God’s Renewing Word of Joy
Exodus 13:11-22: Today’s reading begins with an explanation of the meaning of the dedication of the first-born as mentioned in yesterday’s reading in verses 1 and 2 of chapter 13. Upon leaving Egypt, God leads the people through the desert in the form of a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire by night.
11 “The Lord will bring you into the land of the Canaanites, which he solemnly promised to you and your ancestors. When he gives it to you, 12 you must offer every first-born male to the Lord. Every first-born male of your animals belongs to the Lord, 13 but you must buy back from him every first-born male donkey by offering a lamb in its place. If you do not want to buy back the donkey, break its neck. You must buy back every first-born male child of yours. 14 In the future, when your son asks what this observance means, you will answer him, ‘By using great power the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the place where we were slaves. 15 When the king of Egypt was stubborn and refused to let us go, the Lord killed every first-born male in the land of Egypt, both human and animal. That is why we sacrifice every first-born male animal to the Lord, but buy back our first-born sons. 16 This observance will be a reminder, like something tied on our hands or on our foreheads; it will remind us that the Lord brought us out of Egypt by his great power.’”
The Pillar of Cloud and the Pillar of Fire
17 When the king of Egypt let the people go, God did not take them by the road that goes up the coast to Philistia, although it was the shortest way. God thought, “I do not want the people to change their minds and return to Egypt when they see that they are going to have to fight.” 18 Instead, he led them in a roundabout way through the desert toward the Red Sea. The Israelites were armed for battle.
19 Moses took the body of Joseph with him, as Joseph had made the Israelites solemnly promise to do. Joseph had said, “When God rescues you, you must carry my body with you from this place.”
20 The Israelites left Sukkoth and camped at Etham on the edge of the desert. 21 During the day the Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud to show them the way, and during the night he went in front of them in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel night and day. 22 The pillar of cloud was always in front of the people during the day, and the pillar of fire at night.
TODAY’S KEY VERSE: Exodus 13:22
The pillar of cloud was always in front of the people during the day, and the pillar of fire at night.
Verse 16 is similar to verse 9 from yesterday’s reading about the Festival of Unleavened Bread. According to verses 14-16, what is the observance of the sacrifice of the first-born male animal meant to signify? When leaving Egypt, why did God not take the Israelites along the shortest route? What did the Israelites take with them on their journey (verse 19; see also Genesis 50:25)? What were the signs of God’s presence as the people journeyed through the desert? In what ways do you sense God’s presence in your life each day?
Holy God, daily you are with me, guiding me along my journey of faith. Teach me to be aware of your faithful presence and to follow your teachings. Amen.
Exodus 14:1-18: The Israelites reach the Red Sea with the Egyptian army in pursuit.