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.
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?
Everything changes… again. God has taken the promise that He made to Abram and has taken it a step further. This is not God’s first promise, nor even His last. God has made many promises throughout the scriptures and in individual lives, and He always fulfills them. But this is a bit different.
A promise is something that you make to someone. It is a fact; “I will… to/for you.” The honoree honors his promise because he made it. It becomes valid due to the validity of the name and honor of the one who makes the promise. If it is broken, it destroys the honor, name, and respect towards the one who made the promise. Ultimately, a promise is a one-way street. Two people may make promises to one another, but those promises are both one-way.
A covenant, on the other hand, is something you make WITH someone. It is a relationship; “I desire… with you.” The covenant maker honors his covenant because of the relationship. It becomes valid due to the other person, and the validity of the relationship. If it is broken, it destroys not only the honor, name, and respect towards the one who made the promise, but also the trust and relationship between the people and thereby the relationship with the self. Ultimately, a covenant must be a two-way street. A covenant broken not only destroys the relationship with the other, it also destroys the relationship with the self.
Covenant’s should never be made lightly, and the breaking of a covenant will always do as much (if not more) damage to the self as to the other. At the same time, a covenant is the fulfillment of what it means to be a man (or woman). We were formed and created for relationship. We were designed for covenant. In our very nature and purpose is a desire and need for covenant. Covenant with God, but also with other people: “It is not good for man to be alone.”
Are we people of promise, or of covenant? Do we exist for our relationships, or do our relationships exist for us? God made covenant with Abram, and Abram with God. We are a people of that covenant when we pursue (and are pursued by) God. Have you pursued God today?