We have to begin this chapter with the end of chapter 4. We read that Moses and Aaron went to visit the people of Israel while they are yet in Egypt. As they visit with the people, whom Moses hasn’t seen in decades, they believed the words that they uttered, that God was going to get them out of this mess. As a result of this belief, that God is going to act, not that Moses is with them, but that God is going to act, the Scripture tells us that they bowed down and worshiped. The motivation to worship God was a result of “when they heard that the Lord had given heed to the Israelites and that he had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.” Sometimes we just need to know that God cares.
In this chapter we see God kind of become the bad guy. Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh and ask for a very reasonable request. Let us go into the wilderness for 3 days to worship God. They do not ask that Pharaoh set their people free. That is what we think Moses asks. Let my people go! Should really be: Let my people go for three days and then we will be right back…, but that isn’t what we historically have thought. Pharaoh isn’t excited about letting the Israelites go, and in fact questions who this God is. He sees this request as manifestation of the laziness of the Israelites who just don’t want to work hard.
So he makes them work harder. He takes away their straw, has their Jewish foremen beaten when they don’t produce the same amount of bricks as before, and calls them lazy, lazy. Every since Moses shows up, Pharaoh has become a bit of an ogre and the people of Israel are not happy about that. Things were going fine before you came along. In fact, if you turn to vs.22-23 that is exactly what Moses tells the Lord. Ever since you sent me, Lord, Pharaoh has mistreated the people of Israel far worse than they were treated before I came. You haven’t done anything to deliver your people. I love this story. Even Moses takes the side against God. God is about to deliver, but things can’t work out the way that we think or expect. They have to work out the way God wants them to. Hold on, and we will be getting there.
Some of you expressed anticipation over what might come next in the Exodus story. Yes, Exodus is a story, and it weaves intrigue and mystery all throughout. Chapter 4 takes us a bit on a journey and gives us a foretaste of what is going to come next.
Moses is still speaking with the Lord and has already given him two good reasons as to why he is not the right person to lead the mission that God wants him to lead. The first two objections that we see in chapter 3 are that 1) who am I that I shall go, I’m a nobody. Answer: I’ll be with you. 2) who shall I say sent me? The answer: I am. Now objections 3 and 4 are next in this chapter. 3) They will not believe, how am I to prove that I am your messenger? Answer: I will give you a staff and other miraculous signs to show that I am with you. 4) I can’t speak, I stutter and no one will listen to me. Answer: Okay, now I’m really mad, but just because you asked, I will let you go with Aaron who is quite well versed and glib. He can help you out.
If you pick up at vs.21-23 you will be able to see that we have a direct reference to God taking the firstborn sons of all the Egyptians. This is even before he goes into Egypt we hear that this is going to happen. It is nice to get a sneak peek of what is coming up, especially in light of a terrible plague. I can’t imagine losing a child. That comes next…
We also have the very strange account of Moses being attacked by God. It isn’t the first time we see people wrestling or fighting with God. Remember Jacob and his wrestling match? Look back over Genesis 32:22ff. Here Moses is saved by his wife who was in the process of circumcising their son (not great timing) when the attack took place. She takes the foreskin and touches the feet of Moses.
Okay, we are going to launch into a PG-13 version of the Bible. When you hear the term “feet” in Old Testament Scripture in somewhat awkward and unusual circumstances, such as this one, know that it is historically in Hebrew a euphemism for genitals. There, I said it, but it is true. I don’t have any deep meaning for why his wife would do this, and certainly don’t have any insight into why this would prevent God’s attack on Moses, but it worked. I’ll let you sort that out on your own. I’m done with this topic. I bet you’ll read Isaiah 7:20 differently now. Trust me, it is a euphemism.
We find ourselves at the defining moment of Exodus. The story of the burning bush is one that is recited often. Sunday School classes consider it a favorite, I always tell the story of the burning bush at preschool. We love to hear how God reveals himself to Moses in a way that is miraculous. But do we ever wonder if it happens to us as well? How does God reveal Himself to us? It really isn’t normally in ways that we can identify easily, like a burning bush. As a result we sometimes say: if God revealed himself to me that way then of course I would have more faith and I would do what he has to say.
But what part of our life are we currently misinterpreting as if we are autonomous and living by ourselves? How do we not see that God is revealing himself to us daily?
We find God’s name revealed to Moses. He is called “I am”. In case Pharaoh wants to know which God it is that sent you, tell him “I am” sent you. It is an indication that there is no other God other than the one that we worship. This is crucial, we need to understand that the God that we serve is not a God of pluralism, but rather a God who is one, and only one. The God who calls himself “I am” is the one who rules and reigns and there is no other.
From Exodus 3 we are reminded of the promise of the land of milk and honey. But that promise is going to be realized by God using Moses to free the people of Israel from slavery. Moses objects, but God insists in these verses. Do you notice that God says that not only are you going to liberate the people of Israel, but when you leave you will actually plunder the land. That part of Scripture is one that I don’t understand, but I just keep reading.
Chapter 2 of Exodus takes us on a fast paced journey through Moses’ life. We heard about the historical framework in which the people of Israel were living. They were slaves. They were to have their boys killed upon birth. We then hear about the story of Moses. His father is a Levite priest, so a man of the cloth, a pastor. His mom is a pastor’s kid, also a Levite. Once Moses is born a plan is hatched and it is carried out to completion. Moses is put into a basket and placed in the Nile with sis watching the whole time.
God prepares Moses and places him in the position where all he has to do is listen to His will and follow along, and then things will work out the way that God has planned. But then Moses wants to take things into his own hands by punishing an Egyptian for hurting one of his people. He actually kills the Egyptian and as a result becomes a persona non grata for Pharaoh. It is an important reminder that God has things under control and He is moving things so that His people will be able to go into the promised land. But Moses tries to take matters into his own hands, as if he knows better than God.
It is interesting that these verses end with God remembering the people of Israel, taking notice of them, and remembering the promises that God made with the people of Israel. It is nice to know that God remembers us.
We ended our last challenge with Genesis and the incredible story of Joseph and his brothers and how they were all able to make it to Egypt and as a result the people and the nation of Israel was saved. I was somewhat convicted today in our young couples Sunday School class in the study that we are going over. We are going through Experiencing God and it reminded me today that the story of Joseph is not really about Joseph. The story of Moses that we are going to be seeing in Exodus, really isn’t about Moses. As a pastor there is a part of me that wants to make it about these incredible protagonists because they shine bright in Scripture.
But the more I focus on these human protagonists the less God is revealed and the less it becomes about God and the more it becomes about us. If Joseph had not been the one who continued God’s plan in Genesis, God would have found someone else. If Moses had not carried out God’s plans, and he does it kicking and screaming as we see later, God’s plans would have still been carried out, but by someone else. We never, every should think that the plans of God absolutely depend upon us. They do not. God is able to bring about all things through God’s means. Look at Mary and how a child was conceived in her. God did not need a man, God did not even need a woman, but he chose to use a woman who eventually gave up her will and her desires for that of her Lord.
As we make our way through Exodus we are going to see incredible people of God, but we should never think that God’s plans were reliant upon these people or else it would not have happened. God chose these people, but he could have just as easily chosen someone else and God’s plans would not have varied.
As we begin Exodus we see the generation of Joseph and all of his brothers pass away. As a result the protection that they provided also passes away and a new king, a new Pharaoh comes around who was threatened by the numbers of the Israelites. They had truly becomes, as God had promised Abraham, more than the stars of the sky. As a result Pharaoh commands that all male Hebrew children be killed. The midwives had different plans, but the command still stands. The stage is set for God to work through Moses.
Dear FPC family and friends,
It is hard to believe that we started our challenges back in January of 2016. We made our way through the Gospels in our first 90 Days, then we embarked on a journey that would allow us to finish the New Testament, make baby steps in the Old Testament, and throw open the door to another 90 days that will begin on April 15. In this 90 Day Challenge we will be reading through Exodus, Leviticus, Ezra and Nehemiah.
You can follow along on the daily blog that I keep at: http://www.straspres.org/90-day-challenge-2. In this challenge you will find some of the greatest stories ever told. We will follow along with Moses and the entire nation of Israel as they make their way out of Egypt and head toward the promised land. We will slog our way through the Levitical laws which were given to the people of Israel in order to keep them a separate people and pure and undefiled in order to serve the Lord. We will look at two of the minor prophets who saw the nation of Israel while it was under siege and in captivity in Babylon and then again as they make their gradual way back to the promised land.
In these readings we will find ourselves in two very different time periods for the nation of Israel, and yet the theme remains the same: God is faithful. Say that out loud if you would like to: God is faithful. So often we identify ourselves with either nationalistic goals, or family aspirations, or work related dreams and forget that if we focus upon the purpose that God has in store for us, then we will be able to see His faithfulness and live fully into that faithfulness.
These readings will set the groundwork for pretty much all of what we have seen which drove Jesus in his traditions and his family to worship in the temple and to follow the Creator in the way in which they did. From the holiest of days in the Jewish calendar (Passover) to the general understanding of what is kosher and what is not, these Scriptures provide for us a contextual background that is invaluable, while at the same time reinforcing the faithfulness of our Trinitarian God.
I hope you are enriched by these readings while at the same time challenged by trying to understand how God is still at work in your life teaching you through these Scriptures which at first glance might seem bound to the time period in which they were written. I pray that you are able to apply the teachings that you are about to read in a multiplicity of ways. Enjoy these next 90 days.
Your servant in Christ,
Our challenge comes to an end, and the story of Joseph comes to end, but his name is mentioned again in Exodus 1 as a new king takes over who did not know Joseph. But before that Pharaoh comes into place we find Joseph more Egyptian than Israelite. He dies in Egypt and is buried in Egypt, probably in one of those big pyramid thingys, but he makes his brothers promise that when they leave Egypt that they will take his bones and bury them with the rest of his ancestors. I don’t think we ever find out if that actually happens.
The most interesting part of this chapter for me is how his brothers now seem to have a renewed sense of fear now that their father has passed away. Maybe, just maybe, Joseph is going to think that because dad is gone I can finally get my vengeance against my brothers. It is probably a similar thought that Jacob had when he was faced with the prospect of meeting his brother Esau. Maybe Esau will look to harm me because of the wrong that I did to him. But instead we see Esau cry on Jacob’s neck when they meet.
Joseph does something similar. When his brothers approach him and make up a story about Jacob telling them to ensure that their brother Joseph would not harm them he breaks down. They tell Joseph that their father commanded them to ask Joseph to forgive them. Once again Joseph repeats to them what he told them in chapter 45 that “even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today.” He is reminding them that God paved the way for Joseph to get to Egypt so that the entire people of Israel could be saved. In fact, Joseph tells his brothers, that is exactly what has happened. Because of their evil action God has been able to work a miracle. No, don’t take that thought to its unfortunate conclusion, but in this case it works for Joseph as he tries to console his frightened brothers.
Well, we are done. This challenge is over.
On Ash Wednesday another challenge begins. You will find it below.
Then Jacob blessed his sons with a suitable blessing. Did you read some of these blessings? Here is an excerpt from some of them: “You shall no longer excel…”, “May I never come into their council…”. It seems like he begins his blessings for three of his children with curses, and then loosens up and blesses his other nine children with what we would call real blessings. Joseph absolutely gets bombarded with a blessing that not many would be able to uphold. But he has big shoulders, he is able to carry that blessing as he seems to have carried it already up to now. It really does seem that upon the shoulders of Joseph does the nation of Israel, does the person of Jacob, place its trust.
Jacob makes it clear where he is to be buried, because I am sure that there is a part of him that is afraid that he is going to be put in one of those gigantic pyramids instead of being buried with his whole family in a simple way near Bethlehem. Okay, so I’m making some of that up, but I could see him being concerned for that, especially since he gives directives over and over again where he needs to be buried. It was important for them that they be buried along with the rest of their ancestors.
For us it is not important where or how we are buried. We believe that once we die then we are with Jesus and what remains has no eternal impact on us. If we are cremated or buried across the sea, or even in the sea, if we are far away from our family, none of that matters. We will all be with Jesus once we die.
Here we find the blessing of the sons of Joseph by Jacob. We read that Joseph hears that his father is ill so he goes too see him and brings his boys along too. It seems like this is the first time that Jacob is in the presence of his grandsons through Joseph. He tells Joseph that he didn’t expect to see him again, and now he not only sees him but his children as well. When he blesses Ephraim and Manasseh we find that he puts his right hand on the younger boy which signals a special favor and a special blessing.
Joseph tries to correct his father thinking that since he can’t see well he has mistaken the two, while in fact his father knew exactly what he was doing. He says no Joseph, it is Ephraim, the younger, who will receive the same blessing as I received, the same blessing as my ancestors Isaac and Abraham received. Joseph should have expected that since Isaac was the younger, Jacob was the younger, and he himself, Joseph, was the younger next to Benjamin. And so we see that the progeny and the promise continues through more generations. It seems to skip a generation from that of Jacob to that of the children of Joseph while none of the children of Jacob receive that same blessing. Those blessings are coming up in the next chapter.