Book of Exodus Chapter Thirteen Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
He Will Lead Us
In this chapter we find Moses receiving more instructions from the Lord. We should be encouraged because if he could hear God so clearly, it's possible for us to hear as well. We might consider that Moses was willing to hear, whereas many others may not be so willing. "Then the Lord spoke to Moses (in Verses 1-2), saying, 2'Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.'" All the first born males of Egypt had just died, boys, men and animals. The firstborn of Israel did not die, if they, their parents or owners had the simple faith to sacrifice a lamb and remain inside their homes as the Lord commanded. 1 Corinthians 5:7 informs us, "Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us," and we, too, will find life, if we only have the faith to trust in Him and what He has done.
Think about it: That body you move around in was God's creation. Your ability to think and act is the gift of God. The Messiah came to this earth to rescue you. Moses did not deliver the people anymore than we can do anything at all without God. You and I would never be in eternal heaven except God the Father sent God the Son to die on our behalf. We are to remember the Lord and what He has done. In Verse 3, "Moses said to the people, 'Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the Lord brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten." The haste in which they departed, as represented by the unleavened bread...all was to be remembered and an annual festival was instituted to help them. Notice that Egypt was to be remembered as a "house of slavery" for Israel through the centuries. Don't enslave others. What you have done will be remembered.
People and nations have a way of creating special occasions, but God is better at everything than we are. His selection for Israel is seen in Verse 4: "On this day in the month of Abib, you are about to go forth." As mentioned in Chapter 12, the month of Abib was now to be "the beginning of months" for Israel. Abib was later called Nisri, and it somewhat corresponds to the month of April in much of today's world.
Remember that God sees the future better than we see the present, and in Verse 5 He gives them a glimpse of what was in store for them: "It shall be when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, which He swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, that you shall observe this rite in this month." Five of six key tribes of Canaan are mentioned here as nations to be displaced by Israel, with only the Perizzites excluded from the list. Israel would go to war, but God also reminded them of the remarkable fertility of the land that was promised to them.
Verses 6-8: "For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. 7 Unleavened bread shall be eaten throughout the seven days; and nothing leavened shall be seen among you, nor shall any leaven be seen among you in all your borders. 8 You shall tell your son on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’" In these verses, God created a word picture, a parable to remind the people of what He had done for them. It's easy for us to forget, isn't it? History has a way of brushing aside the acts of God as though the people who write history don't want to remember Him. The Passover would force Israel to recall how quick and complete was the Lord's deliverance of them from Egypt. It is also important to remember the words of the Messiah, who, speaking of the unleavened Passover bread, said: "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35, 48).
Verses 9-10 continued God's word to the people: "And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt. 10 Therefore, you shall keep this ordinance at its appointed time from year to year." Verses 9 & 16 were intended to help them keep the words from God in their consciousness at all times, teaching them to their children and living His commands. But for the most part, the "tephillin," also called "phylacteries," became external things...strips of parchment with passages of Scripture written on them, deposited in small, leather boxes, tied to the left arm and forehead. God wants us to be aware of His word, but even more, He wants His Word to be in our hearts and minds.
God destroyed the firstborn sons and animals of Egypt, but spared the firstborn of Israel, and He wants history to remember what He did. To recall His acts on our behalf is to become grateful, which is an act of faith. Verses 11-12 continue His hope that the people will understand and remember His love for Israel: "Now when the Lord brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you, 12 you shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord." If you are the oldest male son of a Jewish family, you are to see that your life is not your own—you belong to God.
The donkey was the chief pack animal of that time and place. Anticipating correctly that many owners of donkeys would refuse to redeem them, we have verse 13—"But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem." When God reveals that someone or something belongs to Him, it's important to recognize His ownership and respond to His will. We have questions about many things in life, as did the sons and daughters of ancient Israel. And so God gave them answers to their questions before they were asked, as seen in Verses 14-16: "And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. 15 It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the Lord killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the Lord the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem. 16 So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.'" We have even more to tell our children than they did, by the way. We have the Bible, the written Word of God, a manual of instruction for us and our children, which leads us to life and freedom—forever.
"Now," in Verse 17, "when Pharaoh had let the people go, God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, 'The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.'" and in Verse 18, "Hence God led the people around by the way of the wilderness to the Red Sea; and the sons of Israel went up in martial array from the land of Egypt." Have you ever wondered about the confusing limitations that surround your life? God is protecting all of us from futures that would destroy us if we faced them. Israel could have walked into the Promised Land, Canaan, in a very short time, but God took them the long way, a journey which would last for forty years. He knew their hearts and recognized they were not ready to enter the land. He knows how ready you and I are, also.
In Verse 19, we find that, "Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had made the sons of Israel solemnly swear, saying, 'God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you.'" The promise to Joseph was on his death bed, and it's seen in Genesis 50:25. Joseph, son of Jacob (Israel), was betrayed by his brothers and became first a slave in Egypt and then, through God's grace, he was Governor of that land. Joseph had faith in the Lord and His promises. They would return to the land of promise and so would he. Life may seem to end for us, but the Lord has an interesting way of sharing His victories with us, even after we leave this earth...He is God.
The Exodus from Egypt now continued, as seen in Verse 20: "Then they set out from Succoth and camped in Etham on the edge of the wilderness." "Succoth" meant "booths" and it was the first resting place on a journey that would last forty years. "Etham" can be translated "fort," or more likely, "sea bound," suggesting they now camped in an area of hills near the Red Sea. They certainly were not alone, for, as seen in Verses 21-22, "The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. 22 He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people." Wouldn't it be wonderful? We would like it if the Lord revealed Himself continually...but we are offered something, SomeOne even better. When you trust in the Messiah, the Christ, He dwells IN you and you are given LIFE through His Spirit (Romans 8:9-11). Even when we wander away, He is still within His faithful, leading us back to His love.
Father, I have wandered from You in my thoughts, intentions, words and actions. I have been afraid and worried I will miss out on something. Please forgive me. Keep me close to You and lead me back to Your love. In Jesus Name. Amen.