Exodus Lesson 1 - From Pasture to Brickyard
If someone we were to ask you what books of the Bible you have read recently, I bet Exodus wouldn't make the list. It's difficult to understand, right? It's a little slow at times. But in this message Stephen helps us understand the book in an entirely new light. Your view of Exodus will never be the same again.
“FROM PASTURE TO BRICKYARD”
If we were to take a survey, this morning, and ask you to jot down on a piece of paper those books of the Bible that you have been reading for your own study or devotional time, I have a feeling that Exodus would not make the list. We consider this stuffy Old Testament book, written thirty-five centuries ago, not very appropriate to today. But I think, as we study this book as we continue our study through the entire Bible, you’ll discover, with me, that this book is as fresh and living and appropriate to our times as if it had been written this past week. I hope that you will come, with myself, to learn to love all of the Bible, including this book that we know so little about, unless you want to learn something of Moses or go back and read where the Old Testament ten commandments were first given. I hope you’ll learn to love it as well as I.
It’s really a sequel to the book of Genesis, that we have just completed studying. However, between the last verse of Genesis, chapter 50, and the first verse of the book of Exodus, 300 years of events have taken place and a number of things have changed. One of those things, if you have your notes and you are following along with that, it may be helpful to you, the covenant is becoming more evident among the Hebrews. As Larry read, verse 6, it tells us that, “Joseph died”. “But” - verse 7 - “the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them.” You’ve studied with me the Abrahamic covenant and it was three-fold. God promised the Hebrew, God promised the Israelite, basically three things, as His covenant people. Number one, He promised them a seed. That is, that they would multiply, that they would, literally, fill the earth. He also promised them blessing. He said that they would multiply in their financial resources, in their herds and their cattle, and all that material things could give them. This was a promise to Abraham. The third ingredient of this promise was, one that is not yet fulfilled, and that is, the promise of land. They are now in Egypt and they have been there ever since Joseph and that seventy member tribe of Jacob had come to live there. You remember, to overcome the famine or to survive it. And so now, for 300 years, the Hebrew people have been living in another land, they have been prospering , their seed is being multiplied. But still, they do not have Canaan, they don’t have the land yet. And so, Exodus is the book, in the Old Testament, that tells us the story of how God will bring the Israelite back to the land.
Now, we get the name Exodus from the Greek translators of the Old Testament. In fact, it’s a Greek word, transliterated into our language, we get the word “exit.” You might write into the margin of your Bible by that name, the words “departure,” or “the way out,” “going out.” This book is a story of how the Israelites exited Egypt and entered the promised land. It’s also a book about the redemption of God because, as they are held in bondage to the Egyptian taskmasters, God prepares a redeemer, “Mosheh,” or Moses, to bring them out. And thus, the illustration is given of our own lives how we, being in bondage to sin, have been given the redeemer of Jesus Christ and entered the promised position of being in Him.
With that said, let’s take a look at the second change that has occurred over these 300 plus years. And it gives it to us or we find it first mentioned in verse 8. “Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” This king, perhaps, was Thutmose III. He was one of the kings, or Pharaohs, in a new dynasty. And he did not know, the word “yada,” which means he didn’t have any association with Joseph. Joseph, to this young ruler, was just a compilation of stories. Some so exaggerated and so outrageous that, surely, they must be fiction. He didn’t know anyone who had been associated with Joseph. No king was even now living who could give him first hand stories of this amazing man. And so, he had no obligation to Joseph or to that tribe of, what was once seventy people, now numbering nearly three million.
And, as a result of not knowing him, some other things transpire. “And he said” - in verse 9 - “to his people, ‘Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely’” - literally translated, “let’s outsmart” - “them, lest they multiply and in the event of war, they also join themselves to those who hate us”. Now, during Joseph’s reign as prime minister, several instruments had been introduced into Egypt. The chariot, the lance and other materials of warfare. Up until that time, Egypt had no desire to engage in battle. But, now these elements had been introduced and there, in the eastern horizon, there was the cloud of war that seemed imminent from enemies of Egypt. And they were afraid that this two million band of people would align themselves with the enemy, therefore overthrowing Egypt. And he says, “We need to do something. We’ve got to outsmart them somehow.” And he inaugurates a three-fold plan.
The first was intended to discourage them. Notice verse 11, “So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities” - cities that we have unearthed. The archeologists have been very helpful for us. They have unearthed, “Pithom and Raamses.” These were storage cities. Egypt, being so wealthy, the fleets of ships floating by on the Nile would deposit their treasures and they needed somewhere to hold them, or house them, as they sold them. And so, they built huge, elaborate cities. And we know that Pithom and Raamses were built by these Hebrew slaves, not only from scripture but, from murals that have been discovered. In fact, archeologists have been helpful in introducing us to this entire legacy of task- masters. There has been one inscription discovered, or a mural, on a obelisk, or a pillar, that has been unearthed. And on that pillar is a mural and the mural shows two men holding whips and, before them, there are people bowing to the ground in work and they are making bricks. And the inscription has been readable and so they have translated it from old Egyptian, or hieroglyphics. And these taskmasters, with their whips, the inscription underneath reads them saying, “Work, without fainting.” Perhaps, even an indication, or a mural, of the time that the Israelites were making bricks to build these cities of Pithom and Raamses.
But, note verse 12, it wasn’t working very well. They hoped to discourage them into thinking it would be better to die than propagate our line in this land. “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel.” That is, the more they discouraged them, the more they beat them, the more they forced them into labor camps and out into the fields, taking them away from family and friends, the more they tried, the more this tribe multiplied. It says here that the Egyptians, “were in dread of the sons of Israel.” The word “dread,” is a word that refers to someone being sick of, nauseated over. The Egyptians looked at this multiplying band of Hebrew aliens and it nauseated them, they were in dread, they were sick so that every time they saw them they thought, “Oh, they will multiply and, ultimately, overthrow us.” The Egyptians are losing sleep over these people. They had no idea that the Israelites were not a warring people. At least, not at that point. They had no desire to conquer Egypt. They simply desired to get along with themselves and do what they believed their leaders, under God’s covenant, commanded them to do. So, plan A was to discourage them so they would throw up their hands and say, “There’s no need of developing a family. Who cares, we’re going to die under these tasks masters.”
But, it didn’t work so he inaugurates plan B. Notice what happens here in verse 15, “Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah, and the other was named Puah”. These names, respectively, are interpreted “beauty,” and “splendor.” And I think, it’s ironic the way that God chose these women with these names who were, evidently, the leaders of the midwives. We know the Israelites are multiplying at a very fast rate, that there must have been twenty or thirty, maybe even more, midwives busily at work. This was an occupation, in that day, that was taken up by Hebrew women who had never married. And so, these Hebrew women had midwifery going full tilt. And these two probably represented that group or that occupation. And Pharaoh calls these two women in, hoping to intimidate them, hoping to, perhaps, impress them with the glory of Egypt. And he hands down this dogma, and he says to them, basically, “When you are at” - “the birthstool” - that is, when you are delivering, into this world, one of those Hebrew children, take note, and it says, literally, the moment it is arriving or - “upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death”. It would only take slight pressure on the throat for a minute or so to snuff out life. And they could then tell these Hebrew mothers that the child was stillborn. It seemed like a clever plot. Pharaoh could get on with his business. No one would really know. However, the character of these women would go down the drain, these Hebrew women. He was hoping for turncoats, for someone to betray their own people. He said, therefore, “take their lives.”
“But” - note verse 17 - “the midwives feared God”. Underline that and then underline it in verse 21, it appears twice. “The midwives feared” - or revered, trusted - “God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live.” And this is an interesting construction. It’s talking about a midwife, not simply allowing the boy to be born, but it’s an aggressive verb, it, literally, means that they redoubled their efforts. They were there at the birthing stool and they would say to each other, “Hey, it’s a boy. Let’s make sure it lives.” And, somewhere along the line, the news got back that the mortality rate among Hebrew boys was improving. It wasn’t working very well because these women had great conviction. They were willing to say to an authority, “No.” A word that is sadly missing in the English vocabulary.
Now, when we get to a passage like this, people start fidgeting. This is one of those tough passages of scripture that is hard to interpret and much harder to apply. However, if we approach it, as we always do, literally and apply it literally, I think we can come up with a very great application. These women said, “No,” to an authority because they believed in a higher authority, that being God. And when the authority told them to disobey the moral law, the command of God, which, by the way, had not yet been written, that’s a few chapters later, however, they, knowing God, would know, being made in His image, that life has value and that they are not to take life. And so, risking their own lives, they said, “No.” Ladies and gentlemen, you may or may not recognize the fact that the reason you hold the Bible, in your hand, translated in English is the result of someone, like Tyndale, saying to the established church, “No.” He said, “I desire to put the Bible into the language of the plow boy, the common person. It doesn’t need to be chained to the pulpits, written in Latin. Let’s get it out among the people.” And he said, “No,” and he lost his life. The reason we are sitting in a church like this, Protestant, with the root word being “protest,” is because there were men like a monk, Martin Luther, who dared to say, “No,” to papal decree. And he said, “Salvation is by grace through faith alone.” And because of his character, we now worship like we do. You may have an authority over you, such as an employer, who says, “Manipulate the financial reports. Let’s show an increase, not a loss, this quarter.” What do you say? When you are offered something from a peer, some substance, and they say, “Look, everybody’s involved in this. Take this. Do this.” What do you say? No? When our government legalizes things that violate the authority and the character of God, do we say they legalized abortion? Do we say, “No?” They will legalize prostitution, homosexuality. Do we have the courage and the character to say, “No?” For those of you who are growing up in the public school system, you will be told that this abortion is a viable option. And yet, I trust that you will learn from these midwives that there is value in life and that to disobey God would be to disobey the highest authority anywhere, and you would say, “No.”
So, this plan didn’t work. He thought he was getting two midwives and, instead, he got two evangelists who went around making sure that all the Hebrew boys lived. So, he inaugurates his third and most horrible plan. Look at verse 22, “Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying,” - note, all of the Egyptians are given the news, now it’s out of the closet - “Every son who is born” - to these Hebrews - “you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.” Now, what I want you to understand is something underneath what is written. It is in the context of what we understand to have taken place in Egypt. In Egypt, their highest god was the Nile god. Now, Pharaoh knew that he would have, perhaps, tyranny on his hands, or mutiny, if he would suggest something so overt. And, hidden in these words is a suggestion to do something religious. He said, “Let’s see if the Nile god will allow these children to live.” We have, in our own books, records of temples in Egypt. One of the most gruesome, that sends chills up and down my spine, is the temple of thieves. I have a picture of it in my study. The temple of thieves was built along the river Nile. The Nile was, at this time, infested by the servants of the god Nile, crocodiles. And this temple was given to child sacrifice and it had stairs leading down the embankment right into the water of the Nile where they would practice their religious practice of child sacrifice. And the priests would hurl babies into the air out into the waters as sacrifices to their god, the Nile god. What the Pharaoh is saying is this, “We have these aliens in the land. They don’t worship our gods. They don’t worship the Nile god. Let’s offer to him a appeasement and let’s see if his servants will allow the children to live.” I doubt there was a very high rate of non-acceptance from the servants. Now, I want you to note that this will take place and last for 80 years, because this introduces a horrible moment in the history of Israel. I can imagine that the fathers are building underground rooms where their newborn sons can hide. I imagine that attics are built or sheds are used as infant nurseries to keep the Egyptians from finding out that they’ve had a boy born into the family. And, if they were found out, the boy would be snatched from the home, taken to the Nile and offered as a religious sacrifice to the Nile god. And this would last for 80 years, until Moses leads the people out.
I have mentioned abortion and I am not quite through with that. One of the reasons that I fear that movement is because it will take our country to the next logical step and that is, infanticide and euthanasia and all of the other horrible things. The woman who founded Planned Parenthood, by the name of Margaret Sanger(?), is heralded as a saint today. But, let me read you something that she wrote. Listen carefully. She writes that, “Abortion appeals to the advanced radical because it is calculated to undermine the authority of the Christian church. I look forward to seeing humanity free someday from the tyranny of Christianity.” This movement has nothing to do with free choice. It has nothing to do with the right of a woman. It has everything to do with rebellion against the value of life that has been given to us from God. A value that is adopted by these Hebrews in Exodus, chapter 1. There is a man living today, unfortunately, who writes what would become the next step. A man by the name of Francis Crick(?) who writes this, “No newborn infant should be declared human until it has passed certain tests regarding it’s genetic endowment. And that, if it fails these tests, it forfeits the right to live. If a child were not declared alive until three days after birth” - did you catch that? Let’s not declare them alive until three days after birth. - “Then all parents could be allowed the choice only a few are given under the present system. The doctor could allow the child to die, if the parents so chose, and save a lot of misery and suffering. I believe this view is the only rational, compassionate attitude to have.” This movement has nothing to do with compassion, nothing to do with rationale, nothing to do with freedom of choice. It has everything to do with violating the values of a God who says human life is precious, protect it. It has everything to do with violating the authority and character of the God of this book. People who place themselves as little gods declaring who will live and who will die. The tragedy is, our country is on the way. It sounds like Exodus, chapter 1, to me. They did it in the name of religion. We do it in the name of civil liberty. Are we willing, should they coerce us, to say, “No.” I trust you will.
Underneath this chapter are some applications for the twentieth century. I’ve hinted at some but let me give you two more, if you are taking notes. As I observed the Hebrews under such opposition and cruel circumstances, afraid for the lives of their sons, as we’ll observe even more closely next Sunday morning with one family who had a little boy they named Moses. I came up with these thoughts that I think might encourage you. The first is this: while affliction seems unfair, it’s often necessary. While Satan had his scheme, and this is to exterminate the chosen nation from which Jesus Christ will come. That’s his thought. That’s his plan. Let’s exterminate the Jew, let’s get rid of the Hebrew, and then the line from which Jesus Christ, the Messiah, can come from. While he is inaugurating that plan, God is, in His own sovereignty, designing another. It is this affliction, this opposition, whereby He stirs the pot and makes their lives very uncomfortable and thus, willing to risk the bold exodus. It’s been very easy for the Hebrews. In fact, it’s very easy for us to be at home in Egypt. And God is using this affliction to make these people desirous to leave all of the luxury, all of that which they have in Goshen for a rocky region known as Canaan. Why would four million, at that time, go there? God is using this to refocus, to redirect, to remind them that they’ve been given a promised land.
Look back at Genesis, chapter 15. Genesis, chapter 15. God knew what He was doing. In fact, He had already told Abraham that this would happen. Genesis, chapter 15, verse 13, “And God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed” - note the next phrase - “four hundred years.” To the day, He knew exactly how long they would be in Egypt. He said, verse 14, “But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve” - Egypt - “and afterward they will come out” - the same Greek word, “exodus,” - “they will” - exodus - “with many possessions.” God knew how long it would last. And, although it seemed unfair and, although they must have been, probably, wondering what God had intended when he told Abraham that they would be a nation that would multiply, and now they are being slaughtered and their sons are being thrown into the Nile. Yet, God knew that the trial would not be permanent.
The second thought is along that line. While God seems absent, He is always at work. When He seems absent, he is always at work. Look at verse 7 of chapter 3. God came to that little baby boy who had now grown into manhood, who would be the redeemer. “And the Lord said” - to Moses, chapter 3, verse 7, note this - “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.” I love that. “They think I’m gone. They think I’m absent. They think I don’t see. And yet, I have seen. I have observed. I know everything that has transpired.” In your lives, ladies and gentlemen, and mine, there may be affliction come, nothing this drastic, I doubt. But, you may be in line to lose a position if you go along with unbiblical ethic. You may be in fear of losing a job, losing a reputation, losing a friend because you say, “No.” Perhaps you’re threatened right now with the thought that God is absent and not at work and that would be a demise in your spiritual relationship as well. God is at work. With the Israelites, even though it was so horrible, He had kneaded it out through His sovereign hand and He knew how long it would last. Not a day over 400 years. He was preparing them to return to the promised land.
I read a story, this past week, of a little boy in a grocery store who was carrying a basket. And he was walking down the aisles with his Dad and his Dad would take an item off the shelf and he’d put it in the little boys basket. The little boy is trudging along and soon, the basket seemed to get rather heavy. And one of the customers felt a little sympathetic and said to the boy, “That basket is getting awfully heavy isn’t it?” The little boy stuck his chest out and said, “Oh, don’t worry, my Daddy knows how much I can carry.” And so does your heavenly Father. Let’s pray.
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