on Mt. Sinai for forty days.  Next post we'll see what God tells Moses.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

XLVI - Exodus 21:1 - 23:19 - Laws for a Just Society

We've seen the Ten Commandments handed down by God to His people, who were to become the nation Israel, God's chosen.  There are 40 chapters in the book of Exodus.  We've gone through half of them and they have been full of activity.  The remaining chapters may not seem so exciting as what we have studied thus far, but they nonetheless are necessary reading for a proper understanding of God.  Try to read ahead of my blog postings because I will make comment on the chapters in general and some passages in detail.

Remember Moses had appointed judges to share the load which was on Moses himself.  These laws were given as a set of guidelines to help all of these judeges.  God knew that, in our human frailty, all of these laws would come into effect.  Much of these laws are given as "case studies" to be used as guides.  For example, the command to return your enemy's lost animal (23:4) would help a judge to decide other cases involving dealing with one's enemies.  Other laws were simple instructional statements and need no examples, such as in 23:8:  "Do not accept a bribe". 

The following outline will give an overview of laws mentioned in these next few chapters, but note that they are all extensions of the Ten Commandments, which will serve as the base for all laws for the next several hundred years.
1.   Civil and Criminal Laws  (21:1  -  22:17)
      A.  Regulations Relating to Slaves  (21:1-11)
      B.  Crimes Punishable by Death  (21:12-17)
      C.  Bodily Injury Crimes  (21:18-33)
      D.  Crimes Against Property  (21:34  -  22:15)
2.   Moral and Religious Laws  (22:16  -  23:19)
      A.  Death Penalty for Sorcery, Idol Worship, or Mating with a Beast  (22:18-20)
      B.  Compassion for the Powerless  (22:21-27)
      C.  Duties Toward God  (22:28-31)
      D.  Principles of Justice and Mercy  (23:1-9)
      E.  Laws About Religious Practices  (23:10-19)

The laws begin with those relating to slaves.  This is appropriate for the times.  As was common in their world, the Hebrews would continue to have slaves, but God saw to it that they treated their slaves justly.  These verses pertained to only Hebrew slaves, not those captured in war or bought outside the nation.  I know you are wondering how slavery could possibly come about in a new nation.  The chief reason for one Hebrew to become the slave of another is debt.  The law references debt often and in detail.  Today, if someone cannot make a car payment, the lender would repossess the car.  In the ancient world, they repossessed the debtor.  But the Lord put a strict time limit in which a person could own a slave.  After six years, the slave would go free.  The law goes on to clarify about the slave's wife and children.  It goes into further detail covering a slave who choses to remain a slave.  I told you earlier that the Bible addresses capitol punishment.  Verses 12-17 God lists the offences punishable by death:  1)  Murder, unless accidental.  2) Any premeditated murder.  3) Anyone who attacks his mother or father is to be put to death.  4) Kidnapping.  5) Anyone who curses his mother or father.

Vss 18-->  These verses deal in detail with bodily injury, pertaining to everthing from a fistfight to accidently harming a pregnant woman and her unborn baby.  Two things to notice:  The injured person must be proven to be truly injurred, and the law makes certain that the punishment does not exceed the crime (eye for an eye).  The law goes on to cover when someone's bull gores and injurs a person who is not the bull's owner.  It also covers when someone has caused injury to another person through negligence such as digging a pit and not covering it.  God thinks we should always be
thinking of the welfare of others no matter what task we might be undertaking.

These verses 21:34 - 22:15 deal in detail with personal propety, which is mainly livestock.  They cover neglegence causing property damage, accidental damage, restitution and formulas for calculating amounts, protecting one's property against intruders, illegal grazing, fire damage, safekeeping of valuables, and borrowing animals.  These laws are a matter of common sense and justice.

Verses 22:18-20 lists three social crimes punishable by death:  Sorcery, sex with animals, and sacificing to any other god.

Verses 22:21-27  -  Along with the poor, the stranger, widow, and orphan are often mentioned in the Old Testament law.  These people lacked sufficient power for themselves, mainly because they had no male head of the household to look after them.  The law made sure that noone was to take ill-advantage of these vulnerable people.  God states in no uncertain terms that He will avenge these people with a full compliment of His wrath.  He goes on to deal with loaning these people money and how compassion is to be practiced.  {We'll see later that one of the causes of the down fall of a nation was the mistreatment of the poor.  The prophets warned over and over again about this, but greed, among other things, was set in too firmly.}  When someone borrowed money back in those days, he was to offer something for security.  Often times the only thing they had to offer was their coat.  Coats were used not only as an outer garment, but also a blanket.  The law clearly states that if a lender is holding one's coat as security, he is to return it by sundown so the borrower would not have to spend the cold night without it.  At sunrise the next morning, the coat is to be returned to the borrower again for the daytime hours.

Verses 22:28-31 lists just a few requirements concerning living according to God's wishes.  Blasphemy against God is forbidden, but also cursing rulers {This means Moses, Aaron, and the judges they appointed.}  Also, God expects His people to tithe according to His commandments.  He emphasizes dedicating the first-born.  And He prohibits eating the meat of an animal that was killed by wild beasts.

The first 9 verses of chapter 23 deal with justice and mercy.  God forbids five things in the first three verses:  Do not spread false statements or inuendoes.  Do not knowingly help a guilty person with helpful statements.  Do not "go along" with the crowd at the expense of truth and justice.  Do not be influenced by the crowd when giving testimony.  And do not show favoritism to the poor because he is poor and causes compassion in your heart.  The next two verses tell us how to deal with our enemies.  (Jesus expounded on this a great deal in Matthew chapter 5.)  Justice did not depend on how one personally feels about someone.  If an enemy needs help, he needs help regardless of
personalities.  One example given was when an animal is lost and in a ditch, one is to help the animal out of the ditch and returned to its owner.  Our relationship with God supercedes our relationship with our fellow man.  This passage also goes into more detail about judging the rich and the poor.  Niether should find favoritism in a court of justice.  We are to beware not to accept bribes to favor the rich, and we should not allow our compassion to sway our feelings to favor the poor.

Verses 10-19 of chapter 23 deal with religious practices.  Firstly, it emphasizes the Sabboth, but expands it.  Notice how God says the land is to be farmed six years and rested the seventh.  The Old Testament goes into great detail about this later.  Up to this time, this was unheard of.  It continues on to say that the livestock are to be rested on the Sabboth for rest also.  Verses 14-19 lists three festivals to be celebrated.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread.  For seven days, no yeast was to be used in the bread.  This was to celebrated leaving Egypt.  The Festival of Harvest was to be celebrated
with the firstfruits of the crops.  The Festival of Ingathering was to be celebrated at the end of the year when all the crops were brought in from the fields.  God warns (vs 15b) that "no man is to appear before Me empty-handed".
Next post:  God's Angel to Prepare the Way

Thursday, August 23, 2012

XLV - The Ten Commandments

Exodus 20 - The Ten Commandments

I once taught the Ten Commandments to a Sunday School class in the early '90s.  It took eleven weeks.  I got soooo much out of it, as it brought to me a deeper understanding of God and what His intentions are for a holy nation.  But in the interest of time I will try to cover chapter 20 in this posting, knowing that there will be much more to be written on these in the next few months.  We think of the Ten Commandments as a set of guidelines for personal behavior, which they are.  But they were given by God as foundation laws for a new nation.  Again, I remind you where, in the History of civilization that this took place.  Heretofore there was no set of standards for any nation or groups of people, small or large, that could be used as guidelines.  People just made it up as they went along.

I've always thought that our great nation, The United States of America has been generously blessed by the hand of God.  I have commented that we are the most successful nation in all of History with the exception of Israel during the reign of King Soloman.  And I've been careful to contribute this
nation's success in large part by the fact that our forefathers honored God's guidance through the Holy Bible, including the Ten Commandments.  Our justice system has always used the Ten Commandments as its base.  Now, if you've noticed, all of God's principles, incuding the Ten Commandments, are not only brought into question, but are falling under severe criticism in recent years.  I never want to be a prophet of gloom, but I must caution that to turn away from God and His statutes is flirting with disaster for this or any other nation.

In verse 2 the Lord began by identifying Himself and His right to make this covenant.  He brought the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage.  Remember, God brought them out of bondage to make them a new nation.  He wanted to set this new nation up as a priestly nation, set apart as holy, to bring the world to a saving knowledge of the only true God.  In order to do this, God must give them specifice laws under which to live in order for them to be the holy nation they are assigned to be.

(New International Version)

1)  You shall have no other gods before Me  -  I refered to this commandment earlier to stress that this is extremely important to God.  God created the heavens, the earth, and the universe.  All the other so-called gods have done nothing.  They are but figments of someone's imagination.  How dare these people bow down and worship these manmade idols.  As I mentioned earlier, the Egyptians had many gods, all of which God exposed as nothings.  But the idols that people called gods, were not the only things God was talking about here.  There are many other "gods" that can interfere with our relationship with God:  Wealth, authority, careers, other people, just to name a few.

2)  You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below  -  This second commandment tells how Israel was to worship God.  Not only were they forbidden to worship idols of false gods, but they were not to try to make an image of the true God.  The reason for this is simple.  People have been the same in all of man's existance:  If an image of our true God was fabricated, people would worship the image rather than God Himself.  Note in verse 5, God tells this one thing about Himself:  He is a jealous God.  He will not share the worship of His people with anything, for He alone stands worthy.  Following that, God says something very important:  The sins of His children will be punished into the third and fourth generation.  Adam, Stephanie, Haley, Cole, Lorelai, Madelyn, and all their children could suffer punishment because of my sinfulness. That is a sobering thought.  I accept that responsibility.  But further in that same verse He says He will show love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments.  So, I feel like I might be causing blessings to my bloodline also.

3)  You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God  -  This is a serious offence.  I know that because God states in verse 7 that He will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.  He attaches a warning to this commandment.  This is another window into the character of God.  His name is important.  Please son, never use His name in a frivolous manner, and much worse, in a cursing manner.  He is going to remember it when you do.  In the prayer that Jesus gave us as a model, He addresses God the Father, but then the first thing He says after that is "hallowed be Thy
name".  We must be careful never to disrespect God's name in any way.

4)  Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy  -   I stated earlier that we have perhaps made a mistake in changing our Sabboth day from Saturday to Sunday, but I shall not dwell on that.  God instructs us to keep the seventh day holy.  To make something holy, we must "set it apart".  That was its definition then and it still is.  To make the Sabboth holy, we must make it different than the other six days.  God says clearly that six days straight was enough for Him, therefore it is enough for us.  I believe one could squander his/her health and other important things if this basic truth is disregarded.

5)  Honor your father and your mother  -  As opposed to attaching a warning to this as He did in the 3rd commandment, God attaches a promise.  If you keep this commandment, you will enjoy long life.  Also different with this commandment, it moves from our relationship with God to our relationship with each other, including our immediate family members to our distant neighbors.  Simply, we as children and adults must honor and obey our parents.  But nothing is quite that simple.  Bear in mind that the first audiences to God's laws were predominently males.  Further studies will reveal that the main thrust of this was that men were to make sure there were provisions made for their aging parents.  The promise about length of days, at least partly, meant that a society which values the older generations insures that everyone will be taken care of properly and will live longer as a result.  {I think when Franklin Roosevelt came out with Social Security, it was a great idea for the times, but its not perfect.  God's plan is better.  Like the Europeans in Italy said a number of years ago:  "You Americans ought to be ashamed of yourselves.  You depend on the government to care for your elderly.  We take care of our own."  Maybe the Italians were right.}

6)  You shall not murder  -  God gives life and only God has the right to take it.  This law forbids murder.  It is not to be interpreted as forbidding war, as we will see God send His people into battle many times.  I'm not prepared at this time to deal with this commandment as it might pertain to captial punishment.  That will become clearer later.  In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus expands this commandment to include hatred of our fellow man.

7)  You shall not commit adultry  -  This is very simple.  A man and a woman are to remain exclusive to their spouses.  Jesus goes further and warns against lust.  To linger in lust is asking for problems.  Shake off the thoughts and think about something else, then go about your business.  I don't want to get into what appears to me as the dawn of a societal breakdown here in our country, but I think it does need our attention.  I think it starts in the home.  I think the attitude of "it takes a village" is a first step in shirking our God given responsibility.  I'll let it go for now with briefly  stating that I think every child needs to have a father and a mother who provide a stable home.  One in which the child can feel safe and loved.  I think it needs both mother and father, without which is only half of what the home needs.  Adultry has always weakened and often destroyed this precious thing we call a home.

8)  You shall not steal  -  This one is also simple.  Back then the entire nation of Israel was made up of people who were slaves just a matter of months ago.  These were poor people.  A poor man needs everything he has.  His possessions were those things that provided sustenance and ultimately life itself.  To steal one of a man's few possessions was to actually threaten his very life and the lives of his family.  When there is an imbalance of possessions (which is often the case), it's wonderful when the possessions are shared.  It's the way things should be.  However, if they are not shared when there is an imbalance, stealing is not acceptable even as a last resort.  God is very clear on this.

9)  You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor  -  Give false testimony (NIV).  Bear false witness (KJV).  Both sound like the setting would be in a court of law.  That's because it was.  Remember, Moses has just appointed judges to help with disputes.  It was the first model of a justice system, and it was a good one.  God gave this commandment knowing that the justice system must revolve around truth and honesty.  Otherwise there would be no justice at all.  Additionally, this commandment is always cited when pertaining to lying.  I won't dwell on this, but lying ALWAYS causes problems.  Children learn to lie at an early age because it is an easy escape from an immediate problem for the child.  But as young children, they always seem reluctant to tell a lie to parents or teachers, which is good.  Children aren't good liars until they get practiced in it.  Please pray that your children never get comfortable with lying.  Remember:  Satan is the father of lies.  Once he's got your child comfortable with lying, he'll go for bigger things.  And he is a force to be reckoned with.
10)  You shall not covet  -  Coveting means to want something someone else has or something to which you are not entitled.  Many times when one of the commandments is broken, it is because the tenth commandment was broken first.  Covetousness causes stealing, murder, adultry, envy, lying.  Covetousness causes unhappiness and disatisfaction with that which God has provided.  Covetousness is one of the most damaging commandments, yet probably the most difficult to avoid.  When a man is convicted of a crime against society, it can often be said, "first, he coveted".  When a man commits adultry and his family is broken up, first he coveted.

Next Post - Expanding the Law

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

XLIV - Exodus 19 - Moses Meets God on Mt. Sinai

Exodus 19 - Moses Meets God on Mt. Sinai

Yesterday's post told us about the wonderful visit Moses had with his father-in-law Jethro.  Jethro has gone home now and God has Israel break camp at Rephidim and led them into the desert of Sinai.  They stopped and camped at the foot of the Mount Sinai just on the northwest side.  While the people were setting up camp, Moses slipped away quietly to go up the mountain.  {Just think of what is
going through Moses's mind.  He knows he is going to meet God again.  This mountain was somewhat familiar territory to Moses.  This is the location of his first encounter with God at the burning bush, and I'm certain that this is the exact location Moses went to this time.  Remember our discussion about "places" that are special to us?  And remember how reluctant Moses was when God commissioned him to lead His people out of Egypt?  This time Moses probably feels good about having accomplished what God had commissioned him and looks forward to his next assignment.}

Vs 3-->  God didn't waste time.  He began giving Moses instructions as to what to say to the nation Israel, and the details were important.   God gave Moses a beautiful and challenging message for the people.  He declared Himself the God of their salvation from Egypt.  He describes His act as carrying them "on eagles' wings" and have brought everyone in the nation of Israel to Himself.  {There was noone who was a part of the nation of Israel that was not there at that time.}  In verses 5 and 6 God makes a very special covenant with the people.  {Remember a covenant is an agreement between two entities, usually with one entity accepting most of the responsibility.}  God says that "IF" you obey Me fully and keep my covenant, "THEN" I will make you my treasured possession out of all the nations on earth.  He goes on to say that although the whole earth belongs to God (He created it and He can destroy it).  He will make Israel a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  {As we will study later, being the kingdom of priests in God's world will involve, among other things, Israel speaking to the world about God the way Moses is speaking to Israel about God.  Although this is a tremendous honor, it carries with it an equally tremendous responsibility.  This is one of the most important covenants that God makes with Israel.}

Vss 7, 8  - Moses goes down the mountain and and gathers the elders from the twelve tribes and delivers God's message.  The people agreed to do everything the Lord had said.  So Moses went back up the moutain to report to Him their answer.

Vs 9-->  Here the Lord tells Moses that He is going to appear before the nation Israel, and procedes to give Moses detailed instructions for him to relay to the people.  He would give them two days to prepare and on the third day, God would appear.  {Notice in verse 9 that God says that the people will hear Him speak to Moses, therefore they will always put their trust in Moses.  God knew that the people were inclined to turn on Moses and this was a very special step God made in behalf of His beloved and faithful servant.}  So, in the two days they were to consecrate themselves (means "dedicated for a sacred purpose").  In doing this they were to wash their clothes.  Also, they were to mark (probably with stones) an area a short distance from the foot of the mountain.  This was to mark a boundry around the mountain, which noone except Moses and Aaron could cross.  Anyone who crosses that boundry and touches the mountain shall be put to death.  God goes on to stipulate how any such person should be put to death:  They were to be stoned or shot with arrows.  Noone is to touch these people with their bare hands.  The mountain is not to be approached until the ram horn is sounded. {These are indeed detailed instructions, but you'll see throughout the Bible that ALL of God's instructions are detailed, some much more than this.  If God speaks it, it is worthy of our
time to read it.}  One last directive in preparation for God's visit in verse 15:  Abstain from sexual relations during these three days.  {This mandate from God is not used often, but this is not the last time He makes this mandate.}
Vs 16 -->  On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightening, with a thick cloud over the mountain, along with a very loud trumpet blast.  Of course everone was frightened.  I would have been too.  Smoke billowed up from the mountain like smoke from a furnace and the whole mountain trembled.  {This was not an angel or any other surrogate that God sent to perform a task.  This was GOD Himself.  It was like God was here, and no place else for that one brief moment in eternity.}  In verse 20 God calls Moses up to the top of Mt Sinai and tells him to go back down and reinforce to them the importance of the prohibition God has placed on approaching the mountain.  This included everybody, even the priests.  Moses returned and reported that the people were aware of the restriction and were honoring it.  Then in the last verse of this chapter God tells Moses to bring Aaron back with him, but noone else.

Next post - The Ten Commandments

Monday, August 20, 2012

XLIII - Exodus Chapters 17 and 18

Exodus Chapters 17 and 18

Chapter 17

Vss 1-7  -  Water From the Rock

The Israelites travelled through the Desert of Sin and headed mainly south, but went from place to place, as God lead them.  They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for them there, and they contended with Moses.  And they pushed the same old button:  "Why did you bring us out of Egypt just so we could die of thirst?  We would have been better off to have stayed in Egypt."  So Moses goes to the Lord and tells Him that the people are so upset with the situation, they are ready to stone him.  God performs another miracle in the sight of Israel.  He has Moses gather all the elders of the tribes.  In front of all these elders Moses (per God's instructions) strikes a rock with his staff and water pours out, providing more than enough water for the Israelites and their livestock.  It says Moses named that place Massah and Meribah, which mean "testing" and "quarreling" because the people quarreled and tested God when they said, "Is the Lord among us or not?".  {God exercises a great deal of patience with these people.  We're just now getting a tiny sampling of it.  Notice that Moses is frequently frustrated with the actions and the complaints he must deal with.  We can plainly see Moses's level of frustration by the names he used for that place.  Note he did not just use one name, which is custom, but two names.}

Vss 8-16 - War

With God's help, the Hebrews had overcome hunger and thirst in the desert.  Now they were faced with a third threat:  War.  The Amalekites attacked these farmers and herdsmen in the desert.  The Amalekites were descendants of Esau.  Remember him?  Jacob's twin brother.  A mighty warrior.  Amalek was Esau's grandson (Gen. 36:12).  These things always tie together in God's Holy Scripture.  In verse nine we are introduced to another character:  Joshua.  {Joshua was a man of valor.  A mighty warrior like Esau, but God fearing.  Joshua and Caleb show much courage in the name of God.  The stories about Joshua are always good reading and spiritually educational.  We're going to be seeing a lot of Joshua for a while.  God likes Joshua and soon we'll see God give him a great honor, one which God withholds from Moses.}  Moses assigns Joshua quite a task in vs 9.  Remember, these Hebrews are not trained for battle.  But Joshua puts together a small army.  Moses told them he would stand at the top of a hill where they could see him and hold up his staff.  So, (vs 10) Joshua fought the Amalekites and was victorious as long as Moses held up the staff.  But when Moses got tired and lowered his staff, Joshua and the Israelites started losing the battle.  So, to help
Moses keep his hands up, Aaron and Hur held them up for him, giving Israel victory over the Amalekites.  {I cannot tell you much about Hur, but we know he was dependable and a confidant of Moses and Aaron.  We also know Hur was wise as Moses assigned him and Aaron judgeship in his absence (24:14).  I believe these are the only two references on Hur.}  This was Israel's first battle as a nation.  Remember, they did not war against Pharaoh.  The simply escaped from him with no blood being shed by the sword.  So Moses built an altar and called it "The Lord is my Banner".  Banners were used to identify groups of warriors.  From a distance, it could be impossible to tell who was the enemy and who were on your side.  The banners were large enough to see from a distance, and easily identifiable by colors and symbols.

Chapter 18  -  Jethro visits Moses

Then there came somewhat of an interlude between the wilderness crises and the meeting of Moses and God on Mt. Sinai.  Jethro meets with Moses.  Apparently Moses had sent his wife and children to Jethro to care for them and to keep them away from all the plagues and dangers Moses knew was going to take place.  This turned out to be a fruitful meeting, as a standard for judging was set which would be the accepted pattern for generations to come.  Vss 1-6 - Jethro has heard all about what has been going on with Moses and the nation Israel.  Jethro has been keeping Zapporah and their sons Gershom and Eliezer, while Moses has been doing God's work.  Jethro went and found Moses in the desert where they were camped.  It wouldn't be too difficult to find a crowd that big.  It so happened
that the Israelites were camped near Mt. Sinai, near the location Moses first encountered God at the burning bush.  Vss 7-12 - Moses runs to meet Jethro.  This was a happy day for Moses.  He sees his family for the first time in a very long time.  Moses and Jethro exchange information on each other's well being, then Moses tells Jethro all about everything God has done.  {Earlier Jethro was refered to as "the priest of Midian".  So, Jethro was certainly considered a devout man and could glory in all that Moses was telling him.  However, I'm unsure of the religious beliefs and practices of the Midianites.}  It goes on to say that there was a feast in Jethro's honor with all the elders from all the
tribes of Israel.
Vss 13-18  -  Jethro Sees A Major Problem

The next day after the feast, Moses sat to serve as judge for the people when there were disputes, which he regularly did.  The people stood around, waiting for their turn to speak with Moses from morning till night, and the job was never finished.  Jethro observed this and asked Moses, "Why are you doing this alone?".  Moses said, "because the people come to me to seek God's will".  {At the risk of being redundant, I must mention again that this was like the beginning of time.  There was no constitution to serve as a reference for Moses when making decisions.  So, when you think about it, what was Moses using as a guide when making and explaining his decisions?  Moses had not yet received the Commandments or the Law.  So, I submit that there were several ways Moses could have accomplished this without serious accusations of bias, etc. from the people.  First, in prayer of course he received revelation from God.  Second, God had already given him and the people a number of commands, ie. tithe, circumcision, manna, the sabboth, and there could have been some others.  Third, there must have been laws common to the world of that day and some common to the Hebrew society.  Moses would have been familiar with all of them.  And finally, common sense settles most disputes, and God-given wisdom even more.}  Jethro gives Moses some very wise advice.  He advises Moses to select qualified men, the qualifications of which are 1) men capable of handling responsibility, 2) men who fear and respected God, 3) men if truth, honest, trustworthy, and impartial, and 4) they had to hate covetousness, and above taking a bribe.  Jethro then tells Moses to take the time to teach all of these men all about the law and the customs. Then, there were to be appointed officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.  These officials were to serve as
judges at all times.  {Moses could only judge at limited times due to his awesome responsibilities as Israel's leader.}  Jethro continues to tell Moses that these men could handle all the simple and/or minor cases, and bring to Moses the more difficult ones.  Moses was a wise man.  And wise men recognize wisdom when they hear it.  Moses respectfully accepted Jethro's advice and immediately began the process, setting the standard for every decent justice system to this day.  Jethro made an indescribably valuable contribution to the world that day.  {This whole process of selection and teaching must have taken a very long time because of shear numbers.  But it was well worth it.  This new organized system of justice would have naturally spread to a more organized group of people in other ways.  It always does.  Up to this point Moses had been leading a massive group of runaway slaves, who would of course be charting their own agendas by this time, making unity nearly impossible.}

Next Post  -  Moses Meets God on Mt. Sinai

Sunday, August 19, 2012

XLII - Exodus Chapter 16 - Manna and Quail

Exodus Chapter 16  -  Manna and Quail

The nation Israel is on its way.  They are no longer slaves in bondage.  They are free and are on their way to the promised land, "a land flowing with milk and honey".  They are faced with so many unknowns, which causes both excitement and fear.  They are following a proven leader in Moses and it has been proven beyond a doubt that this is the man that God has chosen to lead the new nation.  These people have seen God perform miracles that would not be believable if not seen with their own eyes.  God has chosen quite an indirect route for the Israelites to take, but these former slaves would not know that.  {Slaves were bound to a very small radius from their living quarters.  They were not educated beyond that which would be helpful to their Egyptian owners.  History tells us that slaves, however sometimes abused by their owners, adopt a sense of loyalty to them.  This is mainly due to the fact that throughout the life of the slave, the owners are the only source of anything and everything.  The slave received nothing without the direct consent of the owner, therefore there was a sense of security associated with the owner, no matter the conditions under which the slave existed.  Being released from the owner would, in most cases, result in an insecure and frightening feeling.  If you've ever seen the movie Shawshank Redemption, this is shown in a somewhat exagerated fashion.  In the movie, it is refered to as institutionalized.  A lifetime prisoner is released into society and suddenly dependant upon himself for everything.  He is unprepared mentally, physically, and emotionally.  As the movie showed, it was easier to be put back into prison where they would be taken care of, as they had become accustomed.  Being confined to the prison walls seemed to many to be a small price to pay, having everything provided and not being forced to make any decisions for survival.}

In yesterday's post we left Israel in Elim, which was a wonderful place to camp, rest, and gather their thoughts.  But it was only a temporary camp.  Vss1-3  -  It was now time to continue their journey.  They left Elim and headed south into the Desert of Sin.  This happened on the fifeenth day of the second month.  (They have their own calender now.)  I'm not certain how much time has passed, but enough time for them to grow weary of unkind elements and grumble to Moses.  They were hungry with no end in sight.  True to form, they told Moses that they would have been better off to have stayed in Egypt as slaves.  (Moses has heard this one before.)  They said that in Egypt they had meat and plenty to eat.  (Something of an exageration, but unhappy and desparate people are inclined to do that when making an appeal.)

Vss 4-->  God told Moses that He will rain bread from heaven.  Bread from heaven meant that God would furnish to food directly.  God would send down this food every day.  They were to collect what they needed for their families every day.  Whatever was extra would rot before the next day.  On the sixth day they were to collect double the amount because on the seventh day (the Sabboth) they were not to work in gathering of their food.  God wants His people to rest every seven days.  Note that God would provide their food, but only one day at a time.  Thus, they would be reminded daily of their dependance on God as their Provider.  Also, God provides a reminder every sixth day that the seventh day is to be set aside.  This marked the beginning of Israel observing the Sabboth.  Note in verse 9 that Moses scolds them for their grumbling and reminds them (this is important) that they are not grumbling about Moses, but rather they are they are grumbling about God.  This is a hard lesson for all of us to learn.  Vss 13-15  -  So God provided  two kinds of food:  meat and bread.  Quail came in the evenings and they found manna in the mornings.  They named it manna which
means "what is it?".   They were to gather about 2 quarts per person per day.  (vs 20) Some of course disobeyed and took too much, but found it rotten and full of maggots the next morning.  However, as promised, that which was collected extra on the sixth day stayed fresh over night.  Vs 27 - Some went out on the seventh day and found none.  {These were probably the people who were not obedient and did not gather double on the sixth day.}  Not only was this manna provided for sustanance, but it also tasted good as it says it was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. 

Vss 32-36  -  This is interesting.  God instructs them (through Moses) to collect about six pounds of manna, seal it up in a jar so it will keep for generations to come.  {They had ceramic type of containers and they, having come from Egypt, knew how to permanently seal such containers.}  In vs 34 Moses (God's chosen author of Exodus) gave us a peek into the not-too-distant future.  He mentions the tablets, which will not exist until they reach Mt. Sinai.  He said the jar of manna was to be preserved with the tablets for future generations.  {These tablets are the two stones on which the Ten Commandments will be written.  These tablets, the manna, and the staff of Moses are the three items that are placed in the Ark of the Covenant.  This Ark of the Covenant will be a subject of much discussion later.}  This chapter ends with saying that they will eat manna for forty years until they reach the border Canaan, which would be in Palestine, where they would be able to raise their own food.  But this chapter ends somewhat jumping ahead.  There is so much more written about their forty year journey through the wilderness, at which we'll pick back up on the next post.

Next post - Exodus Chapter 17

Saturday, August 18, 2012

XLI - Chapter 15 - Right Song Wrong Side

Chapter 15  -  Right Song Wrong Side

You need to read vss 1-18.  It reads like a psalm because that's what it is.  Like David's psalms, it is written praise to God, telling Him how much He is praised, appreciated, and/or loved, and then those words are put to music.  David was particularly good at this (and prolific) but there must have been someone among these Israelites who was proficient at this also.  And it was probably Miriam, Moses and Aaron's sister.  We'll learn more about Miriam as our study continues.  After the Israelites sang the song to the Lord, Miriam sang another one (vs 21).  {I believe God enjoys hearing hymns of praise from His people.  Hymns should always be a part of our worship services and we should be careful to sing those hymns loud and clear, with a cheerful heart.  And "I can't sing" isn't a good reason to disregard this as a part of our worship.  God still enjoys hearing it.}  I titled this part of Exodus "Right Song Wrong Side" for a reason.  I heard someone deliver a sermon on this one time
when I was a very young Christian.  I'm not sure who it was, but I've always remember it.  The point is that we, as were the Israelites, are always quick to praise God after He delivers us.  And that's fine.  However, (you'll see this much in the New Testament) God would be especially pleased had we sung a song of praise and thanksgiving when we were on the other side of the Red Sea:  When we are confronted with a crisis; when we are deep in the middle of a frightening situation.  God wants us to have faith and know He is going to keep His word and deliver us.  We should strive to get to that point in our Christian walk.  It's easy to be thankful after the fact.  But it takes a strong and mature level of faith to think and say "Don't worry.  God said He is going to take care of this, and He will".  As we follow this first generation of the nation Israel through the wilderness, we'll see how they can try God's patience, and we can learn from them.

Vss 22-27 - As stated earlier, God did not lead this massive group of people on the shortest route to the promise land.  They turned south after Succoth and crossed the Red Sea on the northern section of the Gulf of Suez.  Then they continued south toward Mt. Sinai, which is almost on the southern tip of the Sinai Pensula.  They didn't realize it yet, but they had a long way to go.  {When we think of
"wilderness", we might think of a jungle or deep forrest type of landscape, but this wilderness was desert.}  For three days they traveled and found no water.  2 million people and a million head of livestock and no water for three days.  Think about it.  In vs 23 it says they came to Marah, a place close to the midwest edge of the Sinai Penisula, but could not drink the water there because it was bitter (the word Marah means "bitter".)  So the people grumbled against Moses and demanded to know where and when they were going to get water.  So (vs 25) Moses prayed, crying out to God for help. God told him to throw a certain piece of wood into the water and it made the water fresh and fit to drink.  {It's important to note that all the Israelite people witnessed this.  I think it is good if we can somehow place ourselves in the minds of these people and in the mind of Moses, so as to be able
to get as clear an understanding as possible.}

In vs 26 God issues a solumn warning:  He says "If you listen carefully, and pay attention, and keep all His decrees", then He shall not allow any of these plagues to harm you, but rather I will
heal you and protect you".  {Every time I read this I see it as God reminding them of something He should not have to remind them of, but knows this is not the first or last time they will require such a reminder.}  They continued their journey southward and, as a contrast for these people, they came upon what was bound to seem like a paradise or an oasis.  They were at Elim, which had twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.  {Not to be redundant, but keep in mind the vastness of this multitude of people and livestock.  Twelve springs is certainly not an overabundance.  God usually provide just enough, as we'll see in the next post.}

Next post:  Chapter 16  -  Manna and Quail

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Exodus 13:17-14:31 - The Exodus

The exodus in important.  Up until the arrival of Jesus on earth, the exodus was God's greatest saving act.  Not only did He rescue His chosen people from over 400 years of bondage, He made them a nation.  This was the time He displayed His awesome power to the world, showing that He is the only true God.  It was at this time when God began to prescribe commemoratives in the lives of His people and the actual beginning of the Levitican (or Mosaic) Law.  He also tells us that one of His standards is that it takes the shedding of innocent blood for true redemption to take place.  So when all of these things are considered, this is a very very very special time in the History of civilization, not to be
taken lightly by a student of God's Word.

Pharaoh had let the Hebrews go after the tenth plague. Vss 17, 18 are interesting.  The shortest distance to reach the promised land from Goshen in Egypt would have been to go through Succoth and on up along the coast of the Mediterainian Sea through the land of the Philistines.  But this route would have led the Israelites into heavily armed Egyptian forts, not to mention the troublesome Philistines who were always looking for a fight.  The Israelites were armed for battle, but they were not skilled, therefore God wanted them to stear clear of confrontation.  Additionally, we'll see in upcoming chapters that the faith in these people is fragile at best, and God knew they would be
inclined to abandon Moses and return to bondage in Egypt.  Remember, God always grants to us our free will, just as He granted the Israelites their free will.  Had the Israelites turned back to their former lives, God would not have stopped them.  God does not force His will onto our minds.  He just does not want it that way.

Vs 19 - A verse which makes us take pause.  This precious verse shows respect for the memory of a great man.  God had saved Jacob's family through Joseph when they came to Egypt during the famine.  Now, at the time of another great deliverance, Moses honored Joseph's request, and took Joseph's bones with them as they left Egypt.  {Perhaps Joseph was carried back as a mummy since he had been embalmed by experts.  Joseph was later laid to rest in Shechem in the Promised Land (Josh. 24:32).  It touches my heart thinking of Moses, in all this confusion, remembering my favorite patriarch Joseph.}

Vss 20-22  -  God promised Moses and the Israelites that He would guide them every step of the way.  Throughout the Bible there are described many different ways that God led His people.  But none is more impressive that the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  Try to invision this.  It would have been a sight to behold.

Chapter 14  -  God turned them south toward the Sinai Peninsula.  {This is actually where Mt. Horeb is located, and Mt. Horeb is where God told Moses a long time ago that he would bring Israel to worship (Ex. 3:12).  Another name for Mt. Horeb is Mt. Sinai.}  Another reason God turned them south was to "hem them in", making Pharaoh think that they were trapped against the Red Sea.  Vs. 5 the Egyptian officials and Pharaoh realize they could not do without the services of the Hebrew slaves and decided to go get them back.  So they prepared their best military equipment and personnel to pursue and capture the Hebrews.  Actually, the Israelites had the numbers against the Egyptions, but again, they were not skilled warriors, as were the Egyptian military.  Israel now faced the first of many wilderness crises.  This first crisis came as a result of Pharaoh changing his mind and sent soldiers after them.  Vss 10-12 -  The sight of this army coming at them on chariots terrified the people of Israel.  At this time in the History of cicilization, Egypt had the mightiest military in the world.  A bunch of runaway slaves was no match for them.  {But those runaway slaves had a Ace in the hole: God.} 

In the 11th verse we see only one of a multitude of times the people will turn on Moses.  They were rather sarcastic in their comments to Moses saying "wasn't there enough space in Egypt to bury us?  Why did you bring us out here to die?  To paraphrase verse 12, they said "I told you so. You should have let us stay in Egypt".  Then Moses tells them to have faith.  God will deliver them.  {I want to be fair to the Israelites.  It does take quite a measure of faith when faced with such odds.  Moses must
exercise his power of persuasion when dealing with these people now and many more times in the near future.}
Vs 15-->  Moses doesn't just tell the people to stand still.  He told them to move forward, toward the sea.  God instructs Moses to stretch out his hand over the water to divide the water and Israel shall cross on dry land.  God goes on to say that He will gain glory with what He is about to do to Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.   Then in vs 19 it calls the pillar of cloud the "angel of God".  {Note: Angels can come in many forms.  This should be a comforting thought.}  And the pillar of cloud moved from in front of Israel to behind them.  This acted as an uncrossable barrier between the Egyptian army and the Israelites.  Throughout the night the pillar cast a cloud of darkness on the Egyptian army while at the same time it cast a pillar of fire toward God's people to give them light.  Then in verse 21, Moses stretched out his arm as God had instructed him.  The Red Sea was divided, just as God said it would.  They were able to cross on dry land.  I'm not sure how high the walls of water were on either side of them, but it would have been frightening.  And let's not forget about the roar of noise that the wind pushing the water would have made.  Vs. 22 the Israelites started across the Red Sea on dry ground,  The pillar of fire giving them light.  I'm not sure how long the distance across was at that point, but it was a long way, taking those 2 million people a long time for all of them to cross.  Vss 23-25 tells how God kept the Egyptian army at bay, keeping them confused and even locking their chariot wheels.  So miraculous was everthing in the sight of the Egyptian sodiers, that some of them even confessed to the power of God, knowing they were defeated.  (Good soldiers know when to cut bait.)  Vss 26-->  When the last of the Israelites across, Moses stretched his hand back over the Red Sea, and the walls of water came down on the entire Egyptian army.  It says
none of them survived.  This happened at daybreak, which tells me that it took about ten hours for all of Israel to cross with all their livestock and posessions.  That's a long time.

God has now miraculously rescued the Israelites in unforgettable fashion.  His people are now free and their enemies are dead.  They are on their way to the promised land, but we have so much to learn by following them in their journey.

Next  Post:  Chapter 15  -  Right Song Wrong Side

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

XXXIX - Exodus 12:31-13:16 - Preparing for the Exodus

Exodus 12:31 - 13:16 - The Gathering of the Israelites, Preparing for the Exodus

This posting will be VERY short, as it leads into the exodus.  But necessary as there are reminders and last minute instructions for Moses to give to the nation Israel.

God has struck down all the firtborn son of the Egyptians and there is loud grievous wailing in all of Egypt, including Paraoh's palace.  Pharaoh summoned Moses in the middle of the night and told him and the Israelites to GO!  And note that Pharaoh asked Moses to bless him.  Pharaoh knew before this that the God of Israel was superior.  The Egyptians urged the Israelites to hurry.  I don't blame the Egyptians.  Think about all the devistation they have suffered, and by now they know it will not end until the Israelites left the country.  The Israelites did as Moses instructed them in every way,
including asking for gold, silver, and clothing from the Egyptians.  And they got plenty.

Check out vs 37.  600,000 men plus women and children, plus many "other people", plus livestock and all their belongings.  {The Hebrews were always numbered by the number of adult males. This is just a guess, but I would say that's over 2 million people plus at least a million head of livestock.   Try to imagine what that crowd looked like, and remember, there were loads of supplies with them.}

Vs 39 explains why there was to be no yeast in the Passover feast.  Vs 40 tells us that they left Egypt EXACTLY 430 years after they arrived, to the day.  Vss 42 - through 49 gives further detail about the Passover, and further indicates how peculiar God is about such matters.  He has little tolerance for disregarding His instructions.  In verse 51 it says God brought them out of Egypt by their divisions, which means they were grouped by their families according to the 12 brothers.

Chapter 13:1-16  -  The Consecration of the Firstborn

Here is another set of instructions that Moses is to give to the Isralites before they leave.  13:1  God told Moses "Consecrate to Me every firstborn male.  Every one belongs to Me, both human and animal.  To concecrate means to devote or declare sacred.  Then in vs 2 Moses speaks to the people and tells them to commemorate this day.  As stated earlier, to commemorate is to call to remembrance and/or mark by ceremony performed to serve as a reminder.  The day to be commemorated is the day that God brought them out of Egypt to take them into the promised land.  Moses reminded them that on this day no bread is to eaten with yeast, as part of the commemoration.  Moses named the first month of the Hebrew calender Aviv (KJV Abib).  In vs 5 he tells them that they are to observe the ceremony every year during this month, adding that unleavened (unyeasted) bread is to be eaten for the first seven days.  Moses goes on to tell them that they are to pass this down from generation to generation, and (vs 10) "You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year".  Vss 11-13 Moses tells the people that when they have reached the promised land that they must immediately give over all the firstborn males of all humans and animals.  It is again stressed that the children are to be taught that all of this is done to celebrate the mighty hand of God taking Israel from bondage in Egypt to freedom in the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey.  {Again, it is not necessary to memorize all of these details, but it is important we realize how important it is to God that the Israelites will never forget Him delivering them from bondage and making the nation Israel.}

The next post will start with 13:17, and will begin the journey of the Israelites out of Egypt.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

XXXVIII - Exodus Chapter 12 - The Passover

Ex 12 - The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread

This chapter 12 contains so much I doubt if I'll cover it all in one post.

Vss 1,2  -  Israel built its calender year around religious feasts.  Other civilization sub-sects have built their calenders around the seasons, planting and harvest.  The Hebrew calender of course included these also, but the emphasis was not on farming, but rather on what God had done.  The calender year is to begin with the Feast of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  These two feasts are to commemorate (means "call to remembrance") and rejoice over the Lord bringing them out of Egypt.  After this event, God made them into a nation.  God stresses this as He has Israel to prepare for their freedom from bondage.  He was about to redeem His people.  This very time in History will mark the first celebration of a new year and the celebration is to be with feasts.

Vss 3, 4  -  Some families were to worship with other families and some, if large enough to eat a whole lamb, would worship by itself.  But they were all to observe the feast at the same time and in the same way.  {Later the practice would be adjusted slightly to have ten people for each lamb.}  Note that God says that the entire lamb must be eaten.  There was to be no waste or leftovers.  In vs 10 He instructs that if there was any left, it must be burned.  Therefore the family or combined families must be the proper size.

Vss 5-7  -  I've heard many times:  Religion is empty without sacrifice.  And all sacrifice costs something.  For the Passover and all other sacrifices, God required the best.  He said the animals you chose must be year-old males, without blemish.  Think about show animals at the state fairs.  This is the quality God wants sacrificed for Him.  Vs 6 - These "very best" animals were to be separated for fourteen days, then all were to be slaughtered at the same time that evening.  Then (vs 7) they were to take the blood of the slaughtered sacrificial animals and spread it on the sides and tops the door frames of their homes.  This clearly marked that this was the home of a Hebrew family, and (just as importantly) an obediant, God-fearing Hebrew family.  {You and I both know that there were Hebrews who did not wish to join Moses and the leading of God.  Many of these were probably some who may have found favor with the Egyptians and lived lives with which they were satisfied.  Also, to pick up and move was to take a certain amount of courage, which would also have required a certain amount of faith.  Let's remember, Moses has told everyone that they would leave Egypt and go toward and through the wilderness to reach the promised land.}
Vss 8-11  -  In these verses God gives specific intructions on how to cook and eat the meal.  Three features of this meal has special meaning:  1)  Bitter herbs were to be used.  This was to remind them (and all future generations of Israelites as they celebrated the Passover every year) of how bitter their bondage was in Egypt.  2) The bread was to be baked without yeast.  This was to signify that there was no time to wait for the dough to rise.  3) Tuck your cloak into your belt, have your sandals on, and staff in hand, ready to travel quickly.  They must be ready to travel as they ate the meal.  {(KJV)  "Gird your Loins" means pull up the bottom fabric of your garment and tuck it into your belt, so as to get the long cloth out of the way so you won't trip on it.  This term is used so many times in the Bible, not only as preparation for travel, but also in preparation to do battle.}  All of this is telling the Israelites that the time is now.

Vs 12, 13  -  In the previous nine plagues Moses and Aaron had served as God's intruments.  With rod or prayer they called in the plague.  However, for this tenth and final plague no human shared involvement or responsibility.  God alone has power over life and death.  He says in vs 12 that He will pass through all of Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals.  He says further in vs 12 that He will bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt.  I told you earlier that we
would learn a lot about the personality of God.  This part in vs 12 draws attention when He says He'll bring judgement on the "gods" of Egypt.  God doesn't like people worshipping other gods.  In the 20th chapter of Exodus God gives His Ten Commandments, and see which one is first:  "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me".  This is important to God and should be important to us.  In vs 13 God tells Israel that the blood on the door frames will be a sign for Him.  "When I see the blood, I shall pass over you".  Thus the name of the feast:  Passover.  He promises that no destructive plague will do them harm.
Vs 14-28  -  In these verses God carefully gives Moses details for the feasts and the preparations for leaving.  As I stated earlier, these instructions can be considered a precursor to the Levitican Law.  {It is important to comment that the Levitican Law is not complicated, but rather lengthy with much detail.  Although one should not get bogged down with trying to learn all the details, all serious students of God's Holy Scripture should be sure to read all of it to get a full understanding of God.}  I like the last three verses in this passage.  The Lord gave Israel many chances to teach their children.  Parents teaching their children is a very important part of God's intended societal structure.  The Passover was a feast of remembrance and worshp, but it also stirred curiosity of children.  We are to
to teach what our children are to do and why they should do it.  Then the annual feasts are to serve as reminders for their entire lives.  God wants this observance to be perpetual to the end times.

Vs 29, 30  -  God did what He said He was going to do.  He struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, including the firstborn of Pharaoh and all people and livestock.  All the Egyptians got up during the night and there was loud wailing throughout Egypt because every house had a death in it.

The next post will cover the rest of chapter 12 and will begin with the exodus itself. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

XXXVII - The Plagues of Egypt: 6th thru 10th - Exodus 9:8-11:10

The Plagues of Egypt: 6th thru 10th  -  Exodus 9:8-11:10

Today's post is a continuation of the study about the plagues God placed on Egypt.  Thus far we've seen the first five plagues:  Blood, Frogs, Lice, Flies, and Livestock.  The pattern was the same:  God places a plague on Egypt. Pharoah would promise to let Israel go.  God removes the plague.  Pharaoh retracts on his promise.

Plague of Boils (9:8-12)

This is another example where God does not give Pharaoh warning, thus giving him ne chance to comply with God's instructions.  God has Moses pick up some ashes in Pharaoh's presence and toss it into the air.  God said it will become a fine dust going over all the land of Egypt, causing festering boils to break out on all people and animals.  It stated in vs 11 that the magicians could not stand before Moses because of the breaking out of boils on them.  But, here again, Pharaoh wuld not let the people go.

Plague of Hail (9:13-35)

Here God gives Pharaoh a chance to do as he has been instructed.  Mosed told Pharaoh that God said "Let my people go, so that they may worship Me".  Moses goes on to say that God will send the full force of His plagues against Egypt so that Pharaoh, his officials, and the Egyptian people will know that there is none equal to God in power.  Vss 15 and 16 are interesting.  God says "I could have wiped you and your people from the face of the earth if I wanted to, but I have spared you so that you could proclaim My Name in all the earth".  {Bear in mind that Egypt was probably the most advanced and the most influencial country on earth at that time.  Egypt will have been instrumental in making "The God of Israel" feared in all the earth.}  In vs 19 God (still through Moses) gives an unusual warning.  He tells Pharaoh to instruct all his people to bring all their people, livestock, and anything valuable under a shelter because the hailstorm will be too severe for anything to survive.  But God in His wisdom was giving the Egyptians a test of faith.  If they brought everthing in under shelter, that meant they believed in God and His power.  It says in vs 21 that "those who ignored the word of the Lord left their slaves and livestock in the field".  Vss 22-->  It goes on to say that Moses
stretched his hand and there fell hail, along with thunder and lightening like never before seen.  The only place that did not have hail was Goshen where the Israelites were located.  The remainder of the chapter tells how Pharaoh begged Moses to stop the hail and he would let the people go.  But, as was his custome, Pharaoh did not keep his promise.
Plague of Locusts (10:1-20)

God again gives Pharaoh warning.  He told him if he doesn't humble himself before the Lord, He will send a swarm of locusts to Egypt.    Notice God (like many of the other times) gives Pharaoh a full day to make up his mind.  Vs 7 indicates that Pharaoh's officials and probably his closest advisors are now urging him to give in to the demands of Moses.  These men have seen their beautiful and powerful country turned to ruins.  Pharaoh sends for Moses and tells him to take his people and go, but then abruptly asks "who will be going?".   Moses tells him, "we will all go, and take with us our
flocks and herds.  Notice in vs 10 that Pharaoh vacillates (sign of weak leader) when he seems to send them on their way and says "may the Lord be with you".  But then warns that evil awaits them in the wilderness.  Then suddenly he says that only the men can go, and throws Moses and Aaron out from his presence.  Then God has Moses stretch out his hand which allowed an east wind to bring the locusts.  {Those of you readers that have been exposed to swarms of locusts, you know how destructive and menacing these locusts can be.  But you must try to imagine the number of locusts to be in the tens of millions.}  The locusts devoured every green thing in Egypt.  Again Pharaoh calls for Moses and again promises to let the people go, but breaks his promise after God removed the locusts.

Plague of Darkness (10:21-29)

God then displays His power over the god Egypt hold so dear:  Ra, the sun god.  God gave Pharaoh no notice this time.  He placed darkness over Egypt for three days.  Vs 23 - Noone could see anyone else or move about.  Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.  Then Pharaoh tells Moses that all the people can leave but they must leave the flocks and herds behind (remember, all of Egypt's livestock is now dead).  But Moses remained absolute and told Pharaoh that all livestock must go with them in order for them to have something to sacrifice to God.  Pharaoh got angry and told Moses the next time he sees him, he will die.  Moses said, "Very well.  I will never appear before you again.  This statement by Moses should have worried Pharaoh.
Plague on Egypt's Firstborn (11:1-10)

This is the tenth and last plague God will afflict on Egypt.  This plague will have significance in the nation Israel for every generation to come, even to this day.

Ex 11:1 - God tells Moses this is the last plague and then Pharaoh will let you go.  Surely this is music to Moses's ears.  I'm sure Moses has found no pleasure in all the devestation he has seen.  God then instructs Moses to tell the people to ask their Egyptians neighbors for silver and gold.  It says the Lord gave the Israelites favor in the sight of the Egyptians (KJV).  {Also, don't you think many of the Egyptians would have given them anything just to get rid of them?  By this time all of Egypt knew exactly what was going on and why.  They knew there would never be any peace or
relief from the palagues until the Israelites left.}  God says He will send the proverbial "angel of death"  through Egypt about midnight and kill every first born son.  This will include Pharaoh's son, firstborn sons of all Egyptians, their slaves, and even the firstborn of their livestock.  God says there will be loud wailing throughout Egypt, but warns that not even a dog's bark will be heard among the Israelites.  God has told Moses of the last plague, but there is a lot of preparation for the Israelites to make before God places this last plague on Egypt, and He doesn't give the Israelites much time.  Tomorrow's post will begin with chapter 12 and we'll learn much more about God and see a precursor to Levitican law. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

XXXVI - Exodus - The Plagues of Egypt

Exodus 7:14 - 11:10  - The Plagues of Egypt

God displayed His power in order to not only compel Pharaoh to release the Hebrew slaves, but also  to convince the Hebrews of just how powerful their God really is.  Let's not forget the atmosphere under which these Hebrew slaves have been born into, and have lived in all their lives.  In many of their minds, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was either non-existant or has forgotten about them.  {I still submit that this is the reason God hardened Pharaoh's heart:  to display His power not only to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, but also His chosen people Israel.}

There are ten plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7:14 - 11:10):

* Plague of the Nile River Turned to Blood (7:14-24)
* Plague of Frogs (8:1-15)
* Plague of Lice (8:16-19)
* Plague of Flies (8-20-30)
* Plague on Livestock (9:1-7)
* Plague of Boils (9:8-12)
* Plague of Hail (9:13-35)
* Plague of Locusts (10:1-20)
* Plague of Darkness (10:21-29)
* Plague on Egypt's Firstborn (11:1-10)

If you have ever studied the early Egyptian civilization and their many gods they worshipped, you could conclude that, with each plague, God seemed to attack one of Egypt's gods.  The Nile itself was considered a god.  Ra, the sun god, was considered chief among the Egyptian gods.  Many animals were considered gods.  Even Pharaoh himself (like the Caesars of the Roman Empire) was considered a god, just to name a few.

I want to make a few brief comments about each of these plagues, as an event created by God.  Simply reading these passages don't quite give them justice, as there is so much in them.

Plague of Blood (7:14-24)

Simply to know that God turned the Nile water into blood by having Moses and Aaron strike the waters with their staffs does not begin to describe the devistation wrought by this miracle.  Egypt has long been called "the gift of the nile".  Without the Nile river, that desert in northeast Africa could not support basic human life, let alone a large and powerful civilization.  The entire nation was built along the Nile.  Commerce revolved around it. The agriculture was in the Nile valley, thus all of their food sources were nourished by it.  As I just mentioned, the Egyptians considered the Nile itself
to be a god.  When the Nile river was low, they thought the god was angry.  When the god was pleased, the water flowed high and in abundance and all prospered.  Thus, the first plague attacked their very source of life.  God displayed the fact that the Nile nor anything else was not a god worthy of worship.  Only the God of Israel.   Vs 21 - After God had turned the entire Nile into blood, the people couldn't drink from the river nor any other water source, as those also were turned to blood.  The fish died.  Everything had a horrible odor.  Vss 22-24 are interesting:  Says the magicians turned some water to blood in front of Pharaoh.  {Just a thought:  Think about our magicians of modern times. They are simply illusionists.  I suspect these magicians were only that also.  Remember, this civilization in Egypt was far more advanced than their Canaanite, Syrian, or Macedonian counterparts. These Magicians traveled beyond Egypt and became wealthy, fooling people into believing they had special powers.}  However, with doing that the magicians were telling Pharaoh that what Moses and Aaron did was not big deal.  That was a big mistake.  All that did was cause Pharaoh to disregard the actions of Moses and Aaron as the real power of God.

Plague of Frogs (8:1-15)

After seven days God sent Moses to Pharaoh and warned that if he didn't let His people go, He would send frogs from the Nile and other sources into all of Egypt, including Pharaoh's house, even in the kitchens.  The magicians created the illusion that they could do the same thing.  I'm not sure how long these frogs were everywhere.  But eventually Pharaoh (vs 8) called for Moses to tell him that he promises to release the Israelites if God would take away the frogs.  Moses agrees.  Moses prayed.  God made all the frogs die.  They were so numerous that they were pile up everywhere and the land reeked with the smell of the decaying frogs.  Imagine that.  However, Pharaoh changed his mind
and would not let Israel go.

Plague of Lice (8:16-19)

Lice (KJV) Gnats (NIV)  Lice or gnats.  No matter which, these small pests were all over everything and everyone.  Every living thing was being tormented by these insects, too small even to see one at a time.  But there are some things a little different about this plague as opposed to the first two.  God did not send Pharaoh a warning this time.  He simply performed the act of creating the lice.  Also different, the magicians couldn't create the illusion of doing the same thing.  And thirdly, the magicians confessed to Pharaoh that they were not capable of doing this and it was truly the "finger of God".  Making such a confession was no small thing for the magicians.  They were relinquishing their very high standing in the Egyptian hierarchy.  And finaly, this signified the first group of Egyptian officials to be won over to Moses's side and subtly make an appeal to Pharaoh to consider granting what Moses is demanding.  In other words, Pharaoh's walls are beginning to crack and are about to crumble.

Plague of Flies (8-20-30)

By this time, Egypt is not exactly the most pleasant of places for Pharaoh or anybody else.  The dead fish stink.  Old blood has a terrible stench. The decaying frogs are putrid and piled up everywhere.  And on top of all this they are going to have flies.  Dense flies, which means they are so thick you cannot see any other object because the flies were covering it.  Now flies are filthy little insects.  And they bite.  This time, like the first two, God warned Pharaoh that He would send flies all over Egypt if Pharaoh did not let His people go.  However, this time He had Moses tell Pharaoh that God would not allow flies to be in Goshen where the Israelites were.  Moses told Pharoah to let the Israelites go a
three-day journey into the wilderness so they could worship the true God.  After Pharaoh got tired of not being able to take a breath without breathing flies into his mouth, he told Moses to go tell his people they could worship God in Goshen.  Pharaoh must think he is in some kind of a bargaining position.  Moses immediately rejected that idea.  When God puts forth a command, He doesn't negotiate much.  So Pharaoh agreed Moses's terms.  Moses prayed.  God removed the flies, but Pharaoh would not honor his part of the agreement.

Plague on Livestock (9:1-7)

Again, God forwarns Pharaoh.  Through Moses, God gives Pharaoh another chance.  Gives him an ultimatum, and an easy way out.  The ultimatum is that God will send a plague and kill all of livestock in Egypt:  donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep, and goats.  But all the livestock in Goshen will live.  The easy way out is for Pharaoh to simply release the Israelites from bondage and let them leave Egypt untethered.  Vs 7 - After Pharaoh saw all of Egypt's livestock dead, he checked
to see if the livestock in Goshen were alive and they were, but he still refused to let them go.  Pharaoh was playing a game of wills.  When people act in a stubborn fashion just for the sake of winning, many people suffer.  Same is true today.  There are times when leaders must surrender to the wishes of their advisaries in order to protect the very people they are leading.

We'll pick up on the sixth plague in the next post.