Do you feel like you’re in uncharted territory? Does the future seem uncertain and hazy? While this is a somewhat new era for our country and our world, it’s not new to the history of the world. Many nations faced turmoil and uncertainty. In fact, in our study of Exodus, the Israelites are at the beginning of an unknown future. They had left behind all that they had previously known and were walking forward into uncharted territory. But God gave them a promise. And as we look back through the lens of history, we know that God kept His promise. Therefore, we can walk forward into an unknown future because we have a known God. And we can have confidence because the same God who went before the Israelites goes before us.
But what was God’s promise to the Israelites?
The Ten Commandments. The building blocks of Judaism and, thus, Christianity. Many of us were raised with them, and were taught them from a young age. They are posted in Sunday school class rooms and displayed in prominent places. You could probably rattle them off from memory. However, we must be careful that familiarity doesn’t breed nonchalance. The Ten Commandments are not something we should take lightly. They are the standards our holy God set for us to be a people worthy of His name.
“On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There Israel encamped before the mountain, while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel. So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do.’ And Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.’”
The children of Israel had finally left Egypt and are beginning a new chapter in their lives. No longer are they slaves to a fearful tyrant. However, before they can get too far in their newfound freedom, the Lord gives Moses this new command.
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Consecrate to me all the firstborn. Whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.’”
“Let my people go, that they may serve me. Or else, if you will not let my people go, behold, I will send swarms of flies on you and your servants and your people, and into your houses. And the houses of the Egyptians shall be filled with swarms of flies, and also the ground on which they stand. But on that day I will set apart the land of Goshen, where my people dwell, so that no swarms of flies shall be there, that you may know that I am the LORD in the midst of the earth. Thus I will put a division between my people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall happen.”
Egypt was afflicted with ten plagues, and while you may think that Israel got away scot-free, they didn’t. They had a few plagues to deal with too. It wasn’t until the fourth plague—flies—that God began to spare His people the suffering to come. Therefore, the Israelites had to deal with the water turning to blood, frogs, and gnats.
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