I Am the Lord Your God

Are you familiar with the account of Moses, Egypt, and the ten plagues? If not, don’t worry. I thought I was familiar with it until a friend of mine pointed out something I had never noticed. This is why no matter how familiar we think we are with a Biblical account, we should read it again and again. If you are not familiar with it, this one is found in Exodus

Before, if you had asked me what Moses requested of Pharaoh, I would have said, “To let Israel go.” However, that is not true. According to Exodus 5.3, the request was to let Israel go three days’ journey into the wilderness so they could worship and sacrifice to Yahweh. If they didn’t worship Him properly, Yahweh would fall on Israel with pestilence or sword. Moses didn’t ask for Pharaoh to let Israel go into their own land. He just asked for a couple weeks off from work in order to worship properly. Pharaoh refused. “Well, sure,” we might say, “but Moses quickly upped the ante for full release.” Actually, he didn’t.

Before the first plague, the request was still that Israel be allowed to serve Yahweh in the wilderness (Exodus 7.16). Pharaoh refused; the water turned to blood. Pharaoh’s response to the second plague demonstrates he still thought he was merely being asked to let them go sacrifice as before (Exodus 8.8). Following the fourth plague of flies, Pharaoh offers a compromise: Israel could go sacrifice to Yahweh, but not three days into the wilderness. They were to sacrifice within the land of Egypt (Exodus 8.25). This wasn’t acceptable because the worship and sacrifice required was an abomination to the Egyptians. The request was still a three-day journey into the wilderness (Exodus 8.27). In Exodus 10.10-11, Pharaoh offers another compromise: They can  go into the wilderness for three days, but only the adult males. When Moses said they all needed to be able to go, Pharaoh refused again. God sent the eighth plague of locusts. Following the ninth plague of darkness, Pharaoh offers another compromise: All the Israelites, male and female, young and old, can go on the journey, but they need to leave behind their flocks and herds (Exodus 10.24). This was unacceptable, however, because they needed their flocks and herds to be able to sacrifice. Even after the ninth plague, they are bartering over a three-day journey into the wilderness.

Pharaoh and Egypt have endured nine plagues, and not once has the request to release Israel from slavery been made. Moses is still simply asking that Pharaoh let Israel go worship and serve Yahweh properly in the wilderness because they aren’t able to do so in Egypt. God explains to Moses, however, following the tenth plague, Pharaoh, all on his own, will not merely allow Moses and Israel to go into the wilderness, but will drive them away completely (Exodus 11.1). In fact, Yahweh has Moses tell Pharaoh and all of Egypt the next plague will be so bad Pharaoh and all his servants will bow before Him and demand Israel, “Get out!” (Exodus 11.8).  Following the plague of the firstborn death, that is exactly what happens (Exodus 12.31-32). Pharaoh demands Israel leave. This is not longer about going into the wilderness, this is about getting the Israelites out of Egypt...period. Of course, Pharaoh reneges on driving Israel out. He tries to go drag them back by force. His army is swallowed up by the Red Sea after Israel walks through it on dry land (Exodus 14), and Israel is free to go to their own land.

Having walked through the requests, the bartering, and the plagues, did you pick up on why all of this was happening? Did you notice the goal was not Israel’s freedom? Did you notice the goal wasn’t even giving Israel their own land? These were only means to the goal. The goal was allowing Israel to worship and serve Yahweh His way. Judgment was going to come upon Israel if they didn’t worship Yahweh, but they were not free to worship and serve Him in Egypt. They needed their freedom, they needed their own land so they were free to worship and serve Yahweh, the one, true God.

Thus Israel gets to Sinai, and God gives them the Ten Commandments, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20.1, ESV). God did not deliver Israel from Egypt so they could be free to do whatever they wanted. He delivered them so they would be free to worship and serve Him His way. That is exactly why God has delivered us from sin. He has not delivered us from sin so we can do whatever we want, but so we can worship and serve Yahweh His way. “I am the Lord your God,” Yahweh says to us through Jesus. “I have delivered you from the kingdom of darkness, from your bondage to sin. I have set you free, not merely so you can be free. I have set you free so you are free to worship and serve Me My way.” Caught up in our sins, we cannot worship God His way. Freed by the blood of Jesus Christ, that is exactly what we can do. So, let’s do it. He is our God who has delivered us. Praise the Lord!