Bible reading weekend Feb 22-23: Exodus 5-6; Luke 8-9.
"For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all." (Exodus 5:23)
When things get worse rather than better (Ex 5). We may come to trust the Lord, but then find that things get worse rather than better. We experience serious setbacks, difficulties, and opposition to our faith. We face trials that we never expected. It seems like it's three steps forward and two steps back! So, Moses speaks to Pharaoh, and things get worse for the people of Israel. The work orders increase, and needed resources are cut off. The Israelites become disheartened: "...they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery" (Ex 6:9).
Pharaoh is hardened. The Lord had said that he would strengthen Pharaoh's sinful intentions: "But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go" (Ex 4:21b). As a human being, born under the dominion of sin, Pharaoh was resistant to God and his will from birth. By sovereign choice, God leaves Pharaoh in that condition and actually strengthens his evil resolve against God and his people (Rom 9:17ff). Pharaoh will magnify his hostility, and God will magnify his judgment upon Egypt and all her gods.
The promise (Ex 6). But God states his purpose and his promise for his people: "I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians (Ex 6:6-7)." The promise made to Israel is ours as well, but for us the sphere is cosmic: deliverance from bondage to the world, the flesh, and Satan, and entrance into the glorious new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells (2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:3-7). This is the promise we must cling to!
"The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." (Luke 9:22-24)
Much like the Israelites of Moses' day, the disciples of Jesus thought that Christ's glorious kingdom would appear soon: "...he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately" (Luke 19:11). In another parable he intimated that his coming would be "after a long time" (Matt 25:19). He told them of their need to keep praying and to not lose heart (Luke 18:1-8). Unexpected delays can cause discouragement, and discouragement over time can result in despair. Both the Israelites of Moses' day and the disciples of Jesus' day needed to realize that the outworking of God's plan involves divine wisdom and timing, along with many seeming setbacks. As disciples of Christ today, we live in a world of very short attention spans. We want every drama and every movie to wrap up in two hours or less. We too need to realize that God's drama is much greater, much bigger, and involves all of creation and all of history. The history of redemption is not a two-hour movie!
My take-away. There are three very important truths I see for believers, which we find in Acts 14:22 "...strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." As followers of Christ...
1) We will go through many tribulations on the way to the kingdom.
2) We will need strength and encouragement to continue in the faith.
3) We will enter the Kingdom, according to his promise.
Image credit: from the Figures de la Bible, by Gerard Hoet (1648–1733), published by P. de Hondt in The Hague in 1728. This image courtesy Bizzell Bible Collection, University of Oklahoma Libraries. Public domain. Wikimedia Commons.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. A PDF copy is available here.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.