The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for 430 years; they cried out to God to rescue them.
Many miles away, Moses saw a bush on fire, yet it was not burning up. God spoke to Moses from the bush.
“Go to Pharaoh and tell him to set my people free”.
So Moses went with his brother Aaron to Pharaoh, who said “no” many times. God turned Moses’s staff into a snake; still, Pharaoh said “no”. Then God sent plagues. He turned the Nile river into blood. The Egyptians worshipped the Nile and thought it was a god; God proved he was more powerful than the Nile goddess.
Eight other plagues followed: frogs, gnats, flies, livestock deaths, skin boils, hail, locusts and darkness. Stubborn Pharaoh would not let the Israelites go.
Eventually, God brought a new terror; Passover. God, through Moses, instructed the Israelites to put the blood of lambs on their doorposts. Then God sent the Angel of Death. He passed over the houses where there was blood but entered the homes of all the Egyptians. The Angel of death killed the firstborn males.
Everyone woke in the night to the sound of wailing and crying as the Egyptians discovered the corpses of their sons.
Pharaoh was in a panic; “Get rid of the Israelites, they must go now”.
So the Israelites left in the middle of the night and went to the desert. Six hundred thousand of them departed. They stopped in the desert to eat.
What was the first thing God spoke to them about once they had left?
God gave the Israelites directions for remembering and celebrating Passover in future years. In the New Testament, Jesus observed Passover the night before he died; the tradition survived. Exodus 13:8-9 tells us the importance of Passover:
On the seventh day, you must explain to your children, ‘I am celebrating what the Lord did for me when I left Egypt.’ This annual festival will be a visible sign to you, like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. Let it remind you always to recite this teaching of the Lord: ‘With a strong hand, the Lord rescued you from Egypt.’
Though they were still in the desert, God also told them to dedicate their firstborn sons from now on.
And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’ Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery. Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, so the Lord killed all the firstborn males throughout the land of Egypt, both people and animals. That is why I now sacrifice all the firstborn males to the Lord—except that the firstborn sons are always bought back.’ This ceremony will be like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. It is a reminder that the power of the Lord’s mighty hand brought us out of Egypt. Exodus 13:14-16
These instructions were given to the Israelites before they had even reached the Red Sea.
Pharaoh forgot all about the plagues and death.
When he awoke the following day, he changed his mind and chased the Israelites. This eventually led to his death. When God held back the waters of the Red Sea, the Israelites crossed safely. When Pharaoh and his troops pursued them, the waters came back over the Egyptians and washed them away.
What about the Israelites? Did they remember?
They, too, had seen the miracles and the plagues, including the death of the firstborn Egyptians. Yet, when they reached the Red Sea, they began to complain; their accusations are recorded in Exodus 14:11-12.
And they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!'”
The Israelites forgot too. How foolish of them; after witnessing all the miracles, surely they didn’t think God would bring them to the shores of the Red Sea and abandon them?
It’s as if God knew everyone would soon forget; after all, he had already given them instructions to help them remember his saving power.
We must remember too.
We have no reason to fear; God has reached out to us; he’s saved us by sending his son. We must never forget that.
But, it’s so easy to forget.
The pain and suffering we see in the world around us, particularly during this Covid crisis, cause us to forget. Sometimes we just get distracted by the busyness of life. Remembering what God has done for us helps us in the present and future.
What can we do to help us remember?
We can ask each other for and tell our own stories. That’s why coming together at church and in fellowship groups is so important. We encourage one another.
We can put reminders in our homes. A picture or a verse on a piece of paper. Some people get tattoos.
We can say grace and thank you to God before a meal, when we go to bed and when we get up.
Our worship songs also remind us of what God has done. In Psalm 66, we hear David reminding himself and praising God.
Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth!
Sing about the glory of his name!
Tell the world how glorious he is.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! …
Come and see what our God has done,
what awesome miracles he performs for people!
He made a dry path through the Red Sea,
and his people went across on foot.
There we rejoiced in him.
I’d love to know what God has done in your life; let’s encourage one another and remember.
This blog post is based on a sermon given at Everest Church, Nakhkhu, Nepal. Please enjoy this video of their worship:
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