What is it, and why does it matter?
What is humility? C. S. Lewis said it’s not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. But what does the Bible say about humility? How would you find out?
You could use a concordance, or run a search at BibleGateway. You’d find 60 – 100 verses (depending on your version). But there’s more to it than sticking all those verses together as a collage of humility. There’s a development in the theme as the Bible’s story unfolds. When Jesus arrives on the scene as God’s anointed Messiah, King of the kingdom, he’s such a contrast to earth’s power-grabbing rulers. God-in-a-manger is humility we’d never known. Continue reading “Humility (Exodus 10:3)”
Is Pharaoh to blame if God hardened his heart?
Open Exodus 10:1-2.
In the modern world, knowledge is acutely focused on causation. Other cultures have not always shared this preoccupation.
Many ancient peoples attributed anything that happened to God. For example, we say, “It rained.” And if someone asks why, we explain that evaporated moisture fell when it hit a region of low atmospheric pressure. That’s not how they viewed things in Old Testament times. They never said, “It rained.” They said, “God sent rain” or “God withheld rain.” We say, “She’s pregnant.” They said, “God opened her womb” or “God closed her womb.” Whatever happened — good or bad — God was the cause. Continue reading “Pharaoh’s hard heart (Exodus 10:1-2)”
Open Exodus 9:13-35.
Hail falls from the heavens. Egypt’s proud rulers run for cover like everyone else. With lightening striking all around them, Egypt’s rulers are powerless before the one who reigns from heaven.
But God’s aim is not to strike Pharaoh dead: Continue reading “Seventh plague: God’s big purpose (Exodus 9:13-35)”
Open Exodus 7.
Whether it’s missiles parades in China or F35 fighters thundering over our heads in the west, our rulers love demonstrating their power. And according to the exodus story, rulers do have power to make people miserable (1:11-14; 2:23; 3:7; 4:31; 5:15; 6:6-9).
But the truth is, human rulers do not control the natural world. God alone controls the earth. That’s what the ten plagues showed. Despite all his claims, Pharaoh was not in control.
God demanded Pharaoh to release the people who weren’t his to rule. Pharaoh refused. The battle for the Hebrews begins. But God doesn’t fight with earthly weapons. With ten mighty acts, he demonstrates his kingship over the natural world. Continue reading “Six demonstrations of divine kingship (Exodus 7–9)”
Open Exodus 7.
Why did God do plagues in Egypt? Doesn’t God just do nice stuff? Continue reading “Purpose of the plagues (Exodus 7 – 13)”
It won’t do to imagine salvation as a personal experience, unconnected to the woes of the world. In the Bible’s story, salvation is not relief from personal guilt. Salvation is God saving his people from enslavement to evil, from the crushing affliction we experience under rulers like Pharaoh. Salvation is God rescuing his creation from evil, into his reign. Continue reading “Salvation is bigger than you think”
Open Exodus 6:8-9.
Know anyone who used to go to church? What happened? Disappointed with God? Hurt by people?
What happens when life doesn’t work out as you expected, when pain erodes hope?
There’s an apparent contradiction in the Exodus story:
- Exodus 4:31 says the people believed Moses’ message.
- Exodus 6:9 says they were unresponsive to Moses’ message.
What happened in between to destroy their faith? Continue reading “When faith fades (Exodus 6:8-9)”
Open Exodus 6:2-7.
Who governs the affairs of the world? That depends who you trust. Fox News would give you a different answer to China Press, Aljazeera, BBC, or Spiegel.
Truth is, none of the world’s leaders have the kind of control they’d like us to believe. There’s another hand behind history, beyond the best laid plans of mice and men.
Pharaoh was the biggest name in Moses’s world. At least, that’s what Moses thought. Until he learned the name:
Continue reading “The Saviour revealed (Exodus 6:2-7)”
What do you do when evil won’t let go?
Open Exodus 5:14 – 6:1.
Remember the time you tried to sort things out, only to make it worse? Moses knew that feeling.
He delivered God’s message to Pharaoh: “Hands off my people! Release them to celebrate with me in the wilderness.”
Pharaoh reacts like any self-serving tyrant: he comes down like a ton of bricks on those who dare to imagine themselves outside his control.
To stop them dreaming about freedom under YHWH, Pharaoh tightens his control over them. They won’t have time to dream of holidays and festivals: Continue reading “When it feels worse (Exodus 5:14 – 6:1)”
The God of the Bible is not a hard task-master; he calls his people to celebrate.
Open Exodus 5:1-13.
Who is God? What’s he like? What authority does he have in a world where there’s so much injustice?
The God of the Bible turns out to be very different from what many imagine.
Continue reading “The party God (Exodus 5:1-13)”
Open Exodus 4:27-31.
Did you notice this key moment in the exodus narrative?
Exodus 4:31 (my translation)
The people believed when they heard YHWH’s response to Israel’s descendants, seeing their oppression. They knelt and honoured him.
Jacob’s descendants could not be free from their slavery to Pharaoh until they begin to trust God to be their new sovereign. To believe the promise God gave to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — the promise that they would be his nation — they give their allegiance to YHWH instead of Pharaoh.
That’s why they knelt before YHWH and honoured him. That’s a declaration of their new loyalty, their change of allegiance.
Faith is much more than mental assent to a creedal statement. It is recognizing God for who he is: the rightful authority over humanity. Faith is fealty — allegiance to our sovereign, our Lord. Continue reading “What does it mean to believe? (Exodus 4:27-31)”
Open Exodus 4:24-26 and 6:13-30.
What do you make of this?
Exodus 4:24 (ESV)
At a lodging place on the way the Lord met him and sought to put him to death.
By this time, Moses was no longer arguing with God. He has accepted his appointment as ambassador for the kingdom of heaven, with a message for the king of Egypt. He has said his goodbyes to Jethro and the Midianite community. His family is obeying God and heading back to Egypt (4:18-20).
On the journey, as Moses obeys, YHWH confronts him and tries to kill him? Why? Continue reading “Why did God try to kill Moses? (Exodus 4:24-26)”
Open Exodus 4:21-23.
Moses sets out for Egypt to confront Pharaoh with YHWH’s claim of sovereignty over the Hebrew people:
Exodus 4:22–23 (ESV)
22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let my son go that he may serve me.”
The descendants of Jacob are God’s family. God has promised to restore the blessing of his governance to the nations through them. So God “fathers” the nation of Israel: they are born through the exodus.
What a joyful contrast: serving YHWH rather than Pharaoh. Liberated from oppressive human rule, they’re the first nation to be a kingdom of God.
Continue reading “God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:21-23)”
Open Exodus 4:14.
What do you do with texts like this?
Exodus 4:14 (NIV)
Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses …
The wrath of God gets people running one way or the other:
- God’s anger is a core doctrine for some people. They believe God’s anger is the problem that the gospel solves (Romans 1:18).
- God’s anger is something shameful for many Christians. They fear the image of an angry God drives people away from faith.
So what do we do with texts that talk about God’s anger? Continue reading “Does God get angry? (Exodus 4:14)”
Open Exodus 4:13-20.
Delivering ultimatums to a powerful kingdom is high-risk business. Moses has no desire to serve as spokesman of the heavenly sovereign.
Moses sought exemption because he had no power in his hand. Now he claims he has no power in his voice. Continue reading “God’s spokesman (Exodus 4:13-20)”
Open Exodus 4:1-12.
Is the kingdom of God something we establish, or something God brings into being? That’s an important question. Exodus says it comes from God, and yet he acts in partnership with his people.
Continue reading “Who establishes God’s kingdom? (Exodus 4:1-12)”
Open Exodus 3:16-22.
It’s a terrifying assignment. Moses is commissioned as ambassador for the heavenly king. He must confront Pharaoh with YHWH’s demand to release the Hebrew people.
But first, Moses must convince Israel of their identity as YHWH’s people, not Pharaoh’s. Moses is instructed to do this in partnership with the elders of Israel (3:16).
That implies that the descendants of Jacob have some level of self-understanding and organization. Christian preachers who care only about theology (and not history) sometimes characterize the Hebrews as slaves who’ve been oppressed so long they have little sense of their identity as descendants of Abraham. That’s a caricature: Continue reading “Helping God’s people find their identity (Exodus 3:16-22)”
Open Exodus 3:11-15.
All power rests in the hands of the heavenly sovereign. Yet he exercises his power in partnership with his people: “Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the descendants of Israel out of Egypt” (3:10). Continue reading “Partnering with God (Exodus 3:11-15)”
God shows up where we don’t expect him. For good reason.
Open Exodus 3:1-10.
A fire in the wild can consume hundreds of acres in just a few hours. No experienced bushman ignores a fire. Moses was no exception.
Moses was out in the wild to escape Pharaoh. If he ever had aspirations of ruling people, he’d given them up, taking a job shepherding animals. He led his flock to the edge of the wilderness. He feels safer in land that supports life sparsely, where human rulers have little interest.
Far from the cities of human administration, in a part of creation no one cares about, Moses discovers something astounding: God’s mountain (3:1). The king of creation is in residence here. Several times throughout the Bible’s narrative, God’s servants return to this mountain that lies south of the Promised Land. Each time we learn more about the Sovereign, his law, how he rescues his people, and how he rules the earth.
The fire Moses sees on God’s mountain is unlike any he’s ever seen. Fire consumes combustible materials, releasing energy as heat. A flame that does not consume is a different kind of flame: its energy comes from another place, a realm that does not destroy this one.
So Moses turns aside to investigate. The flame in the bush is an angel:
Continue reading “A royal encounter (Exodus 3:1-10)”
Open Exodus 2:15-25.
Who is Moses? A Hebrew by birth? An Egyptian by nationality? He tried to take a stand with the Hebrews against the injustice of Egypt, but it didn’t work. Now he’s a nobody. Far from the Hebrews and Egyptians. In no man’s land.
Even in the wilderness, injustice reigns. Seven Midianite sisters try to water their father’s flock, only to have male shepherds push in. It’s just like God said: women face gender conflict in a world where rebellion rules (see on Genesis 3:16).
Moses stands up for them, so they return home early with their sheep. Their father’s surprise indicates that this sexist injustice was their daily experience (2:18). Is it only Moses who cares about gender inequality? Or does every form of injustice need to be set right for the kingdom of God to operate as our heavenly ruler intends?
Continue reading “Your kingdom identifies you (Exodus 2:15-25)”