Saturday, June 08, 2013

Plunder or Willing Turnover? -- Exodus 12:33-36

The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, “We will all be dead.”  So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders.  Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
With their firstborns dead, the Egyptians urged the Hebrews to leave as quickly as possible fearing that if they remained in Egypt, all of the Egyptians would be killed.  Can you imagine the sorrow the Egyptians felt as their firstborns die?  Earlier today, a friend on a social media site I use, upon hearing of the recent death of my grandson, sent me this quote from C. S. Lewis, “The death of a loved one is an amputation.”  You do not need to be a Christian to feel that way.  The pain and the hurt apply to all who love those they have lost.   The wound may heal, but the scar remains forever as a memorial of the loss.  You learn to carry it alone.  Even though I now understand a little more about such a loss, I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like if the same loss was being felt by every household in a village, or town, or city, or entire country as it was that morning for the Egyptians.

Can you imagine the fear of the Egyptians, and I am sure that includes Pharaoh and his court, as they cried, “Go, for we will all be dead.”   They knew it.  They knew death and judgment would come if they fought the inevitable will of God any longer.  What baffles me is how so many do not know it today.  Some think they will live forever.  Others do not believe in a hereafter.  Still others do not believe in any consequences that go with being separated from God for eternity.  Becoming a Christian believer has a cost.  It is more than just ‘fire insurance’ – it is a commitment to a Savior.  It is becoming totally dependent on Him through obedience and faith.  But when you compare that to the alternative of living with the realization that one-day, “We will all be dead; and there is no hope,” it starts to look pretty good.

So the Hebrews hurry to take their unleavened bread with them, pack a few things they will need in the wilderness, and get ready to set out.  We need to remember that some time earlier (in Exodus 11:2,3) God had told the children of Israel to ask their Egyptian neighbors for articles of silver and gold.  Now they were getting them.  The question often arises by skeptics as to whether God was telling the Hebrews to plunder or pillage the Egyptians, especially as that word is used.  But again we have to read Scripture in context and with its surrounding explanations.  In Exodus 11 we are told they were to “ask” their neighbors for these things.  In this chapter, the text says, “they let them have their request”.  Hardly a true ‘plunder’ as we understand the word.  In fact, the Scripture says God gave the Hebrews “favor in the sight of the Egyptians”.  Moses may well have seen it as plunder from a human perspective when he wrote about it later, but God tells us He arranged for the Children of Israel to ‘find favor’ with their neighbors.  Our western mind and a mind that is trying to place God in a trap may have trouble with that, but the eastern-, Jewish-, and believer-mind, has no problem with it. 
So what is the main lesson for us in these few verses?  As significant as this was, it is not that the Egyptians were now pushing the Hebrews out.  It is not that the Children of Israel followed all the instructions given to them.  It is not that the Lord caused them to have favor in the sight of the Egyptians.  Rather, it is indeed that God is in the process of delivering them from their 400 years of bondage.  The slavery is about to end.  And now, in order to survive in the desert that still surrounds them, they have to totally depend on Him.

And that is our story as well.  Some of us have lived too long in bondage; too long without God.  Now, through Jesus Christ, we have accepted His salvation.  His ‘blood’ has set us free.  But notice God did not lead His people from Egypt to the Garden of Eden.  He led them into the desert, into the wilderness – where He would continue to teach them, refine them, test them, and prove some of them worthy to see the Promised Land – the land He had set aside for them in His covenant with their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  And God still does that with His children today.  We are freed from bondage, but we are not freed from difficulties, challenges, struggles, pain, tears, even physical death.  Yet, if we remain faithful, whether we live long or short, we will see “our Promised Land” that has been made possible through Christ’s death on the cross at Calvary.

The question I have for you is this: “Have you stepped out of your bondage, out of your personal Egypt, applied the blood on the doorposts of your life, picked up your unleavened bread, and headed for the desert, where you will need to be totally dependent on God?”  If so, and if you remain faithful, God has promised you eternal life with Him.   No one else has conquered death as God’s Son has and thus no one else can make that offer to mankind.  Yes, we may all be physically dead one day.  But no, we do not all need to be spiritually dead for eternity.  The choice is ours.

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