“A mixed crowd also went up with them…”. Exodus 12:38
In reading through the Old Testament again this year, I am continually struck with how much I do not know. I read, I observe, I look at commentaries, I meditate….and then I forget. No wonder Paul calls us to renew our minds. I need my mind daily renewed and sustained by the Word of God. I need to be reminded of God’s big story of redemption which, for me, means reading through the Bible each year. And I need to meditate on His character, His glory, and how through Christ He is transforming me into His likeness. This means I need to take a magnifying glass to chapters, verses and phrases. I need to grow in what I know…and what I don’t know…so I can think, talk and act as a faithful ambassador of the King.
Today, as I read in Exodus, I learned something new. Or maybe relearned something I had forgotten. Either way, it’s an adventure of growth as the words on the page jumped out at me as only the living, active Word of God can do!
So, here it is: the Israelites were not the only ones to march out of Egypt when Pharaoh told them to “get out immediately.” Scripture says that “a mixed crowd also went up with them” or, in other translations, “a rabble” or a “mixed multitude”. Either way, it wasn’t just God’s “chosen people” that walked out that night…there were others who joined the mass departure.
The Puritan, Matthew Poole, says this about them: “A mixed multitude, consisting of Egyptians or other people, who went with them, either because they were their servants, or that by this means they might free themselves from the servitude which they endured under hard masters in Egypt; or because the glorious works which they had seen, had raised their esteem of God and of his people, and made them expect a share in the great felicities which they presumed would be conferred upon a people so highly honoured and beloved of such an almighty and all-sufficient God.” And Matthew Henry makes this observation: “Some, perhaps, willing to leave their country, laid waste by plagues; others, out of curiosity; perhaps a few out of love to them and their religion. But there were always those among the Israelites who were not Israelites.”
These people experienced the blessings of God and yet were not chosen by God. These people walked, talked and lived among the Israelites, as though one of them, yet they did not necessarily honor the God who enabled them to walk, talk and live. They seemed so similar and yet were so different.
Isn’t that true of us today? Doesn’t that resemble the pews we sit in each Sunday? Wheat and tares…growing up together.
“They went out from us, but they did not belong to us; for if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. However, they went out so that it might be made clear that none of them belongs to us.” 1 John 2:19
I don’t share this so that we grow bigger “judgemental muscles”, furtively looking around us each Sunday to see if we can spot the “tares”, the “mixed crowd”, and those with “foreign souls”. No, I share this so that as our hearts of discernment continue to grow, they would infuse us with a boldness for declaring the glorious gospel of grace; not only to those outside the walls of our church, but to those inside, as well.
We can never talk enough about the cross or our Savior who hung there. He bore the Father’s wrath by becoming a curse for us so that we could walk in His resurrection power; freed from the penalty and punishment of sin, and enabled by the Holy Spirit to face each new day in His all-sufficient grace. The gospel is not just what saves us, it’s what sustains us.
So, as we think on the gospel, speak of the gospel, and live out the gospel in our lives, we are testifying to the work of Jesus…past, present and future! And in that, we are either encouraging our fellow brothers and sisters as they cling to Christ, or we are planting seeds in those who are lost, even if they sit comfortably in the pew next to you, week in and week out.
Over the years of reading and studying, I have come to realize just how much like the wandering Israelites we can be. Today is no different. We walk amongst a “mixed crowd”. I pray we do not forget this truth by making assumptions of salvation, but rather purpose to live boldly as ambassadors of this great salvation as we take each new step on our journey to the Promised Land…Heaven!
(“Room in the Pew” copyright 1997 Linda Langhorst, www.lindalanghorst.com)