Exodus 1-3: Let My People Go!
February 1, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
The plot thickens. According to God’s promise to Abram (Genesis 15:13), God’s people would go as strangers to a strange land, be servants/slaves there, and be called out to serve God afterwards in their own land. So also are we today serving God in a strange land, as pilgrims, one day to be called to the Promised Land.
The masterful storytelling of the early chapters of Exodus sets the scene with a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph (1:8). God had prospered and multiplied the Israelites (1:7), and their very success and numerical strength was now viewed as a threat to Pharaoh and the structure of his religious and political hierarchy (1:9-10). When God’s people flourish, there can come a tipping point when those in power view them less happily than they once did. Wisdom is needed to be as canny as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16), to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Matt. 22:21), and to pray for those in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
This Pharaoh is so threatened that he not only enslaves God’s people and puts them to work (1:11-14), but he also decides that the best way to deal with the threat is through partial genocide. He will kill off all the male children (1:16), thus reducing the risk of a potential armed insurrection in the future. He tries to enlist the help of Hebrew midwives (1:15-16), who because they feared God do not do as Pharaoh requested (1:17), and their own families are blessed by God as a result (1:20-21). Obedience to God is noticed by God, and blessing is the consequence. Their reply to Pharaoh (1:19) when he asks them why they have not killed the male children (1:18) is strictly speaking within the letter of the law—perhaps the Hebrew women were stronger than the Egyptian at this point (it would not be surprising if they were being put to such strenuous labor), and perhaps they did give birth before the midwives arrived. But only because the midwives arranged matters like that.
Pharaoh takes things a step further, not so easily defeated. He orders his own people to kill the sons born to the Hebrews, to drown them in the Nile (1:22).
And so, Moses. Born to a priestly family (2:1), he is a “fine child” (2:2). Handsome perhaps, good looking, striking. There was something about him. At any rate his mother determines to save him. She sets him adrift in a basket in the river, hoping against hope that some fortunate event under God’s divine providence would rescue him when she could no longer keep him safe (2:3). What terror must that mother have felt! She had given up hope, but hoped against hope, Moses’ sister running alongside with youthful expectancy that something could still turn out well (2:4). And, astonishingly, the baby is fished out of the water by Pharaoh’s daughter’s servants (2:5). The daughter of Pharaoh takes a liking to Moses (2:6), and his sister steps in with a quick as a flash idea (2:7): Would you like a nurse? Pharaoh’s daughter agrees, and Moses’ sister goes and gets Moses’ mother (2:8)! Now, Moses’ mother is looking after Moses and being paid for the job (2:9)!
In time to come, though, he will be adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter (2:10). He is, in good preparation for his role of leading a nation, trained in the courts of Pharaoh in all the ways of government and leadership and statesmanlike behavior. Something must be stirring in Moses, knowing he is a Hebrew, and when he sees one of his people being ill-treated (2:11), he steps in as an ill-conceived rescuer. He kills the Egyptian, and hides his sin in the sand (2:12). The next day two other Hebrews are fighting, and when Moses attempts to reconcile them, it is apparent that Moses’ deed is known and so Moses flees to Midian (2:13-15).
There his characteristic tendency to want to rescue again shows itself in protecting the daughters of the priest of Midian from bullies (2:16-17), and as a consequence he is invited into their home, marries one of their daughters, and has a son (2:18-21). Moses’ career as a major figure in world history seems to have come to a premature end.
But, in one of the most beautiful verses in the Bible, God’s people are praying (2:23). And God is listening (2:24-25).
Moses is a shepherd (3:1). How often does the shepherd become the king in the Bible? The shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. God appears to him—we are first told it is the angel of the LORD (3:2), and then that God himself speaks from the burning bush (3:4). Moses encountered the pre-incarnate Christ. He is given his instructions to rescue God’s people, objects with his now more becoming character trait of humility, and is told that the sign he will receive is God’s people will come and serve or worship God at this mountain (3:5-22). Not much of a sign, you might think (and perhaps Moses thought so, for the conversation continues with God), but it echoes the promise to Abram so long ago. Could he really be the rescuer so long ago promised?
“I AM” appears to him (3:14), Yahweh, the Great God of all, and Moses will rescue God’s people and bring them to worship God. Moses meets the True Moses, the True Rescuer, who through Moses rescues God’s people and will one day Himself rescue God’s people from all nations, a Shepherd bringing his sheep into one flock, going after the lost sheep, and causing all people who believe to bow before Him in fear and in joy.
Let us, like the Israelites, call on the LORD to rescue us, and so rejoice in the Redeemer!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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