From Genesis 15:
12 As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. 14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Genesis 15:12-15 (ESV)
God had warned Abraham (initially called Abram) in Genesis 15 that his descendants would be in a foreign land for four hundred years, and Egypt was the place He had in mind. Initially, Egypt offered great opportunity and prosperity for the Israelites. Their numbers grew by leaps and bounds as they and their flocks spread out over its fertile lands in Goshen. But as God had foretold, the attitude of Egyptian leadership began to change towards the Israelite sojourners over the years, turning from one of welcome and favor to a deep resentment and fear due to their increasing numbers and power. As a result, the people of Israel were stripped of all of their freedom, made into slaves, and severely mistreated by those who were now their Egyptian captors.
The Israelite people would eventually be freed and delivered out of Egypt by God through Moses, a priest in the line of Levi. Even though he was born under slavery and the threat of death by Pharaoh, Moses was granted great favor by the Lord. His life as a newborn Israelite male was spared – Pharaoh had ordered them all killed – and then remarkably he spent the next forty years being raised in the luxury of Pharaoh’s palace. But Moses’ loyalty to his own people led to him killing an Egyptian that he witnessed beating a fellow Israelite, beatings that were common during their long years of servitude. Moses’ violent act was discovered, forcing him to flee for his life. He spent the next forty years in a remote desert far from the comfortable palaces of Egypt, tending sheep and raising a Midianite (non-Jewish) family.
But God always had a plan for bringing His people out of Egypt and He chose Moses, a most unlikely eighty-year-old candidate, to lead them out. After four decades of leading sheep around in the desert, Moses must surely have assumed that his days as a leader of people were over. But God had a very different plan. He miraculously brought Moses back into the palace of Pharaoh, just as He had done when he was a baby. This time, instead of fleeing, Moses would lead all of God’s people out of Egypt into freedom.
God’s new plan for Moses began to unfold through a bush in the desert, which Moses observed burning with fire, but not being consumed. The account of Moses’ call by God and the undertaking of his new mission can be found beginning in Exodus chapter 3. God called to Moses out of the burning bush, telling him that, through Moses, He would bring the Israelites out of slavery into a Promised Land of freedom, a land flowing with milk and honey. God then gave Moses three miraculous tools to demonstrate to Pharaoh that he did indeed speak for God: 1) a wooden staff that Moses could turn into a living, dangerous snake and then back again, 2) the ability for Moses to inflict leprosy onto someone, including himself, then to heal them and 3) the miracle of turning a cupful of water from the Nile River into blood as it was being poured out upon the ground.
Moses tried to turn down God’s assignment, claiming that he did not speak well enough, but God did not accept Moses’ excuse. The Lord then called Moses’ brother, Aaron, down from Egypt to be his mouthpiece before Pharaoh. In time, Moses was able to speak quite well for himself.
Despite Moses’ miraculous demonstrations, Pharaoh was not about to let God’s people go. In fact, after Moses’ visit, Pharaoh came down all that much harder on the Israelite slaves and their task masters, increasing their daily burdens. Despite God’s promise of freedom, things now seemed to be going in the other direction, and hope was beginning to evaporate. The Israelites were now in more trouble, and the blame for the increase was laid at squarely at Moses’ feet. But God had a different outcome in mind:
6 But the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.” Exodus 6:1 (ESV)
It was time for God to deliver His people, and to demonstrate to the entire world once and for all exactly who He really is.
37 And the people of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds…
40 The time that the people of Israel lived in Egypt was 430 years. 41 At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. Exodus 12:37-38,40-41 (ESV)
Have you ever felt that God has given up on you? How did He come through for you?
What step of renewal or revival towards something important can you take today?
Like Moses, God is not finished with us yet. Moses was eighty years old when God called him and used him for God’s kingdom. As the Lord says, “Is anything too hard for God?”
If we feel that we have had too much of a sinful past to be used by God, we must remember that Moses had murdered a person before fleeing Egypt as a young man. All people have sinned, and God wants to cleanse us at the cross of Christ and use us as we make ourselves available to Him.
Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner. I come to You at the cross of Christ for forgiveness and cleansing. Lead me in the righteous paths You have chosen for me as I willingly seek to serve You and Your kingdom. Thank You for Your great mercy. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.