The prodigal had returned. Moses was back and this time he had a staff! Everyone saw him walk in to Pharaoh’s palace? What was he doing? Why was he back? What would Pharaoh do? Would he be arrested and punished for the murder he committed 40 years ago?
He met with his brother Aaron and all the people. Then He did amazing things right before their eyes. Moses threw down that staff and it turned to a snake. He picked it up and it turned back into his staff. He put his hand inside his cloak and when he pulled it out, it was leprous. But then he put it back into his cloak and pulled it out without any sign of leprosy. Then he took water out of the Nile and poured it on the ground and it turned to blood. These were the signs God had given Moses to help the people to believe and they believed after seeing these things.
No where in Scripture does it say what happened at this moment other than the people believed and worshiped because the Lord has seen their suffering. But four hundred years of hard labor as slaves to pagans. They knew the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but they almost didn’t even seem true anymore because it had been so long. But when Moses rolled in that day and did those miracles, they believed. I would imagine a feeling of being overwhelmed would have filled their hearts and minds. Then, weeping as they mourned the last four hundred years and what it had been. Then, celebration believing this is it. The Lord has sent His deliverer with powers from on high. We are going to be set free!
Little did they know it was not going to happen right away and there would be great suffering as they waited. From the first time Moses spoke to Pharaoh, all the blame was put on the people. They were punished harshly by their slave masters. They blamed Moses. They thought when Moses went in to speak with Pharaoh, it was going to be done. Their bags were packed, but then he said, ‘no!’ He said ‘no’ over and over again. The plagues started with the water turning to blood and killing all of the fish. Can you imagine the smell of it all. Of course, the blame was put on the Israelites. They were worked harder, beaten more harshly, treated with indignation for what ‘they’ were doing to Egypt. It was not until the fourth plague of gnats did God begin to limit the plague to the Egyptians. They were miracles, sure, but they were still slaves!! What do you do when God’s promises seem to never come. Deliverance, healing, renewal of hope, restoration of dreams, they all seem to get further and further as doors continue to slam shut in our face.
How can Isaiah try to tell us that those who wait on the Lord renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31) when what waiting is just ‘code’ for nothing is happening? How is my strength renewed when God is doing nothing to move things closer to what He promised me?
The Lord knew where He was taken the Israelites. He knew that He could not bless them if they continued to embrace the Egyptian culture as they had done. They needed to know His power and consequences of not following Him. Not only did they need to understand the power of God and the consequences of rebellion, they need to know how to worship Him and this required a temple made with lots and lots of gold.
Blood. Frogs. Gnats. Flies. Dead cows. Boils. Hail. Locusts. Darkness, Then finally, the last plague, the death of the firstborn of every Egyptian. With each plague, Pharaoh hardened his heart. They beat the Israelites more and more. But with time, the suffering was so great among the Egyptians that they stopped mistreating the Israelites. They realized they had better be nice or God was going to destroy them. So much so that when God told the Israelites to ask the Egyptians for their gold and silver, the hearts of the Egyptians had been turned to favor Israel and they gave them all they asked for. The Bible says they ‘plundered’ the richest nation on Earth without lifting a single weapon. Israel moved from being a slave state to the richest nation on Earth. The stripped the land of Egypt of all of its wealth.
When the construction of the Tabernacle began, Moses asked the people for offerings of gold and so much was brought that Moses had to tell them to stop giving. (This, of course, is every pastor’s dream that their church would give so much that they would have to tell them to stop giving 😊).
Some theologians think the time of the plagues lasted up to three years, but from my study, it was about a year that they waited. From the day Moses walked back into Israel, the people had to wait a year before the promise came to pass. And during this year, Pharaoh shattered their dreams as each plague ended. The Egyptians hated them more at first. They suffered more. They were beaten more. Everything seemed to get worse.
In the end, the nation of Israel trusted God enough to walk through massive walls of water that would have drowned them all if they would have collapsed. And though they struggled, they did finally abandon the polytheistic religion of Egypt to follow God with the regulations and sacrifices He put in place. They had plenty of wealth to build the Tabernacle and an army.
It was a long wait, but had the Lord delivered them the first day, the lessons they needed to learn and the things they needed to see from the hand of God would not have prepared them for what was to come next, after deliverance.
The Lord may make us wait for His promises, but we can take comfort in know that they waiting period is a time that God is setting the stage for what comes next after the promise. He is getting our hearts ready. The promise we are waiting for is not the last promise. It is not the last blessing. There is something beyond the promise that is wonderful and true, but we can’t see it and the Lord is getting us ready. If we keep serving Him during the waiting period, we will see what the Lord is doing, and our hearts will be strengthened. Can you imagine how encouraged the Israelites must have been when the plagues began to only affect the Egyptians but not them? For flies to be everywhere in Egypt, but only swarming around the Egyptians? For three days, the Lord kept any light from the Egyptians, but the slave camp had plenty of light. The Egyptians couldn’t keep a candle lit when the sun was darkened, but the slave camp had miraculous wicks. Wow! It is only when we get bitter, angry, depressed, or hopeless in the waiting period that we are blind to what God is trying to do in us. Then we are not prepared for what comes after the promise. And if we are not prepared for what comes after the promise, the promise will only corrupt us.
If you have been praying and asking, pleading with God, do not get discouraged. He is doing a greater work than what you are waiting for. Be encouraged and strengthen your hearts for the Lord will finish what He has started. He just wants to make sure that He brings you with Him to what comes after the promise.
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV)
My prayer is for the Lord to sustain you with added hope in this time of waiting. And please share this message with anyone the Lord puts on your heart. People really struggle with why God doesn’t act sooner though He has promised. And if you haven’t yet signed up for my weekly blog, please do so. Check out my books Prepare for Greater Things and Breaking Free From Your Past. And pray for me as I prepare to release a new book “With All Your Heart: Ending the Negative Cycles of Life.” Pray that this book will find those who need it the most and that God can use it for His glory.
PS: I really encourage you to listen to a recent message I taught called Fertile Soil.
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