Am I an Israelite??? Part One

I’m being facetious. I already know I am not an Israelite. But I see a lot of myself within the Israelites in Exodus.

Before I begin, I must say I have been feeling bad about myself for the past couple of weeks for not getting into the Word as heavily as I would have liked. It has been reflected in my attitude. I have been short-tempered, particularly with my kids, and I have been deficient in joy. I have been going through the routines that make up my day, with little or no pleasure attached to most of the tasks I do. Again, I am very happy I am working again, but I wonder if I have overloaded myself.

However, I will not waste any more time talking about the things that must be done tomorrow. I would much prefer to get to Exodus, as I have been eagerly planning to do for the past couple of weeks, to no avail 😦

Recap:

The glory days associated with Joseph are long gone. He has died, but his and his brothers have been fruitful and multiplied many times over. The Israelites have spread out all over Egypt, and this threatens the power of the new Pharaoh, a man who was installed only after invading Egypt, and thus is far removed from Joseph. He orders the Israelites enslaved, yet they still prosper, so his next plan of action is to have all Hebrew baby boys killed upon birth. The Hebrew midwives refuse, so Pharaoh moves on to Plan C: To have all newborn Hebrew boys thrown into the Nile River (which was, incidentally, considered a god and subject to worship in Egyptian culture, as it was thought of as life, since water is, of course, necessary for life).

The tribe of Levi has not yet been set aside as the priestly tribe, but it is interesting to note that the Bible specifically states in Exodus 2, right at the beginning, that Moses’s parents were indeed from the tribe of Levi. Moses’s mother was able to keep him hidden for three months, but undoubtedly as he got bigger–and probably louder–she was unable to continue on with her new son. She made a basket out of papyrus reeds and waterproofed it with tar. Can you imagine being a mother and putting your baby in a hand-woven basket and putting him on the long Nile River? I can only imagine the measure of faith it took Moses’s mother to be able to do that. I would have been heartbroken, but I digress.

Here we learn that Moses had a sister, as it says in Exodus 2:4 “The baby’s sister stood at a distance, watching to see what would happen to him”. We do not know how old she was, and I can only wonder what she was thinking. I pictured my own two children in this situation (if there was a reverse situation). My son would freak out if I were to put his beloved baby sister in a basket and put her on a river.

By no coincidence–and by that I mean that God was intervening the entire time here–Pharaoh’s daughter came out to bathe in the river right as Moses was floating along. She has her servant retrieve the basket, and upon opening it, discovers a crying baby Hebrew boy. They know right away he is a Hebrew–perhaps his skin coloring was different than the native Egyptians.

Here is a part I like, and again I wonder how old Moses’s sister was.

Moses’s sister approaches Pharaoh’s daughter and says the following:

“Should I go find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for you”?

When she gets an affirmative response, of course the sister goes and finds her mother.

I wonder how long Moses had been floating before he was reunited with his sister and mother? There was no way Moses’s mother could have known that she would recover him safely ever again–except if she were standing on faith. But I can only imagine how she felt when her baby boy was placed back in her arms. GLORY! God had something special in store for this baby!

Not only does Moses’s mother get to see that her son is well, the princess offers to pay her for taking care of the baby–her own son! However, things must continue as they are, and when Moses is old enough to be weaned, his mother returns him to the princess, and she names him Moses: “For I have lifted him out of the water”.

Is this possibly a parallel to our Christian life? When we first confess the Lord, we are baptized, and when we are lifted out of the water, we are still yet a babe. We must be taken in by a seasoned saint, first fed milk, then as we grow, given more and more of the “meat” of the Word.

Moses does not grow up like the rest of his Hebrew brethren–he lives a life of privilege inside Pharaoh’s home. My question is, if the princess had known he was a Hebrew baby, how come he was not later killed? Did the princess intercede on the baby’s behalf? Why did Pharaoh allow him to live? I am sure GOD had everything to do with that, but the Bible does not go into any specifics. It is just pure curiosity. Of course, the princess could have known Moses was a Hebrew baby simply because he was floating on the river–there would have been no reason for an Egyptian to conceal a baby (well, I can think of a few with my 21st century brain, but I’ll move on)–but I think that most likely she recognized Moses as being Hebrew because of his looks.

Anyhoo, Moses finally ventures out among his Hebrew brothers and sisters and sees how poorly they are being treated. While he is out–and mind you, he is forty years old by now–he sees one of his Hebrew brethren being mistreated by an Egyptian, and in a haste, kills him and hides his body, thinking no one has seen the evil deed. The next day, Moses again ventures out to see his Hebrew people, and finds two of them fighting. In an attempt to break up the fight, Moses says, “Why are you beating up your friend?” The man who started the fight responds harshly, pretty much wondering who Moses thinks he is: “Who appointed you judge and jury”? (paraphrased).

And what the man says next is almost comical. What is done in the dark always comes to the light.

He asks Moses, “Are you going to kill me like you did that Egyptian the other day?”

Uh-oh!

Until that very minute, Moses probably thought he had gotten away with murder, literally. In the Scriptures before, it is said that Moses looked in all directions before he committed the murder. Obviously he did not see anyone. Just because he did not see anyone did not mean no one was watching. We as Christians today must remember that as well. Even if we sin in the comfort of our home, someone knows. First, God knows. And second, someone saw you when you were at the liquor store getting that bottle of vodka, or someone walked by your apartment and smelled the faint odor of weed. Someone KNOWS. Someone SEES. If you are living sinfully, it WILL come to the forefront, and usually in the most humiliating way possible.

I’ll bet this was a humiliating and humbling experience for Moses. He was doing a pretty bad job at “fitting in”. He was already the object of much scorn, and can you blame the Hebrews for that? He had gotten off easy, so to speak, while they were living in conditions of hard labor and physical abuse. Now after forty years, he comes out of his palatial surroundings, kills ONE Egyptian, and expects cool points? Nah.

Only now, upon hearing about the murder, does Pharaoh try to kill Moses. Moses is forced to flee to the land of Midian. Once there, Moses happens upon a well where the priest’s seven daughters are chased away by shepherds as they attempt to draw water for their flocks. Moses rescued the girls from the shepherds… it is kind of unclear what the shepherds were doing, exactly… and draws water for their flocks. Apparently this tasks usually takes several hours, because when the girls return home, their father asks, “How’d you get done so fast?” (paraphrased). At that time, the girls tell their father that “an Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds”.

Just random thoughts… I guess this father had no sons to do the work for him that his daughters were doing, and it is obvious by the girls’ response that these shepherds have made it a pattern to harass them when they go to the trough.

Back to the story.

Of course the priest, Reuel, wants to know who this man was who saved his daughters and drew water. Moses is invited to eat with the family, and is given Zipporah as his wife. Later, she gives birth to a son, Gershom. Years pass, and Pharaoh dies, but the Hebrews are still enslaved. They cried out to God for help, and He hears them. It is time to act.

One day, as Moses is tending to his father-in-law’s flocks, God appears to him as a burning bush (one of his many theophanies).

Sidebar: The Bible says here that Moses’s father-in-law is Jethro, yet we already know of his name being Reuel. Is this a contradiction?? Nope. One of the names is thought of as being his proper name, while the other aligns more with his priestly title. A little bit of research has shown me that Jethro was taken to mean “His excellence”, which makes it even clearer. It is almost synonymous to referring to a king or queen as “your majesty”, for nations that have an earthly king, I suppose, or even referring to a judge as “your honor”.

Back to this burning bush…

This bush defied all concepts of organic chemistry, biology, common sense, etc… The bush burned and burned but never burned completely! It just remained aflame, but intact. Of course when Moses sees this, he is drawn to the bush, and God speaks to him from it: He tells Moses to come closer, but to remove his sandals, as he is on holy ground. He reveals himself as God, and Moses immediately covers his face, because to see God is to be dead! God tells Moses that he has seen how his people are suffering, and it is time for them to be delivered to the land of milk and honey! He tells Moses in Exodus 3:10: “Now go, I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people out of Egypt”.

Now we see the importance of Moses having been raised in close proximity to Pharaoh. I definitely need to research this, but here is my first assumption:

Moses, being educated by the Egyptians, spoke their language, and, having been raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, was in a better position to interface with Pharaoh than any of the other Israelites.

I cannot blame Moses for his response. I think it came from humility as well as disobedience. My reaction would have been the same! “Who am I to do something so important?” “They won’t listen to me! I’m not that eloquent!”

But look at what God says: “I will be with you”.

That should be all the assurance we need. If God has decreed it, it will not fail. If God makes a promise, then he is going to honor it! But notice what God does NOT say… he does not say it will be easy! He just says, “I will be with you.” This is something else we also need to remember throughout our daily lives. I get so sick of reading news outlets when bad things happen, and out come the non-believers wondering why God would allow such a thing to happen. Nowhere in the Bible does it say Christians are exempt from bad things. A mature Christian understands that this world is not for us, and we should never expect a smooth ride. But what we SHOULD know, with one hundred percent confidence, is that God is with us!

A woman at my church lost her mother recently. She has handled the matter with more grace and courage than I think I could muster upon such a happening. She even stood before us all during our Women in Red program (I believe she was one of the organizers, if not the primary chairperson), and declared that she was confident that her mother was okay. She did not say it was easy, but she knew that God was with her–and her mother. THAT makes this hard life easier.

There is a bit more back-and-forth between God and Moses–again, I can’t say that I blame him for his attempt at refusing such a daunting task–and God tells Moses to assemble the elders of Israel and relay the message that Moses has been chosen to lead the people out of bondage. God has obviously prepared the elders for this, as he tells Moses: “The elders will accept your message”. When they have been won over, Moses and the elders are to approach Pharaoh and ask for a three-day Sabbatical of sorts where the Israelites can go into the wilderness and offer sacrifices to their God. God already knows Pharaoh will refuse the request, and is setting up for a major showdown between himself and the sorcerers and magicians of Egypt.

God explains to Moses that he will strike the Egyptians, perform miracles, and they will be let go. Word on miracles–miracles were performed as a show of God’s power, and also to authenticate a message and its messenger, per my class teachings. When those plagues fell upon the Egyptians, no doubt was it a show of God’s power and that Moses was indeed the one he had chosen.

God tells Moses that when it is all said and done, the Israelites will not leave empty-handed. They will strip the Egyptians of their wealth.

Moses protests again, and God sees that he needs to see a miracle himself for confirmation and confidence. God tells Moses to throw down his staff, and when he does, it turns into a serpent. God instructs Moses to grab the serpent’s tail, and when he does, it turns back into a shepherd’s staff. This is what Moses is supposed to do to confirm his role to his people. God also instructs him to reach into his cloak, and when he does so, his hand is leprous. God again tells Moses to put his hand in his cloak. He obeys, and upon removing it again, his hand is again as healthy as the rest of his body. So far, Moses has two signs that he can use to prove his position. God gives him another: If Moses must, he can take some water from the Nile River (again, remember the Nile River and its importance and significance to the Egyptians and their everyday life), pour it on the dry ground, and it will turn to blood.

Moses’s insecurities become apparent. He mentions the fact that he is not gifted oratorically. He says he gets tongue-tied. That may mean he stuttered, stammered, or just was not quick or eloquent getting his words out. It makes no difference. It does not take eloquence to tell the truth. It does not take charisma to get the point across. As a matter of fact, I personally am often wary of people who have a high degree of eloquence and charisma–like politicians. I am sure there are some of them who are honest, but I do not feel that I can trust the majority of them. They are great speakers and say what they need to say to get those votes, but yet, as evidenced by our government right now, they do not always have our best interest at heart.

But, I digress. That is a whole ‘nother blog.

God reminds Moses that HE made that mouth! This passage of Scripture reminds me of my own perceived shortcomings. If we wanted to, all of us could think of reasons why we are not fit to serve the Lord. Instead of protesting as Moses is doing, we should confidently turn those shortcomings over to God and allow ourselves to be used to His glory despite them! (I am still working on this, admittedly). Now, I am a person who thinks we should always work to get past our perceived deficiencies, but in the meantime, if someone feels they are not a gifted speaker, or does not prefer to be in the forefront, say, hosting an event or being a keynote speaker, there are always other ways to contribute to the ministry in a manner that is most comfortable for you. I have found a pretty comfortable role in my own church, and I could not be happier with it. It has also compelled me to want to do more. I do not want to have all of this learning and just sit on it!

When Moses pleads to God that he send someone else, God grows angry, but look what he does–He tells Moses that he will have his brother, Aaron, with him. Aaron is a better speaker and will serve as Moses’s mouthpiece. I am sure Moses was at least temporarily comforted. I say temporarily because there is no way Moses could have foreseen the mistakes Aaron made in the chapters to come (I don’t want to give it all away, but GOLDEN CALF, anyone???).

Moses entreats Jethro to allow him to return to Egypt, as no one there even knows whether or not he is still alive. Jethro agrees. Further, God lets Moses know that he is safe–those who wanted him dead are now dead themselves. With his wife and sons in tow (it doesn’t say how many sons just yet), Moses heads back to Egypt. God tells him that once he arrives, he is to go to Pharaoh and perform the miracles as rehearsed, although God has hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

This next part is interesting. At night, the Lord confronts Moses and is about to kill him, but Zipporah intervenes and circumcises their son. Apparently, Moses still had some disobedient kinks to work out–the Abrahamic covenant was conditioned by circumcision, so it was unacceptable that Moses, preparing to be the Israelite leader, an example for them to follow, was not even taking care of spiritual matters within his own family. After this, God leaves Moses alone. Not much else is said about this passage of Scripture, but it is important. God wants things done in good and in order. How could Moses stand before the Israelites as their leader when he had not even properly cared for matters within his own home, especially something as important as adhering to the conditions laid forth in that very important covenant that named the Israelites God’s chosen people????????

God tells Aaron to go out and meet Moses, and the brothers reunite. Moses fills Aaron in, and they go to the elders of Israel, where Moses performs the miracles. The people of Israel are convinced, and the story begins. Moses is eighty years old. His life has been divided into forties (there is that number forty again)… the first forty years were spent in privilege in Egypt, being educated, the next forty in Midian, learning how to shepherd and survive in the wilderness, and now he is ready for the third chapter of his life—forty years leading the Israelites in the wilderness.

It’s getting good!!!!

My eyes are getting heavy, and in order for me to do my job with an acceptable amount of accuracy, I must be able to keep my eyes open during the workday. I must bid Exodus adieu… for now.

 

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