Hear! Remember! Notice!!

Week 4, Day 1

Exodus 2.23-25; 3.1-15; 4.10-17

The entire passage for this week, which presents excerpts from the early career of Moses, can be found below this post. But I wouldn’t read it if I were you. Instead I would read all of the first 4 chapters of Exodus. As always, you need the rest of the story. Reading that whole section will give you a much better sense of the trouble Israel was in and the trouble Moses was in and the surprises in store for the for the king of Egypt.

Today we will consider just Exodus 2. 23-25.

23 After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.

It’s helpful to remember that in the ancient world, including in Israel for much of its early history, the notion that there might be only one God was almost entirely foreign. There were gods aplenty in those days. Every nation, city and family had their patron deity—and often several, to whom they prayed. In addition, there were gods who oversaw every aspect of nature and daily life—rain, wind, crops, fertility, birth, death and more.

These gods, generally speaking, were not known for their benevolence or their predictability. To get what you or your family needed—adequate rainfall, fertile fields, a fertile wife, protection from your enemies, you had to convince the responsible god to help you out. So you would plead, cajole, obey and sacrifice; you would give to the god whatever you thought he or she wanted—including even your first born son. Even then, because these gods, like nature itself, tended to be fickle and disagreeable, your pleading as often as not fell on deaf ears.

The prophets of Israel had a better idea.

Much of our Old Testament is an extended sermon on what has been called the “Doctrine of God”. The Doctrine of God is the attempt by scholars and believers to describe the Divine: Who is the God of Israel? How is this God different from the gods of other nations? Are there gods of other nations, or is God one? What does this God expect from us and do for us? Can this God be trusted?

These, of course, are the kinds of questions people of all religions through time have asked. Our Scriptures are intriguing because of the answers given. The God of Israel, compared to the gods of the nations, was exceedingly “un-godlike”.

Look again at the text for today. The children of Israel are held in Egypt. Deep in oppression and slavery, they cry out to God for help—they probably cry out to many gods for help. But look at what the God of Israel does: “Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.”

God hears, remembers, looks and notices. These are words of care and compassion, of human-like feeling; words that describe how mothers and fathers look after their children. These are words that have never been used to describe any god before. This is new!

God’s hearing and remembering offer hope to the hopeless and hapless slaves. By itself this is remarkable. But what God does, in calling on Moses to free the slaves, will turn religion on its head for the rest of history.

If Egypt were the wild west, God would be the new sheriff in town. Justice is about to be done. Freedom is near. The crying, dying slaves have been seen and heard by someone who cares; someone with the power to help; someone willing to help. Here is Old Testament gospel; Old Testament grace.

This is powerful preaching. Someone should say Amen!

Prayer: God, who heard the cries of the oppressed and remembered your promises of justice, hear the cries of the hopeless today. Look upon the poorest of your people and send them a new Moses to set them free. Amen.

Day 1 Exodus 2.23-25

23 After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. 24God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.