Incense Before The LORD

Exodus 29-30

Through all your generations this is to be the regular burnt offering at the entrance to the tent of meeting before Adonai. There is where I will meet with you to speak with you. There I will meet with the people of Isra’el; and the place will be consecrated by my glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar, likewise I will consecrate Aharon and his sons to serve me in the office of cohenThen I will live with the people of Isra’el and be their God: they will know that I am Adonai their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt in order to live with them. I am Adonai their God.
Exodus 29:42-46

“Place [the altar for incense] in front of the curtain by the ark for the testimony, in front of the ark-cover that is over the testimony, where I will meet with youAharon will burn fragrant incense on it as a pleasing aroma every morning; he is to burn it when he prepares the lamps. Aharon is also to burn it when he lights the lamps at dusk; this is the regular burning of incense before Adonai through all your generations. 
Exodus 30:6-8

Chapter 29-30 contains detailed instructions for consecrating the priests, the altar, and the Tabernacle and its furnishings. It seems a bit much, but I think that’s because we often forget how truly holy God is. All of these things needed to be done in order for Him to live with them. The purification and consecration process was for the people’s protection, so that they would not be consumed by His glory. It makes me so overwhelmingly thankful to live on this side of the Cross – covered and consecrated by His blood, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and able to boldly approach His throne of grace! The author of Hebrews says in chapter 4, “ Therefore, since we have a great cohen gadol who has passed through to the highest heaven, Yeshua, the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we acknowledge as true. For we do not have a cohen gadol unable to empathize with our weaknesses; since in every respect he was tempted just as we are, the only difference being that he did not sin. Therefore, let us confidently approach the throne from which God gives grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace in our time of need.”

The next part that stood out to me was the altar of incense. Aaron was instructed to burn incense each morning as he prepared the lamps of the menorah, and then again in the evening as he once again tended to the lamps. David writes in Psalm 141,
Let my prayer be like incense set before you,
my uplifted hands like an evening sacrifice.”
And in Revelation 8, John records this: “Another angel came and stood at the altar with a gold incense-bowl, and he was given a large quantity of incense to add to the prayers of all God’s people on the gold altar in front of the throne. The smoke of the incense went up with the prayers of God’s people from the hand of the angel before God.”

Our prayers are as incense before the throne of God – a pleasing aroma to Him. I thought it was interesting that Aaron was instructed to burn the incense as he prepared the lamps, both in the morning and the evening. This made me think about how we can prepare ourselves each day. Offering up our prayers of incense to the LORD in the morning when we rise and preparing our lamps to shine before men. The best way to prepare our lamps is with the purified oil of God’s Word – to drink it in and let it light up our darkness and renew our minds, prayerfully considering all that God would teach us. Then in the evening, praying to God again, thanking Him for His provision throughout the day, confessing our sins, and interceding for ourselves and others…perhaps again reading Scripture to tune our hearts to Him.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to the Most High.
It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
    your faithfulness in the evening,”
Psalm 92:1-2

I will bless the Lord who guides me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
    I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
Psalm 16:7-8

LORD, thank You that I am consecrated by the blood of Your Son, and that through Your provision I can boldly approach Your throne of grace! But let me never lose sight of Your holiness and that You call us to be holy, set apart, as You are holy. Continue to renew and purify my heart through Your Word, teaching me how to remove my old self and put on the new life I have in Christ! AMEN!


Priestly Garments

Exodus 28

“You are to order the people of Isra’el to bring you pure oil of pounded olives for the light, and to keep a lamp burning continuallyAharon and his sons are to put it in the tent of meeting, outside the curtain in front of the testimony, and keep it burning from evening until morning before Adonai. This is to be a permanent regulation through all the generations of the people of Isra’el.
Exodus 27:20-21

You are to make for your brother Aharon garments set apart for serving God, expressing dignity and splendorSpeak to all the craftsmen to whom I have given the spirit of wisdom, and have them make Aharon’s garments to set him apart for me, so that he can serve me in the office of cohen.
“The garments they are to make are these: a breastplate, a ritual vest, a robe, a checkered tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make holy garments for your brother Aharon and his sons, so that he can serve me in the office of cohenThey are to use gold; blue, purple and scarlet yarn; and fine linen.

“You are to make an ornament of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal, ‘Set apart for Adonai.’ Fasten it to the turban with a blue cord, on the front of the turban, over Aharon’s forehead. Because Aharon bears the guilt for any errors committed by the people of Isra’el in consecrating their holy gifts, this ornament is always to be on his forehead, so that the gifts for Adonai will be accepted by him.
Exodus 28:2-5 & 36-38

I love learning about the priesthood – their roles and responsibilities and dress – because we as believers in Messiah are called to be priests. I quote this verse a lot (1 Peter 2:9), but it is just so meaningful and encouraging, and I love how the AMPC phrases it:
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, [God’s] own purchased, special people, that you may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

There’s so much symbolism in the priesthood that points to fulfillment in followers of Christ. One of the roles of the priesthood was to keep the menorah lit constantly. In Matthew 5:14-16, Jesus says of His followers, “You are light for the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Likewise, when people light a lamp, they don’t cover it with a bowl but put it on a lampstand, so that it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” Letting our lights shine before men takes work – in that we cannot just light a candle and expect it to burn infinitely. For the menorah to remain lit, the priests had to constantly tend to it, to be aware of the level of oil and the length of the wicks. Tending to our Light takes daily discipline – refilling the oil reservoirs of our souls with the anointed oil of God’s Word and trimming back the wick on the burned off, dead areas of our lives that hinder us from enjoying full, uninhibited fellowship with God. In Matthew 25:1-10, Jesus gives a strong warning of what can happen if we become foolishly neglectful of tending to the Light we have been given:

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’
“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’
“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.”

As we are here, waiting for His Return, Christ desires that we live in His Light – walking in His ways and feeding our souls daily with the true Light from His Word. When we do, we are precursing the days when He will be our constant Light. “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.” (Revelation 21:23-24)

HighPriestNext, we see how the clothing of the priests was designed so that they would be set apart in order to serve God. Beautifully and ornately adorned in rich colors of blue, purple, red, and gold, with a breastplate so bedazzled with jewels that any 80’s girl would squeal with envy. And just in case this attire was not distinctive enough, they were to wear a seal on their forehead that read “Set apart for YHVH.” As Gentile believers we do not have any sort of custom that calls for us to dress ourselves in such a distinguishing manner; however, throughout the New Testament we are told how we should clothe ourselves…

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with feelings of compassion and with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…Above all these, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together perfectly…” Colossians 3:12 & 14

“Likewise, you who are less experienced, submit to leaders. Further, all of you should clothe yourselves in humility toward one another, because
‘God opposes the arrogant,
but to the humble he gives grace.'”
1 Peter 5:5

“Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Yeshua the Messiah; and don’t waste your time thinking about how to provide for the sinful desires of your old nature.”
Romans 13:14

then, so far as your former way of life is concerned, you must strip off your old nature, because your old nature is thoroughly rotted by its deceptive desiresand you must let your spirits and minds keep being renewed, and clothe yourselves with the new nature created to be godly, which expresses itself in the righteousness and holiness that flow from the truth.”
Ephesians 4:22-24

As we walk in faith with Christ, we should be set apart from the world – yet not to the extent of isolating and secluding ourselves from the world; but so that, like Peter says, “that [we] may set forth the wonderful deeds and display the virtues and perfections of Him Who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light.” When Jesus prayed for His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

We are in the world, but not of it. Like the priests who wore blue robes representative of the heavenly realm, we are citizens of heaven. But just as Christ was sent to save the world from sin, He has in turn sent us to be His messengers – His witnesses. We are called to live holy, set apart lives so that we may point others to Christ, both by the way we live and the way we proclaim His work in our lives.

Precious Metals

Exodus 24-27

Adonai said to Moshe, “Tell the people of Isra’el to take up a collection for me — accept a contribution from anyone who wholeheartedly wants to give. The contribution you are to take from them is to consist of gold, silver and bronze;…

They are to make me a sanctuary, so that I may live among themYou are to make it according to everything I show you — the design of the tabernacle and the design of its furnishings. This is how you are to make it.
“They are to make an ark of acacia-wood three-and-three-quarters feet long, two-and-a-quarter feet wide and two-and-a-quarter feet high. You are to overlay it with pure gold — overlay it both inside and outside — and put a molding of gold around the top of it.

“You are to make a menorah of pure gold. It is to be made of hammered work; its base, shaft, cups, ring of outer leaves and petals are to be of one piece with it.
Exodus 25:1-3, 8-11, & 31

Make forty silver sockets under the twenty planks, two sockets under one plank for its two projections and two sockets under another plank for its two projections. “For the second side of the tabernacle, to the north, make twenty planks and their forty silver sockets, two sockets under one plank and two under another.
Exodus 26:19-21

“You are to make the altar of acacia-wood, seven-and-a-half feet long and seven-and-a-half feet wide — the altar is to be square and four-and-a-half feet high. Make horns for it on its four corners; the horns are to be of one piece with it; and you are to overlay it with bronze.
“Make its pots for removing ashes, and its shovels, basins, meat-hooks and fire pans; all its utensils you are to make of bronze.

All the posts all the way around the courtyard are to be banded with silver and to stand in sockets of bronzeThe length of the courtyard is to be 150 feet and the width seventy-five feet everywhere; with the height seven-and-a-half feet. The tapestries and screen are to be of finely woven linen, and the sockets are to be of bronze.
“All the equipment needed for every kind of service in the tabernacle, as well as the tent pegs for the tabernacle and for the courtyard, are to be of bronze.
Exodus 27:1-3, 17-19

When we were in Israel, one of our tour guides talked about how every detail in Scripture is important, from the number of days to the time of year, the type of tree to the type of metal. God provides precise details in His Word, not to be overlooked, but to inspire us to dig deeper to find out their significance.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 2,
My son, if you will receive my words
and store my commands inside you,
paying attention to wisdom
inclining your mind toward understanding —
yes, if you will call for insight
and raise your voice for discernment,
if you seek it as you would silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure
then you will understand the fear of Adonai
and find knowledge of God.”

And in Proverbs 25, he says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter and the glory of kings to search it out.”

So in reading about the instructions to build the Tabernacle, which honestly sounds like reading IKEA instructions without the pictures, I kept wondering about the very specific uses of gold, silver, and bronze. After reading through these instructions, you find that everything inside the Tabernacle was to be made of gold, while everything outside the tent was to made of bronze, and silver seems to be used for connecting, or holding parts together.
Gold is symbolic of God’s kingship, divinity, glory, and holiness. The further into the Tabernacle you go, the more gold you will find. Silver, which is used to fasten the curtains or connect the planks and poles, is often associated with redemption. A servant’s value was given in silver shekels, Joseph was sold into slavery for 20 silver shekels, and Jesus was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver. Bronze which is used for the furnishings and tools outside of the Tabernacle tent, represents judgment. In Revelation 1, John describes his vision of Jesus as having bronze feet before He gives His message of judgment to the 7 churches. The idea of judgment for a Hebraic perspective is not necessarily negative. It is simply the evaluation of evidence to make a decision. Some judgment comes with negative consequences, while other comes with positive. They believe that God Who is a just Judge who judges justly always gives the right form of judgment.

A-constant-fire-shall-burn-upon-the-altarSo right outside of the tent of the Tabernacle, you have the bronze altar where the animal sacrifices were made to atone for sin, in addition to the bronze laver, or sea (which hasn’t been talked about yet), where the priests would purify themselves before entering into the Holy of Holies. Before a priest could go into the holy place, into the presence of God, first they needed the blood, and then the water – the atonement and the cleansing from sin – they were covered by the blood and cleansed by the water. Their sin and uncleanness was dealt with at the bronze altar and the bronze sea.

Bronze is where God’s judgement deals with our sin. We can choose to accept the atonement of Christ’s blood and the cleansing of the Holy Spirit so that we may enter into God’s golden, holy presence. And the silver? Isn’t it beautiful that the silver is what holds everything together? The blood that redeems us connects us to God, so that we, like earthen, wooden posts can firmly stand in the silver redemption of our Savior, covered in the gold of God’s holiness.  And what covers this structure of wood and metal? Curtains, almost like robes, of scarlet, blue, and purple. Scarlet representing Christ’s blood that covers us, blue representing our heavenly citizenship, and purple representing royalty – children of the King!

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9


Little By Little

Exodus 21-23

You are to be my specially separated people…
Exodus 22:31a

Do not follow the crowd when it does what is wrong; and don’t allow the popular view to sway you…
Exodus 23:2a

I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.
Exodus 23:27-30

Chapters 21-23 are filled with a lot of civil laws that were implemented to help govern the people. Often bible critics claim that these laws were harsh and inhumane, claiming that they are evidence of an unloving, contradictory God. And while I will certainly agree that there are some laws that seem strange, or even extreme to my Westernized, PC point of view, the civil laws that God gave to Moses were actually far more grace-filled and protective of the victim than the majority of laws that existed among other cultures. Israel was not the first civilization to have laws to govern them by. One famous code of law of that time was the Hammurabi Code from ancient Mesopotamia. When compared to the Mosaic Law there is clear distinction between the value of human life and protection of the victim. At times the Mosaic law is far more gracious, but at times it is more severe. These are concrete examples given so that the people could learn how to live in peace and harmony with their fellow man as well as provide a basis for teaching the nature of divine justice. Dr. Constable does a really good job of taking each law and explaining it and/or comparing it to other laws in existence during that time.

I have to admit that when I get to passages of Scripture like this, I can have a tendency to zone out or skim through, believing there isn’t really anything for me to get out of it. But then I came across these to little phrases, not even full sentences or stand alone verses, yet still very impactful, even in the midst of cultural, civil laws that don’t get my spirit revved up. “You are to be my specially separated people…Do not follow the crowd when it does what is wrong; and don’t allow the popular view to sway you…” Often times there are things that society would tell us are socially acceptable or the “new norm.” It can be tempting to go along with the flow of society, to follow the crowd and allow the popular view to sway us. But we are to be His specially separated people. Peter writes in 1 Peter 1, “Therefore, get your minds ready for work, keep yourselves under control, and fix your hopes fully on the gift you will receive when Yeshua the Messiah is revealed. As people who obey God, do not let yourselves be shaped by the evil desires you used to have when you were still ignorant. On the contrary, following the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in your entire way of life; since the Tanakh says, ‘You are to be holy because I am holy.‘” In chapter 2, Peter goes on to write, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice, of all deceit, hypocrisy and envy, and of all the ways there are of speaking against people; and be like newborn babies, thirsty for the pure milk of the Word; so that by it, you may grow up into deliverance. For you have tasted that Adonai is good.”

Digging into God’s Word – seeking to understand His character, His ways, His works – renews our minds and transforms our hearts to become more like His. These verses in Colossians 3 keep coming to mind as I strive to put to death my old nature and look and act more like Christ: “Therefore, put to death the earthly parts of your nature — sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed (which is a form of idolatry); for it is because of these things that God’s anger is coming on those who disobey him. True enough, you used to practice these things in the life you once lived; but now, put them all away — anger, exasperation, meanness, slander and obscene talk. Never lie to one another; because you have stripped away the old self, with its ways, and have put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in fuller and fuller knowledge, closer and closer to the image of its Creator.”
At the end of chapter 23, God tells the Israelites that He is going to drive out all of the pagan peoples from before them, but that He is not going to do it within a year. Instead, He is going to do it little by little, as they grow, so that the cleared spaces will not become desolate and overrun with wild beasts. In the same way, God sanctifies us – revealing to us and convicting us of our sins through His Word and His Holy Spirit. Little by little, closer and closer to the image of our Creator. God doesn’t demand perfection, but He desires obedience as we grow in our faith in Him. Through deserts, seas, and mountain peaks, until we finally cross over into our promised inheritance.

And I am sure of this: that the One who began a good work among you will keep it growing until it is completed on the Day of the Messiah Yeshua.” Philippians 1:6

Invitation Into Covenant

Exodus 17-20

Moshe went up to God, and Adonai called to him from the mountain: “Here is what you are to say to the household of Ya‘akov, to tell the people of Isra’el: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you will be a kingdom of cohanim for me, a nation set apart.’ These are the words you are to speak to the people of Isra’el.”
Moshe came, summoned the leaders of the people and presented them with all these words which Adonai had ordered him to say. All the people answered as one, “Everything Adonai has said, we will do.” Moshe reported the words of the people to Adonai

Exodus 19:3-8

Then God said all these words:
א  I am Adonai your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the abode of slavery.

ב  You are to have no other gods before me. You are not to make for yourselves a carved image or any kind of representation of anything in heaven above, on the earth beneath or in the water below the shoreline. You are not to bow down to them or serve them; for I, Adonai your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but displaying grace to the thousandth generation of those who love me and obey my mitzvot.

ג  “You are not to use lightly the name of Adonai your God, because Adonai will not leave unpunished someone who uses his name lightly.

ד  Remember the day, Shabbat, to set it apart for God. You have six days to labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Shabbat for Adonai your God. On it, you are not to do any kind of work — not you, your son or your daughter, not your male or female slave, not your livestock, and not the foreigner staying with you inside the gates to your property. For in six days, Adonai made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. This is why Adonai blessed the day, Shabbat, and separated it for himself.
Exodus 20:1-11

As I’ve been reading these chapters the last couple of days, I’m just in awe of the grace and kindness of God. The people have been wandering in the wilderness for three months now, and they have seen the LORD miraculously rescue them from Pharaoh’s army, provide food and water in the desert, and defeat the Amalekites. He continues to demonstrate His power and His faithfulness toward the people. It’s as though He has been wooing them in the wilderness over this period of time.

After He has proven Himself to be a faithful, loving God, He invites them into covenant with Him. He reminds them, “You saw what I did to Egypt and how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to Myself…” In other words, “You’ve seen how I’ve rescued you from your oppressors and brought you out to be Mine – I chose you for Myself.” Then He initiates the covenant, “Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you will be a kingdom of priests for me, a nation set apart.” It is similar to a Jewish marriage contract, a ketubah, wherein God is the bridegroom and King, and Israel is the bride and people. This covenant is not a covenant of salvation, but rather one of blessing and cursing based on Israel’s trust and faithfulness to the LORD. God wanted more from them – and more from us! – than a passive relationship where they were simply aware of Him. By inviting them into covenant with Him, He is inviting them into relationship with Him.
No good marriage begins with both parties saying, “You do you and I’ll do me and somehow it’ll all work out!” No, instead we make vows to each other – to love and to cherish, to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, til death do us part. We promise faithfulness to each other, to honor each other, and to work together to do what is necessary to keep the relationship strong. Sadly, we are sinners – we will fail each other and we will not always perfectly fulfill our vows. But God is a perfect Bridegroom, Who cannot be unfaithful to His vows. He is faithful when we are not, and always offers grace when we wander away from Him and return in repentance.

That the very first 4 commandments focus on how we are to relate to God shows how much he desires that relationship with Him to be first and foremost in our lives. His first command is simply to remember that He is the LORD God Who brought them out of the abode of slavery. Simply remember Who He is and all He has done. That alone should inspire fear and awe and worship, along with the desire to hear and obey His commands. His commands are not burdensome as we are often left feeling in more legalistic sects of Christianity, but neither are they outdated or “abolished” as many are taught in more grace-based churches. God’s commands are for our good…so that it may go well with us, to prolong our days, and bless our lives. They teach us firstly, how we ought relate to God, and secondly, how we should relate with our fellow man.

Going back to the idea of covenant…When God gave His instructions and teachings – His Torah – to the people of Israel, He knew in advance that they would never be able to fulfill it’s requirements, because the requirement is perfection. Jesus says in Matthew 5, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.” He goes on to reveal that even our thoughts condemn us against God’s perfect standard. But the Law – Torah – was never intended to save us. I like how the NLT words these verses from Romans 8:
“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.”

The word Torah in Hebrew is spelled tav-vav-resh-hey (תּוֹרָה). When you look at the pictographic meaning of the word you get “Behold, the highest man nailed to the covenant/cross.” How amazing is it that the word by which we call the “Law,” which often brings with it negative and incorrect interpretations of rule-following, legalism, and the idea that by some chance our salvation depends on our own good works, is actually pointing to Christ’s sacrifice? That Christ would be the embodiment of Torah, living it perfectly, to be nailed to it in order to pay the penalty we could never pay. Torah is not intended to bring us to God, in that it cannot save us, but is intended to point us to God, so that we can recognize our need for His salvation.
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By This I Will Test Them

Exodus 16

There Adonai made laws and rules of life for them, and there he tested them. He said, “If you will listen intently to the voice of Adonai your God, do what he considers right, pay attention to his mitzvot and observe his laws, I will not afflict you with any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians; because I am Adonai your healer.”
Exodus 15:25-26

Adonai said to Moshe, “Here, I will cause bread to rain down from heaven for you. The people are to go out and gather a day’s ration every day. By this I will test whether they will observe my Torah or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they have brought in, it will turn out to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.” 

Moshe said to Aharon, “Say to the whole community of Isra’el, ‘Come close, into the presence of Adonai, for he has heard your grumblings.’” As Aharon spoke to the whole community of the people of Isra’el, they looked toward the desert; and there before them the glory of Adonai appeared in the cloud; and Adonai said to Moshe, “I have heard the grumblings of the people of Isra’el. Say to them: ‘At dusk you will be eating meat, and in the morning you will have your fill of bread. Then you will realize that I am Adonai your God.’”

On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two ‘omers per person; and all the community leaders came and reported to Moshe. He told them, “This is what Adonai has said: ‘Tomorrow is a holy Shabbat for Adonai. Bake what you want to bake; boil what you want to boil; and whatever is left over, set aside and keep for the morning.’” They set it aside till morning, as Moshe had ordered; and it didn’t rot or have worms. Moshe said, “Today, eat that; because today is a Shabbat for Adonai — today you won’t find it in the field. Gather it six days, but the seventh day is the Shabbat — on that day there won’t be any.” However, on the seventh day, some of the people went out to gather and found none.
Adonai said to Moshe, “How long will you refuse to observe my mitzvot and teachings? Look, Adonai has given you the Shabbat. This is why he is providing bread for two days on the sixth day. Each of you, stay where you are; no one is to leave his place on the seventh day.” So the people rested on the seventh day.
Exodus 16:4-5, 9-12, & 22-30

One of the first ways God chooses to test the Israelites is through provision. He sends manna – bread from heaven – with very specific instructions on how to gather it, in order to test whether they will trust Him to provide for their needs. They can only gather enough for each day, they are not to hoard any more than they need, and on the sixth day they are to collect enough to carry them through the Sabbath so that they can rest. But isn’t it just like our human nature that some of the people still went out on the seventh day, just to see if there was anything to gather? It’s as though rest goes against our natural bent of feeling like we need to be doing something, to be productive, to work. We struggle to trust that God is our ultimate Provider. It’s why so many people struggle with works-based salvation – they just can’t fully believe and accept that it has nothing to their own efforts. But in this first act of testing, God doesn’t say to them be more holy, sin less, do better…instead He says, “Trust Me. Each and every day. I know what you need and I will provide for you.”

Exodus-16-Manna-from-HeavenThere’s a saying (which is often misrepresented as a bible verse) I’m sure you’ve heard, “God helps those who help themselves,” and while I certainly don’t believe that God wants us to sit around doing nothing while waiting for Him to do something, I also don’t believe that He demands that we work for His help. In fact, it often seems that He most often helps those who cannot help themselves, those who have come to the end of themselves and finally cry out to Him. God doesn’t want us to be self-sufficient creatures that are passively aware of His sovereignty, He desires that we would be wholly dependent on Him and desperately aware of our need.

When the LORD heard the people’s complaining, He told Moses to tell them “Come close into the presence of the LORD for He has heard your grumbling.” God wants us to come close into His presence, to rely and trust in Him to be our help, our provision, and our salvation. Everything God allows is to draw us closer to Him, to trust in Him, to rest in Him. We can choose to come close or turn in rebellion and trust in ourselves. Jeremiah writes in chapter 17:

This is what the Lord says:
Cursed is the person who trusts in mankind.
He makes human flesh his strength,
and his heart turns from the Lord.
He will be like a juniper in the Arabah;
he cannot see when good comes
but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness,
in a salt land where no one lives.
The person who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed.
He will be like a tree planted by water:
it sends its roots out toward a stream,
it doesn’t fear when heat comes,
and its foliage remains green.
It will not worry in a year of drought
or cease producing fruit.

LORD, may my trust always rest in You alone and may I embrace Your testing as a blessing, drawing closer to You and experiencing more of Your presence. AMEN!

Red Sea Road

Exodus 14-15

After Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not guide them to the highway that goes through the land of the P’lishtim, because it was close by — God thought that the people, upon seeing war, might change their minds and return to Egypt. Rather, God led the people by a roundabout route, through the desert by the Sea of Suf. The people of Isra’el went up from the land of Egypt fully armed.

 Adonai went ahead of them in a column of cloud during the daytime to lead them on their way, and at night in a column of fire to give them light; thus they could travel both by day and by night. Neither the column of cloud by day nor the column of fire at night went away from in front of the people.
Exodus 13:17-18 & 21-22

Adonai said to Moshe, “Tell the people of Isra’el to turn around and set up camp in front of Pi-Hachirot, between Migdol and the sea, in front of Ba‘al-Tz’fon; camp opposite it, by the sea. Then Pharaoh will say that the people of Isra’el are wandering aimlessly in the countryside, the desert has closed in on them. I will make Pharaoh so hardhearted that he will pursue them; thus I will win glory for myself at the expense of Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will realize at last that I am Adonai.” The people did as ordered.

As Pharaoh approached, the people of Isra’el looked up and saw the Egyptians right there, coming after them. In great fear the people of Isra’el cried out to Adonai and said to Moshe, “Was it because there weren’t enough graves in Egypt that you brought us out to die in the desert? Why have you done this to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we tell you in Egypt to let us alone, we’ll just go on being slaves for the Egyptians? It would be better for us to be the Egyptians’ slaves than to die in the desert!” Moshe answered the people, “Stop being so fearful! Remain steady, and you will see how Adonai is going to save you. He will do it today — today you have seen the Egyptians, but you will never see them again! Adonai will do battle for you. Just calm yourselves down!
Adonai asked Moshe, “Why are you crying to me? Tell the people of Isra’el to go forwardLift your staff, reach out with your hand over the sea, and divide it in two. The people of Isra’el will advance into the sea on dry ground. As for me, I will make the Egyptians hardhearted; and they will march in after them; thus I will win glory for myself at the expense of Pharaoh and all his army, chariots and cavalry. Then the Egyptians will realize that I am Adonai, when I have won myself glory at the expense of Pharaoh, his chariots and his cavalry.”
Next, the angel of God, who was going ahead of the camp of Isra’el, moved away and went behind them; and the column of cloud moved away from in front of them and stood behind them. It stationed itself between the camp of Egypt and the camp of Isra’el — there was cloud and darkness here, but light by night there; so that the one did not come near the other all night long.
Moshe reached his hand out over the sea, and Adonai caused the sea to go back before a strong east wind all night. He made the sea become dry land, and its water was divided in two. Then the people of Isra’el went into the sea on the dry ground, with the water walled up for them on their right and on their left.

On that day, Adonai saved Isra’el from the Egyptians; Isra’el saw the Egyptians dead on the shore. When Isra’el saw the mighty deed that Adonai had performed against the Egyptians, the people feared Adonai, and they believed in Adonai and in his servant Moshe.
Exodus 14:1-4, 10-22, & 30-31

Yah is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.
This is my God: I will glorify him;
my father’s God: I will exalt him.
Adonai is a warrior;
Adonai is his name.

Who is like you, Adonai, among the mighty?
Who is like you, sublime in holiness,
awesome in praises, working wonders?
You reached out with your right hand:
the earth swallowed them.
In your love, you led the people you redeemed;
in your strength, you guided them to your holy abode.
The peoples have heard, and they tremble;
anguish takes hold of those living in P’leshet;
then the chiefs of Edom are dismayed;
trepidation seizes the heads of Mo’av;
all those living in Kena‘an are melted away.
Terror and dread fall on them;
by the might of your arm they are still as stone
until your people pass over, Adonai,
till the people you purchased pass over.
You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain which is your heritage,
the place, Adonai, that you made your abode,
the sanctuary, Adonai, which your hands established.
Adonai will reign forever and ever.

There Adonai made laws and rules of life for them, and there he tested themHe said, “If you will listen intently to the voice of Adonai your God, do what he considers right, pay attention to his mitzvot and observe his laws, I will not afflict you with any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians; because I am Adonai your healer.”
Exodus 15:2-3, 11-18, 25-26

I love how the Scripture tells us that God chose to lead the Israelites by a roundabout way. There was a quicker, faster route that they could have gone through, but God knew that they were not ready for it, because that route would take them to war with the Philistines. It’s amazing to see how God was sovereignly working all these events together – for the good of His people, but also for His glory. Because He ordered the Israelites to wander into the desert, Pharaoh took notice and believed that he might just have the advantage of overtaking them and dragging them back to slavery. Had they gone a different route, Pharaoh may not have had the thought to chase after them, either because of the terrain or the people of the land they traveled through. But God’s plan was that Pharaoh would be so hardhearted to cause him to go after them so that God would win glory for Himself and so that all the Egyptians would finally know that He is the LORD. And after the Israelites had miraculously crossed over on dry land, saw the waters crash over Pharaoh’s army, and the soldiers’ bodies wash up on the shore, Scripture says that they feared the LORD and that the believed in Him and Moses His servant. Up until this point, it has not been said that all of the people feared and believed in the LORD; so it was through this mighty act that they finally began to trust in the LORD.

1466081230_tmp_Depositphotos_30832965_original-2-750x430I think, like the Israelites, God often leads us on roundabout paths. There often seems to be easier routes that He could take us on, and we wonder what is He thinking?!?! We forget that God sees all things, all possibilities, all routes. I think many times He leads us away from what we think we want – a job, a relationship, a new home, a season of life – because we aren’t quite ready for it yet, or because down that road are wars and battles that He is sovereignly protecting us from. Instead, He may lead us to a dead end at the Red Sea, with enemies closing in on us and the chances of escape seemingly impossible. But just like the pillar that guided the Israelites, representing God’s presence, He NEVER leaves us. Sometimes He seems to be up ahead guiding our paths, but sometimes it feels as though we can’t see Him…could it be that He is stationed between us and the camp of our enemy? But wherever God leads us, He will provide. He provided a road through the sea, water in the desert, and bread from heaven. He does things in ways that we don’t always understand, but that’s because He knows all the facts. We often say “hindsight is 20/20” to indicate that had we known the ways things would turn out we may have done things differently. There is no hindsight for God because He sees EVERYTHING, and that is why we can trust Him. But first we must trust that He is GOOD. When we truly believe that He is Good then we can believe that everything that happens to us is for our good and His glory!

There’s a song I love by Ellie Holcomb called Red Sea Road:

We, buried dreams
Laid them deep into the earth behind us
Said, our goodbyes
At the grave but everything reminds us
God knows, we ache
When He asks us to go on
How do we go on?

We will sing, to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
There’s a red sea road
When we can’t, see the way
He will part, the waves
And we’ll never walk alone
Down a red sea road

How, can we trust
When You say You will deliver us from
All, of this pain, that threatens to take over us
Well, this desert’s dry
But the ocean may consume
And we’re scared, to follow You

So we will sing, to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
There’s a red sea road
When we can’t, see the way
He will part, the waves
And we’ll never walk alone
Down a red sea road

Oh help us believe
You are faithful, You’re faithful
When our hearts are breaking
You are faithful, You’re faithful
Oh grant us eyes to see
You are faithful, You’re faithful
Teach us to sing
You are faithful, You’re faithful, You’re faithful

And we will sing, to our souls
We won’t bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
There’s a red sea road
When we can’t, see the way
He will part, the waves
And we’ll never walk alone
Down a red sea road …

Remember This Day

Exodus 13

Moshe said to the people, “Remember this day, on which you left Egypt, the abode of slavery; because Adonai, by the strength of his hand, has brought you out of this place.
Exodus 13:3

It’s interesting that God not only wanted the Israelites to remember the day of the Passover, but also the very next day when He brought them out of Egypt – out of slavery and bondage. Therefore, the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins the day after Passover. Jesus’ body was taken off the cross and laid in the tomb before the end of the day on Passover, right before the beginning of this special Sabbath. I certainly don’t remember ever really being taught anything about the Feast of Unleavened Bread in church growing up, outside of maybe a mention of it in the context of this story. But as believers in Christ, this Feast carries spiritual significance for us.

Paul writes that the wages of sin is death and at Passover Jesus died to pay the penalty of our sin. His blood not only covers our sin, but completely removes it when we put our trust in Him. We are fully redeemed and justified (freedom from the penalty of sin). But the next Feast symbolizes the next step in our walk of faith – sanctification (freedom from the power of sin). After we are justified by our faith in Christ’s work (not ours), our faith is expressed through our works. It’s been said, “If your faith isn’t big enough to change you, how can it be big enough to save you?” So many Christians accept Christ as their Savior, but never really walk the journey of sanctification, whereby we make Him our LORD – living in obedience to His Word and putting to death the sins of our old nature.

Paul writes in Romans 8:12-13, “ So then, brothers, we don’t owe a thing to our old nature that would require us to live according to our old nature. For if you live according to your old nature, you will certainly die; but if, by the Spirit, you keep putting to death the practices of the body, you will live.” And in Colossians 3:5-10, “Therefore, put to death the earthly parts of your nature — sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed (which is a form of idolatry); for it is because of these things that God’s anger is coming on those who disobey him. True enough, you used to practice these things in the life you once lived; but now, put them all away — anger, exasperation, meanness, slander and obscene talk. Never lie to one another; because you have stripped away the old self, with its ways, and have put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in fuller and fuller knowledge, closer and closer to the image of its Creator.”

“Remember this day…” Some people can remember the exact day when they chose to give their lives to Christ and trust in Him as their Savior – justifying them from their sin. For me, it’s a little more unclear, having been raised in the Church, but I can remember the season of life where I started truly believing instead of “knowing.” My faith began to become real and personal and impactful. I can remember who I was before the Holy Spirit came in and started cleaning house and helping me to die to my sinful desires. I know I’m not who I one Day will be, but I’m not who I once was. I’m redeemed, I’m forgiven, I’m justified – and each and every day He is sanctifying me to be more like Christ. The process will take a lifetime, but it’s worth it!

When He Sees The Blood

Exodus 12

“‘Here is how you are to eat it: with your belt fastened, your shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand; and you are to eat it hurriedly. It is Adonai’s Pesach[Passover]. For that night, I will pass through the land of Egypt and kill all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both men and animals; and I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt; I am AdonaiThe blood will serve you as a sign marking the houses where you are; when I see the blood, I will pass over you — when I strike the land of Egypt, the death blow will not strike you.
“‘This will be a day for you to remember and celebrate as a festival to Adonai; from generation to generation you are to celebrate it by a perpetual regulation.

Then Moshe called for all the leaders of Isra’el and said, “Select and take lambs for your families, and slaughter the Pesach lamb. Take a bunch of hyssop leaves and dip it in the blood which is in the basin, and smear it on the two sides and top of the door-frame. Then, none of you is to go out the door of his house until morning. For Adonai will pass through to kill the Egyptians; but when he sees the blood on the top and on the two sides, Adonai will pass over the door and will not allow the Slaughterer to enter your houses and kill you. You are to observe this as a law, you and your descendants forever.
When you come to the land which Adonai will give you, as he has promised, you are to observe this ceremony. When your children ask you, ‘What do you mean by this ceremony?’ say, ‘It is the sacrifice of Adonai’s Pesach [Passover], because [Adonai] passed over the houses of the people of Isra’el in Egypt, when he killed the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” The people of Isra’el bowed their heads and worshipped. Then the people of Isra’el went and did as Adonai had ordered Moshe and Aharon — that is what they did.

The people of Isra’el traveled from Ra‘amses to Sukkot, some six hundred thousand men on foot, not counting children. A mixed crowd also went up with them, as well as livestock in large numbers, both flocks and herds. They baked matzah loaves from the dough they had brought out of Egypt, since it was unleavened; because they had been driven out of Egypt without time to prepare supplies for themselves.
The time the people of Isra’el lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years to the day, all the divisions of Adonai left the land of Egypt. This was a night when Adonai kept vigil to bring them out of the land of Egypt, and this same night continues to be a night when Adonai keeps vigil for all the people of Isra’el through all their generations.
Exodus 12:11-14, 21-28, & 37-42

I remember how awestruck I was when I realized that Christ’s death that we remember as Christians on Good Friday actually occurred on Passover. I knew the story of the exodus and that Passover was a Jewish holiday somehow connected to that. Growing up, my church always had a Maundy Thursday meal the night before Good Friday. We did a small seder and then ate endless amounts of pancakes and applesauce. I guess I always thought we did it because it was sort of something like what Jesus did with His disciples during the Last Supper. It was really nothing more to me than this strange dinner/holiday that was basically like the Jewish Easter…kinda like how Hanukkah was the Jewish Christmas. Boy, was I ignorant, haha!

I think it was the year I started reading the bible chronologically that things started to click. I had just started getting into the Hebraic roots of our faith and started reading about the Feasts of Israel. I read Dr. Richard Booker’s book, Celebrating Jesus in the Feasts of Israel, and I was BLOWN AWAY! I had no idea what these feasts signified or how they all foreshadowed future fulfillment by the Messiah. Jesus didn’t just die around Passover, He died ON Passover. He was a perfect Lamb without defect, crucified at the exact time that the sacrificial lamb was being slaughtered. He not only covered our sins but bore them and took them away!

The night God sent His angel throughout Egypt to kill the first born, the people had to have faith that the blood that covered their doorposts would accomplished what God said it would do. It didn’t depend on how good or bad they were, all God was going to see was the blood that had been shed for them and now covered the entrance to their home. When we put our faith in the atoning blood of Christ, we are trusting that God will be good on His promise of salvation and forgiveness of sins. That it doesn’t depend on us – our sins or our righteousness – just the blood.

a39ca2b54812a54c5e77c5595cd26f00--ministry-quotes-photo-galleriesIn Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:17

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. Romans 5:9

Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed… Romans 3:24-25

Judgment So That You May Know

Exodus 7-9/10-11

You are to say everything I order you, and Aharon your brother is to speak to Pharaoh and tell him to let the people of Isra’el leave his land. But I will make him hardhearted. Even though I will increase my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my armies, my people the sons of Isra’el, out of the land of Egypt with great acts of judgment. Then, when I stretch out my hand over Egypt and bring the people of Isra’el out from among them, the Egyptians will know that I am Adonai.”

But Pharaoh in turn called for the sages and sorcerers; and they too, the magicians of Egypt, did the same thing, making use of their secret arts. Each one threw his staff down, and they turned into snakes. But Aharon’s staff swallowed up theirs. Nevertheless, Pharaoh was made hardhearted; and he didn’t listen to them, as Adonai had said would happen.

The fish in the river died, and the river stank so badly that the Egyptians couldn’t drink its water. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same with their secret arts, so that Pharaoh was made hardhearted and didn’t listen to them, as Adonai had said would happen. Pharaoh just turned and went back to his palace, without taking any of this to heart
Exodus 7:2-5, 11-13, & 21-23

Moshe said to Pharaoh, “Not only that, but you can have the honor of naming the time when I will pray for you, your servants and your people to be rid of the frogs, both yourselves and your homes, and that they stay only in the river.” He answered, “Tomorrow.” Moshe said, “It will be as you have said, and from this you will learn that Adonai our God has no equalThe frogs will leave you and your homes, also your servants and your people; they will stay in the river only.” Moshe and Aharon left Pharaoh’s presence, and Moshe cried to Adonai about the frogs he had brought on Pharaoh. Adonai did as Moshe had asked — the frogs died in the houses, courtyards and fields; they gathered them in heaps till the land stank. But when Pharaoh saw that he had been given some relief, he made himself hardhearted and would not listen to them, just as Adonai had said would happen. 

Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh was made hardhearted, so that he didn’t listen to them, just as Adonai had said would happen.

But I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people live — no swarms of insects will be there — so that you can realize that I am Adonai, right here in the landYes, I will distinguish between my people and your people, and this sign will happen by tomorrow.

Moshe left Pharaoh and interceded with Adonai, and Adonai did what Moshe had asked: he removed the swarms of insects from Pharaoh, his servants and his people — not one remained. But this time, too, Pharaoh made himself stubborn and didn’t let the people go.
Exodus 8:5-11, 15, 18-19, & 26-28

Pharaoh investigated and found that not even one of the animals of the people of Isra’el had died. Nevertheless, Pharaoh’s heart remained stubborn, and he didn’t let the people go.

The magicians couldn’t even stand in Moshe’s presence because of the sores, which were on them as well as on the other Egyptians. But Adonai made Pharaoh hardhearted, so that he didn’t listen to them — just as Adonai had said to Moshe.

For this time, I will inflict my plagues on you, yourself, and on your officials and your people; so that you will realize that I am without equal in all the earth. By now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with such severe plagues that you would have been wiped off the earth. But it is for this very reason that I have kept you aliveto show you my power, and so that my name may resound throughout the whole earth

Whoever among Pharaoh’s servants feared what Adonai had said had his slaves and livestock escape into the houses; but those who had no regard for what Adonai had said left their slaves and livestock in the field.

Pharaoh summoned Moshe and Aharon and said to them, “This time I have sinned: Adonai is in the right; I and my people are in the wrong. Intercede with Adonai — we can’t take any more of this terrible thunder and hail; and I will let you go, you will stay no longer.” Moshe said to him, “As soon as I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands to Adonai; the thunder will end, and there won’t be any more hail — so that you can know that the earth belongs to AdonaiBut you and your servants, I know you still won’t fear Adonai, God.

When Pharaoh saw that the rain, hail and thunder had ended, he sinned still more by making himself hardhearted, he and his servants. Pharaoh was made hardhearted, and he didn’t let the people of Isra’el go, just as Adonai had said through Moshe.
Exodus 9:7, 11-12, 14-16, 20-21, 27-30, 34-35

Adonai said to Moshe, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have made him and his servants hardhearted, so that I can demonstrate these signs of mine among them, so that you can tell your son and grandson about what I did to Egypt and about my signs that I demonstrated among them, and so that you will all know that I am Adonai.

But Adonai made Pharaoh hardhearted, and he would not let them go. Pharaoh said to them, “Get away from me! And you had better not see my face again, because the day you see my face, you will die!” Moshe answered, “Well spoken! I will see your face no more.”
Exodus 10:1-2 & 27-28

Adonai said to Moshe, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, so that still more of my wonders will be shown in the land of Egypt.”
Moshe and Aharon did all these wonders before Pharaoh, but Adonai had made Pharaoh hardhearted, and he didn’t let the people of Isra’el leave his land.
Exodus 11:9-10

I copied A LOT of scripture today after spending the last two days in the first 9 plagues, but I kept seeing a recurring theme: God sends judgments so that all would know Who He is – His power, His might, His sovereignty, His supremacy and glory – yet Pharaoh’s heart continues to be hardened, whether by God or himself. Many theologians have debated what it means when the bible says “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart” and I’m not sure I fully, 100% understand how or why it happened, other than what Paul writes in Romans 9:
“For to Moshe he says, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will pity whom I pity.’ Thus it doesn’t depend on human desires or efforts, but on God, who has mercy. For the Tanakh says to Pharaoh, ‘It is for this very reason that I raised you up, so that in connection with you I might demonstrate my power, so that my name might be known throughout the world.’ So then, he has mercy on whom he wants, and he hardens whom he wants. (vs 15-18)

Everything God allows serves His purpose of revealing Himself to mankind and exhibiting His power and might, but also His goodness and grace. These judgments, in a sense, are an act of mercy, which caused many of the Egyptians to recognize and fear the God of Israel. It may seem unmerciful of God to harden Pharaoh’s heart – it’s as though he was just a puppet for God’s purposes. But I think Paul gives use a clue in verses 22-24 of chapter 9:
Now what if God, even though he was quite willing to demonstrate his anger and make known his power, patiently put up with people who deserved punishment and were ripe for destructionWhat if he did this in order to make known the riches of his glory to those who are the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory — that is, to us, whom he called not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles?”

Pharaoh was a cruel taskmaster from the beginning, the son of the man who called for an all-out genocide of all the newborn Hebrew males. When Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh in chapter 5, his response is, “Who is Adonai, that I should obey when he says to let Israel go? I don’t know Adonai, and I also won’t let Israel go.” The Pharaohs of Egypt saw themselves as gods to be worshipped and served, so when Moses and Aaron came speaking of another God to whom the people wanted to out and worship and sacrifice to, Pharaoh was not going to have it. There is a back and forth in the narrative, sometimes it states that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened and sometimes it says that he himself hardened it, out of stubbornness and refusal to listen or take to heart the warnings and signs of Moses and Aaron. Pharaoh seems to be a man who God patiently put up with, deserving punishment and ripe for destruction, but through whom He would use at just the right time in history to make known the riches of His glory to those who are the objects of His mercy.

Job was a righteous man before God, but God gave Satan permission to bring about testing and trials and suffering. His response when put up against the horrible things he suffered, though not fully understanding why God had allowed such things to happen, was to trust all the more in God and His sovereignty. He was able to say, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him.” Pharaoh on the other hand, was wicked in his ways before Moses ever stepped foot into his palace. His heart was already hardened to an extent and through all of God’s signs and wonders, which brought great suffering upon him and his people, he continued to be hardened by God and his own flesh. I don’t know how God chooses who will be hardened and who will be broken to the point of crying out to Him in surrender, but I do know that God will always be glorified. The lesson for us is to keep our hearts in a position of humility and fear before God so that no matter what He allows (not causes) to happen in our lives can be a vehicle of bringing Him glory and us closer to Him.

James writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” But this verse appears towards the end of a chapter which, in context, deals with persevering through suffering: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all without hesitation and without reproach; and it will be given to him…
Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’—for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He himself tempts no one. But each one is tempted when he is dragged away and enticed by his own desire. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is full grown, it brings forth death.”

How amazing that our suffering not only creates the opportunity to grow closer to God, more in likeness to Christ, but also glorifies our LORD!?! Matt Chandler did an amazing sermon on this just this past week and beautifully lays out what this looks like in our lives.

LORD, even when I don’t understand Your ways, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I! Let my heart be a place where Your Word finds soft, fertile soil – where it can grow deep roots and reap a rich harvest. Let me not be hardened by my own sin, and surround me with faithful friends that will sharpen me. Thank You that every good and perfect gift comes from You and that You work out all things for my good and Your glory. AMEN!