As Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, God communicated several key points He wanted them to recognize. They were to remember this day through the eating of unleavened bread and the consecration of their firstborn. God wanted them to know that He was bringing them into a land of His choosing through this Exodus, and during the journey they would face various foes. The promise, however, was their destination as a land of milk and honey, and of freedom. It would be good, but it would also be necessary in the future to tell their children so that they understood their heritage and destiny.
For their remembrance, God indicated that the Hebrews should do something as a physical sign. He told them in Exodus 13:9:
“And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt.”
He repeated that admonition in Exodus 13:16:
“It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”
What was the point?
We see His purpose in the second half of each verse. The Israelites were to know that Yahweh delivered them. It was by His hand that they gained their freedom. None of the gods they had known in Egypt did this; the people hadn’t done it under their own power. God wanted them to realize they were His, and His alone. Yahweh was the author of their freedom. Through this physical remembrance, they were to get their hearts right now and into the future, and in so doing, they were to worship and glorify the Lord of their salvation.
In the time of Jesus we see this practice having evolved into a religious, legal obligation among the observant Jews. In their times of prayer, they strapped phylacteries onto their foreheads and arms with portions of the Torah inside these little boxes as a reminder to keep the Law. Religious Jews have continued this custom to this day.
This sign on a Jew’s hand or forehead tells him that he belongs to Yahweh. It reminds him of his redemption and who is his God.
In the Tribulation, Satan will use a similar device. The devil isn’t particularly innovative. He likes to copy what God has previously done and twist its purposes. At the midpoint of the Tribulation, the false prophet will introduce the Mark of the Beast as a means to control the populace by causing people to worship the Antichrist. The Mark will be something that goes on the back of the hand or on the forehead. By taking the Mark, Antichrist will accomplish two objectives:
- It will be a test of loyalty. Anyone who takes the Mark chooses Antichrist over Jesus Christ. Anyone who rejects Jesus and takes the Mark has declared that he follows Satan and worships only him.
- By taking the Mark, the recipient gains access to the commercial system of buying and selling. Without the Mark, he is prevented from engaging in commerce of any sort. For anyone who has not determined to follow only Jesus, the temptation to take the Mark will be immense. Only by this sign will he be able to work, to feed his family, or to do anything in the society and culture of that day.
During this final period of human history, all mankind will have the opportunity to make a final, irrevocable choice. Will a person choose the temporary benefit by taking the Mark, thus enslaving himself to Satan then and forever? Or will he count the extreme cost of discipleship by refusing the Mark, and in so doing, rely only upon God and His mercy? More than that, a person doing this will be singled out, persecuted, and likely die.
God in His mercy will deliver all current true believers from this coming wrath through the Rapture of the church. Those who become followers of Christ during the Tribulation will find God’s mercy and deliverance by demonstrating their believing loyalty to Him in saying no to Satan’s enticing offer of the temporary pleasures of this world. By standing for God, these new believers will find eternal life.
How much easier we have it today! We must not let the cares of this world weigh us down. One of the joys we have is how easy it is for us to follow the Lord. In tomorrow’s world of the 7-year Tribulation, it will be much more difficult.
We should tell everyone we meet how good God is. By their choosing His love and mercy today, He will keep them (and us!) from the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole earth.