Friday, November 9, 2012

Remembering Egypt (part 1 of 2)

…that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt. – Deuteronomy 16:3b  (ESV)

In the book called Deuteronomy, the fifth and final book of what are commonly referred to as the “books of Moses,” we find the above statement made in connection with the celebration of the Passover.  Now, it is often said that we should forget the past and put things behind us, and we are routinely told not to dredge up old memories, because doing so is not useful or helpful.  Yet here, Moses tells the people of Israel, God’s covenant people---those that are called a chosen and treasured possession to whom God has gone out to reveal Himself and to make a people for His praise and His glory, to actively call to mind their day of deliverance from the place of their captivity and servitude.  The instruction to them is to do this “all the days of your life,”  and this charge is given this quite seriously.  Moses is presented as being so insistent about this directive, that throughout the book of Deuteronomy, which is set forth as Moses’ final address to the people of Israel, we find Moses consistently reminding the people of their time in Egypt.  In fact, Egypt is mentioned nearly forty times through the course of Deuteronomy. 

The people had said, “Because the Lord hated us He has brought us out of the land of Egypt…to destroy us” (1:27).  Moses told them “The Lord your God will fight for you, just as He did for you in Egypt” (1:30).  He reminds them that “the Lord has taken you…out of Egypt, to be a people of His own inheritance” (4:20), and references the “trials…signs…wonders…war…mighty hand…outstretched arm…deeds of terror…which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt” (4:34), to bring them “out of Egypt with His own presence, by His great power” (4:37).  Moses reminds them again of the very words of the Lord, which had been “I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (5:6), before recounting for them the “Ten Commandments.”  To these, he then adds, “take care lest you forget the Lord, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (6:12).  In association with these commandments, the people were instructed to tell their children, “We were…slaves in Egypt.  And the Lord brought us out of Egypt...And the Lord showed signs and wonders…against Egypt” (6:21-22).

Moses speaks of God’s faithfulness to His people, telling them that “it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the Lord has…redeemed you from the house of slavery…of Egypt” (7:8), adding a reminder of “the evil diseases of Egypt” (the plagues) that did not come upon Israel.  The people are charged to remember “what the Lord…did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt” (7:18).  As we move forward, we find Moses warning the people against unfounded pride in their prosperity, prophesying that their hearts will “be lifted up,” and that they would “forget the Lord your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (8:14).  He tells them to “Remember and do not forget how your provoke the Lord your God to wrath…From the day you came out of the land of Egypt” (9:7), as a reminder of His longsuffering nature. 

With that, Moses has them call to mind their rebellion, and informs them that even when the Lord speaks, He reminds the people what has been done for them, speaking to Moses of the “people whom you have brought from Egypt” that “have acted corruptly” (9:12).  With that said, when Moses speaks to God, he even takes it upon himself to make mention of Egypt in connection with His people, turning that around and calling them the people “whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand” (9:26).  These very people, whom God brought out, were the evidence of God’s covenant faithfulness, as they “went down to Egypt seventy persons,” and “the Lord” made them “as numerous as the stars of heaven” (10:22).  Even when they thought of their vast multitudes, they were made to remember Egypt.       

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