When God Delivers
Israel had been in Egypt for 430 years.
430 years is a long time. 430 years ago from today would have been 1589. One of the big events of history of the year 1589 was the assassination of King Henry III of France by a monk. The king was stabbed on August 1 and the monk was immediately killed and the king died the next day at the age of 37.
These events took place 43 years after the death of Martin Luther who died on February 18, 1546.
I give you this information not to impress you, but in the hope that it will stir your imagination to think of the long amount of time and the great deal of history that is represented by 430 years. Our King James Version of the Bible is only 400 years old, and the language is archaic in the world of today. Just think of how many cultural, political and social changes would have taken place over the course of the 430 years the Israelites were in Egypt.
Because of this, their identity as slaves was firmly established and the very thought of deliverance for them was a mixed-up picture. Within three days of crossing the Red Sea they were saying to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us out here to die in the wilderness?” (Exodus 14:11) As if they had not been crying out to the Lord for deliverance! And not too long after this, they were moaning as they remembered eating leaks and onions by the Nile. (Numbers 11:5)
They were so conditioned by their long history of enslavement that they did not know what to do with their freedom, nor how to act as free people.
When Moses came and told them that God sent him to deliver them, they just wanted the suffering to stop. Most of the Israelites had grown comfortable worshipping the Egyptian gods, and comfortable with the lives they led in Egypt. They had no clear idea what deliverance would look like and they had no idea how deliverance could be accomplished.
The Lord took them through the 10 plagues to show them His great power, and to free them from their psychological enslavement to the Egyptian gods, culture and way of life. They had to be freed from so much more than just their physical slavery. They were spiritually, morally, socially, psychologically and mentally enslaved. Their enslavement was complete.
This is the same kind of enslavement God must free us from today.
Each person has his or her own history, family background, physical and psychological makeup. And, we are conditioned to accept some things as normal and natural that might not be good for us or pleasing to God.
I think about how when I was a boy married couples portrayed on television slept in separate beds, and they went to bed fully clothed in pajamas. Now we are accustomed to seeing people meet and go to the bedroom in a matter of minutes.
Our enslavement as a people and as a culture is complete and we do not even realize how enslaved we are nor do we have a clear idea of what it would be like to be free.
Each individual’s journey is different, but it often requires the equivalent of the 10 plagues of Egypt to deliver us. The problems, habits and thinking that enslave us are more real and more powerful to us than the living God. Therefore, God must strike down these false gods in our lives in order to free us. We are slaves because we believe there is no deliverance possible or what is worse, no deliverance is even needed.
No matter what the challenge, no matter who the enemy, and no matter what the obstacle, God can and will deliver all who call upon Him.
In today’s passage, we see four ways in which God brought a conclusion to His work of delivering the Israelites, and how that relates to us.
The first way God brought a conclusion to His work of delivering the Israelites was forcing Pharaoh to acknowledge God’s sovereignty.
The account of verses 29 through 32 starts out with the horrible announcement of the deaths in Egypt. Pharaoh did not die, although he was a firstborn, the text says, “...from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne...” (Exodus 12:29) Pharaoh remained alive to experience the judgment. Pharaoh was the antagonist, refusing to let the people go, and rather than just killing him, God demonstrated for all generations the foolishness of setting one’s self or one’s kingdom against the Lord.
So, when Pharaoh finally was willing to let the people go, he did it with urgency and with an interesting request. Exodus 12:32 tells us:
Wow, Pharaoh said, “...and bless me also!”
Not only did he have some nerve in making this request, but Pharaoh was humiliated and soundly defeated. This is the one who said, “Who is the Lord that I should listen to Him?” He has been brought to the place of saying, “Pray for me.” This is the one who just hours or days before had told Moses, “If I ever see you again, I will kill you.”
Whatever situation we are in, whatever circumstances we face, we must always remember:
...at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ()
No matter how much this world boasts and scoffs against the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
This final victory of Jesus carries into every aspect of life. We have the promise of God that “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” () He will continue His work of deliverance until all our foes are vanquished!
God brought victory out of the suffering of His people, and this leads us to the second way that God brought a conclusion to His work of delivering His people.
The second way God brought a conclusion to His work of delivering His people was plundering their enemies.
One mistake we often make with the world is we think our enemies are our friends. For example, is your television your friend or enemy? It can be either depending on how you use it. Far too often, it is a tool in the hands of our enemy as he works to deceive men.
The Israelites were able to ask the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry. This is an activity that takes place between friends. The Egyptians were the Israelites’ oppressors and enslavers but here they are with friendly relations. God wants us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. However, to pray for your enemy underscores the fact that you know this person is your enemy. This implies you know that this enemy is not looking out for your best interest. Many of the Israelites made the mistake of thinking Egypt was their friend. Throughout their history, Israel often looked to Egypt for help and deliverance, something that God repeatedly warned them against.
At the point of deliverance, God turned the deceitfulness and selfishness of the enemies of His people against them. The Israelites did as they were instructed and requested jewelry from their Egyptian friends and neighbors. Exodus 12:36 tells us:
And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. ()
God does the same for us. He brings us riches out of our sufferings. What the enemy uses to destroy us, God uses to enrich us.
Saul chased David around the wilderness for years and instead of destroying David, it shaped David to be the greatest king Israel ever had.
The devil deceived Saul and had him persecuting the Church, but God used this background to shape the greatest evangelist and teacher the Church has ever had.
Whatever your besetting sin or weakness may be, God can turn it into the biggest blessing of your life. But, it may take ten plagues to get there.
While we look forward to the deliverance and riches to come, the waiting is often hard. However, eventually, the waiting is over. This is the third way God brings a conclusion to His work of delivering His people.
The third way God brings a conclusion to His work of delivering His people is the timing.
God’s timing is perfect, but it also is unexpected. God had given the Israelites word that they were to gather jewelry. He had instructed them on the preparation of the Passover lamb. He told them to eat with their staff in their hand ready to go. But verse 39 tells us that the Egyptians were so anxious for them to leave that the Israelites had no time to prepare provisions for themselves. They had plenty of indications that the time was near, but they still were not prepared. Because, although God’s timing is perfect, it is not predictable.
The return of Christ will be like this. Although we have every indication that it will be soon, many are not ready. However, we can be sure His timing will be perfect.
And, when we are praying for deliverance for our own besetting sins, weakness and diseases, we know His timing is perfect, but we do not know when or how the healing will take place. Sometimes the healing takes place in the removal of the encumbrance of this tent, our body. At other times, the healing may take place gradually over time. And, at still other times, the healing takes place suddenly without a struggle. But, whichever way God does it, our deliverance is complete and perfect.
Along with the timing, God brings a conclusion to His work of delivering His people in a fourth way.
The fourth way God brings a conclusion to His work of delivering His people is by watching.
Exodus 12:42 says:
It was a night of watching by the Lord, to bring them out of the land of Egypt; so this same night is a night of watching kept to the Lord by all the people of Israel throughout their generations. ()
The word vigil is also used to translate the Hebrew word Moses used here for “watching.” We know the Lord never sleeps, but He uses the idea of a vigil to communicate the care with which He watched over His people.
Consider the words of Psalm 121:3-4.
He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. ()
“He will not let your foot slip.” He keeps a vigil to watch over you.
This is a huge deal. God told Zerubbabel:
Zerubbabel was faced with the impossible task of rebuilding the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem against constant and fierce opposition. God’s answer was “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.”
Some have criticized the Bible’s account of the Exodus because moving over 2 million people out of a nation in one night is impossible. Just think of the massive movement of people, cargo, food, cattle, clothing and tents that would be required.
Throughout history, there have been a number of mass migrations. From 1880 to the 1920s, covering over 40 years, millions of Italians left Italy. Mass migrations take years. Even moving large armies takes months, but moving more than 2 million people in a single night takes an act of God, a miracle.
Look at verse 41 of Exodus 12.
At the end of 430 years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt. ()
Two thoughts are contained in this verse. One is that the timing of God was precise and to the day. Not a single thing that happened was outside of His control. The second thought has to do with the thing happening on a day. It says the hosts of the Lord went out from Egypt. A host is a military term and the word “armies” could be used in its place.
When the Lord delivers us, we will go out in victory like a triumphant army, not in defeat. Call on the name of the Lord for deliverance and you cannot fail.