Orthodox Daily Devotional for June 9-15
1 Peter 4:7…Dearly beloved: The end of all things is at hand: be ye there-
fore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have
fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the mul-
titude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one
to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any
man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minis-
ter, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all
things may be glorified through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Saint Focus: on Friday the Old Testament Prophet Elisha is commemorated. As Elijah’s spiritual heir, he asked for a double measure of his mentor’s grace and works. By the time of his death every miracle of Elijah had been doubled except the raising of the dead. A year after his burial, a corpse was tossed into his grace and was restored to life. From this we learn that physical death is not a barrier to God fulfilling His promises, and that all is accomplished in His time, not ours.
GOD had made two promises to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: first, that they should be the fathers of a great nation; second, that the Saviour would be a descendant of theirs. The first promise was now fulfilled. In the space of two hundred years the descendants of Jacob in Egypt had become a great people. In the meantime a new king had arisen, “who knew not Joseph”, and who said to the Egyptians: “Behold, the children of Israel are stronger than we. Come, let us oppress them, lest they join with our enemies and depart out of the land.”
Now the Egyptians hated the children of Israel, and mocked them and made their life bitter, both by hard words and also with hard work in brick and clay (Fig. 20). And the king placed overseers over them, to oppress them with labour. But the more they were oppressed, the more numerous they became. The king, seeing this, issued a decree that all the male children born of Hebrew parents should be cast into the river; hoping, by this means, either to destroy the Hebrew people, or at least to prevent their increasing in number.
Now it came to pass that a Hebrew mother bore a son, and, seeing that he was very beautiful, she hid him for three months. At the end of that time, not being able to keep him any longer, she laid the babe in a basket of reeds and placed it in the sedges by the river’s bank. The sister of the child stood a little way off, to see what would happen.
And behold, at that time the daughter of Pharao went down to bathe in the Nile. Seeing the basket amongst the bulrushes by the river-bank, the princess sent one of her maids to bring it to her. On opening it, they saw within it a lovely infant, crying piteously. She had compassion on it, and said: “This is one of the babes of the Hebrews.” The child’s sister then, taking courage, drew near and asked: “Shall I go and call to thee a Hebrew woman to nurse the babe?” She answered: “Go!” The maid went and called her mother.
Meaning: God permitted the Israelites to be oppressed, in order that they might begin to yearn for the Promised Land and the future Saviour, and might keep aloof from the Egyptians. All our various troubles in this life ought to detach our hearts from earthly things, and turn them towards heaven and eternity. If earth were a paradise, who would long for heaven? God has preserved you, too, from many a danger. In order to save your soul, God has, so to speak, made you pass through the waters of Baptism, and has adopted you to be the child of the Most High King. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us” (1 John 3:1). You are, therefore, another Moses. Serve God, then, as faithfully as Moses served Him.
MOSES was reared at the court of Pharao, and instructed in all the learning of Egypt. But when he was grown up and saw the misery of his people, the Hebrews, he resolved to help them. For he would rather be afflicted and despised with the people of God, than live in the palace of a wicked king. He left the splendour of the court, and openly declared himself a friend of the Israelites. He even slew an Egyptian when he saw him illtreating a Hebrew.
The king, hearing this, sought to kill him; but Moses fled to the land of Madian. On his way he sat down by a well, and behold, the seven daughters of Jethro, a priest, came to draw water for their flocks. But when the sheep stood near the troughs, some shepherds rushed in and rudely drove away the flocks. Thereupon Moses arose, defended the maidens, and watered their sheep.
Then the sisters went home, and their father asked: “Why have ye returned sooner than usual?” They answered: “A man of Egypt drove away the shepherds, and gave our sheep to drink.” Jethro asked again: “Where is he? Call him that he may eat bread.” So Moses entered the house and swore to dwell with Jethro to keep his sheep, and remained for forty years, and married Sephora, one of the daughters of Jethro.
Meaning: Moses a type of Christ. Moses, despising the splendour of Egypt in order to comfort the Jews, is a figure of the Son of God, who came down from heaven, was born in a stable, and laid in a manger, to redeem us from the flames of hell.
NOW Moses fed the sheep of Jethro, his father-in-law. One day he drove his flock into the desert, and came as far as Mount Horeb. There the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire, which issued from the midst of a bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire and was not burnt. He said: “I will go near to see why the bush is not burnt.” As Moses drew near, the Lord cried out to him from the burning bush: “Moses, Moses!” And he answered: “Here I am.” And God said: “Come not nigh hither. Put off the shoes from thy feet; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
Moses, in awful reverence, hid his face, and dared not look at God. The Lord said to him: “I have seen the affliction of my people in Egypt, and I am come to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians, and to bring them out of that land into a land flowing with milk and honey.” The Lord further told Moses that he should go to Pharao to demand the liberation of the children of Israel. Moses answered: “Who am I that I should go to Pharao, and should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” The Lord said: “I will be with thee.”
Moses objected that the people would not believe him, but would ask who sent him. Then God said to Moses: “I am who am1. Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: He who is, hath sent me to you.” Moses answered and said: “They will not believe me, nor hear my voice; but they will say: The Lord hath not appeared1 to thee.” Then God asked Moses: “What is it that thou holdest in thy hand?” Moses answered: “A rod.”1 The Lord then told Moses to cast his rod upon the ground. He threw it upon the ground, and the rod was turned into a serpent, so that Moses fled from it in terror.
But the Lord called him back, saying: “Take it by the tail.” Moses did so, and the serpent became again a rod. The Lord told Moses to work this and some other signs before the Israelites, and they would believe. But Moses still objected, saying that he was not eloquent, but that his speech was slow and hesitating.
Then the Lord said to him: “Who made man’s mouth? Or, who made the dumb and the deaf, the seeing and the blind? Did not I? Go, therefore, and I will teach thee, what thou shalt speak.” Moses answered: “I beseech Thee, Lord, send whom Thou wilt send.” The Lord, being angry with Moses, said: “Aaron, thy brother, is eloquent; speak to him, and put My words into his mouth; he shall speak, in thy stead, to the people.” So Moses returned to Egypt; and Aaron, his brother, inspired by the Lord, came forth to meet him.
Moses repeated to his brother all the words of the Lord. Then they went together to assemble the children of Israel; and Aaron spoke to them that the Lord had looked upon their affliction. And Moses wrought the sign of the rod and other miracles, whereupon the people believed; and falling down, they adored the Lord.
Meaning: One of Moses’ most prominent virtues was a sincere humility. He held himself to be neither capable nor worthy of the great task allotted to him by God. But it was just on account of his humility that God chose him to be the leader of His chosen people, for He “exalteth the humble, and abaseth the proud”. Moses, however, failed, by giving way to so many hesitations. After God had said: “I will be with thee”, he ought to have said, as St Paul did: “I can do all things in Him who strengthened me” (Phil. 4:13). Instead of that, he made more and more objections, and on account of this Almighty God reproached and blamed him. At last, however, he obeyed God’s commands, and full of confidence he accomplished his appointed task splendidly. True humility distrusts itself, but trusts all the more in God.
MOSES and Aaron went to Pharao (Fig. 21) and demanded, in the name of God, that he should allow the people of Israel to go out into the desert to offer sacrifice to the Lord. Pharao proudly answered: “Who is the Lord that I should hear His voice, and let the people go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.” And from that day forth, he ordered the overseers and taskmasters to oppress the Israelites more and more, by putting them to still harder work.
The Lord told Moses and Aaron to appear again before Pharao. They did as the Lord commanded, and Aaron cast his rod before Pharao, and it was changed into a serpent. Pharao called the magicians, and they, by enchantments and certain secrets, also turned their rods into serpents; but Aaron’s rod devoured their rods. Yet the heart of Pharao remained hardened, and he would not let the people go. Then the Lord began to send ten plagues upon the Egyptians.
Next morning, by the command of God, Aaron went to the bank of the Nile, and struck the river with his rod, and instantly it was turned into blood. Thereupon the fish died, the water was corrupted, and the water of all the streams and ponds in Egypt was turned into blood. And the Egyptians dug new wells round about the river; for they could not drink the water of the river. Even then the heart of Pharao did not relent. (First plague.)
After seven days, Aaron stretched forth his hand over the rivers and streams and pools of Egypt, and inmediately a multitude of frogs came forth from the waters, and covered the whole land of Egypt. They entered the houses and the ovens, and covered the tables and the beds, and spared neither the hut of the peasant nor the palace of the king. Then Pharao, being frightened, called for Moses and Aaron, and said to them: “Pray ye the Lord to take away the frogs from me, and from my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.” Moses did as the king desired, and the frogs disappeared. (Second plague.)
But when Pharao saw that the frogs were gone, he hardened his heart again. Then Aaron was commanded by God to strike with his rod the dust of the earth; and instantly myriads of gnats arose, and tormented both men and beasts throughout all Egypt. All the dust of the earth was turned into gnats. But Pharao’s heart remained obdurate. (Third plague.)
Then the Lord sent a very grievous swarm of flies into the houses of Pharao and his servants, and the whole land was corrupted by them. Then Pharao’s heart began to fail, and he said to Moses and Aaron: “I will let you go to sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; but go no further. Pray for me.” But when God, at the prayer of Moses, had banished the flies, Pharao’s heart grew hard again, and he refused to let the people go. (Fourth plague.) Continued…
Then God sent a murrain among the cattle, which destroyed the best part of the flocks and herds of the Egyptians, but spared those of the Israelites. Still Pharao would not submit. (Fifth plague.)
Then the Lord ordered Moses and Aaron to sprinkle ashes in the air in presence of Pharao, and there came boils with swelling blains in men and beasts. (Sixth plague.)
Then again Moses stretched forth his rod towards heaven, and the Lord sent down thunder and hail and lightning running along the ground; and the hail, mixed with fire, smote every herb of the field and every tree of the country, and killed every man and beast that were in the open fields. None of it fell, however, in the land of Gessen, where the children of Israel dwelt. Pharao called Moses and Aaron, and said: “I have sinned this time also. Pray ye the Lord that the thunder may cease, and that I may let you go.” But when, at the prayer of Moses, the hail had ceased, the king broke his promise, and his heart became exceedingly hard. (Seventh plague.)
Then the Lord sent a burning wind, which blew all that day and night; and in the morning, the locusts came, and they covered the whole face of the earth and wasted all things, devouring the grass of the earth, and whatever fruits the hail had left; and there remained not anything that was green, either on the trees, or in the herbs in all Egypt. Therefore Pharao in haste called Moses and Aaron, saying: “Forgive me my sin this time also, and pray to the Lord your God that He take away from me this death.” Moses prayed to the Lord, and the Lord sent a very strong wind from the west which took the locusts and threw them into the Red Sea. This time, again, Pharao hardened his heart. (Eighth plague.)
Then Moses stretched forth his hand towards heaven, and there came a horrible darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. No man saw his brother, nor moved himself out of the place where he was. But where the children of Israel dwelt, there was light. Then Pharao called Moses and Aaron, saying: “Go, sacrifice to the Lord—let your sheep only and your herds remain.” Moses answered: “All the flocks shall go with us.” Thereupon the king hardened his heart again, and would not let the people go. Moreover he said to Moses: “Get thee from me. In what day soever thou shalt come into my sight, thou shalt die.” Moses replied: “I will not see thy face any more.” (Ninth plague.)
The Lord spoke again to Moses: “Yet one plague more will I bring upon Pharao and Egypt, and after that he will let you go and thrust you out.” Now Moses was a very great man in the land of Egypt in the sight of Pharao’s servants and of all the people.
Moses, therefore, spoke to all the people: “Thus saith the Lord: ‘At midnight I will enter into Egypt; and every first-born in the land of Egypt shall die, from the first-born of Pharao, who sitteth on his throne, even to the first-born of the handmaid that is at the mill, and all the first-born of the beasts; and there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as neither hath been before, nor shall be hereafter. But with all the children of Israel there shall be no death, nor mourning, that you may know how wonderful a difference the Lord maketh between the Egyptians and Israel. And all these thy servants shall come down to me, saying: Go forth, thou and all the people that is under thee. After that we will go out.’ ” (Tenth plague.)
Meaning of the Plagues:
The object of the plagues, with which God visited the Egyptians, was manifold. The plagues, which devastated Egypt, while they did not touch the land of Gessen, were sent, firstly, to teach Pharao and his people that the God of Israel was also Lord over Egypt, and the one True and Almighty God. Secondly, to convert the haughty king and force him to obey the commandments of God. Thirdly, to punish Pharao and his people for their unreasonable idolatry and their cruel oppression of the people of God. The Egyptians worshipped the Nile as a god, and now destruction was brought upon them by means of it. Disease killed the cattle which were objects of their worship; and lower creatures, such as gnats, flies and locusts, inflicted torments on them. Thus they were punished by the very things through which they sinned. Fourthly, the plagues were sent to teach the pagans that the gods whom they worshipped were vain and powerless; however earnestly they appealed to them, they could obtain no help from them. Fifthly, they were intended to confirm the Israelites in their belief in the one true God and in confidence in Him who protected them in such a wonderful way; and to nil their hearts with gratitude towards Him.
By these plagues, Almighty God not only manifested His terrible justice, but also His merciful patience. He sent the first plague only after the miracles worked before Pharao had produced no effect. The plagues gradually succeeded each other, beginning with the least; and when these availed nothing, they became more and more dreadful. Moreover, they did not follow each other day after day, but between the several plagues there was an interval of days, sometimes of weeks.
Pharao is a warning example of impenitence and obduracy. God did not warn him only outwardly, by Moses’ words and by the ten plagues, but also inwardly, by His grace. But Pharao would neither listen to the admonitions of God, nor obey the movements of divine grace, and thus, by rendering himself unworthy of further graces, he at last became quite hardened. Once or twice he made good resolutions about letting God’s people go, but as soon as the pressure of necessity was removed he did not keep them. God foretold to him the last and worst plague some fourteen days before it was sent, and would, in His mercy, have spared Pharao and his people this last terrible visitation, if only he would have consented to let the Israelites go. Pharao, however, despised the divine warning as an empty threat, and remained hardened. He is the type of a defiant sinner who will not listen to any exhortations, does not carry out good resolutions, perseveres in sin, and finally becomes quite hardened.