Devotional on Exodus

2013 – Natchez Trace Parkway

Turning the page
Exodus 1: A new king came to power in Egypt who didn’t know Joseph.
Joseph lives to be 110 years old and when he dies he’s honored as a great hero in Egypt. Not only did he save Egypt from the impact of a horrible famine but in so doing, he consolidated the power of Pharaoh. His family settles within the borders of Egypt in the land of Goshen and they prosper too, especially in number. Less than 100 made the journey to Egypt, but now they number in the thousands. I’ve turned the page from Genesis to Exodus and traveled through time — over 300 years. Things are so different that it takes me awhile to get my bearings. The descendants of Jacob, also known as Israel, now nearly outnumber the Egyptians and they, who came freely to Egypt, are now enslaved there. No one’s talking about Joseph and the miracles associated with his life – his story is forgotten. The dramatic change of fortunes for the people of Israel serves as a reminder that things do, indeed, change. It’s true for political figures who can watch their popularity go from high to low or for investors who can watch the value of their investments nose dive or for us individually who can see an overnight change of status. As I begin reading Exodus I’m reminded of this. However, I’m also reminded of something else. The main figure in the story is unchanged. God is still at work here. In my life the Lord is my firm foundation. “All other ground is sinking sand.”
Take Away: Life has plenty of ups and downs, some more dramatic than others, however, in the face of all the uncertainty the Lord remains our firm foundation.

Devotional on Exodus

2013 – Natchez, MS

Living between the promise and the blessing
Exodus 1: They made them miserable with hard labor.
Centuries earlier the Lord spoke to Abraham and made wonderful promises to him. Abraham’s descendants will number as the stars in the sky and they’ll have a land to call their own. When Jacob follows his son Joseph’s direction to relocate everyone to Egypt, the Lord promises to go with them and to bring them back to the Promised Land. Now, Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph are all dead and while the promise of a multitude of descendants is being fulfilled, the people with the Promise are enslaved in Egypt. Generations are being born into slavery, living and dying having never known freedom. It occurs to me that being on either end of the process is the place to be. Living between the promise and the blessing isn’t nearly as much fun. At the beginning there are thrilling encounters with God; dramatic experiences filled with expectancy. At the end, of course, is the thrill of obtainment; God’s Word being made real. In the middle, though, is uncertainty; hanging in there when the circumstances tell us to surrender. The thing is that much of life is lived between the promise and the blessing. For instance, there have been many generations of Christians since Jesus promised to come back. They’ve lived their lives believing in that which remains unseen. The only prescription for dealing with living between the promise and the blessing is continued trust. Today, I’m reminded that the Lord has made certain promises to me and, even though I don’t yet see the blessing, I chose to trust in him as one who is always faithful. I build my life on that firm foundation here between the promise and the blessing.
Take Away: Most of life is lived between the promise and the blessing; it’s no wonder that God places such high value on faith.

Devotional on Exodus

2013 – Pride RV Resort – Maggie Valley, NC

The last word
Exodus 2: Take this baby and nurse him for me. I’ll pay you.
Moses is not only born into slavery, he’s also condemned at birth. In a callous effort to stem the booming population growth of the Israelites Pharaoh has ordered the execution of all boys born to the slaves. When his mother can hide him no longer Moses is placed in a small basket that will float and hidden among the reeds along the river. His older sister Miriam is given the task of watching over him from a distance. Apparently, the idea is to hide the baby by day and then retrieve him at night. In a surprising twist that is characteristic of the Lord’s work, it’s Pharaoh’s own daughter who discovers the baby. Then, making things even more delightful, quick thinking Miriam offers to find a nanny for the baby. She goes directly to her mother who’s given the job. Instead of seeing her baby murdered, Moses’ mom is paid to raise her own son who’s now under the protection of the house of Pharaoh! I love stuff like this and, apparently, so does God. He loves taking impossible situations and turning them upside down. As I read this story today I’m reminded that God always has the last word even in the darkest of nights. In my life, it won’t be the writer of my obituary who’ll have the last word – it’ll be him.
Take Away: God has the last word even when everything seems to be going wrong.

Devotional on Exodus

2013 – Smoky Mountains and vicinity – Cullasaja Gorge

Identity crisis
Exodus 1: He killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand.
Moses is thought of as the grandson of the king, but he’s raised by the woman who’s secretly his own mother. On one hand, he’s an Egyptian and a member of the ruling class at that. On the other hand, he’s a Hebrew, condemned at birth, a member of a nation of slaves. Sooner or later he has to decide who he is. That day comes, even though his expression of solidarity with God’s people is quite flawed. First, he kills an Egyptian who mistreats a fellow Hebrew. He then tries to be a peacemaker between two Hebrews who are having a fight. There’s no question in his mind or in the mind of Pharaoh which side he’s on and soon Moses finds himself fleeing for his life. I’ve heard some sermons about how Moses should have waited for God to call him to be the liberator of his people and that, had he done that, it would have saved him four decades of leading sheep. For all I know, those sermons are right on. Still, I’m taken today with the need to decide early on which side one is on. Moses is likely mistaken when he kills the Egyptian, but his decision to cast his lot with a nation of slaves rather than be a member of the Egyptian royal household is courageous and ought to be appreciated by all who read the story. I’m glad that early on in my life the Lord spoke to my heart and that, right then, I decided to say “yes” to him without over thinking what such a response might mean. Today, I won’t give Moses a “thumbs up” on what he did but I’ll certainly give him credit for why he did it.
Take Away: Sooner or later we need to decide what side we’re on…and the sooner the better.

Devotional on Exodus

2013 – Saylorville Lake – near Des Moines, IA

It’s God’s story
Exodus 2: God listened…God remembered…God saw…God understood.
The story of the Bible is God’s story. He’s the central player. In the book of Exodus we have the major, dominating figure of Moses, but he isn’t the star. The Exodus story is about God. It’s he who listens to their cries, remembers his promise to Abraham, sees their need, and understands their plight. And it’s he who acts. Decades earlier, when Moses tried to take on the role of deliverer, things didn’t work out. Now, God takes on that role. When the story of the deliverance of the Hebrews from Egypt begins, it starts with God in a burning bush and not Moses killing an Egyptian. Today, I want my story to be God’s story. I’d rather play a small part in his big story than have the leading role in a one man play.
Take Away: It’s about my cooperating with God, not about him cooperating with me.

Devotional on Exodus


Burning bush
Exodus 3: The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up.
I love the story of Moses’ encounter with the Lord. He’s spent 40 years living apart from his own people, tending sheep. The idea of running into God out there in the wilderness must be the farthest thing from his mind. He sees smoke on the horizon and goes to investigate. As he gets closer he sees that it’s just a lonely bush that’s ablaze. The thing is, the fire isn’t consuming the bush and has a source of fuel that Moses can’t see. He’s about to find out that the bush is ablaze with the presence of the Lord. I doubt that Moses thought about it, but that bush is doing the very opposite of what he did. When he was younger he burned with compassion for his enslaved kin. However, these years in the wilderness have quenched that fire. Unlike the bush that keeps on burning, he settled for a life in exile, leaving his fellow Hebrews in slavery in Egypt. When I act on my own, doing what I think is a good idea, I tend to run out of energy. After all, I’m drawing on my talents and abilities and it doesn’t take long for me to run dry. However, when I live in the Lord and allow his Holy Spirit to be my Guide and my Source, well, I’ve tapped into the Power Source that’s never exhausted. Lord, let the fire of your Presence burn in my heart today.
Take Away: If I’m going to be used of God I need to allow him to be my power source, otherwise I’m bound to fail.

Devotional on Exodus

2014 – Arches National Park, Utah

Exodus 3: You’re standing on holy ground.
Holy Ground
Out in the wilderness Moses finds himself in the Presence of the Lord. It’s instructive to note that Moses didn’t go out to that place on a spiritual retreat in an attempt to find God. Instead, the Lord finds him, getting his attention in a unique, unforgettable way. It’s the Lord who calls out to Moses as he called out to Adam and Eve in the Garden and as he will call out to the boy Samuel many years hence. Moses is shocked to hear his own name being called out from that burning bush and he instinctively draws closer. However, the Lord stops him, telling him to remove his shoes because he’s now on “holy ground.” Obviously, it’s the Presence of the Lord in that place that makes, what would otherwise be just dirt, into something sacred. In many cultures today, shoe removal is an act of respect or reverence. The command that Moses remove his sandals isn’t a brand new idea to Moses; it’s just that he’s in a holy place and at first, didn’t realize it. It should come as no surprise that the Lord likes to come into our lives in unexpected ways! He’s been doing that since the very beginning. At first, I may miss what’s happening altogether but as soon as it dawns on me that God has come close, I’m to reverently respond; realizing that, what I thought was common has been sanctified by his presence.
Take Away: Where ever I encounter God that place becomes for me, holy ground.

Devotional on Exodus

2013 – Tombigbee State Park – Tupelo, MS – road to the park

May I ask who is calling?
Exodus 3: “I AM WHO I AM.”
When Moses meets the Almighty at the burning bush the Lord commissions him to lead the Hebrew people out of slavery. These people know about the “God of Abraham” but after generations in Egypt they also know that there are other gods to take into account. In fact, the gods of Egypt seem to have the upper hand. After all, they’re slaves and the Egyptians are their masters. Moses asks the God of Abraham “When I tell my fellow Hebrews about you, who do I say is acting on their behalf?” The answer has become a source of discussion for students of theology for thousands of years now. God says, “Just tell them ‘I AM WHO I AM’ sent you.” So what’s the meaning of this name? My first response is that God is saying, “I am the One who always exists – who simply ‘IS.’” However, some suggest that the answer is more along the lines of, “They will know WHO I AM by WHAT I DO.” They say that the answer isn’t about time. Rather, it’s about action. I firmly believe “GOD IS” but I also know “GOD DOES.” It’s God-in-action who is the star in this story.
Take Away: The Bible is all about God, WHO he is and WHAT he does.

Devotional on Exodus

2014 – Sumner Lake State Park, NM

The best thing to say to God
Exodus 4: God got angry with Moses.
Later on we’re told that Moses is the most humble man alive and knowing that I tend to cut him some slack when he keeps backing up on God’s call on his life. However, when I see the Lord getting angry in the face of all his objections I realize that humble or not, Moses is treading on thin ice with the Almighty. The Lord is appearing to Moses in a burning bush with the promise that, in spite of the king’s opposition that Moses will lead the people out of Egypt. Moses wants the Lord to give him a Name to use when he goes to the Hebrews and the King. The Lord obliges. Moses wants some kind of sign that will convince Pharaoh that it’s the Almighty he’s dealing with. The Lord gives him not one sign but three. Then Moses adds that he doesn’t want to actually do any of the talking and wants the Lord to name a spokesperson other than himself. At that point, he’s nearly found the end of God’s patience. The Lord promises Moses that he’ll give him the words to say and everything will be okay. When Moses persists in wanting someone else to do his talking for him, he nearly blows the whole deal with God. However, the Lord is merciful and tells Moses he’ll use his brother, Aaron, as spokesman. This, my friend, is a lesson in how not to deal with God. It’s not that exchanges with the Lord shouldn’t be open and honest. However, they should also be reverent and trusting. The best answer to God is just two words, “Yes, Lord.”
Take Away: The only reasonable response to the Almighty is: “yes.”

Devotional on Exodus

2014 – Mesa Verde National Park, CO

Big events with small beginnings
Exodus 5: Does this look like rescue to you?
The journey from slavery to freedom will not come without a struggle. Pharaoh’s known as the leader of a country with a world class economy and he intends to keep his free labor force. He also likes getting his own way. Mix all that with his having a hard, dispassionate disposition and we have a recipe for a long struggle. Moses eases into the negotiations by asking that the people be given three days off for worship and Pharaoh responds by increasing the workload on the people. The result is that Moses is disappointed and the Hebrew people are upset with him for making life harder on them than it was before. Of course, this is the first step in what will be an epic deliverance. For now though, the whole thing feels like a pitiful failure. The thing is that most great events have less than stellar beginnings. For instance, there’s the story of the founding of my own nation which is filled with several “one step forward and two steps back” situations. Or consider the story of the Wright brothers and human flight. A person watching their early efforts might have concluded that they were crazy rather than visionary. In the passage before us today, Moses appears to have totally failed in his mission. However, he has one thing going for him that assures a positive outcome: the Lord is with him. What has happened thus far may not look like much of a rescue mission, but the Lord is just getting started.
Take Away: Great miracles often begin with what seems to be pitiful failure.

Devotional on Exodus

2014 – Mesa Verde National Park, CO – Shiprock in New Mexico

God is all about results
Exodus 6: I will rescue you…I will redeem you…I’ll be a God to you.
After centuries of slavery and under increasing oppression the descents of Abraham are ready for some action from God. Their hope is likely quite modest. Maybe the Lord’s going to engineer a little bit less of a workload from their Egyptian taskmasters for them, or maybe there’ll be an improvement in living conditions. The thing is that they have the attention of the Almighty now and he has his own agenda that includes such big ticket items as “rescue,” “redemption,” and making them “his very own.” When God delivers people he does it in a big way. This is no patch up job so that they can somehow hobble on. Big things, things they can’t even imagine, are going to happen. That’s how it is when he saves us. I come to him, lost in my sins. My prayer is a modest one, like: “Lord, I just want to feel better” or “Just help me make it through this situation and I’ll be okay.” He says, “I will rescue you…I will redeem you…I’ll be a God to you.” The result is more wonderful than I ever imagined.
Take Away: When the Lord does something there are no half-measures about it.

Devotional on Exodus

2014 – Mesa Verde National Park, CO

“Does not work well with others.”
Exodus 7: Pharaoh is not going to listen to you
For a true blue “free-willer” like me, Pharaoh’s role in the Exodus is somewhat troubling. Before Moses and Aaron ever meet with him the Lord promises that he’s going to be stubborn. The reason for that stubbornness is because the Lord’s going to make him that way. That’s not how I see God at work in this world. Instead, I see him supplying sufficient grace to people to respond to his call in their lives if they will. In the story of the Exodus it appears that God not only sees Pharaoh’s stubbornness but actually stiffens it even more to create conditions for a spectacular deliverance. So what’s going on here? On the other side of this “free will” coin is “sovereignty.” God is God and he holds absolute authority over all Creation. The reason we have free will is that the Sovereign has granted it. If I abuse the freedom I’ve been granted I’ll answer to him. In Pharaoh’s case, I don’t think the Lord looked into the future and saw Pharaoh remain resolutely stubborn, but I do think the Lord saw his hard heart and, in his sovereignty declared, “So it shall be.” The Lord takes what Pharaoh does in his free will and hard wires it. From that point on he has no other choice. Pharaoh could have been an example of God’s grace. Instead, he becomes an instrument for God’s glory.
Take Away: It’s a dangerous thing to challenge the sovereignty of God.

Devotional on Exodus

Lost Maples State Park, TX – 2006

Did I do that?
Exodus 7: The magicians of Egypt did the same thing by their incantations.
Have you ever wondered about the “miracle contest” that takes place between Moses and the sorcerers of Egypt? Moses throws his staff on the floor and it turns into a snake. Pharaoh summons his sorcerers and they do the same thing. This scenario is repeated when the plagues begin and the water of the Nile is turned to blood and then in the plague of the frogs. It’s only in the third plague that the sorcerers are stymied when they can’t produce gnats by their incantations. I know the Source of Moses’ miracle working ability but how do the sorcerers do it? This is one of those situations in which the Bible makes no effort to answer our question. All we’re told is what happens in this contest; not how it happens. I’ve always been inclined to think that they do it by sleight of hand. After all, it appears that they’re given advance warning each time. I can picture it now: “Hey, there’s a guy down at the river that’s turning water into blood, how can we do that?” Some experienced old faker says he has just the thing and off they go to duplicate Moses’ miracle. However, I’ve just been thinking of another explanation. Maybe they’re the most amazed people present when their efforts produce a miracle. You see, the Lord says he’s going to harden Pharaoh’s heart. What better way to do that than, when he sees an obvious God-caused miracle take place, he sees his own sorcerers duplicate it? I’m not sure of this understanding of events, but I’d sure like to have seen their faces when their staff’s became snakes.
Take Away: We’d better trust God because sometimes we can’t believe what we see with our own eyes.

Devotional on Exodus

2014 – Mesa Verde National Park, CO

Get out of jail free card
Exodus 8: I’ll make a sharp distinction between your people and mine.
The first two plagues that fall on Egypt might be called “equal opportunity plagues.” That is, everyone, Egyptians and Hebrews alike, suffer from them. From the third plague on though, the area inhabited by the slaves, Goshen, is a sanctuary from all the bad stuff that comes. I can’t help but wonder why it happens like this. One thing that comes to mind is that from the third plague on the magicians of Egypt give up on duplicating the miracles. In fact, they tell Pharaoh that this is “God’s doing,” suggesting that he needs to give in. When the magicians drop out of the contest, the descendants of Abraham no longer experience the plagues. Maybe there’s a connection. Another thing I note is that, at first, these people are hesitant to believe that Moses is being sent by God to rescue them. Maybe the Lord allows them to experience the first two plagues to convince them that something beyond the ordinary is happening here. I’m sure there are other explanations but these two come to mind as I consider this passage today. Beyond that, though, is a reminder that sometimes God’s people go through the same hardships as everyone else. Being a follower of the Lord is no “get out of jail free” card. In fact, the unwelcome hardship might just be a part of God’s plan for us. The road to heaven isn’t always a pleasant stroll. Sometimes, there are portions of the route that we’d just as soon never travel.
Take Away: The Lord never promised us an easy journey, but he did promise to be with us on that journey and to deliver us to himself at the end of the road.

Devotional on Exodus

2014 – Arches National Park, Utah

The stubbornness of Pharaoh
Exodus 9: But for one reason only I’ve kept you on your feet…
Things continue to go downhill for mighty Egypt. Dead animals and a plague of miserable boils have struck the land. As Goliath will stager before falling many years in the future, Egypt is near the end. All the wealth and power Joseph brought to Egypt is draining away. One has to believe that the people of Egypt and even the advisors of the king are practically begging him to end this by surrendering to the demand from God that the people of Israel be set free. As Moses promises yet another massive display of God’s power, he explains the absurd stubbornness of Pharaoh. This is God’s doing. Pharaoh hasn’t given in because he can’t give in. After centuries of seeming silence God is making himself known once again. When he’s finished with Pharaoh the whole world will know about the God of the Israelites. On one hand I squirm a bit in my spirit as I see Pharaoh stripped of his free will, suffering the consequences of his earlier stubbornness. On the other hand, though, I’m reminded that it’s the Almighty who’s doing it. Who has a right to question what the Creator of all things does? Pharaoh’s life is going to bring glory to God, not only throughout the world of his day, but throughout history as well. As I read about the plagues I’m reminded that every life will, sooner or later, bring glory to God.
Take Away: Ultimately, God is sovereign and ultimately, every life will yield to that truth.

Devotional on Exodus

2014 – Arches National Park, Utah

Cooperating with God
Exodus 12: The Israelites then went and did what God had commanded Moses and Aaron. They did it all.
Emancipation day is coming. After generations of slavery God is about to keep his promise to “rescue and redeem” them from the bondage of Egypt. The deciding event will be one of fearsome judgment. Death is coming. However, death will not visit every home in the land. The Israelites must to follow explicit instructions if they’re to escape the terrible events of that night. A lamb is to be slaughtered, cooked, and eaten. Some of the blood, mixed with hyssop is to be smeared on the door posts of their homes. As a result, the death angel will “pass over” their dwellings. They listen and obey – “they did it all.” In so doing they become a part on their own deliverance. Most of what needs to be done is accomplished by the Lord but they must cooperate by taking this action. Well, you know where this is going by now. God has acted to deliver me from slavery to freedom. He has done the vast majority of what must be done. Still, he has instructions for me to follow. I must respond by cooperating with the Almighty if his perfect will is to be accomplished in my life.
Take Away: How can I best cooperate with God today?

Devotional on Exodus

2014 – Road to Moab, UT

Don’t forget
Exodus 12: God’s entire army left Egypt.
Four hundred and thirty years earlier sixty-six descendants of Abraham left Canaan and relocated to Egypt. Now, Pharaoh not only “allows” them to leave, he insists on it and 600,000 people begin the Exodus. Even as they gather their belongs in preparation to depart, the Lord tells them that they’re to commemorate this event each year. Even before the Ten Commandments are given the Passover is initiated and this event and all that is associated with it will define this people forever. In the centuries to come when times are especially difficult they’ll look back to this night and be reminded that God delivered them; that they are his very own; and that the Lord is always faithful. My story isn’t all that interesting but it’s as important to me. The day came when the Lord delivered me from the bondage of sin. He called me his very own and he promised to be faithful to me. Even as the Israelites remembered and in times of trouble found encouragement in their Exodus, so do I look back and remember; and in remembering, I’m encouraged in my spiritual journey.
Take Away: What’s the story of your Exodus?

Devotional on Exodus

2014 – Arches National Park, Utah

Divine Guidance
Exodus 13: The Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night never left the people.
The journey begins. Freed from bondage they’re now on the way to the Promised Land. This is the land God promised to their ancestor, Abraham. Moses is their leader yet God provides even more direct guidance. He guides them with a daytime cloud and a nighttime fire in the sky. When the pillar moves, they move. When it stands still, they stand still. What could be easier? Honestly, I kind of envy them, don’t you? Who could ask for a more clear way to know God’s plan. Still, as I think about it, I realize that many years later Jesus promises a “pillar” of his own. One of his last words of instruction to his disciples contains the promise of the Holy Spirit who will be their Guide. Instead of scanning the horizon to follow a pillar of cloud (have you ever wondered how that worked on a rainy day or during a nighttime thunderstorm?) the disciples will have an Inner Guide directing their lives. And it won’t be a case of God dragging them along in directions they don’t want to go either (remember, even with the pillars, there are an abundance of spiritual failures coming). This Guide, promised by Jesus, transforms hearts — changing his followers at the heart level. He not only guides; he also enables us to follow. It isn’t a pillar of fire but it is a wonderful way to be led by the Lord.
Take Away: The Holy Spirit is our “pillar of fire.”

Devotional on Exodus

2014 – Arches National Park, Utah

Head ‘em up – move ‘em out.
Exodus 14: Moses spoke to the people…“Stand firm and watch God do his work…God said to Moses: Order them to get moving.”
Behind them is the army of Egypt, moving in to destroy them. Before them is the Red Sea, impassable. What are they to do? Moses has great faith, “Stand still and see…” what God will do. That sounds good. They have pretty much stood still through the plagues and God took care of everything. Surely Moses is right and God will do it again. But God has other ideas. Even as the people of Israel had a part in the Passover by following God’s directions, now they have a part in this final victory over Egypt. The Almighty says, “Don’t stand still…move forward.” As they obey the command to move, God acts and deliverance comes. There are, indeed, times to “stand still.” To do otherwise is to attempt to be our own deliverers – something that’s bound to fail. At times like that we simply wait on the Lord. However, there are more often times to “get moving.” To do so is to act in faith that God is with us and that he has given us a role to play in our own salvation.
Take Away: Don’t be guilty of standing still when God is saying, “Move out.”

Devotional on Exodus

2014 – Arches National Park, Utah

Defining moment
Exodus 14: The Israelites walked right through the middle of the sea on dry ground.
The crossing of the Red Sea is a vivid, unforgettable event. We don’t need Charlton Heston and the magic of Hollywood to picture for us something spectacular happening. Moses lifts his staff over the waters and the wind begins to blow, splitting the sea. Then, after a night of waiting, the order is given to move out and over 600,000 people walk through that canyon of water, arriving safely on the other side. The rest of their lives they’ll remember that experience, and well they should. Big events, powerful evidences of God, don’t happen every day, although this generation of Israelites is going to see way more than the rest of us. I’ve never seen the sea part or anything else that could be labeled “spectacular.” However, I’ve experienced some personal encounters with the Lord that have shaped my life. No, I’m not going to write about them here…they’re my precious memories and not for public consumption. However, like those Israelites of old, I warmly remember them and they have defined my life. I don’t need to see daily miracles to keep on believing but I’m both thankful for and humbled by what I have seen and experienced.
Take Away: Our personal divine encounters may not be as spectacular as those in Scripture, but they define our lives.

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