Greetings in the name of the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.
Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. (Romans 12:12)
The people of Israel had lived in Egypt for 430 years as slaves. In fact, it was on the last day of the 430th year. On this night, God kept HIs covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob by bringing His people out of the land of Egypt.
God’s hand was powerful enough to majestically take His people out of the land of Egypt by subduing Pharaoh to release the Israelites despite Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, badly needed the people of Israel, about 600,000 men alone. The entire population of the Israelites reached approximately 2,000,000 or even more. The Israelites in Egypt worked day and night for the Egyptians as enslaved people. In Egypt, their lives were harsh, and each day was yet another torturous day without hope. Only was what they could do to remember a story, “Someday, God will lead out the Israelites from the misery and take to the land that God promised to our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” However, nobody knew when God would fulfill the promise.
They saw the same today as yesterday, filled with misery, pain, sorrow, oppression, and despair. They told the story to their children, but they did not have faith in it. They just repeated as their parents did to them. However, as they told their children the story, they could escape the sad reality. Thus, they had never forgotten to encourage their children to tell the same story to their children. Telling the story made yet another day.
However, things did not go smoothly as they wished. From time to time, something went really wrong. A small dispute with the Egyptian slave driver led to the death of one of them by being torturously beaten. He was a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend, an uncle, a cousin, and a grandson in the community. In the morning, he left his home expecting to return home that evening, but he had never returned. Telling the story alone was too little to soothe the hearts beaten by the gruesomely tragic reality. They needed more than the story to console their hearts.
Fortunately, the sorrow did not stay with them forever. Soon it was forgotten, and the days repeated as enslaved people. Then as evening came, they gathered their children and told the story as if nothing had happened. The story was never forgotten but deeply embedded in their lives as a part of themselves.
After all, storytelling was their hope and faith. No matter what happened in their lives, they did not change the story and told the story to their children. Countlessly many generations had come before and gone, but the story was always with them, pointing to God’s solemn covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Thus, young and old, the entire Israelites always remembered the story and hoped in God to see God’s promise made with their ancestors — God would lead them to the Promised Land where honey and milk flowed.
Then the LORD told him, “I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey. (Exodus 3:7-8a)
God is always faithful and never forgets His promise to His children. God told the promise made with Moses’ ancestors because the time set by God came. God announced to Moses the promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was the thunderous sign that God had just started moving His mighty hand to fulfill His solemn promise. However, what God planned to do to Moses and the Israelites was far beyond comprehension.
Did not Moses know the story? No, Moses knew the story his mother told him when he was a small child. Moses even felt a calling for the promise in the story. Moses compared himself with the rest of the Israelites. He had everything to fulfill God’s promise by being perfectly prepared. He was the top prince in Egypt, although he was one of the Israelites enslaved in Egypt. None in Egypt was better equipped than Moses to fulfill God’s promise. Moses felt that he was born for it. Indeed, Moses was capable, motivated, and most of all, he believed he was the one who fulfilled God’s promise.
Then, Moses pulled the trigger to liberate the Israelites. However, it was a huge mistake. Why? Wasn’t Moses the most qualified person to do the job? Didn’t Moses prepare the moment for a long time? Yes, and yes, but what Moses did was not aligned with God’s plan. Only one thing was right. God chose Moses, and Moses believed God chose Moses to do the monumental task of rescuing the Israelites enslaved in Egypt and leading them out of Egypt to the Promised Land. Besides this, Moses was completely off the mark set by God.
God then pulled out Moses and spent the next 40 years working on Moses. After 40 years of God’s special training, Moses became ready for God’s mission of rescuing the Israelites enslaved in Egypt and leading them to the promised land.
Let’s see, what was the real qualification that God wanted from Moses? Wasn’t Moses’ ability to give an excellent speech to convince the Israelites? Wasn’t Moses’ leadership to organize and lead them out of Egypt? No, none of these. Moses already had all qualifications fully as the top prince of Egypt. What God truly wanted from Moses was humility. Yes, humility to God and his fellow Israelites.
Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
Such humility did not come easy. It took 40 years of God’s special training. Then God came and told Moses the covenant made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and God gave His command to Moses,
“Look! The cry of the people of Israel has reached me, and I have seen how harshly the Egyptians abuse them. Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” (Exodus 3:9-10)
What was Moses’ answer?
But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)
Then Moses humbly refused, but for this time, God persisted. Although there seemed to be a disagreement between God and Moses, God was delighted with Moses’ humble response. Forty years ago, Moses was far ahead of God, but now Moses was right behind God. Yes, Moses was truly ready. Indeed, fulfilling God’s promise was unlike anything that Moses could imagine, which required absolute obedience under any circumstances. God knew how difficult to convince Pharaoh. God also knew how Israelites would behave – rejecting Moses as they did forty years ago as the situation worsened.
God lovingly continued an intimate discourse with Moses so that Moses could pour out whatever was in his heart. God heard Moses, and Moses refused or even protested. Then God comforted Moses by showing signs of God’s power. God gave God’s staff packed with God’s power. God also promised to send Aaron as a helper, who spoke for Moses. Aaron was Moses’ brother. Then Moses returned to Egypt again to rescue the Israelites.
Surely, the forty years of God’s special training truly worked. God sent Moses to Pharaoh to deliver God’s message, “Let My people go.” Not just once, God sent Moses again and again. God sent Moses nine times. Additionally, before sending Moses, God said to Moses Pharaoh would harden his heart and refuse to send the Israelites. Moses faithfully brought down God’s plague with the power of God, but all outcomes would be the same failure. Without the humanly impossible humility to God, Moses could not repetitively go back to Pharaoh, although he knew he would get a negative response from Pharaoh for every trip to Pharaoh.
Moses humbly obeyed God’s command nine times. Then for the tenth time, Moses heard what he truly wanted to hear from the beginning. God would rescue the Israelites and lead them out of Egypt using Moses. Moses endured nine times before getting what he wanted to see through God’s power. Thus, we should not be discouraged when we repetitively do not see God’s promise in our lives. Moses humbly endured before God nine times, and so should we.
And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:4)
How about the Israelites? They indeed waited 430 years. They told and retold the story of God’s solemn covenantal promise in hope. They endured through the years. Although the time with God might not be so dramatic as Moses’, they went through many valleys and mountain tops for 430 years. They endured by telling the story. They did not think anything special about telling and retelling the story because they just repeated what they got from their parents to their children. But it was their faith deeply embedded in the very fabric of their lives, including their thoughts and minds, hearts and souls.
Upon Moses’ return, the Israelites warmly accepted Moses. Moses had huge baggage. Moses fled without telling anyone. Many of them felt that Moses turned out to be yet another person who put his own safety ahead of anything. Some initially thought Moses was different because he risked his princeship and attempted to rescue his fellow Israelite harshly beaten by one of the Egyptian slave drivers all hated. Moses killed the Egyptian slave driver to protect and save the person from the slave driver. Then the following day, Moses tried to make peace among the Israelites by saying, “Why are you beating up your friend?”
But the one who had started the fight became agitated and shouted irrationally in anger, “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?”
Unfortunately, the Egyptian slave drivers near heard. Then Moses immediately fled because his killing act was known to the Egyptians. As a result, to the eyes of many Israelites, Moses was not so different from an ordinary person who would run for his life to protect one’s own life rather than fighting for the bigger cause, such as freeing the enslaved Israelites. Sure, Moses’ act was understandable, but not the behavior of someone who would rescue them from slavery.
After the event, many talked about Moses and felt Moses was the closest one who could liberate the Israelites. But soon, Moses was slowly forgotten because Moses was not with them anymore. Then, they again told the story. Their children heard it again. They kept telling the story. Without knowing, they indeed professed their faith in God and handed down the same faith to the next generation with the solemn promise that God would surely rescue them and lead them to the promised land as He promised.
When Moses returned, they embraced Moses. After all, they had their own fault. They direct caused Moses to flee. Moses would have been with them if the person had not loudly shouted to be heard by Egyptian slave drivers. Then, they might live in the promised land by that time with Moses by being one under Moses’ leadership.
Thus, they said to each other, “Moses might have just brought another opportunity for them to be liberated.” They agreed to give Moses a chance to speak. Surprisingly, what Moses said was not what they expected based on Moses, whom they knew. Moses first talked about God who appeared to him and emphasized God would rescue them, no t Moses himself as he attempted forty years ago.
They were drawn into Moses, and their hope was rekindled. They look forward to leave Egypt for the Promised Land as they saw Moses going to Pharaoh with God’s staff on hand with Aaron and elders. They felt that the day of liberation finally came. But the same day, Egyptian drivers gave them a completely impossible order – making the same number of bricks without providing straw. They also heard that the direct order from Pharaoh was extremely mad about Moses’ request to free them to go to the Promised Land.
They thought the misery was over, but a harsher punishment came to their already miserable lives in Egypt. To protect from any further damage, they sent their delegation to Pharaoh to soothe and negotiate. The goal was to go back to their usual slave life. They had already given up their hope of being freed that day because Moses added pain to their enslaved lives. As a result, nobody liked Moses, and the delegation found Moses and cursed him using the name of God.
To God’s eye, they were not ready to receive God’s promise of leaving Egypt for the Promised Land. God had to do something for the Israelites. God let the Israelites go through the first three plagues with the Egyptians. God did not distinguish either the Israelites and the Egyptians.
Surprisingly, none of the Israelites complained to God as they went through the three plagues. Instead, they endured in hope while expecting God’s mighty hand bringing down the plagues on the entire land of Egypt to rescuing them. As they endured, they learned more about God – who were righteous and merciful. They knew how to endure in hope and faith. Then God distinguished His people, the Israelites, from the Egyptians. God let the next six plagues fall on only the Egyptians, which enormously encouraged them and strengthened their faith and hope in God.
During the tenth plague, they fully experienced God’s salvation for them while contrasting God’s judgment for the Egyptians. As they heard screaming and wailing sounds from nearby Egyptian households, they more fervently prayed to God. They trusted God’s promise – the angels of death would skip their homes after the angels saw the blood on the doorframe, which was a sign of obedience and their faith in God. God kept the promise, and none of their firstborns was killed. It was the night of terror for the Egyptians, but for them, it was a rare time to experience God’s promise and protection truly.
Throughout the night, they experienced God. Their faith in God was strengthened enormously, and they were ready to receive God’s promise of leaving Egypt for the Promised Land. God instructed how to prepare for the day of salvation for the Israelites. It was the day of judgment for the Egyptians, and God called the day Passover. On that day, they witnessed God’s mighty hand killing all firstborns in Egypt. Per God’s command, they started a new year by counting from the Passover to remember forever – the day the Israelites left Egypt, the place of slavery, to the promised land.
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you. (2 Peter 3:9a)