The people of Israel have been numbered and divided. Each is in his tribe and place. Yet the Levites were not numbered with the people. They had been set apart by God / YHWH for His specific purpose. Now we begin to see a bit more about this purpose and the Levite’s role and jobs.
Here in chapter 3 we see that while the Levites missed out on the general census, they will be having a special census all their own. While the general population was numbered by their men 20 years old and older, the Levites are numbered by the males from one month and up. Everyone MUST be accounted for. There must be an accurate count. YHWH is dividing up the Levites into their duties, and there must be an accurate count of who is involved in what.
The most interesting part of this chapter for me though mainly starts in vs. 11; “Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Now, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be Mine. For all the firstborn are Mine; on the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, from man to beast. They shall be Mine; I am the LORD.’” So YHWH, when He was freeing the people from the hand of Pharaoh, killed all of the firstborn of the Egyptians, but He spared those who were under the protection of the blood. Yet when He did that, He did not just ignore those who were spared, but He set them aside as belonging to Him.
I don’t know why, but for some reason this just strikes me. YHWH spared the firstborn of Israel. His angel of death took all of the firstborn of the land, except for the protected. This was in punishment for Pharaoh & Egypts’ sins against God and the people of Israel. Yet as a result of this sparing of the people of Israel, YHWH sees the firstborn of Israel as belonging to Him. I mean, He spared them because they were obedient to Him and He was punishing the Egyptians for their sins, defiance of Him, and slavery of the Israelites. So how does His sparing of the Israelites make them now His? I mean in a sense, it makes sense. In another sense, not so much.
After going through Exodus like this; i’ve come to understand it a little bit better. Exodus is more than just about YHWH bringing his people out of Egypt and rescuing them from Pharaoh. It’s more than about bringing them through the wilderness to Mount Sinai. It’s even more than about bringing the people of Israel face-to-face with God. The conclusion that i’ve come to is that Exodus is about fulfilling a promise and it’s about giving the people true worship.
YHWH had made a promise to Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob about their descendants; that he would make their descendants a great nation and that he would bring them out of Egypt. This is the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise. The people of Israel have become vast in number, yet they have turned against each other. In fact, they have united against Egypt and become a unified nation in spite of being 12 separate tribes. YHWH has led them out of Egypt and brought them to Himself. He made promises to Moses and to the people as well, and is fulfilling them.
What is worship, and what place does it have in our lives? The only understanding of God that the people of Israel had was that He was the God of their fathers, and what limited experience and information had been passed down through the generations. The people knew that there was a God of their fathers, but they had no understanding of who He was / is and what His purpose was for them. There was a need and a desire for God. There was a drive to know and worship Him. There was a pursuit of God, but there was no fulfillment. That, i believe, was YHWH’s greatest gift to the people of Israel in the book of Exodus. Not the parting of the Red Sea… not water from a rock… not manna… not the destruction of Egypt… not even freedom from slavery or the unification of a nation. No, the greatest gift that YHWH gave to the Israelites in Exodus, was the ability to worship Him. It was the fulfillment of their need and purpose. That’s the true jewel of the book of Exodus.
They have come to the Mountain of God (Elohim). All that has happened in Egypt and in the wilderness has been in preparation for this. When Moses told Pharaoh to let the people go, it was to bring them to this; “We must go a three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD (YHWH) our God (Elohim) as He commands us.” So now here they are (three months later) at the foot of Mount Sinai, the mountain of God.
God is getting ready to speak with the people of Israel, so he first meets with Moses in order to get the people prepared to meet with Him. The people are given a few simple instructions before they come near to God. God instructs Moses to consecrate the people, they must wash their clothes, and the men must abstain from a woman for the three days. When they do come to the mountain of God, they must not touch the mountain. Anyone who does must be killed and their bodies not touched… this is obviously very serious.
The third day finally comes and Moses goes up Mount Sinai to meet with God, but YHWH wants to make sure that the people are not going to break through to see Him. So, He sends Moses back down to remind the people that they cannot touch the Mountain of God, and for Moses to bring Aaron back up with him.
So that naturally leads to the question, do we prepare to meet with God? When we go to spend time with YHWH, do we prepare ourselves? Do we understand that our God is the God of such Holiness, that any sin we bring into His presence is a foul stench in His nostrils? Are we preparing ourselves to meet with Him, or is He of such little regard to us that it doesn’t matter what kind of state we are in? The beautiful thing is that we do not need two days of preparation and abstaining from sexual intercourse in order to meet with Him. With the blood of Christ through repentance we are made clean. We are able to come into the presence of God cleaned from the inside. We are prepared through repentance and the blood.
When you come to God, do you come prepared? I know that repentance is something that i just do not do as i should, so that is something that i need to work on.
Rev. John Camiolo Jr.
It’s funny because after all that God has done for them, you would think that the Israelites would trust and honor God. Instead, when they see the Egyptians coming after them they could only see punishment and reprimand from the Egyptians and not relief from YHWH. Pharaoh and the army are chasing after them, and their first reaction is to blame God and Moses. They said, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us out here to the wilderness to die?”
So what does God respond? He tells them to keep going! He makes it clear that He WILL be honored, and it will be at the expense of the Egyptians. Three times this word “Honored” shows up in this chapter. God will be honored by the Egyptians and the people of Israel. Yet, how do the people react? They fear the Egyptians instead of God. They would rather return to slavery than to risk relying on God.
YHWH instructs Moses to move forward while He personally covers their flanks. He tells Moses to open a pathway through the trouble and into the relative safety beyond. In the end, YHWH brings the Israelites through the Red Sea on dry land and sweeps the Egyptian army with all of their world class chariots away in the sea. In the end, the honor and glory belong to Him and Him alone. He will be honored, and He is, both by the Egyptians, the Israelites, and later by the people of the promised land.
Are we giving God the honor that He deserves?
I split this chapter at the end of verse 27 due to the length of chapter overall. Thus the first verse in today’s work was 28; “Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the LORD (YHWH) had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.” (NASB) Opening this section with this verse really struck me. If there is one thing that i have learned about the Hebrew people through most of the old testament, it’s that they didn’t like doing what they were told. They tended to be very stubborn people who took a whole lot of convincing to get them to follow simple instructions sometimes. Even when they did follow directions, many times it also involved grumbling and complaining. This was especially true of this particular generation. Once they go out into the wilderness, Moses has all kinds of problems with them. So much so that, apart from two people, none of them is allowed to actually enter the promised land.
Yet here we see a simple statement of profound importance. “Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the LORD (YHWH) had commanded…” This and similar statements are made three times in this second half of Exodus 12 (vs. 28, 35, & 50). Why is simple obedience such a difficult thing to do? I know that the Hebrew people are not the only ones that have that difficulty. Pharaoh had the same problem… and so do I. I know that it would be better to do things God’s way. I know that it would make my life better and easier. I know that i can trust Him even when i don’t understand. Yet time and time again the choice i make is the wrong one. Then, i have the gall to get upset when things don’t go the way i expect them to. I just don’t get it sometimes.
This section is where the exodus of the Hebrew people really begins. The final miracle occurs; the firstborn of everyone from Pharaoh’s household to the prisoners in the dungeon lost their lives. Pharaoh and the people of Egypt “urged” the Israelites to leave. So exactly 430 years to the day after Israel and his family came to Egypt, the LORD (YHWH) brings them out again.
It is almost time. It is here. The passover is truly the most important festival for the Jewish people. It is about reprimand, redemption, & rescue. It is about reprimand in that the angel of death would come and take payment for the sins of the people. It is about rescue in that the Hebrew people would be rescued from the Egyptian in their slavery, as well as being rescued from the angel of death by the passover lamb’s blood painted on the door posts and lintel. It is about redemption in that the Jewish people are ultimately redeemed from slavery and from sin.
The Passover lamb is a prophetic representation of the work Christ would do and his purpose in rescuing and redeeming all people. His purpose is to draw all men unto Himself.
This first part of this chapter is all about getting the people prepared for what is about to happen. With every other plague, God tells Moses to talk to Pharaoh and give him a command from God. At this time, all of that begins to mean something more because God starts preparing the people to leave. It’s nice to hear that YHWH is going to bring them out. It is something else entirely when YHWH says, “It’s time! Let’s get prepared to move out.” Now that plan is beginning to come to fruition.
What about us? Are we living as if our sins have been removed as far away as the east is from the west? Are we celebrating God’s passing over our lives in destruction?
Compared to the other chapters, this one is definitely much shorter. I only discovered how short the chapter was when i was almost done with it. It is only nine verses compared to most other chapters that average closer to 32 verses. At the same time, it has taken me longer than 1/3 of the time to do it as a regular chapter. I have been very groggy and it has been very difficult for me to focus. As a result, nine verses has taken me about as long to do as 16-18 verses on a normal day. It’s not unsurprising that it is on the day that i have a much shorter chapter, that that is when i just can’t stay focused. It’s like God has been giving me the energy and focus on the days that i really need it, and on days like today He reminds me of how much this kind of schedule wrecks havoc on my body. A reminder that i really need to take early bedtimes seriously to help me function better.
There is a ton of very heavy theology in this chapter. I think that i could really dissect this chapter and easily double my regular 400-500 word post for it. In this chapter God is beginning to prepare Moses for what He is about to do. This final plague is going to go the distance. It is going to push Pharaoh to the limits so that he pushes back and ejects the Hebrew people out of the land. As such, YHWH has to prepare Moses and the people to leave.
God blesses the people with honor and favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and Moses himself with great esteem in their sight. When they go out, it is not going to be with a whimper but with a bang. As a result Moses and the people need to be prepared. To be ready to move out.
So He tells Moses what to expect and what to do in the process. He gives him not only the instructions, but the go-ahead to get the job done. The people may have wanted to leave and thought that they were ready when Moses first presented God’s command to Pharaoh, but they were far from that. They still aren’t fully ready, as we will see in future chapters, but now they have all that they need to be successful.
How about us? Is YHWH preparing us for something bigger? Do we think we are ready and that we can handle what He has for us, or does God have more He needs to do in our lives before all of this happens?
If things weren’t deep and passionate before, there is a whole lot of that going on now! The plagues keep getting more and more intense and powerful, and Pharaoh’s frustration and anger are getting worse and worse.
Pharaoh is doing everything he can to attempt to delay or stop the inevitable, but he just can’t stop YHWH. I kind of feel bad for the guy. But at the same time, i know why this is happening, and his involvement / responsibility in it. It’s kind of like working with troubled youth. Sometimes the only way they learn is to allow them to learn and understand the consequences of their actions. Explaining it to them, processing it with them and protecting them from it can only get you so far. Sometimes you just need to let them see, and until they see they will not understand.
You can see Pharaoh’s will / resolve start to soften in this chapter, but Pharaoh is not a man to change easily or lightly. Nor is he a man likely to accept defeat. God continues to harden an already hard heart. Pharaoh continues to attempt to compromise with God, but the cost of that compromise is much higher than the cost of the original price.
How do you help a man who is so insistent that he wins, that he is willing to destroy himself and everything around him in order to do so? How do you open the eyes of a man so blinded by his own pride and rebellion that he thinks he can stand against God? What drives a man to become what you see before you? Yes, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and yes, God had every right to do that! But the truth is, He didn’t need to. Pharaoh was so intent on doing it to himself that he did not need any real help from God.
How do help a man like that?
You can tell that God has a sense of humor and a thing for irony. You see it throughout the Bible and here especially is no exception. So the magicians and priests have attempted to stand against Moses and God with every new miracle that occurs, but take a look at verse 11; “The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians as well as on all the Egyptians.” Yeah, good luck trying to oppose Moses and God like that. They can’t even show up because of the very miracle they are trying to oppose. So much for that problem. Talk about irony.
This chapter is the first place that we see God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. After each miracle Pharaoh keeps hardening his own heart, but God hardens his heart after the plague of the boils. There are some that say that this is not right; that this shows that Pharaoh is being unjustly treated. I don’t buy that argument on many levels, and i will probably talk about that more in the coming chapters.
In the meantime, there is proof that Pharaoh was not ready to let the people go whether he hardened his heart or God did. Later in the chapter, during the plague of the hail, Pharaoh tells Moses to stop the plague and that he will let the people go. Moses says “But as for you and your servants, I know that you do not yet fear the LORD God.” This is later proven when Moses stops the storm, Pharaoh hardens his heart, and he goes back on his word.
Pharaoh rejects God and what He is doing. He rejects his own responsibility and what needs to be done. He even rejects his own word. He as well is rejected by God. Pharaoh is not the only one that does this. We do this as well. There are times when God commands and directs us, but we reject Him by refusing to trust and obey him. It’s not even a question of do we do it. It’s a question of why do we do it. So why do we do it, and what do we need to know / do to change that?
Well now, things just keep getting worse and worse for Pharaoh. We have gone from blood to frogs and gnats and insects. God is showing Pharaoh that not only is He the one true God and that he can create life and take it away, but he can also have creatures distinguish between Egyptian and Israelite lands. Pharaoh’s magicians have gotten to the point where even they acknowledge that these things can only be done by God, and that’s saying something!
Pharaoh’s heart is beginning to change. He’s trying to compromise with God. Unfortunately what he’s finding is that God does not accept compromise. It’s a tough lesson for Pharaoh to learn, and he’s not learning it very well. Then again, do we? So Pharaoh’s trying to save face in the face of watching his land be devastated. He is beginning to understand that this is not such as small matter. So while he is starting to soften in his view, he has made the choice to harden his heart and ignore the truth.
That is such a tough thing to do. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. It’s a tough thing to do for a short time, but when you are trying to wrestle against YHWH for an extended period of time, that will wear you down really quickly. The older i have gotten, the lazier i have gotten, and i have come to the conclusion that that is just too much work. It is so much easier to just say, “OK God. You win. What do you want me to do?”
The nice thing about letting God win is that it is worth it. Life is so much easier, more joyful, and more fulfilling when i step out of the way and just let God. It means going from slave to servant, but the difference between the two is amazing.
Rev. John Camiolo