Israel would have preferred to set up permanent camp near the Red Sea, but theirs was to be a journey into freedom. Through discomforts, God provided opportunities for them to see His power. Through wise counsel, they were given a chance to be problem-solvers for their issues. As prior slaves, however, Israel wasn’t accustomed to agreeing with authority or with making decisions. They were accustomed to following orders they did not want to obey. Still slaves in their thinking, their mentality held them captive. They saw themselves as slaves serving an unfair master, slaves following orders they resented. And they were in bondage to their bitterness.
So, God put the horse in motion to lead them into liberty. He validated Moses’s leadership. They needed this lesson because what Moses would share with them would be of utmost importance. From within fire, smoke, and thunderings, the voice of God confirmed God’s interaction with Moses even as the majestic display reminded the people that the God they were serving was a holy God. Then, giving the 10 Commandments, He said, “These are the judgements thou shalt set before them.” Judges who’d been given authority to handle offenses and disputes now had a plumb line by which to measure their governance. These actions of God seem logical, but what He did next didn’t make sense. God addressed ownership of servants. What? Slaves? Servants? Why leap into that? How many slaves had slaves? Was this an issue that really required an oracle from God at this time? It seemed God put the cart in front of the horse. But He didn’t. He was still leading His people in the way they should go.
For 400 years, Israel had witnessed slavery and harsh treatment. By addressing how they should treat others, God set a new standard. It taught value of life and the responsibility the people had to one another. No more blame games or excuses. Those would meet with swift and stern consequences. No more power struggles or deceit. No more mishandling someone else’s life, livelihood, or possessions without feeling the blow personally. By removing the labels of Egypt, Israel could live up to the identity God had given them. “…ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel,” God told Moses in Exodus 19: 5-6. Beautiful. Exquisite. Priceless. It was a self-identity Israel did not yet possess, so God addressed the issues that would help them see themselves as He did.
God does the same for us. When He leads us out of our Egypt, the world, we have been given freedoms we don’t know how to possess. So, God puts first things first and reveals the important, the needful we’d happily skip past. He starts with the finished product that He sees and challenges our thinking with thoughts above our own. He shows us the opportunity in trouble. He teaches us how to govern our lives. He roots out mindsets of the past so we can walk in our new identity. With the horse pulling the cart, we follow God’s leading and become the “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9) that He has said we could be all along.
Tip/tidbit: When it seems that God has ill-timed the events of your life, remember that He beholds you and your world from an eternal and exceedingly loving perspective.