27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was not willing to let them go. 28 Pharaoh said to Moses, “Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.” 29 “Just as you say,” Moses replied, “I will never appear before you again.”
11 Now the LORD had said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. 2 Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.” 3 (The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.) 4 So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. 8 All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh. 9 The LORD had said to Moses, “Pharaoh will refuse to listen to you—so that my wonders may be multiplied in Egypt.” 10 Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.
Today’s text doesn’t pick up where we left off yesterday; LOTS has happened since! God has repeatedly shown Pharaoh that He keeps His word – because of Pharaoh’s hardened heart, God has brought down nine plagues that have wreaked havoc on his land. After the ninth plague (darkness so dark that you could actually feel it), Pharaoh tells Moses that the people can go – just lift this darkness from us! After Moses prays and the darkness is lifted, Pharaoh flip flops again – he decides the people can’t go. So God will bring on the final plague, the ultimate way of showing His supreme power and unquenchable desire to set His people free. And despite Pharaoh’s wish to never see Moses again, they meet one last time – Moses tells him that every firstborn son, from the heights of Pharaoh’s palace all the way down to the lowest cattle stall, will lose his life. After this, verse 8 says, Moses storms out of his presence. Wouldn’t Moses have been afraid to do this? After being given an ultimatum, after being told to never appear before Pharaoh again, how could Moses have the guts to do this? One word: faith. Hebrews 11:27 says, “By faith [Moses] left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.” What a great picture of faith – rather than seeing the powerful Pharaoh who could take his life, Moses saw the all-powerful God who could save his life!
Challenge: Does anything in your life bring fear? Trust in “Him who is invisible” today! Pray that the Holy Spirit would help remind you that – by God’s grace – He can give you strength even when fear surrounds you.
Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.’ ” 2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go.” 3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.” 4 But the king of Egypt said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!” 5 Then Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.” 6 That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and foremen in charge of the people: 7 “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. 8 But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Make the work harder for the men so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.”
We heard in yesterday’s sermon about God’s dramatic call to Moses to lead God’s people out of slavery in Egypt. We saw that Moses was less than enthusiastic to take this call – and that’s putting it mildly! But God gave Moses plenty of ways that He would equip him. This week, we find Moses fulfilling God’s plan for his life. Our text from Exodus 5 is the first encounter that Moses has with Pharaoh. I can’t imagine how intimidating this must have been – Moses had (most recently) been a shepherd out in the fields, and here he speaks to one of the most important rulers in the world. It’s interesting to note that Moses – who asked for help in speaking – doesn’t speak on his own. In verses 1 and 3, we’re told both Aaron and Moses speak. Clearly, God provided for and overcame the fear that Moses experienced. The immediate outcome of this confrontation backfires: Pharaoh demands that the people supply their own straw for the bricks and still make the same number of bricks. Instead of being set free from their work, they are given more work to do. How did Moses press on during this time? First, it was God’s grace working through him. Second, it was a vision of what would be. Hebrews 11:26 tells us that Moses was “looking ahead to his reward” when he left everything in Egypt behind. His faith – in the unseen God and what He would bring about – made a tremendous difference!
Challenge: When have you seen God equip you to do something that seemed impossible otherwise? Pray that God would help you to trust Him so that fear doesn’t stop you from God’s calling. Ask God to show you where to serve Him and how He will empower you.
22 Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father’s family. He lived a hundred and ten years 23 and saw the third generation of Ephraim’s children. Also the children of Makir son of Manasseh were placed at birth on Joseph’s knees. 24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” 25 And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, “God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place.” 26 So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.
As we saw in yesterday’s devotion, Joseph goes through tremendous ordeals in his life and eventually comes out on the other side of it with a faith-full perspective: God was working it out, God was bringing about His purposes. You would think that THAT would be what the author of Hebrews would write about when describing Joseph’s faith, right? Instead, this is the only sentence about Joseph: “By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones” (Heb 11:22). Joseph’s life concludes with a powerful position, saving the world from famine, saving his family from both hunger and retribution, and with the type of retirement plan that would – in today’s standards – probably include Secret Service shadowing him. But he knew the best was yet to come. He wasn’t comfortable with good or better – he wanted the best. This wasn’t a greedy or selfish thing – no, he was holding onto the promise of God to his great-grandfather Abraham: the promise to inherit the Promised Land. He knew that Egypt and that position of power still wasn’t his final destination – so he asked that his bones be carried to Canaan. What about us? We’re called to be content, to be thankful no matter what the circumstances… yet we’re also called to remember that this world is not our home, not our final destination. We can rejoice in God’s good gifts, yet we’re reminded that we have an eternal inheritance; our promised place is being home with the Lord forever in heaven.
Challenge: In faith, look with anticipation to the Promised Land of heaven – by God’s grace, long for that day. Pray that we would effectively minister where we are, knowing the best is yet to come.
“Joseph – God’s intent”
15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. 18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him. “We are your slaves,” they said. 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.
We concluded yesterday’s devotional in a sad state with Joseph – yet we find that God wasn’t through with him yet! After being wrongly imprisoned for two years, Joseph is remembered and is called upon to interpret Pharaoh’s dream. By God’s grace, Joseph is able to foresee what will happen in the near future: after seven good years, there will be seven years of famine. Pharaoh is so impressed and thankful for this insight that he exonerates Joseph from prison and puts him in a position of power and prominence: he becomes the second-in-command for all of Egypt. God equips Joseph to lead the country to save during the good years so that there will be plenty of food during the bad years. God reunites Joseph with his brothers and father through this: He brings them to Egypt to request food because the famine reaches even them. After some twists and turns, the family is reunited. In Genesis 50, we’re told that Jacob dies, and the brothers are immediately worried that Joseph will exact revenge on them – maybe Joseph was being good to them just for Dad’s sake? Joseph speaks an astounding word of grace and truth in v20 – the brothers intended to harm him, but God intended it for good. What powerful insight, to see past hatred and harm, to focus instead on how God worked it all out! And then to move to a place of grace: “I’ll provide for you and your children.” What a moving picture of faith!
Challenge: Where have you seen in your life that God worked for good what Satan intended for harm? Pray that you would be able to see how God is working all things out for good in your life! (Romans 8:28)
“Joseph – trials”
The character in the next three devotionals (and Genesis 37-50) is rather surprising. Although his story is very dramatic and a powerful picture of God’s faithfulness, Joseph isn’t the son that God would work through to bring His long-awaited, one and only, beloved Son – that honor belonged to Judah. Yet we can learn a tremendous number of lessons through the life of Joseph – in fact, these three devotions will only scratch the surface of his life. We find in today’s text that Joseph is the favorite son of Jacob – in large part because he’s the firstborn son of his beloved Rachel. Jacob even spoiled Joseph, by giving him a coat of many colors (v3). Understandably, his brothers became upset about this favoritism, and it gets so bad that “they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” His dream that he tells them makes them hate him all the more – and in future accounts, we’re told of the tragic fruit of this hatred: his brothers sell him to traveling merchants and tell their father that he’s been killed by wild animals. In the next chapters, we’re told of more trials for Joseph – after being sold, false charges come against him from his boss’ wife, he is falsely imprisoned, and then something GREAT happens. He interprets dreams for two fellow prisoners… but they forget about him for two full years. Joseph’s life is full of tragic events and difficulties – something we see far too often in our own world!
Challenge: What tragedies – in our world or in your personal life – have brought tears to your eyes? Pray with lament over the brokenness in our world, telling the truth to God about the sadness in your heart.
22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
For the people who know you best, what single word or phrase would they use to describe you? Would you be seen as someone who brings joy wherever you go or maybe someone who is recognized as one of the hardest workers? Are others impressed by your intelligence or sense of humor? Maybe you’re seen as extremely competitive? Today’s character, Jacob, had a reputation before he was even born – he and his brother Esau were already wrestling in the womb. When he was born, he was grasping his brother’s heel – a figure of speech meaning “deceptive” in Hebrew. On day one, he was already pegged for who he would be in life. Day after day, story after story, we see Jacob fulfilling that role – we see a deceiver and someone who tricked those around him. Sometimes, it came back to him – most notably, we’re told that his father-in-law deceived him by giving the hand of Leah (rather than Rachel) after working seven years for the right to marry her! Our text today picks up the story of Jacob on the night before reuniting with his estranged brother Esau. We’re told in v24 (without explanation!) that a man wrestled Jacob until daybreak. As it turns out, Jacob had been wrestling with God; he learned this because God told him (v28) and we’re confirmed of this by his name for the place (v30). We see today that Jacob – who wrestled Esau in the womb – even wrestled with God Himself. And in the end, God blessed him and gave him a new name and a new identity.
Challenge: Do you feel like a negative reputation or history is holding you back? Give that over to God today! Pray that the Holy Spirit would help remind you that – by God’s grace – He can give you a new identity and future in Christ!