Bible Readings & Prayer Points
Last month we began a series of Bible readings in the Book of Exodus. This month we continue that series, as the plagues come to their climax and God delivers his people from Egypt.
Wednesday 1st April
We come today in our readings in the Book of Exodus to chapter 9. We have read the whole chapter today and, over the next few days, we shall consider its constituent parts. In this chapter of Scripture we have the plague on the livestock, the plague of boils and the plague of hail. In each of these, we see again the same sequence of events as in the other plagues. Pharaoh is asked to let the people go, he refuses, God sends a plague, Pharaoh promises to let them go, the plague is ended and then Pharaoh goes back on his word and refuses to let the people go. As we move through the plagues, however, the situation becomes more serious, the distinction between the Hebrews and the Egyptians is drawn more sharply and Pharaoh’s own condition before God is highlighted.
Thursday 2nd April
In verse 4 of this passage, we are told that when God brought a plague on the livestock, he made a distinction between the livestock of the Egyptians and the livestock of the Israelites. As we read in verse 6, ‘All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one animal belonging to the Israelites died.’ This distinction continues a theme which we saw in our reading in the previous chapter (8:23). This distinction between his own people and their enemies highlights a number of Scripture themes, not least the covenant God made with the people of Israel. God makes a distinction between the covenant people and the Gentiles. In the New Testament he makes a distinction between believers and unbelievers. Finally, on the Day of Judgement, he will distinguish between the righteous and the unrighteous.
Friday 3rd April
In these verses we have the plague of festering boils. What stands out is that Pharaoh is sinking ever deeper into sin and so he comes under the judgement of God. As we read in verse 12, ‘But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.’ In yesterday’s passage, after the plague on the livestock, we read this in verse 7, ‘Pharaoh sent men to investigate and found that not even one of the animals of the Israelites had died. Yet his heart was unyielding and he would not let the people go.’ As we saw earlier in these readings, when people harden their hearts against God, he often acts to confirm that hardness. It is a dangerous thing to harden our hearts against God and we should be aware of the trouble it can bring to our lives.
Saturday 4th April
In these verses we learn about the fear of the Lord. Pharaoh did not fear the Lord and God used him as an example to display his power. In verse 16 God says to Pharaoh, ‘But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’ This statement is picked up by Paul in Romans 9 to teach the doctrine of God’s election, namely, that God is in sovereign control of all things. There were, however, some Egyptians who did fear the Lord, as we see in verse 20. They had come to believe in God because of all that they had seen of his power. To fear the Lord does not mean to be afraid of the Lord. Rather, it means a proper, reverent attitude to God, an attitude which is accompanied by obedience. Do we fear the Lord in this biblical sense? Too many Christians today have no fear of the Lord and do not reverence or obey him as they ought.
Sunday 5th April
These verses describe the plague of hail which God sent upon Egypt. At one point in the story, there seems to be some hope for Pharaoh. After the plague of the hail, he appears to admit his sin to the Lord in verses 27-28. These are startling words, coming from Pharaoh. It appears to be an admission of sin and a declaration that the Lord is in the right and that he Pharaoh is in the wrong. Moses, however, could see that this was not genuine. Notice verse 30: ‘But I know that you and your officials still do not fear the LORD God.’ In other words, this was not true conviction of sin or true repentance. This is confirmed in the last two verses of the chapter, verses 34-35. There is an important point here. Many people give the impression that they are sorry for their sins and are seeking God’s forgiveness but very often it is a passing thing during a time of trouble and as soon as the trouble passes, their apparent conviction of sin and repentance vanishes.
Monday 6th April
God makes it clear to Moses, in verses 1-2, that one of the reasons for bringing the plagues on Egypt was to demonstrate his power, so that the Israelites would be able to tell their children and grandchildren of the greatness and power of their God. Passing on stories was part of the life of the Israelites. Many of the stories we read in the Old Testament were passed on by word of mouth long before they were written down. Telling children and grandchildren about their God and how he rescued them from Egypt was very important. In Scotland, we have seen many examples of God’s great power at work, over the centuries. Do we know these stories ourselves? Do we tell them to our children and grandchildren? It is vital that our families know the power and greatness of our God.
Tuesday 7th April
We read this passage again today, in order to focus on the interaction between Pharaoh, his officials and Moses. The officials were greatly concerned by Pharaoh’s intransigence. Their anxiety is expressed in verse 7. They begged Pharaoh to let the Israelites go and said to Pharaoh, ‘Do you not yet realise that Egypt is ruined?’ This must have had an impact on Pharaoh because he called Moses and Aaron in and said that they could go into the desert and worship as they had requested. When he discovered that this meant women and children as well as the men, however, he changed his mind! Lying behind this, of course, is what we read in verse 1 of our passage: God was in control, not Pharaoh. Our God is sovereign and rules over all things. Do we believe that? Do we trust in him through all of life’s changing circumstances?
Wednesday 8th April
The same pattern emerges as before. God sends a plague on Egypt, this time of locusts. It is not just the Bible which speaks of a plague of locusts. The National Geographic magazine says this: ‘A plague of locusts is a devastating natural disaster. These infestations have been feared and revered throughout history. Unfortunately, they still wreak havoc today… Locust swarms devastate crops and cause major agricultural damage and attendant human misery—famine and starvation. They occur in many parts of the world, but today locusts are most destructive in sustenance farming regions of Africa.’ It was so bad that Pharaoh confesses his sin and begs Moses and Aaron to pray for him and to ask God to end the plague. When the plague is ended, however, he refuses to let the Israelites go. Have you ever made promises to God in a time of trouble and then forgotten it when the trouble has passed?
Thursday 9th April
Here we have the plague of darkness, so severe that it is described as ‘darkness that can be felt’. Now Pharaoh agrees that not only the men but the women and children as well can go out into the desert to worship their God but he would not allow them to take their livestock. Moses said they must take the animals, not least for the sacrifices to be offered in their worship. Pharaoh angrily refused, as we read in verse 28 ‘Get out of my sight! Make sure you do not appear before me again! The day you see my face you will die.’ Pharaoh had hardened his heart and God had hardened his heart, there was no turning back. Moses replies in verse 29, ‘Just as you say, I will never appear before you again.’ This was Pharaoh’s last opportunity to turn back before the last plague, the plague of death. This was the end of the line. It is never wise to test the patience of God.
Friday 10th April
Just before he leaves Pharaoh for the last time, Moses tells Pharaoh of the final plague which was to come upon Egypt, the plague on the firstborn. God had told Moses that the firstborn in every house in Egypt will die. God had also promised Moses that when this final plague came, Pharaoh would not only allow the people to go, he would actually drive them out of Egypt. We are also told that God had made preparations for the well-being of his people, the Israelites. No harm would come to any Israelite home. Indeed, they would leave Egypt safely, carrying with them the wealth of Egypt. In this way they would plunder Egypt. If this sounds an unlikely situation, we have to realise that God was acting in a sovereign way to make it happen. We are told in verse 3 that, ‘The LORD made the Egyptians favourably disposed towards the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.’ Once again we see the sovereignty of God.
Saturday 11th April
When Moses had finished making this final speech to Pharaoh, he was profoundly angry. Notice verse 8: ‘Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.’ This should not be taken to be some kind of self-indulgent, sinful anger. This was a righteous anger, the anger of a man who knew the mind of God against a king who refused to bow the knee to God. Most of the time when we get angry it is sinful but there is a righteous anger. This is the kind of anger we see in Jesus when he took a whip and drove the money-changers out of the Temple. It is the kind of anger which we should rightly express when we hear of the oppression of the poor and the weak by the rich and the powerful, when we hear of people riding roughshod over those who are unable to defend themselves.
Sunday 12th April
We read this chapter once more, in order to emphasise the patience of God. In this chapter, the patience of God is finally exhausted. As we have gone through all of these plagues, it has been astonishing to see how many opportunities Pharaoh was given to repent of his sin and to bow to the will of God. Was any sinner ever given more opportunities than this? God was incredibly patient – but finally his patience was exhausted and Pharaoh was doomed to disaster. Peter refers to God’s patience in 2 Peter 3:9. Some were asking when the end would come. Peter writes: ‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ Nevertheless, a time will come when God’s patience is exhausted and judgement will come, as Peter goes on to say in verse 10. Are we ready for that day?
Monday 13th April
Yesterday we saw that Pharaoh had tried God’s patience once too often and God had decided that enough was enough. Pharaoh was told by Moses that one more plague would come, a plague of death on the firstborn in every home in Egypt. Moses then left Pharaoh, never to appear before him again. The talking was over, Pharaoh had placed himself beyond redemption and all that awaited now was this last and final judgement of God. In our passage today, Exodus 12:1-30, we read of the enactment of that judgement upon Pharaoh and Egypt. This is the story of the Passover, one of the most significant events in the life of the nation of Israel. For that reason we are going to look at it over several days. There is a sense in which everything we have read so far in the Book of Exodus has been leading up to this great event of the Passover. Here God shows himself to be both a Judge and a Saviour. How foolish of Pharaoh to turn down so many opportunities to repent!
Tuesday 14th April
Moses calls the people together and tells them to take a one year old lamb, without spot of blemish and at twilight these animals were to be slaughtered. This was to be done by every Israelite family. Some of the blood was to be put on the sides of the door frames and some on the lintels above the doors. Then the animal was to be roasted and eaten – all of it. The Israelites obeyed these instructions and at midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn of Egypt. Death came to every Egyptian house. In verse 30 we read these terrible words, ‘and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.’ Can you imagine the horror of this? It should serve as a powerful reminder that no human being can stand against God and escape his judgement, no matter how important that person may be in human terms.
Wednesday 15th April
The Passover is not only significant for Jews, it is also significant for Christians. John the Baptist called Jesus ‘the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. Then, in 1 Corinthians 5:7, Paul says that, ‘Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.’ In what sense, then, is Christ our Passover lamb? In each Israelite home, on the night of the Passover, a lamb was slaughtered and the Israelites ‘sheltered’ under the blood of a lamb, so that when God ‘passed over’ Egypt in judgement, they remained unharmed. The message of the New Testament is that we must shelter under the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) to escape judgement. This is very significant. In Hebrews 9:22 we read this: ‘the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.’ Here is the point – the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the Cross brings forgiveness to all who will trust in him.
Thursday 16th March
The Exodus from Egypt was the fulfilment of several prophecies. Over the next three days, we are going to consider these. In Genesis 12:2, when God first met with Abraham, he made him a promise. He said, ‘I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.’ Here in verse 37 of our passage today we see the fulfillment of that prophecy. We are told that there were about 600,000 men came out of Egypt as well as women and children. God had indeed made Abraham into a great nation. Abraham did not believe the promise when God first made it. He had no son and could not see how God could fulfil his promise, especially when he and Sarai were quite old. He had to learn to trust God and, although he didn’t live to see it, God kept his promise.
Friday 17th April
The second prophecy which was fulfilled at the Exodus is found in Genesis 15:12-14. We’re told that, ‘As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. Then the LORD said to him, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and ill-treated four hundred years.”‘ We find that promise fulfilled in verses 40-41 of today’s passage: ‘Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt.’ God’s fulfilment of that promise to Abraham became important in the history of Israel, as a reminder of God’s faithfulness. When Stephen was making his final speech to the Jewish leaders before his martyrdom, in Acts 7, he tells this great story and reminds us of God’s fulfilment of that prophecy. We often sing, ‘Great is thy Faithfulness’ and we should trust in that.
Saturday 18th April
The third prophecy fulfilled in our passage is found in Genesis 15:14, after the promise that the Israelites would be delivered from Egypt. God says, ‘But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterwards they will come out with great possessions.’ In verses 35-36 of today’s passage this is fulfilled. They may have been slaves but they did not leave in poverty, they plundered the Egyptians, just as God had promised to Abraham. What we have seen over the past few days should do two things for us as Christians. First, it should give us confidence in our God because he is a God who keeps his promises. Our God is a God who can be trusted. The second thing this fulfilment of prophecy should do for us, is to foster certain convictions about the truth of Scripture and its trustworthiness. As we have seen, the Scriptures all fit together, with promises in one place fulfilled in another place, with teaching in one place complementing and building upon the teaching in other places. We should have confidence in God’s Word.
Sunday 19th April
The Jews were commanded to observe the Passover ‘for the generations to come’. As Christians, we ought to note the connections between the Passover and the Lord’s Supper. The most obvious connection is that the Last Supper, which became a model for the future observance of the Lord’s Supper, was in fact a Passover meal. It is, I think, no coincidence that, when Jesus and the Disciples met to remember the Passover, Jesus used the occasion to speak about his own forthcoming death and to institute a meal of remembrance. The most significant connection concerns redemption. The Israelites celebrated the Passover every year to remember how God had redeemed them from Egypt. At the Lord’s Supper, we remember how Christ redeemed us from sin and death. As the Jews looked back to the Exodus, so we look back to the Cross.
Monday 20th April
This passage tells of two ways in which the Israelites were to remember what God had done for them. First, they were to consecrate their firstborn to the Lord. God had destroyed the firstborn of every home in Egypt but had saved the Israelites. Therefore the firstborn of every Israelite house belonged to God in a special way. The second way of remembering was a new festival, the ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread’ and the Passover. In these ways, the Israelites were to worship God and give thanks for his redemption. We should notice that the instructions for observing the Feast were precise and clear. This teaches us that we cannot simply worship God as we please, with clever ideas dreamed up by ourselves. Rather, we must worship God according to what he has laid down. In our Presbyterian circles, this is called ‘the regulative principle’.
Tuesday 21st April
These verses of Scripture teach us that God knows his people very well and acts in their best interests. Note verses 17-18: ‘When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road towards the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt armed for battle.’ God knew what they were like and he dealt with them accordingly. He didn’t lead them by the quickest route out of Egypt because he knew they would react badly. God acts according to the knowledge he has of us. Isn’t it wonderful to be assured that God knows us so well? There is nothing about our nature of character which escapes God’s notice.
Wednesday 22nd April
There is another lesson to be learned before we leave this passage, namely, that God leads his people. We see that in verses 21-22. God didn’t send them out of Egypt without direction. Having redeemed them from the clutches of the enemy he led them: a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. This was a sign of God’s love. In Exodus 15:13 Moses and the people sing to God, ‘In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.’ Today, we also benefit from God’s leading and guiding. We must seek his face, we must not resist his leading and we ignore his guidance at our peril. This is summed up in Proverbs 4:10-13. Do we seek carefully for the leading and guiding of God and then follow?
Thursday 23rd April
The lesson in this passage is that God protects his people. In verses 1-4 God demonstrates that he knew the Egyptians as well as he knew his own people. He knew that the Egyptians would pursue the Israelites but he had a strategy in place to protect his people. The people of Egypt and Pharaoh in particular were slow to learn about God and his power, despite what they had been through, as we see from their foolish action in verses 5-9. They had let the Israelites go but now they came after them to make them slaves again. How could they have forgotten so soon the awesome display of God’s power and the death of the firstborn? Yet God’s people had nothing to fear. He protected them. Similarly he protects us from our enemies, as we read in Psalm 32:7: ‘You are my hiding-place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.’ In particular, God protects us from the greatest enemy of all, the Evil One. As Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:3: ‘the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.’
Friday 24th April
The people of Israel were very slow to trust in God, as we see here in verses 10-12. Notice their final statement, ‘It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!’ They gave up too easily. They were angry with Moses at the first sign of danger or trouble. They wished they had never left Egypt. Can you believe this? After crying to God for help? What an ungrateful people! God, however, did not abandon them, despite their attitude. It is the same today. God perseveres with us, despite our sin, our disobedience and our lack of faith. This demonstrates the great love that God had for his people. We should not be too quick to judge the ingratitude of these Israelites when we remember how much God has done for us and how often we have lacked gratitude.
Saturday 25th April
These verses tell the story of the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites after having left Egypt. God performed three miracles. The first miracle happened when the angel of the Lord and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of the people to a position behind them, between the Israelites and their enemies, granting the Israelites a temporary relief from the pursuing Egyptians. The second miracle happened when God told Moses to raise his staff and, when he did so, God parted the waters. The third miracle was performed against the Egyptians. God threw them into confusion. Then God told Moses once again to stretch out his hand over the sea, and when he did so the sea went back to its place. Not one of them survived (verse 28). A God of miracles!
Sunday 26th April
We read the whole chapter again today, to make one more important point: God reveals himself by his actions. In other words, God makes himself known to us by the things that he does. His actions tell us a great deal about him. In fact, you could put together a very full picture of God just based on his recorded actions. We might say that God’s actions reveal God’s nature. Significantly, God’s words and his actions are always in perfect harmony. He is completely consistent. He is not just a God of words, he backs up his words with action. In our lives we need a God like that. In many ways we are like those Israelites. We are surrounded on every side by enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil. In such a situation we need a God who will care for us and protect us, who will rescue us and deliver us. The good news is that we have such a God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our Father, if we are his.
Monday 27th April
In this hymn to God sung by Moses and the Israelites, followed by the hymn sung by Miriam, we see the true worship of the people of God. In Moses’ song we learn a great deal about God. He is highly exalted (verse 1), he is personal (verse 2), he is powerful (verses 6-7), he is holy (verse 11), he is a Redeemer (verse 13) and he is the King reigning for ever and ever (18). This teaches us that our worship should have real content, it must be full of theology. Also, it must be God-centred, reverent and full of awe, joyful and full of praise. Sometimes we do not realise how important worship is. It can truly be said that worship and not evangelism, is the most important work of the Christian church. Do we sing the hymns with enthusiasm (whether or not we can sing), participate mentally in the prayers and focus our minds on the Scriptures and the sermon?
Tuesday 28th April
In this chapter we see the human heart revealed in all its folly. In the first part of the passage, we see the people of Israel singing praise to God but then, as soon as there was a problem, they started grumbling against Moses and against God (verse 24). As we shall see when we come to Exodus 16:2-3, this grumbling continued. What an ungrateful people, after all God had done for them! Eventually God had had enough. In Numbers 14:27-30, he then tells them that the whole generation of them would wander for 40 years and then die in the desert and that only their children would enter the Promised Land. In 1 Corinthians 10:10 Paul uses this story of the grumbling of the people in the desert and the judgement that came upon them as a warning to Christians. Don’t grumble against God, he says. Yet many Christians do!
Wednesday 29th April
As this chapter begins, the people are grumbling again. They say that it would have been better to stay in Egypt where there was plenty of food, instead of starving to death in the desert. God’s response is to rain down bread (manna) from heaven. Manna was a kind of sweet bread which tasted like honey. At its very simplest level this is a story of God’s provision. That should not surprise us because, at every stage in the life of his people, God provided for their needs. It also teaches us that God is gracious and long-suffering. God provided for the needs of his people despite their grumbling and complaining. Is it not astonishing that God should continue to provide for this wilful and disobedient people who constantly complained against him? As we read the story of these years in the wilderness we find, time and time again, the people grumbling and complaining. Despite this, God continued to provide for them and to bless them in various ways.
Thursday 30th April
Another thing we can learn from this chapter is that God provided ‘sufficiently’. He gave them exactly what they needed, no more and no less. We see this in verses 16-18: ‘This is what the LORD has commanded: “Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.’ There was neither too much nor too little, simply an adequate sufficiency. This speaks to us of the Lord’s wisdom and the Lord’s care. You will have noticed that the Lord even provided twice as much in preparation for the Sabbath so that they should not be obliged to go out and gather on the Sabbath. This teaching ought to make us determined to be content with the Lord’s provision. It is very easy for Christians to become worldly and materialist in our thinking. Instead we must seek contentment.