Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Yahweh is truly a God of Amazing Grace. He is a God of NEW BEGINNINGS. Like Saul of Tarsus, you may have once ranked yourself among the chief of sinners, yet God demonstrated His love for you while you were yet a sinner and He saved you. He gave you A NEW BEGINNING—A FRESH START ON LIFE. In fact, He made you a NEW CREATION in Christ when you believed and He poured His love into your heart by the Holy Spirit. Isn’t that Amazing Grace?
In the year 1446 B.C., Yahweh planned to give Israel, a people in bondage to Egypt, A NEW BEGINNING. But God’s plan got off to a rocky start.
Moses is caught between a rock and a hard place. Having failed with Pharaoh and having received a tongue lashing from the Israelite foreman, Moses raises his old objection to God’s Command in Exodus 6:10-13 —
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.” But Moses said to the LORD, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?” Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron about the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he commanded them to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.
Notice God is calling Moses and Aaron to A NEW BEGINNING—a fresh start. But Moses is making excuses again! It is not a very pleasant task he had to perform. He has been rejected all along the way.
Abruptly a genealogy interrupts the narrative with Exodus 6:13-25—
These were the heads of their families:
The sons of Reuben the firstborn son of Israel were Hanoch and Pallu, Hezron and Carmi. These were the clans of Reuben.
The sons of Simeon were Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul the son of a
Canaanite woman. These were the clans of Simeon.
These were the names of the sons of Levi according to their records: Gershon, Kohath and Merari. Levi lived 137 years. The sons of Gershon, by clans, were Libni and Shimei. The sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel. Kohath lived 133 years. The sons of Merari were Mahli and Mushi.
These were the clans of Levi according to their records. Amram married his father’s sister Jochebed, who bore him Aaron and Moses. Amram lived 137 years. The sons of Izhar were Korah, Nepheg and Zicri. The sons of Uzziel were Mishael, Elzaphan and Sithri. Aaron married Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon, and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. The sons of Korah were Assir, Elkanah and Abiasaph. These were the Korahite clans. Eleazar son of Aaron married one of the daughters of Putiel, and she bore him Phinehas. These were the heads of the Levite families, clan by clan.
This genealogy links Moses and Aaron with the twelve sons of Jacob recorded at the beginning of Chapter 1 of Exodus. This genealogy gives pertinent details concerning the family background of Moses and Aaron about whom the book of Exodus speaks. It demonstrates that the two brothers have the appropriate priestly lineage to serve as divine emissaries. After their failure with Pharaoh and the resulting rebuke by the Israelite Foreman, Moses also may have thought it necessary to inform his readers of their position in Jacob’s family.
However, everything in the list suggests that God’s choosing Moses had nothing to do with natural advantage or ability. The list stops after naming only three of Jacob’s sons—REUBEN, SIMEON, and LEVI—for its object had been reached. Moses and Aaron sprang, not from the FIRSTBORN REUBEN, but from LEVI, Jacob’s THIRD SON, and not even from Levi’s oldest son, but Kohath, his SECOND SON. Moses was not the oldest son of his father, for Aaron was older.
Thus, Moses’ calling and election were a gift of grace and not based on rights and privileges of birth. Nor was his pedigree that noble from a moral standpoint, for the mere mention of each of these names rattled ethical skeletons in the past. REUBEN committed incest with his father’s concubine. SIMEON and LEVI were guilty of unwarranted outrage against Shechem. So wicked were the three older sons of Jacob that they each inherited a curse. REUBEN lost his birthright as FIRSTBORN, and SIMEON and LEVI were denied inheritance with the tribes and were scattered instead.
But this was not done in any fatalistic way; for while REUBEN’S and SIMEON’S descendants did immorally follow in their fathers’ footsteps, LEVI’S descendants with devotion to God, turned what was a curse into a blessing and used their dispersion through the tribes as an avenue of blessing to all through the priesthood and service at the sanctuary of God.
The genealogy itself marks a turning point in the narrative. The stage has been set from the beginning of Exodus to 6:12, and now the main action begins. The text returns to repeat the words of Exodus 6:10-13 with verses 26-30—
It was this same Aaron and Moses to whom the LORD said, “Bring the Israelites out of
Egypt by their divisions.” They were the ones who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt about
bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. It was the same Moses and Aaron. Now when the
LORD spoke to Moses in Egypt, he said to him, “I am the LORD. Tell Pharaoh king of
Egypt everything I tell you.” But Moses said to the LORD, “Since I speak with faltering
lips, why would Pharaoh listen to me?”
This repeating of the text which sandwiches the genealogy is as if to say, “Look who is talking back to God!” A man of few credentials except those given him in the province and grace of God!”
Yahweh’s relationship to Moses shows that God struggles with the human will. For all of God’s powers, Moses is not easily persuaded to take up his calling. In fact, God resorts to a backup plan in providing Aaron. It is clear that God is not entirely in control of Moses.
Exodus 7:1-2 is one of the finest definitions you will find of a prophet—
Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your
brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you, and your
brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country.
Yahweh makes Moses as “God” to Aaron and Pharaoh and Aaron in turn as Moses’ “Prophet” to speak to the people and Pharaoh. Moses was going to be a god to Pharaoh. Aaron was going to be the spokesman for Moses. Aaron would be a prophet. A prophet is one who speaks for God, one who has a message from God to people. A prophet is the opposite of a priest. A prophet comes out from God and goes to the people, but a priest goes to God and represents the people before God.
Again this brother team is told by God that Pharaoh’s heart would be HARDENED. Exodus 7:3-5—
But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.
The Good News is that the LORD assures success no matter how hard Pharaoh’s heart becomes. The king of Egypt will let God’s people go. The future is determined. Yet, there are points of uncertainty. There is no reference as to the timing of the Exodus, or how many mighty acts of judgment it would take; just some future time. There is time for all kinds of things to happen, including wonders, divine hardening, and refusals by Pharaoh.
God will make life so miserable as the plagues become increasingly more serious and unpleasant for Egypt and Pharaoh that the king finally sends the Israelites away. Yet, God does not overpower the king’s will. Pharaoh remains a human being whose own will contributed to the shaping of the future.
The message God conveys to Moses is largely a composite of previous revelations, yet there are some twists. There is no talk of a three-day journey into the desert. The Egyptians will come to KNOW (through experience) that Yahweh is God. Pharaoh will not listen to Moses, but in time, he will let Israel go. Therefore, Moses is not to be discouraged at Pharaoh’s refusals. They will not be a sign of God’s impotence; rather, God will use the impasse for public purposes, taking even Pharaoh’s refusals and weaving them into a plan for Israel’s liberation.
The recognition of Yahweh as God on the part of both Israelites and non-Israelites is boldly stated in the midst of the plagues at Exodus 9:16—
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.
Not only would Egyptians know what is meant by the name YAHWEH, but also so would the Israelites.
MIGHTY ACTS OF JUDGMENT performed by Moses and Aaron foreshadow God’s way of making His name known on the earth over the coming centuries. For instance, Jeremiah 16:21 gives this very reason for Israel’s Babylon exile and restoration to the Promised Land—
Therefore I will teach them—this time I will teach them my power and might. Then they will know that my name is the LORD.
Even Egypt is opened to the vista of new possibilities is God’s miracles and wonders. God’s activity on behalf of Israel is for the sake of the world! There is a fundamental worldwide purpose to the plagues in Exodus. Hearing of them will soften the heart of the prostitute Rahab for salvation and harden the hearts of the Canaanites, proving them culpable for judgment.
In addition to understanding the significance of the name YAHWEH, the miracles would be an invitation for the Egyptians to believe personally in Him—some apparently did believe, for there were many other people who left Egypt with the Israelites according to Exodus 12:38.
On the negative side, the plagues will be public acts of judgment. What Pharaoh and the Egyptians have done to God’s work of life and blessing in the world will not be overlooked. God will not be indifferent to evil. Acts of cruelty and ruthlessness, which bring people to the brink of despair, must be brought to justice and publicly exposed for what they are, so that the world will know that such anti-creation deeds will not be tolerated.
Indeed, unless there is judgment, the creation that God intents will be turned into chaos. For Egypt and others to know that Yahweh is God is to recognize that God will be about preserving the creation, of moving resolutely against all those who are anti-life and anti-blessing.
The cosmic character of the signs and wonders testifies that Yahweh is the God of all creation and foreshadows His agenda for wiping out the evils of the world at the end of this present age. The events of the Exodus stretch far beyond this historical moment for Israel; the future of the creation is at stake. The Seven Year Tribulation Period when most of the Exodus plagues will be repeated with greater force prepares the earth for its NEW BEGINNING—the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.
Exodus 15:14-16 makes it clear that the miraculous signs and wonders of the ten plagues also are to strike the fear of Yahweh into the nations—
The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall upon them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone—until your people pass by, O LORD, until the people you bought pass by.
Hence, the MIRACULOUS SIGNS AND WONDERS—THE TEN PLAGUES—are at the very same time the means of JUDGMENT and SALVATION as well as SIGNS of Yahweh’s authority.
Exodus 7:6-7 are in effect an advance notice that the two brothers will be obeying the LORD—
Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them. Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh.
The stating of their ages marks A NEW BEGINNING for both Moses and Aaron as Servants of God in the momentous endeavor that lies ahead of them. After eighty years of preparation, Moses begins his life work. From this point forward, Moses is the faithful servant of God—He never again appears timid or hesitant.
When verses 6-7 are tied to the genealogy, a note is sounded that we have “the right people in the right place at the right time.” The Drama of Redemption is about to unfold. Exodus 7:8-13 establish the basic pattern for what will be repeated in one form or other in connection with each of the ten plagues—
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, `Perform a miracle,’
then say to Aaron, `Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.” So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the LORD commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake.
Pharaoh then summoned the wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said.
Moses and Aaron reappear before Pharaoh who in turn requests proof of their authority by requesting a miracle. Undoubtedly, his tone is arrogant and his expectation was that there would be no miracle; for he judged the brothers to be nothing but opportunists and insurrectionists.
The LORD informed Moses to use the first sign he had drawn on to convince Israel that he was indeed an accredited messenger of God. Aaron’s staff (probably the one that Moses had in his hand at the burning bush), became a snake. It was a prelude to the Ten Plagues, setting the stage for what follows and providing some interpretive clues.
First, it sets the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in place.
Second, it puts the staff front and center as the instrument for God’s activity through Moses and Aaron.
Third, Pharaoh himself ironically requests a wonder. God has only to give him what he asks for. He will live to see many more!
Fourth, Pharaoh asks that Moses and Aaron establish their credentials. They will more than “prove themselves” over the days to come establishing with clarity that Yahweh stands behind all they do.
Fifth, the “wisdom” factor is established. Whose wisdom regarding world order will prove to be superior? Ironically, all the magicians can do is make matters worse: more snakes, more bloody water, more frogs!
Sixth, the battle of wills is established. Whose WILL shall come to prevail?
Seventh, the initiative for each sign rested with God, with every stage in the encounter between Moses and Pharaoh being divinely controlled.
Eighth, the Egyptians became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. They had deities which represented every phase and function of life. They did not miss a thing. They changed monotheism into polytheism. With the plagues, God is dealing with the whole realm of zoology. Many of the gods of Egypt were animals, birds or insects. Demonic power stood behind these false gods.
The Egyptian wise men, sorcerers and magicians did the same things by their secret arts. Whether their secret arts involved demonic power, or not involved, we are not told! But it seems so! These events foreshadow the end times and this kind of demonic power will mark the end of this present age according to 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12—
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
The swallowing up of the Egyptian staffs by Aaron’s is significant. This does not represent Aaron’s superior power to do magical tricks! Only indirectly is it concerned with God’s power. Pharaoh was convinced that in a show of strength he had the power, through his magicians, to defeat Moses. Yet, while they were powerful enough to duplicate Aaron’s staff becoming a snake, their power was less.
This act functions as a sign or foreshadowing of things to come in a specific way, significantly the fate of the Egyptians at the Red Sea. The only other use of the verb SWALLOW in the Book of Exodus occurs in 15:12, where it refers to the SWALLOWING of the Egyptians in the depths of earth beneath the sea. The link is obvious; we are to make the connection.
Amazingly, Pharaoh was unimpressed by this wonder and miraculous sign. What a contrast to the great King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who wrote in Daniel 4:1-3—
King Nebuchadnezzar, To the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly! It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.
After seven years of living like an animal, Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself and received A NEW BEGINNING from God, but Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Miraculous signs and wonders from the LORD either stir one to faith or drive deeper into antagonistic unbelief and rejection of God.
The apostle John understood Christ’s miracles as faith boosters. John writes in 20:30-31—
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Yet, Jesus became fed up with Jews who kept seeking and asking for signs. He answered them in Matthew 12:39-40—
A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Certainly, Pharaoh qualified as wicked and adulterous when He asked for a miraculous sign. In Pharaoh’s case, God would give him signs until he could not stand them.
God had determined that the king’s heart will be hardened, yet Pharaoh’s freedom of will is left intact. The hardening is a figurative word, which can mean twisting, as with a rope. God twisted the heart of Pharaoh. In other words, He was going to squeeze out what was in it. The paradox is that God forced him to the thing he really wanted to do and finally to do what he really did not want to do.
Some people need to be taken to court before they will honor their contracts. That is what God is doing to Pharaoh. God is bringing Pharaoh into His court and saying, “You are going to reveal the thing that is actually in your heart. God will force the king’s hand in this particular matter.
By the way, this is exactly what God is going to do with every unsaved individual who appears before Him at the Great White Throne of Judgment. There will be no more camouflage. He will twist until one’s evil heart is fully manifested. This is a frightening thing.
In the chapters to come, we will discover that the greater the conflict becomes, the harder Pharaoh’s heart grows. Pharaoh’s heart is already hard—firm, resolute, rigid, stubborn and unswerving in its purpose— not to let God’s people go. At this point, HE WOULD NOT LISTEN TO THEM. Pharaoh does not have a monopoly on hard-heartedness. The root is used elsewhere for Israel as a stiff-necked people, who refuses to listen to the Word of God.
New Beginnings come when we open our ears and heart to the wisdom of God, which is revealed in the Scriptures. Jesus repeatedly said—“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Proverbs 8:32-35 says—
Now then, my sons, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD.
Each refusal to listen to God’s Word makes it easier to refuse the next time. As one’s resistance progresses, God’s hardening of the heart enters the picture. Each refusal toughens one’s heart until it becomes callous. What happens to Pharaoh may happen to you if you refuse to listen and obey God.
New Beginnings in the Bible’s history often follow an intervention by God in judgment. God allowed Israel to sink to the depths of sin and idolatry. Then He carried them into Babylonian captivity for seventy years. For those of the next generation who finally recognized Him as Sovereign LORD, they returned to the Promised Land—the place of blessing! They received A NEW BEGINNING.
Perhaps you need are in need of A NEW BEGINNING with the LORD. In the coming year, you may need to be more faithful in prayer, church attendance, using your TALENTS, TREASURES and TIME in serving Christ.
God has His ways and means of getting your attention when you don’t give Him the first priority that He desires. Deuteronomy 8:5 says—
Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.
Did you know that God’s discipline is a blessing? Job 5:17—
Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.
Jesus states in Revelation 3:19—
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
Hebrews 12:8-11 sums up the whole purpose of discipline—
If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
THIS YEAR may either hold for you a harvest of righteousness and peace or the Heavenly Father’s discipline, or perhaps both! It all depends upon YOU! Exodus 7:13 says—
Yet Pharaoh’s heart became hard and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said.
Pharaoh WOULD NOT LISTEN TO THEM—He had no desire to hear God’s Word—he would have the roughest year anyone could ever experience.
MAKE THIS YEAR A NEW BEGINNING. As we take a few minutes TO PRAY SILENTLY, commit all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength to loving the LORD your God—to listening and obeying what He says this year. If you will do that, you will have a BLESSED NEW YEAR filled with A HARVEST OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND PEACE.