Part Two: Between Compromise and Catastrophe—Exodus 8-14

Here are some Great Truths About Life That Little Children Have Learned (author unknown).

Just think of the list of great truths we could compile if we put our minds to it... not only "Great Truths About Life We Learned as Children," but "Great Truths About Life We Learned As Christians."

Likewise, the Children of Israel could have made some kind of list! Think of the lessons they had learned from their choices as we intersect their lives again in the book of Exodus.

 

Exodus 3:1 records a significant moment in their history. It has been 430 years since the Lord has spoken to any Israelite, but now He begins to overtly communicate with them again. It is a wonderful time for them! In such a time, it is always helpful to ask questions like these:

Have they learned any lessons about God or themselves from the time in Egypt? Have I learned any lessons about God or myself while I've been in a sinful state?

Have they learned enough from their time of slavery and captivity in Egypt that they can now move ahead and go the right direction, to follow God wholeheartedly? Have I learned enough from my time of sin that I can now move ahead and go the right direction, to follow God wholeheartedly?

Are they ready to make choices that will enable them to leave Egypt and go to the place God has prepared for them—the promised land? Am I ready to make choices that will enable me to leave sin and go to the place God has prepared for me—the abundant Christian life?

 

We all make choices for good or bad maybe hundreds of times a week. Some choices are easy to make; others more difficult; and some seem to have no acceptable outcome (all the options seem to be bad). Some have called this, "between a rock and a hard place."

This untenable situation is what the two million-plus children of Israel faced as they tried to leave Egypt. They were caught between two bad choices: On one side was Pharaoh and his army in hot pursuit and on the other, the Red Sea.

 

They were caught in the middle; you might say, "between the devil and the deep Red Sea." They were between a compromise and a catastrophe. Let me remind you of what led up to this moment.

In our last study we saw God calling Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, and Moses' five excuses, the last of which ("I'm not available") made God angry. Now, by chapter 3, Moses and God have worked out their differences, and Moses and Aaron return to Egypt to deliver his people.

Here is a brief rundown of the events that bring us to the section of Scripture we want to look at today.

 

That brings us to where Moses is directed to institute the plagues—7:14-11:9: incredible plagues, challenging Pharaoh and the gods of Egypt. Look at this list!

 

Israel's example is important to study, because many of us have this same problem.

We think we can serve and worship God in our Egypt—our slavery to sin and our own selfishness.

Israel's example makes it clear, however, that worshiping and serving God is possible only when we leave Egypt (sin and the old life) and go into Canaan (new life in Christ)—Ex. 3:18. Serving God in our new life demands living free from the slavery of the old.

When we are living in the promised land (a picture of living in God's kingdom), we are released from Satan's jurisdiction and are able to freely offer acceptable worship and service—Ex. 3:18.

These happened because Pharaoh wouldn't listen, and neither would the children of Israel, until the plagues started. They simply added one more voice, a point of pressure, to the argument.

God now commands Pharaoh, "Let my people go that they may worship Me"—8:1. Some might ask, "Why would they have to go to worship and serve God?"

There is only one way they will ever serve and worship Jehovah—when they are beyond the influence of Pharaoh and the borders of Egypt. Matthew 6:24 says, "No one can serve two masters..." And Matthew 4:10 says, "...Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" (This was Jesus' response to Satan's request that He worship him.)

Some of us,because of the hardness of our hearts, often do not respond to God even in adverse circumstances. We become like Pharaoh! Not even the logical consequences of sin and rebellion will soften our hearts toward God, because we are determined to go our own way! Pharaoh's response is to harden his heart, really a very dangerous thing for him to do because then God strengthens that hardening—Ex. 8:15,32; 9:7b; 9:12, etc. Because Pharaoh hardens his heart toward God, and continues in it, God strengthens that position and gives it a "fixed" setting. Ex. 11:10—Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh, but the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and he would not let the Israelites go out of his country.

Pharaoh softened for only short periods of time—Ex. 10:16. Pharaoh quickly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, "I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you. 17] Now forgive my sin once more and pray to the LORD your God to take this deadly plague away from me." The vast majority of the time, He continued in his sin. Though he confessed it, he didn't repent.

So the plagues (or, in our case, troubles and trials) can either be plagues of deliverance or plagues of defiance.

Revelation 16:9-11 is the story of the seven bowls of God's wrath that will be poured out on the earth at the end of the tribulation. Verse 8 prophesies the fourth angel will pour out his bowl on the sun and the sun will be given power to scorch the people through fire. (Pretty awesome trouble—should bring about repentance!)

But verse 9 says, "They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him." This doesn't make any sense, but Pharaoh is doing the same thing!

On the other hand, those who want to believe God's promise begin to hear God in the awful happenings around them—Ex. 12:17b-28. The children of Israel begin to look up, recognize Moses as their spokesman, and experience the results of Moses' prayer. They are now ready, and feel Pharaoh's hold begin to loosen. Pharaoh begins to offer some compromises, which we will call

 

The Compromises of Satan

Pharaoh's proposals to the children of Israel are the same ones Satan offers to people today. Pharaoh has to think up proposals that will make his slaves decide to stay in Egypt of their own free will. He can't force them to stay, though he has tried. Thinking he has only one option left, after about four plagues he says, "Let's compromise."

Compromise #1:Offer your religious sacrifices while you are still in slavery—Ex. 8:25. Pharaoh offers what 2 Timothy 3:5a calls "having a form of godliness but denying its power." We might also call it a halfhearted commitment.

The compromise is for nominal Christianity—giving God an insipid/cheap sacrifice. People often want to stay right where they are, and just add Jesus... no change, no commitment, just a sacrifice that meets the criteria of their lifestyles. This will never be acceptable to God. He wants our commitment to total freedom—John 8:36. He wants us to be totally free from our old life. We won't experience the joys of freedom and release until we leave Egypt/our sin.

Some have rejected Christianity because, they say, "I have tried it, but it didn't make a difference." Why? Did they really try if they stayed in slavery to their old life? It's impossible to "try" Christianity without fully giving yourself to it! Meditate on James 4:4—"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God."

Well, Moses responds to Pharaoh's suggestion in Exodus 8:26-27. "...That would not be right. The sacrifices we offer the LORD our God would be detestable to the Egyptians. And if we offer sacrifices that are detestable in their eyes, will they not stone us? We must take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God, as he commands us."

Having failed at that compromise, Pharaoh quickly tries another.

Compromise #2: Stay in sight and don't go too far; and make it short term, not long term—v. 28. (i.e., "Okay, if you are going to go, then don't go too far.")

This second of Satan's compromises suggests, "Don't be a fanatic. It's fine to have a religion, but don't get too serious. Live on the border, and leave yourself an escape route, so you can come back and serve me if you don't like it out there." Or, "Get it out of your system. You'll eventually grow out of it."

It's like the little boy who fell out of bed one night. When his mother asked him what had happened, he said: "I guess I stayed too near where I got in." Many people are tempted to stay too near where they got in. The problem is, you can't see Canaan from Egypt. We have to fully obey Christ to completely experience the benefits and joys He offers.

Some of your parents and friends have said something like this to you. Those who don't know Christ are fearful, even understandably cautious, of cults and weird spiritual experiences. When this compromise is dangerous and deceitful, however, is when people fully understand Christianity and encourage you to not fully embrace it. (i.e., "Keep your options open"!)

How foreign this compromise sounds in light of Romans 12:1-2—Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

The compromise comes in so many ways, but essentially it is about leaving your options open, staying close to an exit.

Following the plagues of livestock, boils, hail and locusts comes another compromise:

Compromise #3:Spare your family from your commitment. Or we might expand that to, "Don't influence your friends or you might lose them"#151;Ex. 10:8-11.

If we paraphrase this, Pharaoh is proposing: "The men can go, but leave the families behind." Or, "If you have to go, don't take those you love the most—your family and friends. Leave them here; then there will always be a reason to come back." Or, "Listen, if you have to go, don't subject your family to this—don't even make an appeal to them."

 

This compromise plays on the powerful emotion of our love for family and friends and then twists/manipulates it. Part of what Satan says is true; there often is division in a family concerning Christ, but the answer is not compromise. The right response is loving action, truthful conversation, a servant's heart toward your family, and especially living an unmasked and sincere Christian life!

 

  • Advice re: Family Be careful about letting a hypocritical, overzealous, or domineering past family model be what keeps you from doing what is right in the present. You may be the only one of your family or friends who knows the open door to freedom. Take as many as possible with you!

     

  • Advice re: Friends Sometimes we become so paranoid about the potential of losing a friend, we fail to tell what has happened to us. Is that the loving thing to do?

This is one of Satan's common tactics, the suggestion that a person's commitment will cause real division and even harm within the family. The temptation can come in the following forms:

 

Well, Pharaoh fails at that ploy, so now he has nearly finished fighting. He has lice, locusts, and frogs coming out his ears, so he makes one last desperate suggestion:

Compromise #4: Take the whole family, but don't take your possessions—leave your flocks and herds—Ex. 10:24.

His pitch is, let your commitment be a spiritual, but not a practical, one. This is such a common and alluring compromise. It is often stated or implied, "We can keep our head in the clouds if we want, but we must keep our feet on the ground." That's not bad advice, if the motivation is proper and it's not a subtle attempt to withhold something from our commitment to Christ!

For many, however, this compromise implies that Christianity isn't really intended to be practical, nor should it touch our everyday lifestyle; that following Jesus is fine for your heart, but not for the practical, material, everyday experiences of life.

cattleNotice, however, what this would mean to the Israelites' worship and obedience to God's command—Ex. 20:24-25; 31:1-11; 35:4-29. Cattle were necessary for sacrifices, for clothing, and eventually for the tabernacle, which would need animal skins. Even the flocks were needed to serve and worship God. The compromise masks the real intention, the ploy to keep all our material things under Satan's control. As followers of the Lord, all we have is His; we are just His stewards.

Scripture says in Matthew 6:21, that... where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. We must never forget that worshipping and serving God demands all we have—our person and our possessions. Remember, we can, in fact, measure our commitment by the nature of our sacrifice, e.g., Cain and Abel. God desires to have our whole lives under control—which brings freedom. How many compromises have you made with your:

 

 

Now the contest is nearly over. Moses has rejected Pharaoh's proposal, and it is time for deliverance. The question is, what will cause Pharaoh to let the children of Israel go? More importantly, what will enable them to leave Egypt?

It is the same event.

passover The deliverance is the Passover—Ex. 12:1-11. What we see in this final plague is the answer to all people everywhere bound by slavery and their own sins.

The death of the lamb was a shadow of the death of Christ. As the Passover made a new beginning, so the death of Christ made a new beginning for the believing sinner. The Israelites had no way of knowing the eternal significance of the instructions they were given and obeyed. In succeeding generations, however, it became clear (to those who would receive it) that the Passover was a picture of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. This single event would forever be both a part of Israel's heritage and an introduction to Christ.

When God tells the people in bondage, "Take a lamb...," the pattern is set. From then on, anyone who wanted to be delivered from any bondage had to take a lamb without blemish and spot. This action picture would speak louder than any words ever could have.

 

The ways in which the Passover lamb and Christ compare are almost unbelievable... so striking, I'm in awe!

Chosen before being slain—v. 5a The Passover lamb was chosen on the 10th day of the month. The Lamb of God was chosen before the foundation of the world. I Pet. 1:20—He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
Without defect—v. 5b—v. 5a The Passover lamb was chosen on the 10th day of the month—Ex. 12:5. The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. The Lamb of God was a lamb without blemish or defect—I Pet. 1:18-19
Tested—vv. 3a,6a The Passover lamb was tested from the 10th to the 14th day to make sure that it was satisfactory and therefore would qualify—vv. 3-6. The Lamb of God was kept under the hostile scrutiny of His enemies, especially during the last week before He was crucified. John 8:46—Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me?
Time of death—v. 6b The Passover lamb was to be killed in the evening, at twilight—v. 6b. The Lamb of God was killed in the evening, at the ninth hour. Matt. 27:46—About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"
The application of the blood—v. 7 The Passover lamb's blood was applied over and around the doorframes of the houses...on the sides and the top—v. 7. The Lamb of God's blood was applied to all who by faith received Him as their substitute.
This is so important. The death of Christ was prefigured in the lamb.

A living lamb is a lovely thing, but it could not save. We are not saved by Christ's example or His life, but by His death and resurrection—Heb. 9:22 ("without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness"); Lev. 17:11.

If we try to intellectualize this, to figure out the "why" of God, I think we will be frustrated. There are certain aspects of my salvation I don't fully understand, but I trust God! His ways are not my ways. The killing of a lamb probably seemed foolish to the "wise" Egyptians, but it was God's only way of salvation—I Cor. 1:18-23, especially v. 18.

The lamb's blood applied meant that when God passed through the land and saw the blood, He would pass over the house and not strike down the firstborn male—Ex. 12:12-13. The Lamb of God, our Passover, was sacrificed for us 2,000 years ago (1 Cor. 5:7), and if we personally accept Christ's sacrifice, thereby applying the blood poured out for our sins, the God of justice will pass over us—v. 13.

The blood was needed for all the people to avoid death; that included all the Israelites—v. 13. No one was exempt. Likewise, the Lamb of God is for all people, because we all need forgiveness from sin. Some will say, "Hey, I'm not a sinner, or at least I'm not as bad as others I know."

Romans 3:10,23 says (v. 10)—As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one;" (v. 23)"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." Rom. 6:10,23 says (v. 10)—"The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (v. 23)—"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

 

Day of death—v. 6b The Passover lamb was killed on the 14th day of the month—12:6. The Lamb of God was killed during the Passover week on the 14th day of the month. John 13:1—It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
The similarity continues, and because we don't have the time, I have given you some information in the Appendix as to how these next three are similar.
The lamb is eaten—Ex. 12:8-20 (see Appendix).
The lamb is trusted—Ex. 12:21-42 (see Appendix).
The lamb is honored—Ex. 13 (see Appendix).

With an understanding of the comparison between the Passover lamb and the Lamb of God in mind, we are now ready to continue looking at Exodus 12, where we see the people of Israel ready to leave Egypt. They have been told to eat the Passover meal in haste. When the time comes, they are to be prepared to go quickly, taking their cloaks, sandals, and bread.

Then the moment arrives, and with it, the completion of the plague of the firstborn—Ex. 12:29-30 (read). 29 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh, who sat on the throne, to the firstborn of the prisoner, who was in the dungeon, and the firstborn of all the livestock as well. 30 Pharaoh and all his officials and all the Egyptians got up during the night, and there was loud wailing in Egypt, for there was not a house without someone dead.

Death comes to every home without the blood, and Pharaoh finally lets the people go. Isn't it tragic what it took to free Israel from Pharaoh and Egypt? It took the death of Pharaoh's firstborn for him to loosen his evil grip, just as it would take the death of God's firstborn to loosen Satan's grip forever on the souls of man.

The difference is that Pharaoh resisted God's plan for freedom. As for God, the death of His only Son was the loving act of a Father so that all His children might be free.

 

Try to imagine the emotion the children of Israel felt. What a fantastic experience to finally be free of Pharaoh's land and his taskmasters' whips. They must have been ecstatic! I'm sure they shared the stories of deliverance. They must have appreciated the deep fellowship they were now able to have, with no problems, just a taste of freedom. In some ways, their feelings of relief and joy are similar to when we were delivered from slavery to sin and self. Do you remember the day? Do you remember the feeling that you could almost touch God, you were so aware of His presence? I remember the night a friend and I were saved. I was 12 years old, but I was beside myself with joy!
After the death of the firstborn, the people leave in haste—vv. 31-34, having plundered the Egyptians—vv. 35-36. God, in effect, grants them back wages from their slavery; plus, this plundering is necessary for them to build the tabernacle some day.

The excitement quickly fades, however. The children of Israel experience what usually happens. After their initial rejoicing and relief, they look forward and see the Red Sea between them and complete freedom. Behind them is Pharaoh and his army.

This next incident illustrates that although we are saved by Christ's blood, we need to claim our rich spiritual inheritance by faith daily, not for our salvation but for our continued freedom. It also illustrates how Satan will test our initial walk with God.

The Catastrophe: The Red Sea

sowerTesting often happens to new believers. The parable of the sower, in fact, indicates that the sun always comes up to test the depth of our spiritual roots.

 

Mark 4:3—Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4] As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5] Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6] But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

Jesus later explained this portion of the parable like this:
Mark 4:16—Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17] But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

Israel experiences testing almost immediately because they have obeyed God's Word. As a result of the sun of persecution coming, however, the people react negatively. The roots obviously need to go deeper.

As a result of their shallow faith, fear comes—v. 10b. They begin to pine for slavery! Interestingly, some people find a strange security in bondage, preferring their prison condition to living in freedom. In truth, they are fearful of the freedom and the challenges Christ gives. This response is typical for believers today as well, but we need to take courage. Yes, we will face obstacles and trials ahead which we cannot foresee, but remember who is with you and what His promises are. We may be tempted to get angry and wonder if the Christian life is really worth it. What we don't often realize is, Red Sea-like trials are often necessary for our strengthening and freedom. Without the Sea our enemy would not have been fully dealt with.

 

Exodus 14:10—As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord.

red sea This reaction shows the Israelites are still walking by sight, not by faith. Their joy has quickly turned to complaint and fear. They even go so far as to ask to return to their slavery rather than die in the desert—vv. 11-12. From their viewpoint, there is seemingly nowhere to go. They are caught between Pharaoh and the Red Sea...between compromise and catastrophe, between the devil and the deep Red Sea.

Almost immediately enraged at the escape, Pharaoh takes his taskmasters and armies to pursue Israel and recapture his slaves. When the Israelites see the test (the price they may pay for their freedom) coming, slavery suddenly seems good, a safe way of life. They actually become angry, saying (paraphrase): "Why was I disturbed in the first place?"—v. 12.

The solution to the enemy's pursuit is found in Exodus 14:13-14: "...Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."

 

  1. Fear not, for God is on your side. Remember, this is what God told Moses in response to his excuses: "I'll be with you."
  2. Stand firm, because you cannot win the battle by yourself. Don't run, don't jump up and down in anger or fear. Hold your ground. Why? You will see the deliverance the Lord will bring today. "The Egyptians you see today you will never see again." What a fantastic promise!

    If we apply this to our lives, we will realize the same. We must affirm that the former life is over and our slavery was not better than our present freedom. Think back carefully and realistically on your slavery and realize it wasn't better in Egypt/sin. Anything is better than that!

    The fact that Satan is pursuing does not mean he will catch you; I don't care how loud the soldiers sound! Sin need not be your taskmaster any longer, because you have been delivered (Rom. 6:14).

     

  3. Moses reminded Israel, and us, "the Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still—Ex. 14:14. God protects us from the enemy who is already a defeated foe. "Greater is he that is within you than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). God will assure you He is with you, in the stillness.
    God then gives some orders to Israel to obey.

     

  4. Why...cry...move on. v. 15—Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on." They were to stop praying and crying out in fear, and get moving. This has always been one of my favorite encouragements. There is a time to stop praying and whining about the condition and get moving.
The result of their obedience to this command is very familiar to us (Ex. 14:26-31).

26 Then the LORD said to Moses, ''Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen-the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived. 29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

God protects the people of Israel by coming between them and Egypt (vv. 19-20)—19] Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel's army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20] coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.

He opens the way through a potential catastrophe into victory (vv. 21-22). The winds of deliverance, however, are probably scary as the people walk through the Sea. That sea, which is salvation to Israel, is death to the Egyptians (vv. 23-28).

And the result?

God's people saw His great power (v. 31), therefore they switched from fearing Pharaoh to fearing God. They also trusted Moses.

Conclusion:

When we face an obstacle in the Christian life, whether our first or 100th, we need to remember this scene and listen to God's command—"Move on; never retreat, no matter how impossible it may seem ahead." I can promise you, as you obey the impossible and refuse to go back, as your feet touch the waters of an impossible command, they'll divide.

The word to God's people is, "Come on, don't compromise. By faith apply the blood of Jesus to your sins. Don't let the obstacles or the onslaughts of your former slavemasters frighten you. Come on through to victory."

Read this statement of commitment on your own for a minute.

 

"I'm Living for Christ. I've entered His kingdom. I've pledged my submission to His lordship. The world can be against me. Satan can fight me. People, friends, and family may ridicule, but as for me, I've set my heart to follow Christ. From this day forward, I want every area of my life to be brought under His control. I declare publicly that this day I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. I am committed to be like Him and to do all He asks of me."

 

I trust you will make this a commitment of your heart. If you are willing, pray and ask God for the grace to obey. Then, if you would like to let us know about your pledge, e-mail us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . We'd be encouraged by it.

Think of the obstacles you face:

 

Let's begin to pray that whatever is ahead, God will help us through it.

The story continues... Moses, Part Three!

 

Bibliography
Here Am I, Send Aaron, Jill Briscoe, Victor Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1979