What Were You Thinking?

Predictable: It’s not what you want from your story plot. Who wants to be thought of as a predictable writer? Unless, of course, you’re Moses, then you want predictability. Or, at least, it seems that he does. In chapter 5 of Exodus, we have the first encounter between Moses and Pharaoh, and it’s not exactly what Moses was hoping for. But the reader is expecting something precisely like this.

And afterward Moses and Aaron came and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.'” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and besides, I will not let Israel go.”

Exodus 5:1-2 NASB

But why? Why is the reader not surprised, but Moses seems to be? Perhaps you’re not sure he is. Okay, then review Moses’ two responses, the first one in verse 3 and the second in verses 22 and 23:

Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, otherwise He will fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.”

Exodus 5:3 NASB

Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have You brought harm to this people? Why did You ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has done harm to this people, and You have not delivered Your people at all.”

Exodus 5:22-23 NASB

The surprising thing about Moses being surprised is that God has already told him that Pharaoh will not let the sons of Israel leave willingly:

“They will pay heed to what you say; and you with the elders of Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ But I know that the king of Egypt will not permit you to go, except under compulsion. So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go.

Exodus 3:18-20 NASB

And yet, Moses seems surprised by Pharaoh’s response. Which is surprising, or it should be. But think back to the discussion Moses and God were having. It was choppy, and Moses kept asking “what if…” questions, and making excuses. Is it possible that Moses stopped listening to God somewhere in the middle of God’s explanation?

Surely, we never do that. Who would refuse to give a burning bush their entire attention, and listen to every single word said? A burning bush has never spoken to you? Then, perhaps there is a danger you didn’t listen to everything your Savior has told you? Let’s be honest, this happens a lot. We will often find a nugget in Scripture, and run, excited about our discovered promise, and charge into a new ministry without listening to the whole… Wait, not you?

Oh, then perhaps we’re more like Moses, formulating our next protest rather than listening to God’s next detail? We read that passage of Scripture that’s supposed to launch us into a ministry, but excuse ourselves because we’re sure it’s for someone else. Still not you? You do read the Bible, right? One of those two things should happen. Either you read and become inspired to act, or you read, and excuse yourself from acting. If you’re not sure, then, by default, you fall into the second one. I’m there a lot with you, so, we can be embarrassed together.

Let’s be honest, we do that. We’re often Moses: surprised that what God told us would happen, actually happens. In this chapter Pharaoh sounds like a parent or mean teacher at school. He ramps up the work because we seem to have time to complain, therefore not enough work to keep us busy. Those of you who have been through basic training in the military should recognize this tactic.

Pharaoh’s response is common sense. Moses’ surprise is not. Our surprise is not. Not paying attention to the Creator of the universe isn’t smart, and we do it all the time. The real blessing in all of this is that God isn’t surprised. He doesn’t berate Moses, look at chapter 6 verse 1. God seems to know Moses wasn’t listening, or, at least He’s not surprised.

He is that way with us as well. When the consequences of not listening to our Creator come to haunt us, God is right there, ready to continue working with us. We excuse ourselves from service, we suffer some sort of loss, and suddenly, there is our Savior, coming alongside to help us minister to others. Oh wait, not you? Seriously? Have you never complained loudly to your Savior? Okay, then, when you did, He listened. Did you? Or, like me at times, did you stomp off and pout first? Either way, He listened, and He is ready to use you again.

How do I know? I wrote this blog entry. And right now, if you’re thinking about God using you in His Kingdom, then, even though I shouted and pouted, God used me in your life. If He is willing to use me, then you’re a shoe-in.


Why The Fuss?

Has God ever done something that simply makes no sense to you? In our lives, much that happens to us, or even around us, is inexplicable. And, in Scripture, every now and then, we stumble onto an instance where the actions of our Creator and Savior make little sense to us. There is one of those in Exodus 4.

Now it came about at the lodging place on the way that the LORD met him and sought to put him to death. Then Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin and threw it at Moses’ feet, and she said, “You are indeed a bridegroom of blood to me.” So He let him alone. At that time she said, “You are a bridegroom of blood “– because of the circumcision.

Exodus 4:24-26 NASB

This happens immediately following a side comment by God to Moses as Moses is preparing to head back to Egypt. There God explains why He intends to eventually kill the firstborn of Egypt. This will eventually be the final “plague”, and later, it will not have this explanation. The verses above pickup the account of Moses as he is on the way back to Egypt.

Like most commentators admit, there is no certainty about why God meets Moses along the way to kill (literally, cause someone to die). In fact, it’s not certain that God meets Moses specifically, but, rather, “him”. It’s the third person singular male pronoun rather than a specific person. The pronoun isn’t emphasized, but is the suffix of the verb “to meet”. That’s not truly helpful though. The problem is that grammatically, it makes more sense to understand that the pronoun has Moses as its antecedent than someone else. That may be confusing but there were other males with Moses, two specifically.

We’re told later that Moses has a second son, Eliezer. And the previous reference to Moses leaving his father-in-law says that he put his “sons” on a donkey, not just one. While his firstborn son, Gershom, we already know of, Eliezer hasn’t been mentioned yet. In fact, Exodus isn’t very forthcoming about Moses family-by-marriage. So, the third-person singular male pronoun could be either one of Moses’ sons, the one Moses’ wife, Zipporah, circumcises. But that’s not as clear as we’d like. It makes a certain amount of sense, though.

Circumcision is a practice of both the sons of Israel and Egyptians. Uncircumcised males were ostracized by both groups (Genesis 17:14). But the penalty for uncircumcision wasn’t death. So, even so, this seems peculiar behavior for the One having sent Moses back to Egypt to deliver the sons of Israel.

So, what does this reveal to us about the One calling us to His purposes, to His plans, and what He deems important? For one thing, He takes His callings and invitations to us very seriously. This seems to be a matter of life and death to God. For another, He is a serious God. Our Creator doesn’t take His relationship with us lightly, nor should we take it lightly. Our relationship with our Creator is life and death business. Think of this statement by Paul:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of  knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and  the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:7 — 11 (NASB)

It’s easy to ignore the clear uncertainty in Paul’s wording in verse 11, but maybe we shouldn’t. Perhaps Paul senses something in his relationship with Jesus that we miss or conveniently ignore. Maybe, for Paul, his relationship with Jesus is a matter of life and death. Look what he says immediately following:

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12 — 14 (NASB)

Notice Paul repeats his view that he hasn’t obtained the resurrection yet. It could be that Paul is pointing out the obvious, that Jesus hasn’t returned yet. But isn’t it more realistic that Paul is pointing out that He does not consider himself qualified for the resurrection? Review the context again, does it sound like he is referring to Jesus appearing? Or have we assumed it’s a reference to Jesus’ return because the alternative is so unsettling? Maybe this One with Whom we have to do is more serious than we think. It seems Paul took Him very seriously.

Perhaps you think Paul is a bit overly fanatical for your tastes. Perhaps you prefer to rely on Jesus’ teaching, as if you will find solace there for this topic. Check out how Luke records the words of Jesus regarding discipleship:

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.

Luke 14:26 NASB

Or perhaps you prefer Matthew:

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.

Matthew 10:37-39 NASB

Sounds like life and death for Jesus as well. Yahweh seeks to bring death into a family where there is disobedience along the path of obedience. Paul strives as if his life depends on his effort to reach Jesus. Jesus calls his disciples, who have already left home and occupation for Him, to hate every other relationship other than Him, or they are not worthy (Matthew) of Him. It’s serious. God is serious. The relationship we have with Jesus is serious, and it seems like God seeks serious people to relate to. It seems as if this “salvation” in which we live is a matter of life and death now, not just in the future, at a judgement, comfortably far off in the future.

And keep in mind, Moses was on his way, albeit reluctantly, to obey God when he was confronted with death from God. Whatever else it may mean, for whatever other reason may have been present, the inescapable fact is that God sought to cause death within Moses’ family. That was His intent, and He relents when Moses’ wife circumcises their son. They escaped divine disaster by the foreskin of their son.

If this feels creepy, good. If you find this unsettling, that’s probably an indicator you’re finally understanding God better. If you are wondering if you really signed up for the right program, then you are finally getting gist of Luke’s depiction of the cost of discipleship (Luke 14:25-33). It’s supposed to be unsettling. Yet, on the other hand, we’re supposed to be focused on making disciples (Matthew 28:19, 20). So, yes, it’s expensive, but, we’re supposed to pony up the cost.

In other words, this unsettling, kind of creepy, Creator of the universe relating to us, not only sacrificed His only Son for this relationship, but expects no less of us. To a bratty selfish entitled culture, that sounds harsh. To so many others around this globe, it makes a lot of sense. For many among the most populous nations of the earth, any expression of faith in Jesus costs them everything. It never occurs to them to take their relationship with Jesus any less serious than He takes it. Maybe it’s time for us to put on a pair of “grown-up-disciple-pants”, lest we too are met along the path of obedience by our Master seeking to cause death.

What’s In A Name

Isn’t a rose, by any other name, still the same, sweet-smelling, flower? We have tried to diminish the importance of names in our society and culture, but I believe we have failed. Anyone attempting to write fiction is faced with how to name characters. Euphony and uniqueness are factors, but also some significance hidden in a name all contribute to the plot. So, what’s in a name these days? Is it different than it was in the days when a burning bush was used to get the attention of an wandering shepherd?

Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations

Exodus 3:13-15 NASB

How cool! God reveals His name to Moses. Now, when he goes to the elders of the sons of Israel, they’ll realize that it truly was the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob Who sent Moses. They’ll recognize the name God gave to Moses as the same one He had given to Abraham, right? Well, not exactly. Even though the name, Yahweh appears in Genesis, even in narrative with Abraham, God makes this assertion to Moses later on in chapter 6:

God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, LORD, I did not make Myself known to them.

Exodus 6:2-3 NASB

God Almighty translates the Hebrew, El-Shaddai (Strong’s H410 + H7706). And it does occur frequently in the account of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But, so does Yahweh (Strong’sH3068). What does that mean? Why would God reveal a new name when asked how to identify Him to the elders of Israel? Why, if the name of God was new, does it appear in the narrative of the Patriarchs? What does this mean for our Creator? What can we learn from Him about Himself? What is He telling us? How can these things be?

This problem doesn’t affect everyone the same. Some are really bothered by it. For others, the answer is fairly simple. For instance, if, as most believe, Moses wrote the first five books (the Pentateuch), then Moses is simply using the name of God with which he is already familiar to refer to the One interacting with Abraham. It sounds pretty simple, right? But, for others, this doesn’t sit well because it seems Abraham uses this name for God (Genesis 22:14) and it can’t be that Moses would put words in Abraham’s mouth that he didn’t actually say, right? Even Sarah refers to this covenant name (Genesis 16:2,5), and Hagar recognizes that Yahweh spoke to her in the desert (Genesis 16:13).

There are various explanations from various quarters, but it doesn’t have to be so complex. It does seem likely, based on Exodus 6, that Moses is using the familiar name he knows, the one which God revealed to him, throughout his writing of his Master. Some things Moses wrote just seem more like this God appearing in a bush refusing to be consumed by fire. When he wrote of such things, he used the name he already knew. When it was personal, caring, a passionate God pursuing a people of His own from among the peoples of the earth, Moses could only think of Yahweh. So, as he wrote Genesis, Moses uses the name he knows for One persistently living among His human creatures.

But why this name? Why a new name? Why not start with El-Shaddai, the familiar name? What makes this new name so important? And why now? Why after 400 years, the latter of which were marked with pain and suffering? What’s in this name? It is important, and unmistakably so. Jesus refers to Himself using the “I AM” reference, John makes the references a thematic element, but they can be found in the other Gospels as well. If Jesus would draw from this name to refer to Himself, why? What is it about this name?

What does it mean? “I AM”. And not only “I AM”, but “I AM Who I AM”. Moses asks for a name, and God gets philosophical on him? Rene Decarte will pursue this philosophical train more than a thousand years later, and arrive at, “I think, therefore I am.” For the Frenchman, the fact that he can even consider his existence forms the basis of his existence. But for God, His existence isn’t based on anything He is able to perform; nothing He has done or achieved forms the basis of His existence. Instead, God is happy to predate Popeye the Sailor, claiming He is what He is. The wisdom of the world’s great philosophy is rejected in favor of the foolishness of a children’s cartoon. Yeah, that sounds just like our Creator-God.

What does our Creator want us to know about Him? He is. And He wants us to know that He is what He says He is, not what we want Him to be. He is Who He is. Moses writes later that we are in His image, not He in ours. This Creator defies images of any sort, for all fall short, none can capture His essence. No animals, no figures, no shapes can represent Him. We seek icons, visual representations of Him, like we use for everything else in our world. But, our Creator defies such iconography. He simply is. What we need to know, more than any other feature of His character, is that He exists.

And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him

Hebrews 11:6 NASB (emphasis mine)

What is it on which our faith is built? Well, actually, it’s hope (see Hebrews 11:1). But what we hope in is the existence of our Creator. We believe that He is, He becomes our hope, our joy, our peace. And, eventually, He becomes our Savior. Jesus says He “is” quite a few times. Perhaps the best example of this, the most inescapable reference to the name God gives Himself to Moses, is in John 8:58:

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”

John 8:58 NASB

John’s quote of Jesus combines an iconic “Amen Amen” saying with an “I AM” saying. It’s huge. Before Abraham was, I AM!” How can you miss that? It was a clear claim to deity by Jesus. He claims that it was He in the bush speaking with Moses. It was He visiting Abraham before completely destroying Sodom and Gomorrah. It was Jesus appearing, promising, and cutting covenants with the Patriarchs. Before the first pen stroke of Genesis, before the first event Moses recorded, Jesus IS.

The name is crucial. It is a memorial name, the name through which our covenant of salvation is traced from Genesis through Revelation. It becomes the name of our Savior. The name He claims for Himself, just as He revealed it to Moses, a new name unknown by the fathers, now the foundational name on which the covenant will be built, both the law and the grace covenants, the Old and the New. The name is everything necessary to know about the Creator, who became our Savior. The name captures what no icon or image ever could. Jesus is LORD, not just our Master. Yahweh lives and reigns having conquered death, seated with the Father, and we have His Spirit as earnest of eternity with Him. From Moses through the end, our Savior IS.

So, this day, and tomorrow, and the day after, your Savior IS. When the storm of life rages around you, your Savior already IS. Before that dark danger you see approaching ever was a thought or fear, your Savior already IS. Later on, when you can’t imagine what the future holds, next week or the next decade, your Savior IS. Are you experiencing joy today? Do you expect joy right around the corner? Even before the joy found you, your Savior IS. His timing is perfect because it is always present. Your past and your future are all caught up in His present, the present of your Savior. Forgiveness is past and future, all in His present. The mercy and grace of the cross is past and future, all in His present. And the power of His resurrection is at work in us, past and future, all in His present. There is no need for fear, for all our unknowns are swallowed up in His present. He is our Savior, for all time, for every situation, for every person. He IS.

Getting Off Track

One of the problems with daily life is how it gets us off the track of our daily walk. Our Creator wants to walk with us in His garden in the cool of the day. But, often, our needs and tasks of a day keep us from such walks. We’re busy, and often too busy for our Creator.

Of course, there are times, rare precious times, when our Creator no longer waits for the walks to be our idea, and He invades our day:

Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.  The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “ I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:1 — 4 NASB)

Moses is in the wilderness, shepherding sheep. He used to walk the halls of Pharaoh’s palace, and ride chariots. He even tried to help his people once, but only once, which nearly cost him his life. Now, he’s on the run from his grandfather who wants to kill him, sojourning among a strange people. But he’s started a family, he’s making a good life of it here, he’s accepted his circumstances. Of course now Yahweh intervenes in his life, wants to disrupt everything, and is concerned for the Hebrews. Where was He 40 years ago?

You’ve never been there? You’ve never felt like a foreigner in a foreign land? Never tried to make the best of your circumstances by settling in for the duration? Never figured resistance was fruitless? That’s truly a shame. Because we’re all strangers in a strange land. And some of us have settled in for the duration. It’s probably the other people at your church, not you. In many ways it’s me. If it’s not you, you are free to move on to the next blog.

I tell people my occupation when I asked who I am. The truth is, actually, I am different than my occupation. Hopefully, that’s true for you as well. I’m a theologian and teacher. I am those things because my Creator has called me and designed me for those things. Moses was a deliverer of the Hebrews because that’s what his Creator created him for. Who are you?

Like me, you may be in dire need of a distracting bush fire. At first, it will seem disruptive. People, probably your family, will consider you an idiot for being distracted. There will be pressure to go back to settling in for the duration. And yet, the Creator calls, once He notices that He has your attention. “Moses, Moses!” The question, the challenge, before us is, at that point, will we respond as Moses, saying, “Behold, I!” When you say it, bowing on the ground, it feels different than it does reading it. It seems odd, until you try it. Almost all translations have, “Here I am!” And that’s weird enough. Try the Hebrew idiom, though, and try it from the position of bowing face down on the floor. It’s still weird, but somehow right.

What will we do? How will we respond? Do you see the bush on fire? Are you distracted enough to check it out? Do you hear the voice, calling your name? The choice is there, right there: continue making the best of a bad situation, or turn aside to the created purpose. Will we be what we were designed for, or will we continue to be strangers, making our way in a strange land?

Divine Knowledge

God, our Creator and Savior, is scandalous by modern standards. In our day, we accuse our leaders of various crimes, asking “What did he know, and when did he know it?” In Exodus, we find God working through midwives who feared Him in chapter 1, but then we find this curious statement at the end of chapter 2:

Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice of them.

Exodus 2:23-25 NASB

The drama of this passage has been obscured by most translators throughout history. If it were to be rewritten in a more literal style, it would read as follows (same words above, but without any additional text):

Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God saw the sons of Israel, and God knew.

Perhaps it’s a small thing, but the last phrase is typically changed to include what God knew. Only the English Standard Version seems content to not have to interpret that phrase. Think through those phrases: God heard, God remembered, God saw, and God knew. It gives me chills to recite them. It is in response to the groaning and crying out of His people, and something begins to move, to happen, to change. Something massive, and impossible to impede or divert, has started to change the course of the lives of an entire people. I suppose, technically, two peoples.

Why do we feel the need to complete the phrase, and guess what it was that God knew? Isn’t it somewhat scandalous that the Creator and God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob only remembers His covenant after the king dies? Why not before? Why didn’t He know before? Perhaps, the problem isn’t in our understanding of God, but rather, our understanding of the verb, “to know”. Look up the word used here.

It’s the basic Hebrew word for knowing something. It encompasses knowledge from experience, intimacy (including physical intimacy), conventional learning, and common knowledge. The writer here didn’t differentiate. God knew. He heard their groaning, remembered His covenant, saw the sons of Israel, and He knew. It’s supposed to sound peculiar. I think the writer is drawing all of the meaning of “to know” into this description of Yahweh’s character.

When we cry out to our Master, do we believe that He hears us? Sometimes it may seem like we have a hard time getting His attention. It may seem like He doesn’t hear, doesn’t remember, doesn’t see, and doesn’t know. From this passage, that seems what has happened to the sons of Israel while they were enslaved under the king of Egypt. But, that’s not the only option here.

All the verbs for God hearing, remembering, seeing, and knowing are completed action. The timing of the king’s death suggests that these actions were completed after the king died, but is that necessarily true? The king dies after Moses is born, after he tries to help his brothers, and after he escapes into the wilderness. It seems the wheels of God’s work are already turning, so what does this passage tell us about God’s character?

What I learn from it is that my Master already hears, remembers, sees, and knows. I may cry out today, but He has already heard my cry. I may plea for Him to remember His promises to me, but He already has. I may try to get His attention so He will see me, but He already has seen me. And the most important thing I desire of my Master is for Him to know me. And He already does.

God knew. On the most intimate, visceral, complete, and thorough level of all that word means, God already knows me. And He knows you. Do you cry out to Him? Does He seem to be ignoring you, your plight, circumstances, not hearing your prayers, nor remembering His promises to you, not seeing you, and doesn’t seem to know what’s going on in your life? Trust me, God knows, and has known. Before you cried out, before His promises, before your circumstances, God knew.

Paul claims he has learned the secret of being content in every circumstance. That’s a lot easier to learn when we are convinced that our Savior knows. So, cry out to our Master, remember His promises, and remember that He has always known.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation

The Rebellious Daughter

I have a daughter. She used to be rebellious. I would tell her do so something, but I knew nothing. Things were different for her than when I was her age, and so on. There was a lot of helplessness as my wife and I watched her make decisions she’s still paying for. Pretty much like every parent. She was pretty much like a lot of kids. Apparently, she was also like Pharaoh’s daughter.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”

Exodus 2:5-6 NASB

So, daddy, the supreme ruler of all Egypt, tells all Egyptians to throw Hebrew male babies into the Nile. And they seem to do exactly that. All except for his own daughter. She took pity on the crying baby she found by the River where she went to bathe. And, come to think of that, what about that? What are the odds that it was intentional, and that this rebellious daughter was setup? Pretty good, actually:

The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was beautiful, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to find out what would happen to him.

Exodus 2:2-4 NASB

His mother puts him into a water-proof basket, puts the basket in the reeds (i.e. along the shoreline), and sets her daughter to see what happens next. And if you’re still not sure that this is a setup of this wayward progeny of the king, see what happens after the princess finds the baby:

Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew women that she may nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Go ahead.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.

Exodus 2:7-9 NASB

So, instead of losing her son to the Nile, this Levite woman ends up getting paid to nurse him. Which is exactly what she wanted to do in the first place. And then, of course, he’s raised away from the chain-gang of is fellow Hebrews. What mother wouldn’t prefer that? You seriously think this wasn’t “arranged” by “mom”? It’s just an observation, but Moses, Aaron, and Miriam come from a very shrewd mother. And, I suspect they learned well from her.

But notice something else. The mother knew this was a viable option. Somehow, the daughter of Pharaoh seemed a good “mark” for this act of manipulation. How did she know? What was known about the princess that made this seem like a possibility? Not sure if there is something to that? Then look at how this story progresses:

The child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, “Because I drew him out of the water.”

Exodus 2:10 NASB

Did you notice that Pharaoh’s okay with this? His daughter suddenly has a child, a Hebrew child, a Hebrew male child. To be clear, how would anyone in the court of Pharaoh miss that? His own daughter not only disobeyed him, but that now these feared and despised people have a “prince” in the royal court. If everyone seems okay with this, then is it possible that this policy of feeding Hebrew male babies to the Nile wasn’t popular?

We sometimes forget that the Egyptians were made up of more than a king, a Pharaoh. Real people with families and pets and jobs, and in-laws, and so on, made up the people of Egypt. It could not have been easy to carry out the Pharaoh’s edict. Perhaps, it was thought that this one, saved from among the doomed, was a small token of favor toward an otherwise hopeless people. Moses may have become the sop for the guilty feelings of the Egyptians, helping them make up for the horror.

Clearly, we don’t know, no one does. There are a host of other options, many much simpler than this one. Yet, this one is a possibility too. Sure, one among many, but still, a viable possibility. Let’s pretend for a moment that it’s the right one, it’s true. What would that reveal to you about the character of your Savior? What does His use of guilty feelings in a people opposed to Him tell you about His work in your life?

We see people opposed to us as enemies. Yet, our Savior calls us to pray for our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who persecute us. Paul says that it “heaps burning coals on their heads.” (Romans 12:19-21). How is that possible if they have no “feelings of compassion”? If they don’t care, it won’t bother them. The only way this works is if they have the capacity for compassion, and can feel remorse.

That this rebellious princess exists, that she’s allowed to rebel this way, should tell us that there is hope for the Egyptians. Think about that. These people have mercilessly oppressed the Hebrews, yet, for Yahweh, there’s hope for them. There’s at least the capacity for Him to use their compassion for His own purposes and ends. No one can’t be used by our Creator. It’s just a simple biblical truth. But some have a capacity to be use to accomplish extraordinary things, like saving the chosen deliverer of the sons of Israel from the Nile. You just never know.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation

Exception-al Hebrew

Have you ever known someone for whom the normal rules of humanity don’t seem to apply? It’s not necessarily that they get special privileges, as much as they seem to be able to escape the consequences. The ones I find most frustrating are those who aren’t doing it intentionally, they are mostly oblivious to the incongruity.

Moses is one of those, sort of. He is supposed to die as a Hebrew boy as soon as he is born. The Egyptians are supposed to throw him into the Nile, possibly feed him to Nile crocodiles. And yet, instead, he is placed in a basket, and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Now, keep in mind, this whole time, everyone knows he is a Hebrew, and that he’s escaping the normal fate of other Hebrew boys:

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the Nile, with her maidens walking alongside the Nile; and she saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid, and she brought it to her. When she opened it, she saw the child, and behold, the boy was crying. And she had pity on him and said, “This is one of the Hebrews’ children.”

Exodus 2:5-6 NASB

An exception is made for Moses, almost immediately. He is a Hebrew boy who is allowed to live, and allowed by the very people killing all the rest. It’s obvious, but it’s not fair. Not is it obviously not fair, but both Hebrews and Egyptians seem okay with this. So, it is doubly not fair. Not to add insult to injury, but the Creator of the universe is also okay with it, so perhaps it becomes triply unfair. Yet, this exception to the rule is part of His purpose.

It’s possible that if this were the only exception Moses receives, it would be merely interesting, but not obnoxious. The exceptions don’t stop here. Remember that everyone knew he was a Hebrew? It wasn’t like Charlton Heston in the Ten Commandments, it was a well known fact that Moses wasn’t an Egyptian. Notice the entire absence of any “discovery” by Moses in the passage below:

Then Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him. The child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. And she named him Moses, and said, “Because I drew him out of the water.” Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren.

Exodus 2:9-11 NASB

These paranoid Egyptians, who want to subjugate the Hebrews for national security reasons, then allow an entitled one of their own to move among them. So, what happened to the national security issue? It seems an exception was made to their paranoid policy in the case of Moses. Perhaps these Egyptians figured they had “bought Moses off” with the riches of his entitled adoption as “grandson of Pharaoh”. But it’s clear they hadn’t “bought him off” at all. Moses commits murder on behalf of his people, leading to another exception.

He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?” But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.” When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.

Exodus 2:13-15 NASB

Here Moses intercedes, knowing which one of the two is the offender. That’s the first surprise, but the second is the extortion used by the offender (making him truly offensive – pun intended). He knows Moses killed the Egyptian, and uses that knowledge against this powerful grandson of Pharaoh. But notice Moses notices the matter has become known, but doesn’t run until Pharaoh finds out. Did you miss the “exception”?

It can’t be that only this offensive Hebrew knew of the death of the Egyptian. The Hebrews apparently knew, but said nothing. Were they hoping that Moses would do more? Were they waiting to see if he would lead them against Egyptians? We don’t know why only that they made an exception in the case of Moses, and didn’t inform their task masters about him.

Well, obviously, the secret eventually was made known to Pharaoh, and he sought to kill Moses, and Moses flees (again, not so much like the movie). Which leads to the next exception. Why wasn’t Moses pursued? I’m pretty sure the paranoid Egyptians wouldn’t tolerate a loose murder from the Hebrews being allowed to roam free. And yet, they do, and he does. And the exceptions are allowed to continue. Only the next one isn’t necessarily in his favor.

Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock. When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “Why have you come back so soon today?” So they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.” He said to his daughters, “Where is he then? Why is it that you have left the man behind? Invite him to have something to eat.”

Exodus 2:16-20 NASB

It seems the heroic Moses was left behind by the very people he helped…again. First the Hebrews sell him out, meaning he has to flee. And then the daughters of the priest of Midian leave him behind after he defends them, and waters their sheep. It seems that sometimes exceptions don’t always work in our favor. Some consequences are good, and sometimes those consequences are excepted as well.

Hopefully the lesson here becomes obvious to us. In the economy of our Master, we don’t always get the consequences of our actions, good or bad. Grace works in God’s favor, for it is His favor that grace contains. In so many ways, we too are exceptional, in that we receive exceptions to the normal rules from our Master. It’s not that everyone is okay with that, but that we become okay with it, both as we discover it about ourselves, but also as we find it in others.

And, to continue the application, we are to treat others with the same exceptions we receive from our Savior. His mercy and His grace we so freely receive from Him, this becomes the content of our communion with our fellow disciples. Sometimes these exceptions work in our favor, and sometimes, we need to let our Master define the favor for us. And so, our fellow disciples may misunderstand us, and we may suffer for the good we do them. This too becomes an exception we receive from the hand of our Master, who was also misunderstood, and suffered at their hands.

Who is more exceptional than our Savior, He who gathers plain people and makes exceptions for them, transforming them into exceptional people? Pretty crazy, huh? Or is it just extraordinarily exceptional?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation