Today we begin our journey through the book of Exodus, the second Book of the five Books of Moses. As you read here are a couple of things to think about. We are at the cusp of God fulfilling the second part of his promise to Abraham. Israel has become a great nation during their time in Egypt. From the original 70 members of Jacob's family some estimate there may have been nearly two million Israelites who left Egypt. And they left to go to the promised land, the land God said would one day be theirs. We look on as God not only delivers His people from slavery, but He also returned to dwell among His people. He comes to Israel to set them apart from every other nation and people. He claims them as His people. God also gives His people the law, the stipulations by which Israel bound itself to Him. The Book of Exodus records much about matters that defined the Israelites in terms of their relation to God.
Not only did God liberate His people but He showed His mighty power over the gods of Egypt. God was beginning to transform this unruly bunch of former slaves into a united nation of 12 tribes devoted to Him. But they had A LOT to learn.
The Hebrew text of the book of Exodus begins with the word and. This is the continuing story of God's salvation that He announced first to Adam and then to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The theme of this book is deliverance. That is where Moses comes in. He becomes not only deliverer but also legislator, mediator and judge. The book of Exodus begins with a genealogy of sorts, a list of the names of Jacob's sons who went to Egypt with him. For years the Israelites and Egyptians got along well. But a new pharaoh who didn't know history was intimidated and frightened by the sheer numbers of Israelites. Out of that fear he enslaved the Israelites. Israel had been a source of blessing to Egypt for many years and they caused no trouble. But fear is a powerful motivator. No people in history have suffered as much as the Hebrew people have, but every nation or ruler who has persecuted the Jews has been punished for it. That goes back to Genesis 12:3, ”I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.”
The Egyptian task masters worked the Israelites ruthlessly. The Israelites built cities. They worked in the fields. And the harder the work, the more God multiplied them. That brought more fear on the part of the pharaoh. There had to be another way to keep the Israelites under control. Pharaoh determined they should kill all the male babies, but the girls could live. If this had succeeded it would have wiped out the Hebrew people. The women would have been forced to marry Egyptians and God's chosen people would have been absorbed into the Egyptian race. But these were God's chosen people, and He would not let that happen. What happens next is the first instance of civil disobedience recorded in scripture...refusing to obey an evil law because of a higher good. Pharaoh must have thought he could browbeat two Hebrew midwives to implement his plan, but Pharaoh didn't know the one true God! These women feared God much more than pharaoh and put their lives on the line in order to save Hebrew babies. God blessed them and gave them families of their own. But isn't it interesting that God chose to bless them with children when it was dangerous to be having children! Clearly God knew something no one else did.
With the birth of Moses and his siblings we see the beginning of the priestly tribe of Levi taking shape. Moses is the youngest of the three children, Miriam the oldest and then Aaron who became the first high priest. It was clear from early on that Moses was no ordinary child. And the family was sure God had a special purpose for him. Pharaoh had decreed that all male Hebrew babies were to be thrown into the Nile River. Moses mother did put him in the Nile but not as pharaoh commanded. Ever present, God used baby Moses tears to move in pharaoh’s daughter's heart. Miriam, who was standing nearby arranged for their own mother to not only raise her own son but get paid for it as well. This would not be the last time God would use a baby to save His people. God can use the weakest things to defeat the mightiest enemies. 1Corinthians 1:25-29. A baby's tears were God's first weapon in His was against Egypt. Pharaoh’s daughter adopted Moses as her own son, giving him a favored position in the land.
We know very little about Moses early years. He spent 40 years serving in Egypt, perhaps even being groomed to become the next pharaoh. Amid all that Moses always knew he was a Hebrew and he identified with the Hebrew people. The day came when Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, perhaps to death, and he intervened. If the Egyptian official turned on Moses, which he may have, then Moses was defending his own life. Moses may have seen himself as a liberator for his people, but he could not kill them off one at a time. However, the Egyptians were only part of the problem. Moses discovered the Hebrews couldn't get along with each other either. When Moses learned his secret about killing an Egyptian was out, he fled to Midian. The Midianites were the descendants of Midian, one of Abraham's sons with his second wife Keturah. For 40 years Moses was a shepherd for his father-in-law in Midian. Just like God pruned and shaped Joseph, now He was doing the same thing with Moses. Israel was God's special flock and Moses was becoming His chosen shepherd.
God does not call the equipped. He equips those whom He call. The same is true for us today.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W