This week’s Reading: Genesis 48 – Exodus 9
Moses entered history in a most interesting time.
I am writing this from India, in a pivotal time in its nation, and recognize that for God, timing is everything.
When the Israelites abided in Egypt, the Bible says the Israelites multiplied exceedingly and abundantly, in fact swarmed the land with much abundance. In that one verse, the bible mentions abundance eight times:
And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them. (Exodus 1:7)
Along comes a king who didn’t remembered Joseph, that Hebrew who saved the world from starvation through his strategic wisdom from God. In fact, this king was extremely intimidated by the Israelites, and proposed immediate slavery to be imposed on them, lest they rise up in alignment with Egypt’s enemies and cause Egypt to be overtaken by a fictitious enemy.
Within days, the king’s rule meant great suffering for the Hebrews. Life grew hard and cruel under Egyptian oppression:
Therefore they did set (tread down) over them taskmasters (captains designed to cause fainting underneath the burden of force labour) to afflict (browbeating) them with their burdens… But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied (increased in strength and number) and grew (rightly broke out) . And they were grieved ( disgusted and anxious) because of the children of Israel. And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve (enslaved) with rigour (bone-crushing labour) . And they made their lives bitter (strangled) with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.
As the people increased, so the oppression increased, a pattern Israel has endured since Jacob, wherein the favour of God for His chosen people sets in motion a reaction where the nations both covet and fear them. By the time Moses was born, a new king had decreed that if slavery wouldn’t reduce their numbers, genocide would.
The new king called the midwives and asked them to kill all Hebrew boys born at birth. Fearing God more than Pharaoh, they bypassed his decree, citing the strength of the Hebrew women in quick labour as their defence.
Undeterred, Pharaoh passed a law that all Hebrew boys be cast into the river at birth. in a time marked by bone crushing oppression and hard indentured labour and male genocide, Moses was born.
By faith in their God, Jochabed and her Levite husband hid Moses for three months. Finally they fulfilled the law and placed Moses into the river, albeit with slight modifications. Jochabed wove a basket together and covered it with pitch, and placed the waterproof ark upon the river, sending Miriam, her daughter along the shore, to see what would happen with her beautiful wailing boy child.
You know the story. The Pharaoh’s daughter drew the basket out of the river, and then handed Moses back to his mom as a wet nurse at his sister’s bold suggestion. Once weaned, Moses was raised as a prince of Egypt.
In Acts, Stephen describes his heart wrenching journey:
And when he was cast out, Pharaoh’s daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son. And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds. And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. (Acts 7:21-25)
Moses wasn’t just misunderstood by the Hebrews, he was betrayed by them. Pharaoh was told that the prince of Egypt had killed one of their own.
Pharaoh sought life for life. Moses fled from Egypt to the far mountains of Midian into the safe folds of Reuel, “friend of God”.
Jethro, priest of Midian soon thereafter became father-in-law to Moses, who offered the young prince his daughter in marriage, providing Moses with much needed family and shelter. It says Moses was content to dwell with the man. Moses named his firstborn, Gershom, meaning refuge, saying “for I have been a stranger finding safety in a foreign land.”(2:2)
Decades later, Moses encountered God. He was on the backside of the desert and saw a strange sight, a bush that burned from within. Curious he drew close, and God told him, “ Don’t come any closer, son. Take off your shoes, for this is holy ground, a sacred space.I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Moses hid his face, terrified to behold God.
God continued, “ I have surely seen the misery of my people in Egypt and I have heard their shrieking by those driving them hard, for I am well acquainted with their sufferings. I HAVE COME DOWN to deliver them from the grip of the Egyptians and raise them up our of that land into a good and spacious land flowing with milk and honey, trading posts with the current occupants. Now look, the shrieking cry of the Israelites has come before me and I have seen the crushing of those Egyptian oppressors. Come now, walk straight ahead and I will appoint you to go before Pharaoh that you may bring out my children straight out from Egypt.”(3:7-10)
Moses objected, ask ing, “ Who am I that I should go before Pharaoh and bring your people out of Egypt?”
God responded, “Certainly, I am with you. In fact, you will know this for sure, when after you have brought forth the people from Egypt, you will worship me right on this mountain range.”
An intense struggle with Moses’ legitimacy begins.
Moses asks God, “When I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers sent me to you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say unto them?”(3:13)
And God said to Moses, ” I AM THAT I AM: say unto the children of Israel, I AM has sent me unto you. In fact, say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.”(3:14-15)
God told Moses to gather the elders of Israel and tell them that God has visited Moses and had visited His people and had seen what is being done to them in Egypt. God would bring them up out of the affliction of Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, a land of great flow of provision.
“They will listen to you and together, go to the king of Egypt and let him know that The Lord God of the Hebrews has met with us and now let us go please for three days journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the Lord.”(3:16-18)
Then God gave Moses his plan:
And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand. And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go.And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians: and it shall come to pass, that, when you go, you shall not go empty: But every woman shall borrow of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment: and you shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians.(3:18-22)
Moses choked. Standing before the God of fire, Moses told Him, ” They won’t hear me, they won’t believe me, and they are going to tell me I didn’t encounter You.”
God patiently demonstrated to Moses before Whom he stood. Moses was instructed to throw down his rod. It turned into a snake, and then God told Moses to take it by the tail and it turned back into a rod. Yuck!
Then God played Superdoc, instructing Moses to put his hand into his cloak and pull it out. It became leprous, and once more inserted into his cloak, was clean again. That would freak me out.
Patiently God instructed Moses, “if they don’t believe your first sign, the second one should convince anyone that you have encountered the God of power. In fact, if they don’t listen after that, go to the Nile and pour out the water on the soil, and it will turn to blood. That should show them you have been with Me.”
Too wounded for words, Moses still passed, saying, ” God, I am not good at public speaking, never have been. How about you choose a better candidate, one who isn’t tongue tied?”
God asked Moses, “Who do you think made man’s mouth? Who makes the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the LORD?”(4:11)
Still Moses disqualified himself. “Couldn’t you send someone else, God?” he asked.
The Lord was unimpressed. Less than pleased with Moses’ lack of interest in the position offered, God installed Aaron as the spokesman for Project Egypt. Still, Moses headed home to Jethro, rod in hand and made plans to leave. Egypt was about to change forever.
Given how patiently God showed Himself to Moses, it is shocking that Moses refused God. I wonder what happened to Moses, that even encounter with the living God could not budge him from his self- disqualification?
I wonder how often God encounters each of us with His plan to answer the cry of His broken people and we politely decline, convinced of our own failings more than God’s abilities and refusing to accept God’s choice to use us anyways?
The good news is that Moses headed to Egypt with his brother Aaron, an implicit yes by his very trudging back through the wilderness and into the confines of Egypt. We know the story of Moses didn’t end with the burning bush nor does our story end when we encounter our God and refuse to believe Him.
God is so merciful to us all. How he loves to encounter His children and move us forward in our life with Him!
<strong>Let’s pray: Father God, forgive us for the times when we refused Your call. Forgive our short sightedness and our poverty of expectation in You as our brokenness blinded us to Your capacity to move us forward. Holy Spirit, teach us to walk in yes to God for the sake of those whose cry reaches His ears. Lord Jesus, thank You for yes to Father God, for without it, we all would have perished. God Almighty, thank you, that like Moses, you have moved heaven and earth to bring us into relationship with You for Your glory and in Your love. Amen.
1. The midwives refused to kill the Hebrew boys at birth, fearing God more than Pharaoh. Where in your life do you stand up for God? What does it cost you? What do you gain?
2. Moses’s mother had to let her son go, more than once. Yet in her faith and capacity to hear God, she and her husband refused the king’s edict and with divine strategy, saved their son, the future Deliverer of Egypt? Where in your life have you seen the tough sacrifices and the astounding hand of God and the same time? How did it affect your faith?
3. Moses knew he was chosen by God to free the Hebrews, according to Acts, even before the burning bush. Yet his methods reaped great disaster, effectually sending him out of Egypt without his Hebrew peoples. Can you see in your life where you have “helped God” to reach your dreams, and like Moses, everything went wrong? What do you think about God’s timings in Moses story and your life? Have you been frustrated or thrilled?
4. God showed Himself to Moses in a burning bush, revealed His name to Moses, as the all sufficient, all eternal Jehovah God and Moses was still choking out excuses for his no thank you. What would it take for you to say yes to God’s plan to bring you back to a place of deep suffering and rejection, like Egypt for Moses?
5. Do you believe that God can use your life to bring deliverance and freedom to the people God shows you? Are you willing to carry God’s heart for the cry of the people He shows you and see the glory of God worked out in your life, like Moses? What is holding you back?
Next Week’s Reading: Exodus 10-20