I love the order of this reading in that today we are able to see the entire story of the plagues and the escape from Egypt. There is more to the escape, but at least we get to see all of the plagues. Here is something that you may not be aware of. The part of this story that is often forgotten is that Moses was only asking Pharaoh for permission to take the people of Israel out of Egypt for three hours so that they could worship their God and then return again. It was like Gilligan's Island where all Moses wanted was a three hour tour. Now, we know that he would not have returned, but that was the request. He didn't request that he take the people of Israel away forever, even if that is what ended up happening.
An aspect of this story that is disturbing to some folks is why does God harden Pharaoh's heart and is it really fair to Pharaoh if his heart was hardened how can anyone blame him for not wanting the people to leave? Let's be clear about this. God is the potter, and we are the clay. I say this not to discourage questions or wondering, but rather to remind us that we don't really have that answer. Is it fair? Certainly not in our book it isn't. Is it fair that we deserve damnation for our sin and that Jesus died so that we would be washed clean? No, it isn't fair at all, but thanks be to God, God doesn't deal with us according to our sin but rather to the grace and the love of Jesus. I'm grateful that God treats us unfairly and gives us the grace we do not deserve. I'll take an unfair God any day.
This reading begins with the first plague and takes us all the way to the plague of the passover of the angel of death. We have seen chapter 12 a little more closely in our Bible Study a week ago or so. We saw the similarity between the sacrificed lamb whose blood was spread over the door posts, and Jesus as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
This reading doesn't have the crossing of the red sea yet. But we do see God leading the Israelites with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. How much of a relief would it be to have God's presence in a visible and tangible way leading us day after day. I could get used to that!