The Lord said to Abraham,
“For four hundred years, your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own;
they will be enslaved and mistreated there.”(Genesis 15:13; cf. Exodus 12:40)
Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said,
“This is what the Lord—the God of Israel—says:
‘Let my people go!’”(Exodus 5:1)
How long, O Lord
hemmed in ina world not our home
an unwelcome race in an unfamiliar place
Four hundred years
How long, O Lord
missing our fit in the land you promised
now misfits in an unforgiving land
Abandoned, waiting,year after year
How long, O Lord
tillwe can breathe again
till we candance again
How many tears
How long, O Lord
slaves to ruthless masters
beaten, battered, bruised
How long, O Lord
straw-gathering in dusty dirt
brick-making in slimy mud
Never in the clear
How long, O Lord
the sun too hot
thirst too great
Burned skin, parched throats—so severe
Help us, O Lord
oppressed so hard we cannot stand
obeying commands we don’t understand
Consumed, crushed, infear
Help us, O Lord
we’re weakened, wobbly, wondering
yet unyielding, unfinished
When will you appear
Help us, O Lord
you spared Noah in an ark
you saved Moses in an ark
Now lead us by your Ark (of the covenant)
Help us, O Lord
in this hurt, we hope
in this truth, we trust
O Redeemer, draw near
We lift our gaze, Yahweh
not to the ones who stand over us
but to you, standingbeforeus
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, lend us your ear
In your mercy and grace, Father, send your Servant-Son
take us to thePromised Place
to the land of milk and honey, the new heaven and new earth
Out of the hell here
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt land;
Tell old Pharaoh,Let my people go!
Life Application Questions
The difficulties and calamities that people face—natural disasters,chronic pain, pandemics, persecution, violence, cancer, and on and on—raise challenging questions:
Today’s Scripture resource passage provides an entryway into God’s choosing of Moses. This is no sanitized version of a squeaky clean, pure-handed individual. God’s sovereign-emphatic-sacred selection of a man who brings death in his hands is startling.We should not idly ignore the blood splattered sand of Egypt.
Moses is on a walk about, possibly investigating a construction project. The exact location is not described other than, “he went out to where his own peoplewere and watched them at their hard labor” (Exodus 2:11). While watching the hard labor an Egyptian, possibly a supervisor, can be seen beating a Hebrew slave.
Moses steps into scene.We do not know his motivation. Perhaps he was aware of continuing mistreatment?Did he decide to set things right?We ask, “Has Moses divinely come for such a time as this?”
A flurry of unanswered questions; regardless, Scripture reports that Moses killsthe Egyptian. Murder? Manslaughter? Justifiable homicide? Hate crime?Or, an act of rescue initiated by a Good Samaritan?
Moses may havestruck himmany times. We could speculatethat acrushing smash to the head might have been enough. Or, after being hit in the chest the man falls.As he drops his head hits a sharp stone corner. It was a deadly encounter.Are you ready for the startling and holy transition?
Later, this same Moses will hearand act for God in ways absolutely unparalleled by others. Moses, the deadly-one, will be known as the Lawgiver of Israel.He will hand deliver the Law from the Lord to the people (Exodus 19 and 20).
Moses,with blood on his hands,called and appointed by God?Wait—what about the Egyptian who died? Was it murder? Attorney’s would ask: was this manslaughter, justifiable homicide or a hate crime? And of course we want to ask, “Is not this very act precisely what will be condemned in the words from Mt. Sinai, ‘thou shalt not murder’” (Exodus 20:13 KJV)?
Scripture’s record offers no explanation. After reading this episode, disciples could be left confounded as again, God’s sovereignty is worked out before us.
The story of Moses in the bullrushes is one of the most familiar stories from the Old Testament.
Who doesn’t like a good tale of intrigue with a happy ending?Baby is placed in the water to save him from certain death. Baby is discovered by a beautiful princess. Baby gets to be raised by its mother, with all the benefits of a royal life. Yet it’s a story of several women, some acting independently of the others, to preserve the life of a child.
In the previous chapter, we learn that Pharaoh, the king, was a bit nervous about the increasing numbers of Hebrews in the land. Afraid they might help overthrow his kingdom, he devised a plan to reduce their numbers – kill all the Hebrew baby boys. When that didn’t work (thanks to the midwives Shiphrah and Puah), he decreed that every boy born to a Hebrew must be thrown into the Nile.
Most versions of this story focus on the bucolic scene of the baby floating safely in the water only to be discovered by a fine-looking princess. But there is a greater story of creativity, defiance, and liberation – all by women to make a difference in the life of a one little.
There is the baby’s mother. (We later learn her name is Jochebed.) Imagine being with child and knowing that, if it is a boy, the evil dictator has decreed his death. Yet she gave birth to the little one and kept him close to her heart for as long as she could. When she could no longer hide him, she did as she was told – she threw him in the Nile, or maybe better said, placed him in the river in a waterproof basket.
Enter the daughter of the wicked dictator. Some say she was at the river for her ritual bath, a religious experience of sorts, when she spotted the child floating serenely among the reeds and felt sorry for him. She rescued him, offered protection, and later adopted him, naming him Moses – all in defiance of her father’s decree. She raises the child in the same house of the man who would have killed him. Did he ever know where the child came from?
From the bank of the river, the baby’s sister, Miriam, who was somewhere between the ages of five and seven, watched. She fearlessly approached the princess and her entourage. “Shall I get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” she asked, probably somewhat tongue-in-cheek. (Maybe she was exhibiting those leadership skills she needed later when she was recognized as a leader alongside Moses and their brother, Aaron.)
Encouraged to do so, the girl got the baby’s mother. The princess offered to pay the mother to nurse the boy. By law, the person who found the baby could adopt the child, but because the little one was raised in his early years by his own mother, it ensured that he received the love and support of his own family.
God uses people, sometimes unbeknownst to them, to make a difference. Think of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. When it came time to help his family, God had placed him in a place of influence. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives,” Joseph told his brothers (Genesis 50:20NIV).
Esther, living in the palace of King Xerxes, recognized Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews. Her uncle, Mordecai, encouraged her to uncover the plot. “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” he says (Esther 4:14 NIV).
In our reading, God placed Jochebed, the princess, and Miriam in a united effort of creative disobedience to preserve the life of a child who would go on to liberate the nation of Israel.
Where has God used you to make a difference, even if you didn’t realize it at the time?
Have you ever felt like you were too little? Zacchaeus, was a tax collecting sinner, who was too little to see over the crowd and not good enough to save himself. Perhaps you have felt like your skills weren’t enough to accomplish the task or you felt like you could never be good enough to be loved by someone. Have you ever looked at your “loaves and fishes” and wondered how God could ever use them? God, the Deliverer, saw the needs of his people, and chose people who were seemingly small, to be a part of His rescue plan. Joseph reassured his family that God saw them and would come to their rescue. “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised…”(Genesis 50:24)
The Hebrew people were not where they were by accident. Joseph’s family, about 70 of them, came to Egypt. Whenever you hear the words; Egypt and Israelites together, what do you think?Do you focus on the captivity? But when God sent the Israelites into Egypt, it was not for them to be persecuted, but it was for their provision. How many times did the Israelites rail against their circumstances? How often did they believe Satan’s lies about God not being enough? How often have you wondered why God placed you where he did? Can you identify times when you have had “the not enough blues”? God not only sees you, He also wants to use you within the circumstances where you find yourself. “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of the deeds.” (Proverbs 3:10)
God can use little fish in a big pond to accomplish His purposes. When have you experienced being a little fish in a big pond? What was challenging about that experience? What did you learn from being a “little fish”? The Hebrews found themselves in Pharaoh’s pond and God was going to use some little fish to show His power. The Egyptian pond was quickly filling up with the Hebrew people, they were multiplying at an alarming rate. The more that the Hebrew people were oppressed, the more they multiplied. God was going to use a woman to deliver His deliverance for the Hebrew people. Women were vital in putting the fear of the Hebrews into Pharaoh’s mind. Who knew that “be fruitful and multiply” could be a battle cry. God’s plan for deliverance collided with Pharaoh’s plan for power, and the collateral damage of eliminating a perceived enemy. Pharaoh’s plan to use midwives to perform his elimination scheme was foiled. These midwives were little fish in Pharaoh’s big pond. How often do I catch myself letting Satan’s lies about my inadequacies convince me that I have too little to offer to even begin to make an impact in God’s kingdom? The midwives knew that Pharaoh was powerful, but; “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the King of Egypt told them to do…” (Exodus 1:7) If the plan to kill the Jewish boys at birth had happened, Pharaoh would have wiped out the Hebrew people. God uses little fish in big ponds. God’s “enough” is the answer to our “not enough blues”. God used Israel’s experiences in Egypt, and He will use your experiences and circumstances, to prepare for your assignments. God gave the Israelites,and us, the task of bearing witness to the true and Living God. You are not too little when your God is big enough.What is an area in your life that you need God to stand beside you in? Ask Him now to give you strength. “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength…” (2 Timothy 2: 17)
It's been said that most people will never meet their great-grandparents. Many will not even know their names. Can you name yours? So, in reality, you and I are only three generations from extinction. This begs the question. "Who will remember us?" "In the long run, what difference does my life make?" Since most of us haven'tdone anything of lasting significance (like discover gravity or invent the light bulb), it's very likely we'll be forgotten in only a few years.
Are you aware of any significant contributions of your ancestors that have affected you personally?
A friend who enjoys the challenges of exploring genealogy recently gave us printed records of both of our maternal and paternal ancestors. Some go back eight generations; one includes 13 generations of relatives. But just like Joseph, his brothers, and all of their generation they're all dead. And except for a line or two about their occupation and where they were born, lived, and died we know little more now than we did before she gave us the information.
What can you do now to perpetuate your memory and be an encouragement to your family at least for another generation or two?
It can be a bit discouraging if you think about it too long. "Then a new king, to whom Josephmeant nothing, came to power in Egypt" (vs. 8, italics added). Even Joseph, whom God used in dramatic ways to save his father and brothers and their families(the Jewish nation) and all of Egypt,wasn't remembered after a few years.
. . or was he?
Ah Ha!God remembered Joseph! God's Holy Spirit, by his servant Moses recorded the story of Joseph's life for all to read and remember throughout the ages. His story is one of the most moving and inspiring in all of Scripture. What were some of the experiences Joseph endured and how did they “make the man”? The example he left of how to endure adversity, make the best of seemingly endless horrific situations, and become an effective national leader, could well be used in any "How To" manual for leaders today.
What were some of those characteristics that Joseph demonstrated that would serve us well to emulate today?
Don't be discouraged because you think your life doesn't have significance or that no one will remember you. Child of God, just think who your Father is. Rejoice that Jesus is your brother. Be encouraged that after you are gone and forgotten by your prodigy, the almighty, eternal God remembers you.
jbd & gmd