At the end of Chapter 10, Pharaoh told Moses to leave and never come back, and Moses agreed to go away. Now, after all the other plagues God visited upon Egypt, God tells Moses that He has one more plague in store. After He sends this one, God says, Pharaoh will not only let the children of Israel go, he’ll thrust them out of Egypt. After all these months or years of refusing to let them go, this plague is going to make him want to be rid of the Israelites.
And, surprise, surprise! God is right.
He tells Moses that at midnight He’ll move through the land and kill the firstborn of Egypt, from the firstborn in the house of Pharaoh who sits upon the throne, to the firstborn of the lowliest maidservant, and even on to the firstborn of all the beasts. He will not, He promises, touch the firstborn of Israel. In that way everyone may know that the Lord puts a difference between Egypt and Israel, between believers and non-believers. In that way, everyone should know that this isn’t a quirk or an odd coincidence.
God tells Moses to speak to the Israelites and tell each house to select a lamb without blemish on the 10th day of the month. It must be a male lamb of the first year, and they are to keep it until the 14th of the month. On that evening everyone is to slaughter their lambs and use the blood to mark their doors. God is very specific about how to mark the doors, when to kill the lamb, and how to prepare it to be eaten. With fire, He says. Not with water. Not raw. There are to be no leftovers. Anything they don’t eat on the night of the 14th is to be burned with fire.
He’s even specific about what they’re to wear and how to eat the lamb — with loins girded, with shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand. Eat it in haste, in preparation for being thrust out of Egypt. This day, God tells His people, is to be a memorial of the Lord’s passover. The Israelists are instructed how to keep this memorial throughout their generations–forever.
So the Israelites are freed and everybody’s happy and acknowledging God for about five minutes. And then Pharaoh’s heart and the hearts of those who serve him are hardened again and they have second thoughts. Why did we let our servants go? What were we thinking?
So the Egyptians head into the wilderness after the Israelites. After all God has done, after all the miracles they have seen Him work, the children of Israel as still just human beings. They turn on Moses, and on God, crying:
Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than we should die in the wilderness.
Um . . . really? Cuz nowhere in what I’ve read did I hear the Israelites tell Moses to stop trying to free them. Maybe I just missed that part.
Or maybe this helps explain why God kept sending plagues and performing miracles and still hardening Pharaoh’s heart so that He could build up a whole body of work. Because in our human state, we’re just so quick to chalk up one miracle to a strange quirk, and two to coincidence, and three to some kind of human intervention. And even in the face of four or five or six acts that only God could have performed, we still find a way to excuse them away.
Eventually, after God parts the Red Sea and helps them escape, the Israelites once again realize that God has their backs, and that’s how things stand when we get to the end of Chapter 14. For a minute, they acknowledge God’s work. They fear God more than they fear Pharaoh. They trust God. For a minute.
I don’t like recognizing myself in the Israelites here, but I do. I’ve been known to see God’s hand in my life and then forget about how good He’s been to me later, in the face of some new fear. I’ve been known to forget about the miracles and start excusing them away when Satan comes at me with some new weapon of war.
But God is a God of miracles, and He works them every single day. The lesson I take away from these chapters is one I’ve learned before and will, no doubt, learn again. Whether it’s raining burning hail down on the land or arranging a day with your children and grandchildren after a night of prayer in which you ask God to remove the immense sadness in your heart, a miracle is still a miracle and it’s important to acknowledge His hand in the miracles He works in our lives every day.