Based on Genesis Exodus 7-20
When Moses and Aaron asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go, what did the king do? He treated them so cruelly that many of them wished that Moses had never tried to help them.
Actually, it was like a war. On one side, Satan tried to stop God from keeping His promise to free His people. Stubborn Pharaoh was on his side. On the other side was God, with Moses, Aaron, and the elders, who were telling the discouraged Israelites that God was going to keep His promise.
Read Exodus 7:1-6. What does verse 3 mean? We know that God loves everyone. God the Son (Jesus) was going to die for everyone. How could God “harden” someone’s heart? Let’s think about it.
If you put a chunk of wax and a dish of mud out in the sun one warm summer morning, what will happen as the sun gets hotter and hotter? The wax will become soft, but the mud will get harder and harder.
The wax is like the heart of a person who chooses to love, trust, and obey God. The mud is like the heart of a person who chooses to believe Satan’s lies. God is like the bright sun shining down on everyone. Each of us chooses which kind of heart to have. Which kind did Pharaoh choose?
God tried many ways to convince Pharaoh and the Egyptians that He was the only true God. Finally He sent ten different plagues, one after another. Each time, God gave Pharaoh a chance to believe and obey. Each time, the plague was worse than the one before it.
God still loved Pharaoh and the Egyptians. He was giving them chance after chance to choose to obey. But each time, Pharaoh became more angry and stubborn. Exodus 7:22. He kept choosing to have a hard heart.
The tenth plague was to be the most terrible punishment. What would it be? Exodus 11:4, 5.
God told the Israelites exactly how to be ready for that plague. What were they to do? Exodus 12:3-13.
Each Israelite family did exactly what God had said. As they put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts, they showed that they were choosing to trust God to protect them from the death angel.
Every year after that, the children of Israel would celebrate the Passover to remind them of that awesome night. It would also remind them that Jesus would die some day to free us forever from wicked, cruel Satan, if we choose to love, trust, and obey Him.
When it was time for the tenth plague, what happened at midnight? Exodus 10:29, 30. Finally, foolish Pharaoh gave in. He still wasn’t sorry for how wicked he had been. But he finally knew that he could not stop God from keeping His promises. Now the Egyptians were afraid they might all die. So Pharaoh commanded the Israelites to leave Egypt immediately. Exodus 10:31-33.
At last, the Israelites were on their way back to Canaan. Moses knew exactly how to organize everyone. There were probably two million people, besides all of their animals.
As they looked up into the sky ahead, what did they see? Exodus 13:21. God was leading them with a beautiful cloud. He would lead them to Canaan.
But when the cloud led them away from Canaan toward the Red Sea, the people began to complain. Why was the cloud leading them the wrong way? They didn’t understand that God was going to lead them around the country of Philistia, where enemies lived.
Soon the Israelites came to the Red Sea, and they camped with a mountain on the south side of them and the Red Sea in front of them. The beautiful cloud had guided them to this very place. But what if Pharaoh decided to chase them?
Suddenly, someone must have screamed, “Look!” Quickly, the news went through the camp. “The Egyptians are coming!” Sure enough, in the distance, they saw the Egyptian army rushing toward them. Their shiny armor was flashing in the sunlight.
Instantly, the Israelites became terrified and blamed Moses for their trouble. How did Moses answer? Exodus 14:13, 14.
Then two wonderful things happened. First, the pillar of cloud moved between the Israelites and the Egyptian army. Now they couldn’t see each other.
What was the second thing that God did? Exodus 14:21, 22.
What an amazing miracle! A strong wind blew. The sea parted. And high walls of water stood on each side of a wide road right through the sea. Quickly the Israelites walked on the wide, dry road to the other side of the Red Sea.
Once again, God had proven that there is nothing impossible for Him to do.
Again, foolish, wicked Pharaoh determined to have his way. He told his army to follow the Israelites on the wide, dry road on the seabed. But then what happened? Exodus 14:23-25.
Now whose turn was it to panic? The Egyptian chariot wheels were sticking and coming off. Nobody in Pharaoh’s army was now thinking about capturing the slaves. They were all frantically trying to turn around and go back out of the sea. But it was too late. What did God tell Moses to do? Exodus 14:26.
The high walls of water crashed down and covered the Egyptian army. Finally, the Israelites were free. They were safe on the other side of the Red Sea. But all of Pharaoh’s army that had followed the Israelites on the dry road through the sea were now dead. They all drowned when the water of the sea covered that wide road again. Exodus 14:27, 28.
The Israelites were finally on their way to the land that God had promised would be theirs some day. But there was a very, very important lesson they needed to learn first.
They were having a hard time totally trusting God. Why? Hadn’t God kept every promise that He had made? Yes. He hadn’t failed even once. He had proven over and over that there is nothing too hard for Him to do. But even though God had proven His love and power so many times, and even though they had the cloud leading them every moment, they still worried and easily doubted. They kept forgetting that God would take care of them.
Now it was time for them to go on with their journey. And, of course, the beautiful cloud was leading them.
For three long days they walked and walked. The land around them was bare and dry, and soon they realized that their water supply was getting low. Everyone was getting thirsty, and everyone was watching for water. Exodus 15:22.
Now they had a chance to choose. Would they trust God, or would they complain again?
Suddenly someone shouted, “Water! Look! There’s water ahead!” And everyone started rushing to the water. But their relief and excitement didn’t last very long. What was the problem? Exodus 15:23. How disappointing! And just when everyone thought that they had finally found water! Now what did they do? Exodus 15:24.
Moses did what we all should do when we need help. He talked to God about it. And once again, God showed that nothing is too hard for Him to do.
After the people and the animals had all the water they wanted, God gave the Israelites another wonderful promise. What was it? Exodus 15:26.
As they traveled on again, following the beautiful cloud, they soon realized that there wasn’t much food in the land through which they were traveling. And the food they had with them was almost gone.
Even though they still had food and weren’t hungry, they began their old habit of worrying and complaining. Where would they get food? What if they couldn’t find any? Would they all starve to death?
Once again, God had given them a chance to trust Him. How would they choose this time?
God talked with Moses and Aaron, and He promised to provide food for the Israelites. Exodus 16:4-8. That evening, they heard whirring wings. Thousands of quail were flying so low, people could easily catch them.
When morning came, people looked out from their tents. What did they see? Exodus 16:14, 15. “What is it?” they asked. They called it manna, which means “What is it?” The manna tasted good. They could grind it, boil it, or bake it.
God had told them how much each person in a family would need. Each morning, they collected what they needed for that day. Any that was left on the ground melted when the sun became hot.
If someone tried to save some manna for the next day, what happened to it? Exodus 16:19, 20.
But each week, one day was different. On the sixth day, God told the Israelites to collect enough manna for two days. What they kept for the seventh day would not spoil. They would have food to eat on the Sabbath, because there would be no manna on the ground on that day. Exodus 16:22-30.
God wanted to remind them each week that keeping the Sabbath day holy was just as important as when He first gave it to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2:2, 3.
The next place where the Israelites camped was called Rephidim. It was an oasis, so travelers should find water here. But what happened? Exodus 17:1, 2.
Does that sound like anything we have heard before? Yes, only worse. This time they were so angry, they were almost ready to kill Moses. Exodus 17:4.
What would God do? What could God do when His people always refused to trust Him?
Moses always talked to God about it when there was trouble. What did God tell him to do this time? Verses 5, 6. When Moses and the elders arrived at the rock, Moses took his shepherd’s rod and struck it, just as God had said. Instantly, water gushed out and ran down like a river.
Can you imagine how excited the people were? “Water! There’s water! Hurry!” They all drank and drank. No one was thirsty anymore.
God had done wonderful miracles to help them learn to trust Him. But they had kept grumbling, complaining, and blaming Moses. Surely by now the Israelites knew that nothing is impossible for God to do. Surely they would start trusting Him now. Or would they?
Only a few weeks had passed since the children of Israel had left Egypt. Now God led them to a special mountain called Mount Sinai. They would camp there for almost a year. What did God ask Moses to tell the people? Exodus 19:3-7.
How did the people answer? Exodus 19:8. They made a big promise, didn’t they? God was pleased that they wanted to obey. But He knew that they still didn’t understand that they couldn’t do anything by themselves. They must learn to trust Him before He could help them obey.
God wanted to have a very special meeting with the Israelites. How were they to get ready for that meeting? Exodus 19:10-13.
Can you imagine how everyone hurried? They had just two days to do everything.
On the morning of the third day, the people were ready. When they looked toward the mountain, they saw that it was covered with a thick, black cloud.
Dazzling flashes of lightning and crashing thunder came from the dark cloud. Fire and smoke billowed up into the sky. The ground trembled and shook. And the people were terrified.
Then Moses led the people closer to the mountain. God Himself had come to Sinai to talk to His people; and as they listened silently and reverently, He spoke to them. What did He say first? Exodus 20:1, 2.
Next, God spoke the Ten Commandments. Read them in Exodus 20:3-17.
Because they had been slaves for so many years, the Israelites didn’t know how to govern themselves. First they needed to learn how to trust and obey God. Then He could make them into a good, strong nation, with Him as their leader. Other nations could watch them and learn about their powerful, loving God.
After God spoke His rules, the people were still frightened. So what did they beg Moses to do? Exodus 20:18, 19.
Before Moses left to talk with God, what did he tell the people? Exodus 20:20. God did not want them to be afraid of Him. He wanted them to be afraid of sin. He was giving them His Happiness Rules to teach them what sin is.
Sinning is disobeying the Ten Commandments. 1 John 3:4. Not obeying God is the same as choosing to obey Satan.
If we could put all God’s commandments into just one word, do you know what that word would be? It would be “Love.” Read 1 John 4:8. God doesn’t just have love. He is love. Everything He does is because He is love. The only thing He hates is sin, because sin only hurts and destroys us.
The first four commandments tell us how to show that we are choosing to love and obey God. The last six tell us how to show that we are choosing to love other people.
God loves everyone! He hates only our sins. And more than anything else, He wants to forgive our sins. When we love God, we want to let Him help us obey. And we can be absolutely sure that He will. How wonderful!
God told the Israelites that to be safe from the tenth plague, they needed to put the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their houses. Did that blood save them from the death angel? Who really kept them safe? What did the blood of the lamb represent?
When Pharaoh let the children of Israel go free, was he truly sorry for disobeying God? If we are truly sorry for doing wrong, will we want to keep doing wrong things? 2 Corinthians 7:9-11.
If we are trusting Jesus, do we need to worry about having enough food to eat or water to drink? Philippians 4:19 and Isaiah 33:15, 16. Aren’t you glad that we can always trust God?
God was taking care of the Israelites. But they often grumbled and complained. Shouldn’t they have been thankful instead? What kind of heart do you want—a grumbling, complaining heart, or a thankful one? Philippians 2:14, 15.
The Israelites promised to obey God. Exodus 19:8. Is it important to obey God? Of course. But we can’t obey by ourselves; we must ask God to help us. And that is what the Israelites were learning.
God’s Ten Commandments tell us how to love God and other people. But we are naturally selfish, and we naturally disobey God’s law. Romans 8:7. Only He can give us unselfish love for God and people. Only He can give us new hearts that want to obey Him. Psalm 40:8. How do we show God that we love Him? John 14:15.
We all choose what kind of heart we will have. When we are selfish and do whatever we want, we are choosing to have a hard heart. But when we listen to God, we are choosing let Him give us a soft heart that will be happy to love, trust, and obey Him. Will you choose to ask God every day to give you a soft heart?