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.
Day 3 Moses at the Burning Bush
Exodus 3. 1-15
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ 4When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ 5Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ 6He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’ 11But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ 12He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’
The Divine Name Revealed
13 But Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you”, and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ 14God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ He said further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you.” ’ 15God also said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name for ever,
and this my title for all generations.
Day 5 Exodus 4. 10-17
10 But Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ 11Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.’ 13But he said, ‘O my Lord, please send someone else.’ 14Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, ‘What of your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. 15You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. 16He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him. 17Take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.’