God Will Lead—But We Must Follow
The life and legacy of Moses
Dr. Jim Denison
Ronald Reagan’s death was a national event, as it should have been. What was it about him which made such an obvious and enduring impact on our country and people? His role in ending the Cold War and Soviet Communism is well known and appreciated, of course. His leadership in simplifying government and standing for moral decency was significant and inspiring.
But his optimistic charisma may be the first impression people recall from his presidency. Remember the eloquence of his words and spirit, the kind and gracious way he comforted the bereaved, and the confidence with which he challenged the nation and her leaders. Commentators and historians speak often of Mr. Reagan’s connection with the American people. He was someone we felt we could trust.
We all need people whose character we trust and whose leadership we can follow. Those who feel they cannot trust anyone are often subject to emotional distress and significant depression. At a formative time in her history, the nation of Israel found such a Person they could trust with their lives, families, and futures.
The Passover event was to them what the crucifixion and resurrection are to us—the pivot-point of God’s history with humanity. Lessons learned from this event would make and mold the Jewish mind and spirit, and the Western worldview through them.
Where in your life do you need someone to trust this week? What decision requires more wisdom than you possess? What problem is larger than your resources? Where do you need to know God’s protection and providence? The One who freed his enslaved people from the mightiest power on earth now stands on your side. Are you on his?
Passover and the people of God
The Passover event culminated nine other judgments brought by the hand of God against Pharaoh and his people. At each point, it teaches God’s people valuable spiritual lessons as we learn to trust this God as our Lord.
Trust the timing and power of God (Exodus 11:1)
As our text opens, the Lord makes clear the fact that what will transpire comes directly from his hand: “I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt” (Exodus 11:1a). The Passover plague was no accident of nature or environment—it was the direct work of the Sovereign Lord of the universe.
This event would reveal not only his power but also his providence: “After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely” (v. 1b). God knew exactly what Pharaoh would do, for the future is the present with him. And he was right: “During the night Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘Up! Leave my people, you and the Israelites!'” (Exodus 12:31). We can trust the timing and power of God, for they are always for his glory and our good.
Ask for what you need (Exodus 11:2-3)
When the Lord first called Moses to lead his people from Egypt, he promised that the Egyptians would provide all that the nation would need (Exodus 3:21-22). He kept his side of the arrangement, favorably disposing the Egyptians toward the Hebrews and Pharaoh’s officials and people toward Moses. Now Moses must do his part in leading his followers to ask for all that God meant to provide for them (Exodus 11:2).
These articles would provide economic resource for the nation, but primarily serve as means of worship. (Tragically, they later used some of this plunder to make and worship Aaron’s golden calf; cf. Exodus 32:2). James chastised his readers: “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (James 4:2). John Wesley was convinced that God does nothing except in answer to prayer. So it was that his people were to trust him to provide for them through their Egyptians neighbors. So it is that God still meets all our needs in his own will and way (Philippians 4:19). But we must ask and receive in faith (Matthew 7:7-11).
Follow God as he directs (Exodus 11:4-10)
Next, Moses and Aaron were to go before Pharaoh with the message and warning of this impending judgment. He could not be a God of both justice and mercy unless he gave the Egyptians opportunity to repent of their rebellion. He used Moses to describe precisely what would happen if they refused his will. Only then could he act according to that purpose.
It has been said, “Don’t get ahead of God—he may not follow.” But it is equally true that we must not get behind him. And the latter is more our tendency than the former. So often God must wait on his people to step out by faith, so he can act in power. How many times I have hindered his effectiveness through my life by my own lack of trust in his will. Is there a faith step which God is asking of you this week?
Prepare to see the hand of God (Exodus 12:1-28)
Pharaoh has been warned—now God’s people must be prepared. With some of previous plagues Pharaoh at first relented, then refused to allow the people to leave. He might (and in fact did) do the same with this last plague. So the people must be ready to leave Egypt immediately.
With the Passover, the Lord inaugurated a new calendar for his people. Its first month would be this Passover month. This was the spring time, March-April to us; the Jews would call this month Abib and later, Nisan. Their year would begin with this event, as did their nation.
The people were to find a lamb for the sacrifice, year-old males without defect (Exodus 12:5), then slaughter them at twilight. They next used a hyssop branch to place some of the lamb’s blood on the sides and tops of their doorframes. Absent this preparation, the death angel would take their firstborn as well as the Egyptians’ (v. 13).