Advent, Advent Devotional, Christmas, Promised Hope

The Longest Rescue Story Ever

GENESIS 49 – EXODUS 15

(We cover a lot of time today. We roll through 16 chapters and hundreds of years.)

NARRATIVE

Jacob (Israel) lived in Egypt for seventeen years. As his life neared its end, at the age of 147, he called his sons to his bedside to bless them: the twelve tribes of Israel.

His sons buried him in Canaan, near Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and his wife, Leah. Yes.His beloved Rachel had died giving birth to Benjamin and was buried near Bethlehem.

After one hundred years, everyone who had gone to Egypt with Jacob died. But their descendants grew in great numbers, and they all lived happily ever after.

Well, they all lived happily until the new king of Egypt came to reign. The new Pharoah knew nothing of Joseph nor his people, and he saw their large numbers threatening his power in Egypt.

He oppressed them with forced labor. The more he pressed, the more they multiplied in number.

Know for certain that for four hundred years, your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there.

GENESIS 15:13

Remember that part of the predictive promise?

With the Pharaoh paranoid, he gave a decree that midwives were to toss all baby Hebrew boys into the Nile River.

But there was one woman, from the priestly tribe of Levi, with a baby boy of her own. With trembling hands and a breaking heart, she put him in a pitch-painted basket and placed him in the river, just as the king had commanded. Clever. And courageous.

In a moment of holy irony — I’m not sure that’s a thing — Pharoah’s daughter found the baby in the river. Rescuing him from the water, she gave him the name Moses. He grew up in the Egyptian palace with all of its privileges. And privilege.

But he knew.

And at age forty, Moses killed an Egyptian man for beating a Hebrew man. He covered the evidence of his sin in the sand. But the sand was an inadequate cover for sin.

In fear for his life, Moses fled Egypt, escaping to the desert where he lived as a foreigner in a foreign land. For forty years, he cared for sheep, learning the ways of the desert.

But while Moses was steering his sheep, God’s people were groaning in their slavery, crying out to their God. And He remembered His covenant.

The LORD appeared to Moses in that bush that wouldn’t burn.

“Moses! Moses!” God said, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, because you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

EXODUS 3:5-6

And I am your God, Moses.

God chose Moses to rescue His covenant people. But the desert had robbed Moses of his confidence. Now just a shepherd, he had lost the strength his privilege once provided.

Focused on his weaknesses, Moses pled with God to choose someone else. God refused. But allowed Aaron, the older brother of Moses, to speak for him. Aaron spoke for Moses, but it was Moses who spoke for God.

Pharaoh, let my people go!

Time after time, the request hit Pharaoh’s hard heart. Plague after dreadful plague, Pharaoh said no.

With Pharaoh’s final no, God told Moses to prepare His people for the Passover, both the inaugural event and the celebration. With their doorposts marked with the blood of a lamb, these promised people — who’d been waiting for their deliverance for such a long time — waited in great faith.

But Egypt wailed. All of Egypt moaned as every firstborn in the land died. Pharaoh summoned Moses and begged him to leave with his people and all their things.

Moses did. And God rescued His people from their oppressors. (I wonder if Abraham smiled from heaven?)

Hope rescued.

Pharaoh changed his mind and pursued the Israelites not long after they left Egypt, trapping them at the Red Sea. The people panicked. But God did not.

Moses raised his staff, and the walls of water waited. The people crossed the Sea with their feet still dry. As Moses lowered his rod, the walls gave way, and the water swallowed the ones in pursuit.

Once again, Moses was a shepherd in the desert, caring for God’s people.

REFLECTION

Can you imagine? The faith of Moses’ mother? A boldness upon which this story hinged? And then the waiting? Four hundred years of holding on to promises, waiting for God to work out His details? Waiting on God to move? It was a divine delay, indeed!

In this part of God’s remarkable story, hundreds of moving parts, people, and years were required to accomplish this rescue story. But God’s purposes are His own. And while we cannot always know His plan, we can trust His heart.

Though I don’t wait in Egypt, I have waited for God to come through on a few promises. If I am honest, I’m still standing on and waiting for some. Some days I am impatient; some days, I am afraid God will say no. It’s a sweet spot in my faith journey to rest in trusting God’s timing.

For what are you waiting and hoping? What promise are you praying finds you soon? It may feel like God has forgotten you, but I am confident He has not. In the hard waiting, pursue Him. Experience His presence. Time spent with God is never wasted.

In the hard waiting, remember that God remembers us. And will keep His promises.

PRAYER

Father, the scriptures say that You heard the groaning of Your people and remembered. Lord, I don’t believe for a minute that You ever forgot them! Upon hearing their groans, You remembered Your covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And it was time, Lord. It was time.  

Sometimes it feels like You forget when I groan and plead with You. While I am hoping for a quick response, You see and know all I cannot. You use the waiting to grow my faith.

But You cannot forget. You are the One who sees and the One who knows. Your Word says You know the number of hairs on my head. Lord, You must see every nook and cranny of my heart and mind.

Help me to trust You when I cannot understand. Amen.

WORSHIP

Advent is the season of waiting. And while we mark off approximately 4 weeks on our seasonal calendar, God’s people waited long. God never seemed to be in a hurry.

How well do you wait? Do delays expose a bit of angst lurking in your heart? Do God’s divine delays produce patience or frustration? Joy or despair? Gentleness or harshness?

While we wait on God, we have choices. We can demand our way. We can choose to trust in our own understanding, and refuse the character God wants to create in us. And the joy His presence supplies.

Or we can surrender our plans and trust God and His timing. We can praise Him while life doesn’t give us what we want. Waiting on God’s promises is the ultimate surrender, requiring open hands and hearts.

How will you choose to wait?

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