Thursday, February 9, 2017

Our Way, or God's Way? Exodus 2:11-25

Whose Plan, Whose Way?

Was it God who decided to use Moses as a deliverer, or did Moses appoint himself to the task?  Click here to read Exodus 2:11-25.

God's Plan

God protected Moses as a baby.  God arranged for him to be put in a position of power and influence.  God arranged for him to still know his biological family by arranging his own mother to be nurse maid.  God did all this with the intention that when Moses grew up, he would deliver the children of Israel out of slavery, out of Egypt, and lead them back to the promised land.

It was all in God's plan to use Moses for this task.  The idea didn't originate in Moses' own mind, God put it on his heart and mind.  However, Moses decided to try to make it happen in his own way and in his own strength, instead of waiting on God.  There's no telling now, how God might have brought this about if Moses had waited patiently and prayerfully.  Maybe God would have used Moses' position of influence to accomplish the whole thing peacefully, and then would have judged Egypt for their sins in a separate series of events.  Or maybe the deliverance itself would have still happened the same way, but Moses wouldn't have spent years on the run in desert before being used.  We don't know, because Moses didn't wait, but decided to make things happen on his own.

Moses took matters into
his own hands.

Moses' Way

Moses' childhood was probably one of conflicted loyalties.  He knew that his adoptive "grandfather" would have had him killed if not for his adoptive mother taking pity.  No doubt there was some resentment between him and Pharaoh, and probably between Pharaoh and Pharaoh's daughter, and between Moses and Pharaoh's biological grandchildren.  Even though he was protected from death by Pharaoh's family, and there was probably a bond between Moses and his adoptive mother, it is quite likely that he grew up feeling like an outsider to the family, and felt more of bond with his biological family. 

One day Moses was walking along, with the burden for God's people on his heart because God placed it there, and the conflicted loyalties in his mind because of his upbringing, and he saw an Egyptian man beating his Hebrew slave.

Anger rose up in Moses' heart, and he didn't stop and pray, he didn't ask God what he should do. Instead, he acted in his flesh, and in his anger murdered the Egyptian man.

That was Moses' way, not God's, and Moses paid the price acting on his own.

The Aftermath

Because of his indiscretion, Moses had to flee for his life.  He ran off into the desert as a fugitive. Acts Chapter 7 tells us that he had supposed that his fellow Israelites would understand that he was called by God to deliver them, but they did not.  So he spent the next 40 years in the wilderness caring for sheep.  He was in exile, but God still had mercy and blessed him during this time.  He was married and had children, he was close to his father in law.  He was not living the comfortable life he had before, but he was living a life that was normal for that time in history.  During this time, the Pharaoh died and new one rose in his place, this was most likely Moses' "adopted" brother, who would have viewed Moses as a betrayer and an ingrate.  God's people in Egypt, however, were still suffering, and it was getting worse (further evidence that this new Pharaoh too, was hardening his own heart).  Of course, God still knew what His plan was, and when God's time was right, He moved.

Moses spent 40 years in exile because
of his impatience and anger.

Still all in God's plan

Much of scripture presents us with a paradox, man has free will, but God is sovereign.  I won't pretend to understand every nuance of how both of these are true, I just know that they are.  What I will say though is that Moses' life is a good example of both of these things.  God had a plan to use Moses, but Moses in his free will acted on his own before the time was right, and suffered consequences for that.  God's will though was not thwarted.  In fact, God in his sovereignty knew all along that Moses would do this, and planned to use the time of exile to prepare Moses for what he was called to do.

Before exile, Moses had lived a protected and lavish life.  He lived in the palace.  He may have not had a complete feeling of belonging, but even so he was able to avail himself of all the comforts of royalty.  It is reasonable to assume that he was not accustomed to hard work, and probably not in the best physical shape.

Before exile, Moses seems to have been a bit proud and possibly bitter over both his alienation from his adopted family and his distance from his biological family.  Its likely that he didn't really feel like he belonged any place, and yet with all that he was still somewhat accustomed to getting what he wanted because he lived as royalty.  This probably had a lot to do with why he presumed to take matters into his own hands rather than wait on God.  He thought he knew well enough on his own, he didn't need to ask God for help, he assumed that the Israelites too, would recognize that he was doing God's will, and would deliver them.  In short, he was arrogant.

After 40 years of living in exile, Moses was used to hard physical labor.  He was used to working for everything he got.  He was used to living with little.  In that time he had probably also had a lot of time to think and to mature, and probably realized how he had messed up.  He probably even questioned whether it was really his calling to deliver God's people, he probably didn't feel worthy of such a call.  Moses was physically hardened, but spiritually softened.  He was aware of his own sins, weaknesses, and inadequacies.  In short, he was humbled.

And that meant, he was ready to be used.

God used Moses' exile to
humble him and
prepare him for his calling.

Lord help us to be humble and to pray for your guidance in our lives. Help us to fulfill your call on our lives in YOUR way and in YOUR time.  Thank you though, that even when we fail, we can be assured that you will use even those failings to accomplish YOUR will. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Total Surrender - Exodus 2:1-10

When You Just Can't Win, Surrender All

Sometimes in life, we face circumstances that make it seem like we just can't win. The enemy is closing in, everywhere we turn, we face opposition, and from a human point of view, there is no hope.  Often though, we just don't realize that our deliverance is at hand.

It is darkest just before dawn.

Often in those dark times, what we are seeing is just the darkness before the dawn of hope.  To see that dawn though, God often often requires us to give up control.  To surrender everything to Him, and give it up as lost.  That is the situation that was faced by a couple in Egypt in our Bible passage today.

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.    Exodus 2:1-4
 This Hebrew couple were in a situation where there appeared to be no hope, no way out.  They had a brand new baby boy, something that should have brought such joy, but they were haunted and overshadowed by the knowledge that as soon as anyone learned of his birth, their baby would die.  Pharaoh had declared that all of the Hebrew baby boys would be killed at birth, and if they managed to be born in secret, they were to be tossed into the Nile to drown as soon as they were discovered. This couple managed to have their baby, and to keep him hidden until he was three months old, but it was becoming impossible to continue hiding him.  Babies make noise, soon he would be crawling and moving about, there was just no way to continue hiding him.

This young mother, I'm sure looked down on her boy and felt her heart break.  Like any mother, she loved him with her whole heart, and wanted to hold him and keep him close.  She would have died to save him, but that wouldn't have done any good, because if she had died in his defense, he would just have been killed anyway.  In her own strength, she simply could not save this little life, it was impossible.  I imagine that every time she walked near the Nile, she would look at the water and shudder at the thought of her baby thrown into the water, sinking, unable to breathe.

I'm not sure what made her think of what she did next, but it involved complete surrender of her child's life.  She went to the very river that was ordered to be his watery grave, laid him in a little basket that she had sealed to keep the water out, and hid him in the reeds.  Imagine how hard it was for her to leave him there.  What if the basket tipped over?  What if one of the crocodiles got him?  What if someone heard his cries and threw him in? I'm sure as she walked away, she felt that he was dead.  She couldn't bring herself to toss him into the river as ordered, but what she did really offered him little more hope than that would have.  When she placed him in that river, she was essentially giving him up to God, the only one who could save him.  She placed him in his grave.  Surrendering all control over what happened to him.

His older sister may not have been so ready to let go, because she stayed nearby, to see what would happen to her little brother.

From the Watery Grave, Came New Life 

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it.  She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
 Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
 “Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.”

Imagine the fear that his sister felt when she saw Pharaoh's daughter discover the baby.  After all, this was the daughter of the person who wanted to murder every Hebrew baby.  It would have been considered right and expected of her to order her attendants to follow her father's orders and drown this child.  But then, in the face of certain death in a watery grave, deliverance happened.

The Pharaoh's daughter felt pity on this helpless baby.  She didn't want to kill him, its not really surprising, because who could hold a baby and want to hurt him?

The baby's sister then went and got her own mother to serve as a nurse-maid for this child.

Imagine the absolute joy and relief that filled this mother's heart when she learned that her child would now be under the protection of the very family that previously sought to kill him, the most powerful family in all of Egypt.  The most powerful family in the known world at the time.   Imagine her elation when she also learned, that not only would her child's life be saved, but she was now going to be the one to continue caring for him, only now without fear.

She had to surrender all hope, she had to give up her child to God, but God, in His goodness and kindness, returned her child to her arms.

Not only did God deliver her child, but He did so as part of a plan to deliver the entire nation of Israel.

And it was all made possible because a mother surrendered to God.

When we come to the end of ourselves, and there is just no way we can win.  It is then that we are ready to surrender to God.  Once we do that, we get out of His way so He can bring His perfect will to pass, and we know that His will works all to the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  Sometimes, letting go is the best way to hold on.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Time of Darkness, for Egypt - Exodus 1

Exodus 1, A Time of Great Darkness

It had started out so well...

At the end of Genesis, we see that Israel's children escape certain starvation through Joseph, who although sold into Egypt as a slave, according to God's plan had risen to a position of great influence and power, and had wisely saved not only himself and his family, but all of Egypt.

Exodus begins with a recap of who among the children of Israel had made the journey, and tells us that those mentioned, that whole generation, lived the rest of their lives in Egypt and had all passed away, leaving their descendants to thrive and multiply in Egypt. 

I'm sure to those children of Israel who had traveled to Egypt, it seemed that the future of their descendants was secure.  They were in Egypt, fed, and taken care of.  They had been given the entire land of Goshen as their own.  Their family was well acquainted with, and friends to, the family of Pharaoh himself.  When that generation passed away, they probably did so without worry for their children and grandchildren, they were leaving them well taken care of and set for the future.

An adversary rises up, out of fear...

In verse 8-10 we read, "Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, “Look, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we; come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and it happen, in the event of war, that they also join our enemies and fight against us, and so go up out of the land.”

The people of Israel had not done anything wrong, they were not acting as enemies of the Egyptians.  Their ancestor Joseph had in fact, saved Egypt from ruin and famine. Yet this new Pharaoh didn't know their ancestor Joseph, he looked around his land and saw a people, larger in number than the native Egyptians.  A people with different customs, different beliefs, a different language.  A people with a different God.  A people who wouldn't have believed, as the Egyptians did, that Pharaoh himself was a god, or in the other gods of Egypt such as the sun god, the god of the Nile, or even the god of fertility, who took the form a frog.

Statue of Heqat, the Frog Goddess,
about 2950 BC, Predynastic Period,
 Late Naqada III Period to early Dynasty 1,
 travertine - Cleveland Museum of Art

Seeing a people so different from his own people, the pharaoh feared, he feared that these people who had never threatened him in any way, would continue to grow and take over his country, and at some point would turn on him and his people.  He was motivated and controlled by one of humankind's strongest emotions... fear.

The preemptive strike...

In the grip of his irrational fear he did what people with irrational fear often do, he struck out at them first, before they had a chance to strike out at him.  He took a preemptive strike. He set taskmasters over the people of Israel "to afflict them". He made life extremely hard for them, put them in bondage, made slaves of them.
While their ancestor Joseph had risen from a position of slavery into a position of power and influence, his descendants now fell rapidly from a position of security and safety into a position of slavery and hardship. It probably seemed to them as if the were spiraling into a abyss of darkness, but it is doubtful that even they knew just how dark it would become.

Total blackout...

As things grew darker for the people of Israel, God continued to bless them. They grew stronger, their numbers grew larger, in fact it seemed to Pharaoh, that the more he afflicted these people, the more they multiplied and grew... and with their growth, the power of Pharaoh's fear grew as well.  This fear prompted him to take a terrible course of action.

This Pharaoh hardened his own heart against all that was decent, and ordered the Egyptian midwives to murder the Hebrew sons at birth. We'll read later about how God hardened the next Pharaoh's heart, but make no mistake, that Pharaoh hardened his own heart first as well. How do we know this? We know this because he continued in the decrees that this one started.  He hardened it to the point of murdering helpless newborn babies. He hardened his own heart against the cries of the babies and the wails of mothers' lamenting their little boys. Later, God would finish the hardening of his heart, but only after Pharaoh had made the choice to reject all that was decent and good, only after Pharaoh had ignored his own conscience until finally, God let it be seared and stopped speaking to Pharaoh through it. The book of Romans speaks of this kind of hardening, of how as man repeatedly suppresses the truth of God and ignores the wisdom freely offered to them, God eventually turns them over to a debased mind, basically telling them that since they choose over and over not to know God, He will allow them to continue not knowing Him, and will seal and finalize the deal of their hard, rebellious hearts.

While this order of the king seemed like a total blackout of hope for God's people, God had a plan in the works to free them.  The real shadow was in the heart of Pharaoh, because he chose not to know God or be thankful toward Him, Pharaoh's foolish heart was darkened to the point of total blackout.  Meanwhile, God's deliverance of his people was at hand.

Point of Action

God speaks to everyone in their conscience, even those who don't actually know Him still hear from Him in general terms of right and wrong.  It is a frightening thing when one continues to ignore this voice. Dear reader, do not harden your heart against God.  He loves you.  If you are already a believer, He will speak to you about what he wants you to do in your walk with Him, heed Him do not harden your heart.  If you do not yet know Him, He is speaking to you that He wants you to welcome Him into your life, He is reaching out to you, calling to you.  All you need to do is respond, ask Jesus to reveal Himself to you, tell Him that He is welcome in your life.  Don't harden your heart like Pharaoh did, because it is short trip from the choice to harden your own heart to the point of total blackout, where you won't hear Him anymore.

Don't harden your heart against the love of Christ, revealed in His word.

Be sure to check back Saturday February 4th for the next post.