EXODUS 13:1 – 15:27 and MATTHEW 17:1–27
The Lord speaks regarding the Feast of unleavened bread and informs the people via Moses that they are to remember these ordinances when they come into the land of the Hittites, Canaanites etc (vs 5). They are also meant to offer the first fruits of their increase (vs 12). The events and the significance of this night were to never be forgotten.
The Lord did not lead them through the land of the Philistines due to the fact that they would have seen war. They were not ready for war and they probably would have quickly returned to Egypt. It was a sovereign move due to the method the Lord used in leading them which was by a pillar of a cloud by day and of fire by night (vs 21). In our walk with God we quickly discover that our path is not a straight line but one that seems to have many twists and turns. Let’s revisit one of our foundational scriptures.
“All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth” (Psa 25:10)
The Bible also says that there is a way that seems right unto man but the end thereof is death (Pro 14:12). God knows what lies before us and He knows the experiences we need to go through to bring us to His desired destination. This truth needs to be reinforced because man is prone to determine what is best for his walk.
Pro 4:18 “The path of the just is as a shining light that shines more and more unto the perfect day.”
Those first few steps of faith can seem daunting and unclear but as we continue to walk by faith, the path soon opens up before us. A similar verse is found in Psa 119:105.
“Thy Word O Lord, is a lamp unto my feet.”
Do you need guidance and direction? The Word of God provides the needed roadmap to help keep us on course. The problem is that we often seek our own ways, based on what we feel to be right. This was the pattern of Israel during the reign of the Judges. They experienced great victories in God followed by a slipping back into idolatry and sin. They would call upon God while in trouble and He would mercifully deliver them only to see them revert back to old ways. The cycle repeated itself on numerous occasions resulting in man determining his course in life. The same holds true today. We need to be sensitive to the Lord’s leading and allow Him to determine our paths. What may seem logical and right in the end could be to our detriment. We should never cease crying out to God for our pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night.
In verses 1-4 the Lord gives specific instructions as to where the children of Israel should camp. At the same time the Lord says to Moses that he will harden Pharaoh’s heart, especially when he sees the children of Israel in a place of entrapment. It is the Lord that has allowed this scenario to come about. Perhaps Pharaoh sensed that Israel did not know what they were doing. There may have been a vulnerability detected in Israel that again caught the interest of Egypt and Pharaoh. The initial sting and shock of that fateful night may have weaned a bit resulting in their desire to come against Israel in their perceived moment of weakness. It must be remembered that God is the one who led Israel to this place. It is God who again allows the heart of Pharaoh to be hardened. The reason? God wants to bring absolute judgement upon Pharaoh and Egypt. It bears repeating to say that this represents a picture of the great battles to come in the last days. So many today like to speculate on the end times. If one really studies out these events in Genesis and Exodus a clearer picture would soon come into view. Of course, there are many other books of the Bible that would qualify for this as well such as Daniel and Ezekiel. The Book of Revelation brings all of the prophecies and events seen throughout scripture to a climax.
In verses 5-9 Pharaoh and his armies begin their move against Israel. They do not hold back as they engage all of the horses, chariots and men in this pursuit. Make no mistake, when the enemy is threatened or wounded he will move in anger with all his fury. We saw this previously when examining Rev 12 where the dragon would be one day cast out of the heavenlies by Michael the archangel. God is allowing this because he wants to bring forth total victory. He wants judgement to be absolute. In the last days when He returns with His bride He will bring absolute judgement. Iniquity and sin will be ripe just as seen here in the days of Moses.
This is why God was angry against Saul in the battle of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15. Saul as king was directed to totally destroy Agag and his armies because of all that they did to Israel throughout the years. Their sin and iniquity had become ripe and God wanted to execute His judgement upon them through Israel’s chosen king of Saul. He won a victory but he did not destroy the king and the best of their flocks. (Can you understand why God was warning Israel about asking for a king prematurely?) It took the sword of the priest and prophet Samuel to finish the job (1 Sam 15).
In verse 10-12 we see the reaction of the people as they see the armies of Egypt moving against them. They chided Moses about how they wanted him to leave them alone. As soon as things do not go to plan the people begin to complain. Still, it had to be a frightening sight-seeing the armies of Pharaoh coming against them. Egypt was well aware of how they were spoiled of their goods and now they were looking to exact revenge.
I feel it is noteworthy to see the two positions or the two groups that are represented here. You have Moses and Aaron who have had encounters with God and knew that they were fulfilling His will and pleasure. On the other had you had the perspective of the people whose vision was narrow and governed by the prevailing elements around them. Here is a question to ponder! In the last days as we see things in the earth beginning to deteriorate, which of these two positions will we reflect? Will we be like Moses and Aaron, who saw things from God’s perspective, being able to lead, exhort and encourage in difficult times? Will we be like the children of Israel who are easily governed by circumstances? Will we be like David in confronting the Goliath’s of our day or more like Saul and his men who cower before his defiance? These are very real questions to ponder.
Moses, with God’s perspective exhorts the people to Fear not but stand still and see the miraculous salvation of the Lord (vs 13). This was a defining moment for Moses. As the leader he was coming face to face with the king of the earth looking to exact his fury. As a leader of millions from Israel he is now being looked upon as the deliverer. The call he sensed over 40 years before is now being realized. God has prepared his leader for this moment. This is an epic battle that consists of more than just Moses and Israel pivoted against Pharaoh and Egypt. It is a battle where God will also be judging the gods of Egypt. Moses was God’s vessel and ambassador. He now was in the place that God had authorized before the foundations of the world. It is because of this that one of the greatest miracles was about to take place. With his ROD in hand he stretches it forth and the waters of the Red Sea now depart. Moses is in the place God had ordained for him therefore he is able to be used of God to perform this mighty miracle. Moses did not presume faith here, he was fulfilling the call God had placed upon him. This is why you and I cannot just presume “faith” anytime we want. Faith fulfils God’s objective and pleasure, not ours. Faith originates from God through the hearing, confessing and doing of God’s Word (Rom 10:8-10, 17). This account should excite us for the potential of what God can do in our day. Let’s not miss the blueprint that is being provided to us through this account of Moses and Pharaoh.
The balance of this chapter is the account of the passing through the Red Sea. Israel was provided safe passage while a firewall separated them from the army of the Egyptians. We see so many examples of how God preserves His people and is able to make a distinction in the midst of judgement. We also see a beautiful portrait of what water baptism represents. This truth is supported by this verse from the Psalms. (Psa 106:11) Israel went into the depths of the Red Sea and came up on the other side. Egypt, (type of the world) went into the midst of the Red Sea and was covered by the waters.
This event captures a significant truth. The waters of baptism are an acknowledging by faith that we have died to our sins when we go under the water and that we are identifying with the resurrection of Christ in the coming up out of the waters. What a beautiful picture that is presented here. We shall see later that Israel was physically out of Egypt but the desires and love for Egypt would still be in them. This will entail a deeper work that will need to be done in the life of a believer. Does this mean that what Jesus accomplished at the Cross was not sufficient? Absolutely not, it was complete and absolute. What remains is an appropriation of what was accomplished and finished at the Cross. Israel will need to experience an appropriation of what was accomplished at Passover. This will be seen as they begin their wilderness journey.
As a young believer the first song that I ever remember singing was “I will sing unto the Lord” which was taken from this chapter. This song captured the sense of joy and triumph I was experiencing in my life, having being set free from many vices in life. Moses and Israel sang a song of triumph. It is the first of countless other songs that you will find in scripture. Another song taken from this chapter is “Who is like unto thee” (vs 11). Another song that I remember from my early years is taken from Zeph 3:17. (The Lord thy God in the midst of thee) This song expresses the joy that the Lord Himself has in the midst of His people. You get that sense as Moses is now leading Israel in triumphant victory over Egypt. There is something about triumphant praise. We later find that Judah was oftentimes sent before the other tribes into battle not due to their military prowess but to their ability to praise and sing (2 Chr 20:21). One of the ways to get victory over the forces of depression and discouragement is to praise and rejoice before the Lord. This song was one of reflection, taking note of what God had just done. It is descriptive, capturing the sentiment of the moment so as to have a record for posterity. God loves to inhabit the praises of His people.
Psa 22:3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.
Such praise honours God and brings to Him the glory that is due. He is a holy God.
Psa 68:4 Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.
In verses 22-23 we see Moses leading Israel into the wilderness and to a place called Marah. Having travelled for a few days they were seeking after water but found these waters to be bitter. Here is one of Israel’s first tests. How would they respond to this adversity? Yes, they are just coming off a glorious victory over Egypt but now they need to quench their thirst. This test was to give them an early glimpse of the message of the Cross. It was also a message that the journey will not always be easy. There will be hardships and bitter experiences. How will we respond to them?
The children of Israel began to murmur against Moses because now all they want is to quench their thirst. The events of the past few days have eluded them as they now focus on their immediate temporal need. This parallels the life of a believer today. How do we respond to adversity when it hits us? When things go against us and we experience our “Marah’s”, how do we respond? Do we forget all the past benefits and blessings from God in light of our current dilemma? How do we fill that void and need?
Moses took this matter to the Lord who directed his attention to a tree. He cast the tree into the water and they became sweet so that they all could drink. This was a test and an opportunity for Israel to know that God will provide their need. The tree is a “type” of the Cross. The message and outworking of the Cross can be bitter but look at what is produced. The Lord then speaks through Moses to inform the people that if they diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord and keep His law and statutes he will not bring upon them the diseases that were seen upon the Egyptians. It will help maintain the distinction that God made between Israel and Egypt in the midst of the plagues.
This is key for us today. Do we love, uphold and honour God’s laws and statutes? Do we have a desire to hear and obey His voice? The words that are spoken here are words for us. These words also help point us to the fact that the Lord is our healer (vs 26). The Lord then brings them to a place of refreshing called Elim where there were 12 wells, and 70 palm trees. This was like an oasis for them and it should encourage us that God has such seasons for us. The 12 wells could be a reference to the (12) tribes and the (70) palm trees could refer to the number of elders. The sense here is that God will always make a way in the wilderness for those who are aligned with Him. The palm tree speaks of righteousness. (Psa 92:12)
We see Peter James and John on the Mt. of transfiguration with Jesus. Suddenly, there was a glorious light that shone about the Lord. In addition, we see that Moses and Elijah were with him. One can only imagine the thoughts that must have been going through the minds of these three men.
Peter understood the awesome privilege they had in witnessing this phenomenon and thought to build three tabernacles. Can you imagine their reaction after hearing the voice of God affirming His Son before them? What was happening here? Why were these three men privy to such an experience? Clearly they were overwhelmed. The Lord in verse 7 touches them and speaks that they should not be afraid. What was this all about? Here are a few interesting points to ponder. Moses and Elijah’s bodies were never found. God buried Moses (Deu 34:6) and Elijah was taken up to heaven before Elisha (2 King 2:1). We also know that the Lord was about to go the Cross, that he would die and resurrect after 3 days. The Book of Revelation speaks of two witnesses (Moses and Elijah) who will come on the scene during the time of the tribulation and have a ministry up to the middle of the tribulation period. They will be killed and after three days resurrect and ascend into heaven as a type; perhaps also rising with the man-child company (Rev 12:3-5). This moment at Transfiguration seems to have a preparatory element to it. The commonality that is seen in Jesus, Moses and Elijah is clearly seen. All three will face death in Jerusalem followed by a resurrection after 3 days. All three will soon thereafter ascend into heaven. You have Jesus, the Son of God, master teacher, great high priest and prophet. You have Moses who was the greatest teacher in the Old Testament and you have Elijah, the might prophet with the primary message of Restoration. It seems that these qualities will be prominent in these last days.
Jesus then answers their question about Elijah that the scribes kept bringing up (vs 10-12). Perhaps they were referring to the writings of Malachi.
Mal 4:4 Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.
Mal 4:5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:
Mal 4:6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite
The Lord answered them by saying that Elijah had already come but the people did not know him. How could this be? The Lord was referring to John the Baptist in this instance. His ministry was to prepare the way of the Lord but also to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luk 1:17). There will be a literal return of Elijah in the last days whereby having a primary ministry of restoration. He will be accompanied by Moses who through his teaching ministry as a priest as well as the primary law giver will make ready a people for the time of the 2nd coming of the Lord. The Lord is sharing this with His disciples after this time on Transfiguration Mountain. He seems to be addressing two time periods. The Elijah mentioned in Malachi is the literal Elijah that will be seen in the last days. The Lord alludes to him by pointing to John the Baptist as one who is very much like the Elijah of the last days. John came with a ministry of repentance and restoration as well as preparing the way for the Lord. He paints a vivid picture of what the ministry of Elijah will be like. The Lord Himself is again going to be represented by Moses in the last days as the other witness. There is much to contemplate here.