Monday, March 29, 2021

Numbers. Day 106, Stages In Israel's Journey, Part One: Recalling The Lord's Judgment Upon Egypt's Gods

Chapter 33 is a detailed list outlining all the campsites of Israel in the wilderness. It will take us several days to talk about all these locations.

The Bible tells us that Moses kept this travelogue on command of the Lord. "Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. At the Lord's command Moses recorded the stages in their journey." (Numbers 33:1-2a)

"This is their journey by stages: The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after Passover." (Numbers 33:2b-3a) The reference to "Rameses" is a place name, not a pharaoh's name. We were told in the book of Genesis that Joseph settled his family in the district of Rameses (Genesis 47:11) and we were told in Exodus that the Egyptian slavemasters had the Israelites working in the cities of Pithom and Rameses making storehouses for the king (Exodus 1:11). These references to the name of Rameses are what led movie-makers to assign the name of Rameses to the pharaoh of the exodus but, as we discussed in our study of the book of Exodus, it's unlikely that any of the Egyptian kings who bore the name of Rameses was the pharaoh to whom the Lord said through Moses, "Let My people go!"

When the Lord led the Israelites out of Egypt, they didn't slink away stealthily in the dark of night. They strode boldly away in the sight of everyone, in the power and protection of their God, with much plunder that the Egyptians willingly gave to them. "They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods." (Numbers 33:3b-4) Exodus 3:22 and Exodus 12:36 tell us that when the Israelites left Egypt they were loaded down with gifts of gold and silver and clothing which the Egyptians gladly handed over to them when asked. I think the Egyptians couldn't give them enough as they departed, either out of fear of the Lord or out of pity for how the Israelites had been treated by the Egyptian elite or out of gladness that the plagues would end as soon as the Israelites were allowed to go free.

We tend to think of the plagues of Egypt as a judgment upon the wicked pharaoh and the idolatrous government and the cruel slavemasters. Why then does Moses say the Lord "brought judgment on their gods"? Because each plague was carefully chosen as a "showdown", if you will, between the Lord and Egypt's primary deities. For example, the god of the Nile was incapable of preventing the Lord from turning the Nile to blood and bringing a temporary halt to the fishing industry. Why was the god of the Nile so impotent? Because the god of the Nile did not exist. The same goes for the god of agriculture who could not prevent the plague of locusts from devouring the crops. There is no god of agriculture except the one true God. With each of the plagues the Lord brought shame upon the names of the idolatrous gods of Egypt. With each of the plagues the Lord sowed the seeds of doubt in the minds of many of the Egyptians, causing them to wonder whether their gods existed at all or at the very least causing them to wonder why they bothered to worship gods who were so inferior to the God of the Israelites. Some of the Egyptians may have turned from idolatry and turned to the Lord because of the plagues. Some of the mixed multitude who left Egypt with the Israelites may have left because they forsook their false gods and gave their allegiance to the God of Israel. 

The Lord God of Israel is the only God. He will bring judgment upon everything that sets itself up as a deity to be worshiped. He will bring judgment upon everyone who sets themselves up as someone to be worshiped. A day is coming in which every knee will bow before Him, either willingly because the person worships Him or unwillingly because every knee must bow to the authority of the King of kings. A day is coming when the name of no other god will ever be uttered by human lips. No more prayers will be lifted in vain to deities who do not exist. The Lord---the one true God, creator of heaven and earth---will reign as king forever, and the idols of the past and the names of false gods will be remembered no more. "The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and His name the only name." (Zechariah 14:9) 

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